10 Guest Preaching Tips So They Want to Invite You Back

Have you been invited to be a guest preacher?


Photo Credit: Doug cc

I have had the opportunity to do a bit of guest preaching lately. I have also dealt with my fair share of good and bad guest preachers.

Here are some tips to help make you a better guest preacher – one they will actually want to invite back.

1. Honor the senior pastor

Most pastors do not get nearly enough appreciation for the extremely hard work they do for their church. They will never stand up on stage and toot their own horn. So, as the guest preacher, you should toot it for them.

Let the people know why you love their pastor. Create an opportunity for everyone to clap for him. Give the man some honor and recognition. (1 Timothy 5:17)

2. Respect the time limit

Ask how long you are scheduled to preach and stick with it! DO NOT go longer than the time you are given. You are a guest. Don’t over stay your welcome!

Not all churches have a clock visible from stage, so I personally use the Presentation Clock app on my iPhone. I set the time I have to preach, and it counts down for me. The timer turns yellow when I have 10 minutes left, red when I have 5 minutes, and inverts colors and starts counting up every second that I have gone over. It is a simple app, but immensely helpful.

3. Arrive early

Be there before you have to be. Get to know the sound guys and other volunteers who arrive early, talk to people in the audience before the service, and participate in the worship service.

Don’t freak everyone out because the service is about to start and they don’t know where their guest speaker is. I had this happen to me once.

4. Stay late

Don’t preach and run. Again, talk to people. Stick around and hear their stories. Pray with them.

Hanging around until the place clears out benefits everyone. They want to talk to the guest speaker. They will encourage you. They will feel important because you listened to them. And you will always learn something.

5. Know your audience

Tailor your application to who you are speaking to. If you are preaching to teenagers, your application needs to be different than if you are preaching to senior citizens. Preaching to inmates in prison should be different than stay-at-home moms.

Know who you are speaking to and what they are going through. And if you don’t know, ask.

6. Honor the topic / text / series you are given.

I don’t care if you don’t like it or would rather preach on something else. Follow instructions. Do your absolute best to honor the direction and intention the church sets for you. It is not about you. Help the church win.

7. Know the stage transitions

Know when will are supposed to walk on stage. Know how it will be handed off to you. Also, know how are you supposed to hand it off when you are done? Are you supposed to pray, lead into communion, introduce a song, or close out the service? The transitions are important.

I went to an event once where the guest speaker was always clueless on when his cue was to come on stage. As a result, there were many awkward transitions that distracted from the message.

8. Say “Thank You”

Make sure you say “thank you” to the pastor who invited you to preach. Thank any of the staff who help you. Thank the video and sound people. Thank the worship leader. Don’t act like a rock star. Show your gratitude.

9. Learn how to accept a compliment

People will inevitably compliment you. Even if you don’t preach well, some people will still say “good job” out of sympathy. It’s weird, but true.

Do not be arrogant and boast about yourself: “God has given me a tremendous gift!”

Also, don’t be so humble that you brush aside their compliment: “It has nothing to do with me, sir. All glory God.”

Repeat after me. “Thank you.” That is it. That is all you need to say. A sincere “Thank you.”

10. Come prepared

Take your invitation to preach seriously. Be professional. Know your material. Provide notes, slides, scripture, videos, or outlines in advance. Communicate with the person in charge of the service so you know what to expect.

You also need to be prepared for anything. If you have slides or videos on a computer or DVD, always have a backup just in case one fails. If you preach with an iPad have backup notes.

11. BONUS TIP: Ask for feedback

After you preach, send a follow-up email. Thank them for the opportunity to speak. Let them know you enjoyed your time with them. And, most importantly, ask for feedback.

You could ask them to take a brief survey, or just ask if they have any tips on how you could do better next time. This shows that you care, and also that you are eager to learn and get better.

The feedback you get from this will be gold. Don’t get offended. Take it seriously. Never stop learning and working to get better.

In the end you still have to deliver a great message. Bring your ‘A’ game. But add these tips on top of a great message and you will be the kind of guest preacher who people want to invite back.

What tips would you give to guest preachers?



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By | 2017-01-04T00:15:39+00:00 November 19th, 2013|


  1. Yuri Doroshuk 09/05/2014 at

    I must say, when preachers reject #9 it is like a slap in the face to the one giving the compliment. Thanks for doing what you do, Brandon!

  2. Brian Foreman 06/01/2014 at

    Brandon, do you have, or Is anyone aware of a resource written from the reverse perspective: maybe a one-page summary a church can give to visiting preachers that lays out what they need to know?

  3. Patti 01/11/2014 at

    I would add, participate in the service. I find that it helps me get in tune with the spirit of the church. Also, I like to see guest preachers who are participants and not observers.

    • Brandon 01/12/2014 at

      Definitely! I dont like it when pastors hide in the back or the green room. It’s definitely good to be modeling worship in the service as part of the congregation. Thanks Patti!

  4. Bryan Manary 11/26/2013 at

    I started out in ministry doing extensive pulpit supply, and this is a very good list. The only thing I would add is respect the beliefs of the Pastor and congregation. I have twice had someone advocate from the pulpit on social issue’s that were out of tune with me and my congregation! I was flabbergasted, and the second person got my congregation to get up in arms!

  5. David Blanton 11/25/2013 at

    I would add, “Dress appropriately”. Don’t show up in a three piece suit if the congregation is Gen-X, and the opposite is also true. Take your lead from the pastor.

    • Brandon 11/25/2013 at

      Good point David. Taking note of how the lead pastor dresses is a great tip

  6. James D. Gailliard 11/24/2013 at

    Very good list. By honoring the rules of the house you almost automatically become endeared to the people. My add would be to leave secondary doctrinal issues alone. There is enough to preach about that we have total agreement about that there is really no need to address issues you know you may be in disagreement with the inviting pastor or denomination on.

    • Brandon 11/25/2013 at

      Thanks James. Agreed. No need ever to step on theological landmines.

  7. Jdbar14 11/21/2013 at

    Good list here. #7 is especially true. I had one occasion where I thought someone was going to come up and “close” the service so when I finished preaching so I concluded my sermon with a summary prayer. I was walking away from the platform when I realized that no one else was going to come up…leading to an awkward silence as the congregation slowly realized that the service was over.

    • Brandon 11/21/2013 at

      Thanks. Yeah, that’s happened to me too. Then there was an awkward moment where I came back on stage and had to ask what was next in front of everyone.

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