When You’re Invited to Preach

When I’m invited to preach at a church I’ve never been to, I want to gather information that will guide me in the ministry of pulpit supply. Here are the questions I ask:

  • How did you get my name? (Probably through the seminary, but it’s good to ask.)
  • What time does worship begin? When does it usually end?
  • What style of worship does the church employ? For example, is the music all hymns, all praise choruses, a mix of both? What sort of instrumentation accompanies the music?
  • Who will be writing the order of worship? (If not me) May I request or recommend certain hymns, praise songs, scripture selections, creeds? Will someone e-mail me a copy of it before that Sunday?
  • Who will lead worship? (If not me) Will they introduce me, or will I simply begin preaching?
  • What pastor, deacon, elder or other leader will be present that Sunday? Will you arrange for them to meet me before the worship service? (I like to know someone that I can refer to within the congregation.)
  • Is there a nursery provided for small children?
  • May I have the street address of the church? And will someone e-mail me directions to the church?
  • Tell me about the denomination (if it is one I’m unfamiliar with).
  • Tell me about the church. Who is the pastor? How long has he been there? How long has the church been around? What have been some recent items of rejoicing in the church? What have been some recent struggles?

That pretty much covers the conversations I have with whoever calls. I often feel like they are surprised that I have so many questions– maybe they haven’t had many folks ask questions like these when invited for pulpit supply. But I’ve found that it is important to get this kind of information. You will appreciate it, too, once you have it.

Ed Eubanks is a contributing writer for Seminary Survival Guide.

4 Replies to “When You’re Invited to Preach”

  1. Ed,

    These are all great tips. I also ask how long do I have to preach? What translation do most people use in the church (big issue for some churches)? How we will handle the invitation? Do I extend the call and someone else come up to talk with folks or is it me?

    Those are just a few more questions that I know I ask.


  2. Hi Lee– those are great additions to the list of questions. Thanks for posting them.

    One comment regarding the invitation: my instinct would be to ask that someone from the church participate in this aspect. In the same sense that I recommend that any pastoral prayers or prayers of the people be offered by one of the Elders or Deacons of the church, I also believe that an invitation is such a matter of local pastoral concern that I would be uncomfortable being the only one involved in the responses (or potential responses).

    My personal approach to such things is this: I’m reticent to move with someone in an evangelistic direction if I’m not confident of my ability to follow up with them, at least to ensure that they are being encouraged in their discipleship. In some cases for a supply preacher, this would be difficult and even awkward. Therefore, I would prefer that a leader from that church be with me, that they might be responsible to follow up.

  3. Ed,
    First, as a lay person I will tell you these are great questions. Similar to what a normal “business response” should be.

    But I found no where in your comments about, “Prayer”! I find it interesting that a lot of persons in ministry feel responsible to take on “items and issues” without first consulting the very ONE they are there to serve, Jesus Christ.

    I know the people of the church for the most part, feel you are there to serve them and you are but not 100%. I would suggest that seeking the Lords face first is the first and foremost important action to be taken.

    Maybe you got the invite, but the LORD doesn’t want you to go. HIS choice; not yours.

    I can tell you first hand that I have seen Mark’s worship ministry grow because he is allowing the guidance to start coming from the LORD and not all Mark. I know he has not only other praying for him and his next steps, but he to is lifting up more as to what GOD wants versus what Mark wants.

    Something to consider, ponder and pray about.

  4. Great questions! Two more suggestions- both of which I learned the hard way.

    Is there a preferred (or required) Bible translation?

    What is the desired (or required) dress?

    For the second question, I’ve had people be mad at me for showing up in a suit. Good to see if they prefer dress or casual. Also helps you as the preacher relate to the audience.

    Hope this maybe saves someone else some grief.


Comments are closed.