For over 20 years, I’ve been privileged to travel extensively as a guest speaker at 100’s of churches. Then three years ago, my wife and I felt God leading us to plant a church in Loughborough. Very soon, we’re pioneering another campus of the Junction Church in Leicester! So whilst I still travel a lot – I also fully understand the day to day pressures of leading a local church.
So I thought I’d offer a little perspective on how guest speakers can serve most effectively when they’re invited to speak at another church. This is far from exhaustive. However here are 6 practical thoughts…
1) Honour the senior pastors
Our culture still struggles with the idea of honour. However that really doesn’t matter. Honour is important because it ultimately glorifies God. The bible also strongly encourages it (read 1 Timothy 5:17). Church leadership is tough. Chances are, the pastors are probably fighting battles that no-one else even knows about. So it really is important as a guest speaker that you honour the senior pastors. They have been gracious enough to entrust their platform to you – so be gracious & honourable in how you use that trust. Also, honour will establish a healthy vibe to your message.
2) Serve the Vision
A guest speaker has no business publicly critiquing the church they visit. There is nothing more discouraging for a church leader than for the guest speaker who they’ve promoted for weeks in advance to then turn up, carping and sniping (even in a joking way). You are there to serve someone else’s vision. So be clear about what this is and how you can serve it most effectively. If necessary, ask! Go with a servant heart.
3) Don’t sheep steal
Nothing undermines the credibility of a guest speaker more than any hint (subtle or otherwise) of encouraging your listeners to support your ministry/church rather than to serve their own local church. This shouldn’t even happen in a joking way. To do this is to abuse trust….and will probably ensure you never get invited back again.
4) Be positive
A guest speaker should never pander to negativity. Instead, they need to bring encouragement and faith to the house. Negativity doesn’t build – it always destroys. As a guest speaker, your job is to build up, lift up, stir up and raise up the levels of faith and expectation in the house. This is your privilege.
5) Be a little self-deprecating
Good guest speakers learn to connect quickly with their audience. One of the best ways to do this is to be a little self-deprecating. Deep down, people know you’re not THAT good. So let your listeners know that you know this. Don’t try and project yourself as having life all together. In the long term, it’s not helpful. Just be real.
6) Honour your time well
It’s very easy for a guest speaker to get carried away in their message and overrun the time they’ve been allocated. However, it really is important (for all kinds of practical reasons) that a guest speaker manages this well. It causes unnecessary stress and embarrassment when the guest speaker overruns on time. Honour it well. This is important.