The following article is an excerpt from my book, Pulpit Supply Handbook: Answering Twelve Frequently Asked Questions.
Filling in at a church is an exciting opportunity, whether at your home church or a church you’ve never been to before. Part of the excitement is in the uncertainty. What will happen that Sunday? Will there be anything out of the ordinary? What if something goes wrong?
Most of the situations in this chapter will apply to your experiences outside your home church, but some could apply on familiar ground as well!
Some Things Are Easy to Plan For
Week after week, people faithfully arrive at the job, at school, at church… late. You can almost guarantee that some people will not be on time! They could surprise others and show up early, but doing so requires thought and planning.
When you go to fill in at a church, one thing that you do not want to do is be late. You might not have your sermon as prepared as you’d like. You might have a wrinkle or two in your pants. A less than perfect sermon and pants not fully ironed may not be noticed – but you can guarantee that people will notice if you are late!
Being late causes stress to yourself, stress to your contact person, and stress to the congregation. Even if the pattern of your life has been chronic tardiness, you can change that. Here are a few suggestions on common areas that make folks late:
1. Prepare Yourself and Your Items.
Lay your clothes out the night before. Plan a definite time for your shower (or showers if you have family members to consider). Iron whatever needs to be ironed, de-fuzz what needs to be de-fuzzed. You may wish to pack a lint roller. Charge your cell phone. Pack anything that needs to be packed. Remember your directions. For items you’re not wearing, place them in your vehicle the night before. Don’t forget your Bible, your church information form, and your sermon notes (if you use notes).
2. Prepare Your Vehicle.
Don’t get gas on Sunday morning. Get it Saturday afternoon or evening. Make sure you’re keeping it maintained with regular oil changes, required inspections, good tires, etc. You need a reliable vehicle if you’re involved with pulpit supply. Make sure you have an emergency medical kit and an emergency roadside kit in case you have unexpected trouble. Jumper cables and flares are great things to keep in your vehicle. I also recommend having a roadside emergency service like the American Automobile Association; it has paid for itself multiple times with our family.
3. Plan a Departure Time and Stick to It.
Set your alarm, or multiple alarms, so you awaken promptly. This is no time to snooze or sleep in! Add about 10-15 minutes to the amount of time you think it should take to get there, especially if this is your first time traveling to this location. Plan to arrive 20 or even 30 minutes early anyway, so you have plenty of buffer in case you have an emergency.
Next week, Part 2 will look at how to plan for the unavoidable and how to take in stride the things you can’t plan for.
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