Itinerant Ministry Guide

by | Updated December 27th, 2023

Guest, evangelistic and itinerant ministries have a huge responsibility to the local pastor and their congregation. Much of this guest ministry guide can also be applied to associate pastors, other staff members, church leaders and volunteer staff. There are things that should and should not be done when ministering in another person’s church. Whether you have a music, teaching or preaching ministry, there are ethical guidelines that must be considered.

You have been invited to the church to bring blessing to that particular body of believers. To build it up, unify and equip the church under the leadership of the local pastor (Ephesians 4:11-13). If these things are not taking place, your purpose for being there is void. Facing your responsibility to the pastor and the church will help you build a good reputation, keep the door to ministry open in that local assembly, open up new opportunities in other churches, all while building the kingdom of God.

“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Always be Respectful

The pastor is the one who invited you in to minister and should be shown the utmost respect. Part of your job as a guest minister is to encourage and support the pastor. You should never do anything that might show disrespect toward him, his wife or family. The Bible says, “Render therefore to all their due – honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7).

Always refer to him or her as Pastor (their name). Unless they tell you otherwise, never call the pastor by their first name, especially when ministering to their congregation. You may be tempted to think you are peers and should be on a first name basis. This may be true in your personal dealings with each other, however, when in front of their congregation or church leaders, you must show respect to the pastor.

When the pastor walks to the platform the guest minister should also. Stay there throughout the entire service. It is very disrespectful to leave before the service is over. Often the guest wants to arrive when it’s their time to minister and leave when their time is over. This should never take place. You should never leave until the service has been dismissed. The guest should be supportive of all that is taking place. If he/she expects to be listened to, he must also listen to what others have to say. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

Not only should you remain in the service, but you should also participate. Your body language and actions tell everyone whether you are behind the ministry or not. If they are worshiping or praying, then so should you. When an offering is being taken, you should always be prepared to give in that offering. When the pastor is encouraging the people in a certain direction, you must lend him your complete support. In short, you should be his biggest “amen” corner.

Never make the pastor or church the punchline of a joke. Often the pastor is used in the context of a joke to his personal embarrassment. This should never be done. This type of jesting does not elevate the pastor and his ministry, but shows blatant disrespect. Nothing negative should ever be said about the pastor, his family, his appearance, or ministry. Always show the utmost respect and honor for the pastor and their ministry.

Maintain Doctrinal Unity

You must present a unified front doctrinally. A guest minister should never address areas of doctrine that he is in disagreement with the pastor. The Bible says, “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned”(Romans 16:17). You are there to support the church. Stick with the areas you agree on and not areas of disagreement. The last part of that verse says, “And avoid them.” If you tread into areas that do anything but build and strengthen that local body, the pastor, and his position doctrinally, you will be avoided the next time they are considering having a guest in to minister.

Be Punctual

Find out what time the pastor needs you to arrive and be there on time. It is never OK to be fashionably late. There must be time for you to set up any personal equipment or displays. Let the pastor know how much time you need, and be there on time. If there is a prayer meeting before the service, make sure you are there in time for it.

I once had a fairly well known musician in our church and sent someone to the motel to get him. He had just ordered food, knowing what time I said he needed to arrive. Needless to say, the person had to wait on him. He finally showed up, a great deal past the time to pray, and still needed time for a sound check and to go over the service with me. He acted as if everything revolved around him, the “star.” I can’t tell you how much stress this put on me and my church. If you need to arrive at a certain time, be on time! No matter how good he was, and how well he was liked, I never asked him back after that.

Follow Time Restraints

Always ask how much time you have been allotted and stay within that structure. Whether it’s twenty minutes or an hour, stop when your time is up. Our church once shared a service with another church. They were to take care of the worship, communion and offering and I was to preach the message. We were at their church and he suggested I should keep the sermon within thirty minutes because of other things that were taking place. I preached and condensed much of what I had to remain within his time restraints. The Lord really moved and we had a great altar time. After the service, the pastor said to me, “You didn’t take much time.” I told him he asked me to stay within that time period and so I did. His reply to me was, “Yes but nobody ever does!” That should never take place. You must always stay within the time frame given to you.

Also, it is never proper to ask for more time in front of the congregation while ministering. To do so is to upstage the pastor and usurp his authority. Often the pastor is put on the spot by the guest asking him, in front of the entire body, if he could have just a little more time. It is often blamed on the Holy Spirit, saying He is moving and not to continue would be to quench what He (the Holy Spirit) wants to accomplish. The pastor is the one who is ultimately in charge of that body and the service, and should decide if the service should be extended. Always be considerate of the pastor and the time structure the church has established.

Be Supportive

When I am taking part in another person’s ministry, it is my job, above all else, to support him. Jesus said, “If you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s who shall give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:12). The job of the guest ministry is not only to bring blessing to the body, but to back the pastor and support them in every way.

When you are ministering in someone’s church, make it your passion to uplift and support that local church pastor with all that you have. It is the right thing to do and is very pleasing to the Lord. You don’t know what the pastor may be going through and the pressures he is under. He typically has no one to support him and undergird his ministry. God has most probably sent you, the guest minister, to be that person.

