8 Ways Guest Preachers Can Enhance Your Ministry

This week, our Community Supported Agriculture season starts back up, and I am pumped. The way CSAs work is that members essentially subscribe to a group of local farms, and each week you get a new basket of produce.

It’s great for so many reasons, not the least of which are supporting local farms and having fresh vegetables around the house for the fall. But it’s also exciting because until you get the weekly email, you don’t know what’s going to be in your basket.

Sure, based on the time of year, you can predict some of the items. But every once in a while, you get something that surprises you. Or you try a new recipe that ends up being amazing. As I have been looking forward to all the upcoming surprises, it has actually made me think a bit about guest preaching. Weird, I know.

I have had the honor and pleasure of being a guest preacher many times. My appointment to extension ministry has allowed me to travel all over and speak to churches and campus ministries. Shameless plug: if you’d like to host me at your ministry, please click “Work with Dan” in the site menu or use the contact form at the bottom of the page.

While I am always grateful for any positive feedback I receive, I try to remind myself that I am like the surprise item in the CSA basket. I am the eggplant after three weeks of squash. I am the okra that got sliced thin and seared with a little oil and salt until crisp rather than the slimy okra your mom made you eat (seriously — this isn’t a food blog, but you have to try pan-seared okra… so good…).

There is something about a fresh voice that makes people pay more attention. And if guest preachers are asked to speak about a particular topic regularly, they have the opportunity to perfect their sermon much more than a weekly preacher can.

Sadly, sometimes guest preachers or even associate pastors can be seen as threats. The congregation’s positive reaction to the guest is seen as a criticism of the “regular” preacher. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Using guest preachers regularly can actually enhance your ministry:

1. Guest Preachers Keep Your Voice Fresh.

Freshness is relative. Even fillet mignon gets old if you eat it every night. Don’t just use guest preachers when you’re on vacation or sick. If you mix them in regularly, this will help keep your voice fresh for your own community.

2. Guest Preachers Keep Our Perspective Aligned.

It can be difficult for a pastor who sees preaching as their primary gift to “give up” the pulpit. But it is not your pulpit, nor is preaching likely your only gift or responsibility. Bringing in guests reminds your congregation (and you) that you are not the end-all-be-all. It also frees up your mind, spirit, and schedule from the weekly rhythm of sermon preparation to tackle other important projects.

3. Guest Preachers Reveal the Diversity of the Body of Christ.

If you are white, invite people of color to preach. If you are male, bring in female preachers. If you are young, bring in “more experienced” voices. And most importantly, demonstrate that this is of value to you. Be present, pay attention, take notes — do whatever it takes to show that this person isn’t a token, but rather a brother or sister in Christ whom God has gifted with the ability and call to preach.

4. Guest Preachers Can Help With Unfamiliar Topics.

Let’s face it, you can’t be an expert in everything. Chances are good that there is someone who can speak to things you cannot. Along these lines, you can bring in someone who has a unique story or perspective who isn’t a preacher and structure the message time like an interview or dialogue. Have them share the details, and you help with the theological perspective and application (like in the TED Talk Bible Study method).

5. Guest Preachers Can Help With Difficult Topics.

If guest preachers are going to naturally receive more attention, use this to your advantage. Bring in someone who can speak about a difficult topic or who can say things in ways that you cannot. Bring in someone to challenge your congregation, and then you can shepherd your community, compassionately helping them live into that challenge.

6. Effective Regular Guest Preachers Make You Look Good.

Think about how much you love that friend that always has a great restaurant, book, or TV recommendation. You can be like that friend for your congregation — but with preachers. If you share the preaching responsibilities with quality people, whether it is guests or even your own associate pastor(s), your congregation will respect you for it.

7. Guest Preachers May Actually Help Financially.

On last week’s episode of Art of the Sermon, Pastor Adam Weber shared that even though his church brings in what are considered to be big-name speakers and authors in the church world, it still costs less than hiring a full-time teaching pastor. Pastor Adam Hamilton once explained that before he regularly shared preaching responsibilities, attendance and giving would go down whenever he was not preaching. Things are much more stable now that he regularly shares preaching responsibilities.

8. Be a Guest Preacher Yourself.

Has preaching become stale for you? Go be the surprise in someone else’s CSA basket. Being a guest preacher may help refresh your own experience of preaching. You can also be a blessing to another pastor and congregation who needs to hear what God has to say through you.

Header image by Flickr user Tamaki Sono. Used under Creative Commons License. Edited/Cropped from Original.

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