At Sherwood, I believe God has blessed us in immeasurable ways. He has poured out evidence of His grace and goodness in our midst in ways beyond our ability to fully comprehend. I’ve just received several emails sent to some of the men in our church who were used of God to lead a men’s conference in another part of Georgia this past weekend. These men give of themselves and their time to invest in other men, and God has used them and blessed their sacrificial spirit.
It is apparent by reading these emails that the church and the leadership where they spent the weekend know how to pray, prepare, and plan for an event. They are ready for the men to arrive. They promote the event and expect participation. They work to make it a good use of the time of those leading and attending.
You will not always find this to be the case in the local church. Sometimes, more often than I care to think about, I’ve found churches and pastors unprepared.
Many are unprepared for an event. Not enough planning, prayer, or preparation went into the event. It was “just another thing on the calendar,” not a big deal. The end result is poor attendance, while the preacher or leaders apologize for the crowd (when they may be the ones who are to blame for the poor attendance). No table set up for products that the speakers or other guests might sell. No thought given as to meals before or after the service. No water for the speakers or singers. No prayer before the event with the guests.
Here’s a principle: If you want your people to be excited about something, you’ve got to be a cheerleader. If you want them to give their time to you, you should make it sound like it’s worth their while. I’ve seen too many situations where the announcement of a guest speaker was given with the same passion as an announcement about a business meeting. If it’s worth asking someone to come, it’s worth promoting it.
Make a video and show it several weeks in advance. Put it in your newsletter and worship folder. Make posters around the church. If the person is a notable personality, send a press release (free Public Service Announcement) to the local media. Use the event to reach people. Don’t get past the event and say, “I wish we had told more folks about this.” Put the event/ speaker on your website or Facebook page. Send a twitter about it. Blog about it. Text about it. Get the word out. If you are going to have an event, make it an event and not a passing thought.
When a church or a pastor isn’t prepared for an event, the special guests may feel the event isn’t worth the time away from their church, family, or ministry. To be honest, far too many churches make guests feel unwanted with an attitude that says, “If we couldn’t have gotten you, we would have gotten someone else.” In other words, you wonder why they asked you in the first place.
Here’s a principle: If you are going to invite a guest to your church, know something about them. Get your people excited about them. I’ve shown up in churches where I had to tell the host what they needed to say to introduce me. They ask for a resume, and my bio is posted on our website, but apparently no one took the time to read them. If you expect people to come, you’ve got to tell them why you expect them to come and why it will be worth their time. I’ve sat on many front rows as I was introduced with titles I don’t have or as the author of books with the wrong title (if they even mention the books at all).
Here are a few guidelines:
– If you have a concert artist, promote their products.
– If you have an author, promote their books.
– If you have either, ask if they will stay after and sign their CDs or books.
– Be familiar enough with their resume or experience to have your facts straight. If you can’t remember it all, read it.
– Never use the “aw shucks” approach to an introduction.
– Encourage your people to be responsive and to thank guests for coming.
– Work diligently to honor your guests.
– Make it sound important. Especially if the speaker is new to your church, the majority will need to know why you’ve asked this particular person to speak and not someone else.
Here’s a principle: Pay them. If you pay an honorarium, give more than you think you should. If your thought is, “How little can we pay?” don’t even ask someone to come. It means you are cheap, not gracious.
We have evangelists in our church, and I know a number of evangelists. What some churches give them is absolutely unacceptable. It is inexcusable. There are more churches than I can count who want to quibble over travel expenses. I know people who depend on love offerings to make their living, and some churches would let them starve! This is wrong in the body of Christ. The laborer is worthy of his hire. The evangelist is worthy of a worthy offering. Pay what the IRS says you should pay for mileage. Pay for meals while traveling. Pay for the hotel. Offer to pay for the guest to bring their spouse. If they don’t bring their wife, send their wife some flowers and thank her for sharing her spouse with you.
Be prepared to supplement the offering if it’s not enough, but teach your people to give. Giving to love offerings is not going to hurt your budget. Teaching your people to give will help your budget. If you don’t push to promote a love offering, you will rob your people of a blessing, you will rob the guest of what he deserves, and you will miss God’s blessings. To not give an offering or honorarium worthy of the event is to short-change yourself and your people and to quench what God might want to do in someone’s heart.
Don’t tell me you can’t afford it. You can’t afford not to do it. I serve in Albany, Georgia. We are one of the 100 poorest cities in America. We’ve had two major plants close in the last two years, and we’re in a down economy. However, we finished 2009 ahead of budget and gave well over $100,000 in love offerings last year. In one service we gave over $3,000 to 17 college students from the University of Mobile over and above the honorarium we set for them to sing in our service for 20 minutes. We were able to give each of those students over $160 for spending money (that’s more than I’ve gotten for some speaking engagements in the last few years). One week later, we took up over $14,000 for the Gideons and Muslim Bible Day in special offerings.
Unfortunately most pastors and churches don’t know how to give. It grieves me that pastors are hesitant to take an offering. God loves, and He gives. We say we love, but we will not ask people to give. Why not think about adding a few dollars to that “right hand of Christian fellowship” and “thanks for coming”? It will bless you and your guest.
Put them in a nice hotel. No one can relax in a member’s home, no matter how much you tell them they can “make themselves at home.” I know of a church that had guest stay with a member, and the dust in the guest area was an inch thick. The pastor was shocked to find out how dirty the place was. Spend the money or don’t have the event. Host them properly or don’t invite them.
This is a pet peeve for me because I’m tired of seeing God’s servants, who are asked to hit the road and sleep in a strange bed every week, treated like second-rate citizens. It grieves me, it’s a poor witness, and it’s a sign that we don’t take seriously how we treat those who serve God. Just because some church member’s middle name is Scrooge doesn’t mean you have to cave into the “Bah Humbug” spirit. Teach the grouches to die to greed and enjoy grace giving. Teach them to honor the man or woman of God. Teach them to esteem the person who comes in the name of the Lord.