The Church’s Responsibility to Visiting Ministries
This is directed toward the church’s responsibility to those ministries that come into its midst to minister, such as, teachers, evangelists, musicians, and the like. These hopefully are not coming in just to earn a living but to bless the church, kingdom of God, and minister into people’s lives. Motive is always of the utmost importance. Just as was shared at the beginning, they must first and foremost be sure that they are called to their ministry by God and not merely following a vocation. This will make all the difference in the world in their endurance, steadfastness, and attitude.
Much of this section will also apply to missionaries and other such organizations which come into the local church to raise support. Though most of what’s said here will apply to them, there may be some differences since their main thrust is looking for an open door to share their ministry and hoping to raise ongoing (monthly) support. Their purpose is awareness as to what they are about and involved in, along with developing a financial base in order that they may continue to do what they feel God has called them to.
In these days, many ministries coming into the church have contracts that must be signed and agreed upon before they will come to minister. If this is for clarification, so there are no misunderstandings, it’s great. However, if it is set forth concerning those things they insist upon before they will come and minister, I have a problem with that. Where’s the faith and trusting God? We need to get back to those basics of trusting God and going wherever He tells us, even if they aren’t able to meet our demands. The problem is we’ve become too commercialized, especially in America. We see this proliferated especially in the Christian music industry. It has also drifted over into every other aspect of ministry. An acceptable approach would be for them to say, “This is what we really need, if you are unable to meet our need, we will come and trust God to make up what is lacked.” In this way, faith is being expressed while the need is being made known. This, I believe, is a good balanced way of approaching it.
I do believe there is good reason why many have gone to such extremes. Far too often churches have been negligent in their responsibilities to those willing to come in and minister. When they have been willing to trust God and come for whatever the church was able to do, the church has failed to treat them as they should. After frequently being taken advantage of they’ve had to do something to protect themselves; thus, the contracts, requirements, and demands. If both sides would trust God and be faithful to their responsibilities before God much of this could be avoided. There probably should be something in writing to assure there are no misunderstandings.
The following are some suggestions or guidelines I believe will help us in properly taking care of those God sends our way to bless, strengthen, and encourage us.
Lodging, meals, and transportation. Years ago it was expected guest ministries would be staying in someone’s home in the church. This should be a rarity in our day. Times are different. Those on the road are typically much busier and on the road for longer periods of time. They need time alone where they can get refreshed in order to be adequately ready to minister. Pastors and their congregations are also much busier today. With their hectic lifestyles, it’s asking a lot to have people staying in their home.
It should be expected that the host church provide a nice hotel room for their guest. You don’t have to be elaborate, but it should be nice enough where they can be comfortable. If it could be one that has a restaurant where they can eat without going out, this would be great. If their family and children have come with them, it would be a good gesture to get a motel with a pool to allow for a little family time.
If possible, the church should provide some meals during their stay. The church should at least take the guest out after every service for a time of fellowship and a good meal. If they can provide breakfast and/or lunch also it would greatly help. Remember, they are coming for you and will have to eat one way or another.
At times a guest may fly in and have meetings for multiple nights. Often it is arranged for a number of churches to have a ministry in combined services or a number of services in each church. In such cases, it is good, if possible, to provide transportation for them during their stay. Often there may be a car dealer in the church who can lend the church a car for the guest. Make sure it is a decent and dependable automobile. If this isn’t possible, renting a car is always an option. This gives them some flexibility as opposed to being stuck at the motel and dependent on the pastor and church to take them places.
Ministry time frame. Always make it extremely clear of any time restraints that may exist. If you don’t want it going past a certain time; let them know it. We can’t complain about someone going too long if we don’t let them know what restrictions are there. Do make sure you give them ample time to develop their ministry. You invited them in to minister and you need to give them enough time to do a quality job. Be very careful not to fill the service up with nonessentials.
I was at a church to minister once when the pastor was gone and his mother was in charge. They had worship and she had people come up for a time of prayer. This went on and on for an extended period of time. By the time they gave the service over to me, there was absolutely no time for me to develop my message, nor have any ministry time afterward. I had to give a very brief and condensed presentation and give the service quickly back over to them. I had something, I believe that, could have really blessed the people and brought great support to the pastor and his ministry. As it was, I didn’t have time to adequately do what God had called me to do. I truly believe they missed out on something that could have brought great blessing to the body. We will never know for sure.
Honorarium. If you have agreed with them on a certain amount then you should fulfill your commitment. As men of God, we must be men of our word (James 5:12). In fact, if the Lord has blessed the meetings and you are able to do more than agreed upon, as the Lord may lead, you should do so. If they have agreed to come on a love offering basis, you should make sure the offering is enough to meet their needs. Many think they have only agreed to an offering and so that is all they are responsible for. This is true in a legalistic sense but hopefully we are not legalistic but men and women of grace.
I believe that unless the offering is extremely good we should always plan on adding to it. We may not be obligated to do so but in doing so we will be demonstrating love and grace. The worker on the road is still worthy of his hire or support (Matthew 10:10). In fact, just like the pastor, he too is worthy of double honor if he has worked hard at being a blessing and ministering to God’s people (1 Timothy 5:17-18). As in the case of the pastor, this means twice as much. To be practical, you should never give your guest ministry any less than what you make as your weekly salary. In fact, if at all possible, it should be more. Remember, as a traveling ministry, there are weeks when they have no engagements and therefore there is no pay check.
