Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Interview questions part two

Here's the answer to the second question of my interview.

2. What tips can you offer so a congregation can make a visiting preacher feel welcome? This could include hospitable gestures in the days before, during, or after the worship service.

The big picture answer is to be considerate of the visiting preacher.  Following up on the story about Marcie not receiving a Mother's Day plant: if they had thought about the fact that they might have the wife of their guest preacher present, they may have thought to bring a plant for her, as well.

In the days before, this may mean being considerate with good directions, suggestions about attire or topic (if necessary), or an advance invitation for a meal.  The last idea is particularly relevant if the visiting preacher will be coming more than half an hour from his home.  If he (and, perhaps, his family) has to travel for more than 30-45 minutes after worship, he will probably need to stop for lunch or bring something with him.  An advance invitation will assuage his concerns about what to do for lunch.

Immediately before worship, a church can be hospitable by treating the visiting preacher as they would another visitor-- and, of course, having good visitor protocol in place.  Point them toward the nursery or Sunday School space for their children, if they have them.  Suggest a quiet room for gathering final thoughts, praying, or looking over notes.  The best case would also include someone to greet them, then immediately orient them to the timeline for the rest of the time there-- i.e., 10 minutes before worship then the Elders will pray with you, Elder Smith will introduce you at the beginning of worship, Elder Jones will lead the prayer of intercession, etc.

During worship, the most hospitable thing that I can think of, besides attentive and actively-worshipping congregants, is the knowledge that my children are either a)welcome in worship, even if they are noisy (and that a "cry-room" is available for my wife if she wants it), or b)that good, well-organized nursery services are offered.

After worship, the congregation can be sensitive to the visiting preachers' "newness"-- introducing themselves to him, inviting him to the post-worship fellowship, etc.  If a congregation regularly does coffee and doughnuts after worship, make sure that he knows that he and his family are welcome.  If there is a pot-luck dinner, even more-so.  If no such fellowship activity exists, it is nice-- but not necessary-- to invite him to lunch.  I've also had individuals in the congregation give me a few dollars "to cover gas" at several churches I've visited; what a nice gesture!

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