When you receive a call, email, or other notification requesting that you speak at a church, you need to begin gathering information as soon as possible. I developed a “church information form” that I often use when making that initial contact, and share it in hopes that you may find it useful. Click for a free download: (Word document format) (pdf format). For the most part, this post is an explanation of various items on that list with a couple of extras thrown in. If there is anything that you think would be helpful to add to this list, please leave a comment or send a note to us via the contact us link above.
WHEN DO YOU MEET?
1. First, you need to confirm the date for the speaking appointment. Sometimes mixups occur (and may still occur!) because someone misunderstood or miscommunicated the date.
2. You need to confirm the time and type of service(s). Does the church want you to teach Sunday School? Are you preaching in an 11 am morning service or a 10:30 morning service? Are you expected to speak in an evening service? What is the format of the service (such as a prayer meeting, etc.)? If they tell you that you have freedom to modify the service, then you may take liberties in doing so. Otherwise, stick with their normal format.
3. Find out whether there is a pre-service prayer meeting. You should plan to arrive at the church at least twenty minutes before service time, but if there is a pre-service prayer meeting earlier than that, try to be there for it.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE DO YOU MEET?
4. Confirm the name of the church, especially if it is the first visit. Failing to do so can create needless confusion, embarrassment, and inconvenience as well, especially if you go to Greenville Baptist Church when you were supposed to speak at First Baptist of Greenville.
5. Confirm the physical address and location of the church. While gps devices and mapping programs are often quite useful, sometimes they are not current. It is a good idea to get directions from your contact prior to traveling, just in case it is difficult to find. There may also be conditions such as road construction that your gps device will not know about. Be sure to write down or print this address and directions and keep it in your vehicle or the Bible you will be preaching from, along with the church information form.
Calculate how long it will take you to get there from the time you start traveling, so you can leave in time to arrive at least 20 minutes early.
Keep track of the mileage in case the church offers to reimburse you for it (very reasonable thing to do, especially if you are traveling a long way, as much of an honorarium can be eaten up with travel costs). This is important for your records as well. If you receive more than $400 per year in honorariums from supply preaching, you must report that income to the IRS. However, you can deduct expenses such as mileage.
WHO IS MY CONTACT?
6. Confirm the name of the pastor (unless the church has no pastor). Beside the fact that this is part of getting to know the church, it might be helpful if you get confused or lost and the church you stop at has his name on the sign.
7. Confirm the name of your contact person, if different from the pastor. Find out if this person will be introducing you, etc.
8. Exchange contact information for any follow-up communication: phone numbers, email addresses, and any other relevant means of contact. Ask if the church has a website, what the URL (website address) is, and take a look at it before you go. If it has a normal amount of information, it might be useful in the event that you lose directions or other info and cannot reach your contact in time.
WHAT TO WEAR, WHAT TO WEAR…?
9. Inquire about the typical style of dress for the speaker (suit & tie, business casual, etc.). When unsure, it is better to be overdressed, but some situations may make the full 3 piece suit unsuitable or at least very uncomfortable. Ask to be sure. (For tips on getting deals on good clothing without going broke, check out “Clothing Tips for Ministers” by Dr. Don Whitney.)
WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDREN?
10. If you have very young children, ask about childcare options. Be sure to let them know if your family has special needs (for example, a wheelchair bound child, other special needs, etc.). Is there a nursery? Your wife will appreciate knowing answers to such questions. If they do not have adequate childcare for your family, you may have to go alone or with only part of your family unless your wife is not overloaded by caring for them during the service. In some circumstances, you might need to decline the invitation if your family needs to be together and the situation will not work.
Next week we will continue this series with Part 2, which deals with several other topics, including the logistics for the sermon and conducting the service.