As a side note, it is very unlikely for churches to have any guest in to minister for weeks surrounding major holidays such as Easter and Christmas. As a result, it is unlikely guest ministries will have any income during those seasons. Most churches have particular ministries in regularly. For these, I believe, it is proper to send them an offering for such holidays as Christmas. As in the case of the pastor, it would also be nice to find out their birth date and send them a gift then as well.
When we give sacrificially to a man (women) of God we have the promise of God going out of His way to meet our needs. The Philippians gave a love offering to Paul while he was in prison. His response was as follows: “I have received everything in full, and have an abundance, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:18-19 NASB). As we look at the context, we see this promise follows their sacrificial gift of love. When we do so, we are able to claim the same promise and only then.
When the church is young and/or small and unable to pad the offering special measures should be taken to allow for this. My pastor always encouraged us to put back our personal tithe in order to supplement the offering. I have always tried to do this to the best of my ability. I would usually have my check recorded and then place it in an envelope until the next guest ministry came in. After receiving the offering, I would add what I had accumulated to the offering before writing the check out to them. This usually made for a fair and substantial honorarium. When we take good care of our guest like this word will spread. Soon more and more ministries will want to come minister for us.
Let me also add that effort must be put forth to challenge our people to give generously. Our people listen to us. If we will challenge them they will respond. This should not only be done at the time of the offering, but also on an ongoing basis. We must teach our people these principles over and over. The Bible makes it abundantly clear, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.” (Galatians 6:6 NASB) When we do so, we can be assured that “God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7 NASB).
Also, make sure the guest ministry is given a check before he leaves. It is never right to say you will mail it to them. Often when this has happened, it is weeks before they get the check, if they get it at all. It may be because you thought someone else sent it when they did not or everyone got busy and forgot. Even if it is sent out the very next day, they should never be treated this way. It’s just not that difficult to get it to them before they leave.
Let’s treat our guests right and they will continue to come back. Along with them others will follow. God will make sure of it. As you are faithful, God will bring your way more and more anointed and talented ministries. After a while, you will begin to get a reputation for having in quality ministries, which in turn will help your church to grow.
Promotion. It is the responsibility of the church and the pastor to do the best possible job they can in promoting the ministries they invite in. When we do this, it will expand our ministry, encourage the guest, and bless the church. The more often people in your community (city) are made aware of special events going on at your church or ministry, the more attention it will draw to you. In two different churches I began we had those to visit who said they had noticed, over a period of time, things going on and figured something must be happening there so they thought they should visit and check us out. Often their visit was over a year after seeing the advertisement.
You should use all that you are capable of to get the word out concerning your event. Most all newspapers, Christian radio and TV stations will give free news releases or community service announcements. Paid advertisements are great if you can afford it. We are not being faithful stewards if we don‘t take advantage of the opportunities allotted us.
You should also use fliers and any other means possible. Assign those in your church/ministry to commit to different areas that they will assure fliers will be placed. Each person will be in charge of making sure that fliers are placed in all of the establishments in their region. Be sure you or those you send out ask the owners or managers of the place if they will please keep the fliers up at least until the date of the event. Express your sincere gratitude to them for their help.
A mailing and phone campaign is also good. I keep the addresses and phone numbers of everyone that I’ve come in contact with or who has visited the church. Approaching a special event I do a mailing to all on our mailing list approximately two weeks prior to our meeting. Days just prior to our meeting, I make sure everyone on our list is called, reminded, invited, and encouraged to be in attendance and bring someone with them. In the beginning days you often have to do this yourself but hopefully as you grow you can appoint others to do this for you.
Protect them from being over burdened. There will always be those who will seek to get the guest ministry off into a private conversation. After all, if you have done a proper job of promoting and pushing them, they will likely be viewed as somewhat of a star in the eyes of the people. There will inevitably be some instant groupies. They will attempt to corner them, just to talk, get some counsel, prayer, or ask them what they think about certain things. This is usually pretty innocent and is okay to a point.
The problem comes when there are those who dominate their time. It is even worse when multiple people do the same. Suddenly they are swamped. No matter how willing the guest is this can be very draining. Remember, they have just spent considerable time ministering and have already given out most of what they have emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If you are not able to take them off right after the service, at least look out for them and be ready to rescue them if need be. It is also good to train and teach your people accordingly.
Privacy and rest. Don’t keep them going all the time. Often we feel as if we need to entertain our guest. When in actuality they would be glad to just rest and be alone. Ask them what they would prefer and encourage them to be honest. This will make it much easier on both of you. Especially if they are on the road going to place after place, they need time alone with God and to just be alone and rest. Allow them this simple luxury. Be sure others aren’t allowed to interrupt them either. To be safe, it shouldn’t even be made public knowledge where they are staying. Give them a place of sanctuary. As a minister yourself, you know how important this is. Their ministry to you and your people will be all the better for it. They will also be grateful.