You can support the pastor personally by encouraging their people to be faithful to the church, the services, by giving, with their involvement, etc. Be observant. Anything you see or hear that the church is doing, or the pastor is challenging them to do, get on the band wagon. Make a note of it and incorporate it into your ministry. I guarantee you will notice the difference in God’s blessing and anointing during the service. Push his vision and challenge the people to get behind it in full support. Your ministry will be blessed and increased as a result of your efforts.

Mailing Lists and Contacts

A guest ministry should never try to build their ministry off another’s work. It’s just not ethical or proper. Jesus Himself didn’t even do this. He sent a very important message through an angel to his servant John (Revelation 1:1) and had the apostle John convey it to the church through the local pastor. In Revelation 1:16 John describes his vision of Jesus saying, “And He had in His right hand seven stars,” and in verse twenty declares the stars were the angels or messengers (pastors) of the seven churches. Jesus didn’t even go directly to the people of the churches in this case but sent His word to them through the pastor or messenger of that church. In each letter that follows He says, “unto the angel (messenger or pastor) of the church in…” I believe this makes a strong case for itinerant and evangelistic ministries not to build their mailing list off of fellow minister’s churches and their congregations.

Let’s face it, most mailing lists are put together primarily for the purpose of raising money. When a ministry is invited into a local church to bless that body and the guest draws monies from the people (that should be going to support the local ministry) something is wrong. I believe this is a very unethical practice. One of Jesus’ main purposes was to build the church and this does just the contrary. It takes away from the church and drains it of much needed support. You’d be surprised how many people cut back on their tithe and offerings to fund these ministries.

Any mailings done by guest ministries to the churches they’ve ministered in should be done through the pastor and church. They could either send a copy of the newsletter to the church for the pastor to let them read, or send a bundle for the pastor to give out to his people at his discretion. At the very most, if anything is sent to an individual, it should never be done without the express permission of the pastor – and he should never be asked in front of the person, but in private.

Receiving Offerings

The church has usually arranged for the guest to receive an honorarium or love offering prior to the guest’s arrival. When people have been blessed by an incoming ministry, they will often get him off to the side and give him extra cash or a check. Often this is done for the attention that is given them. There has usually been an offering taken for him already. They should have given it then, which makes you wonder why they are doing so later. It could be they were struggling with what they should give during the offering. In any case, to receive such a gift without the pastor’s knowledge is unethical and improper.

There are many problems that could arise. For example, it can bring the credibility the guest’s ministry into question. Also, many times after giving such a gift, the giver will expect a tax receipt at the end of the year. They will often come to the church and request it be added to their end of the year giving record. This puts the church in a very awkward situation. If they add it to your end of the year contributions receipt, with it not having gone through their books, they are being unethical. If they refuse, tension may arise between the giver and the church.

If you are the giver, the ethical thing is to go to your pastor, usher, or bookkeeper and ask if they could add it to the ministry’s check. If you’re the guest minister, you should take the gift to the pastor and give it to him. This clears up any potential misunderstandings and gives the pastor added respect for you. Most generally, he will either tell you to keep it or will add it to your check. Either way, you have done the ethical thing.

Counseling Church Members

A guest ministry should never counsel people in another person’s congregation without the express permission or request of the pastor. At best, you have a very limited knowledge of that person, their situation, and what they may be going through. Often people come for counsel to get an “OK” for something they want to do. Without you knowing their background, or what is really going on, you may place your blessing on something you shouldn’t. If you had full knowledge of their situation, you might counsel them totally different.

Also, being in another person’s church, you must present a unified front. People can often be divisive without even knowing it. If the pastor has counseled them one way and you come along and give them totally different advice, you are being divisive. It has the potential of bringing difficulty to the pastor, ministry and the local body. It also can bring confusion into the life of the person you were attempting to help.

It is always best to refer them to the pastor and ask whether he would like for you to talk with them. If so, he can request it. This keeps lines of communication open, presents a unified front, and prevents the devil from getting a foothold in the church or causing a schism between you and the pastor. If he decides you should counsel them, he can at least let you know where he stands and some generalities of their situation, so you can minister effectively while maintaining unity in the body and with the pastor.

Personal Visits

It is never a good idea to spend personal time with the people in another person’s congregation. Everything should be kept on a professional level. People will frequently want to go out to dinner with you or invite you to their home. This is usually not a good idea unless the pastor is going with you. Often they want to get to know you on a personal level, but there are times when they want to get you off alone to voice their opinions on some issue or to drag you into the middle of an issue in the church. They might ask you something hypothetical like, “What do you think about a situation like this?,” or “What would you do if you were in this position?” It may be a trap and will often come back to haunt you.

A good thing to do when given an invitation is to say, “I’ll ask the pastor to come along with us.” Another thing you can say is, “Let me check with your pastor. He may have already made plans.” Never go out with someone or to their home unless the pastor is either with you, has suggested it, or you have his permission and blessing.

This obviously doesn’t apply when you’re filling in for a pastor and he designates a couple to take you out for a meal, or if he arranges for you to stay in someone’s home. He knows those he can trust and you are doing so at his suggestion.

Always run everything you do by the pastor first. This shows proper respect and prevents the enemy from having an opportunity to accuse you. It’s always right to go through the messenger. This is what Jesus did (Revelation 1).

More articles and guides...