“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God” (3 John 1:5-6, NIV).
Greetings from Durban, South Africa and the Baptist World Congress in Durban! It is winter here, yet a beautiful and warm day as the sun beams brightly over the Indian Ocean.
While visiting this sacred land, I have been overwhelmed by the rhythmic sounds, African cuisines, beautiful beaches, exotic foliage, and the gracious hospitality extended to Congress guests.
The idea of ancestry and hospitality are very crucial in Africa. For example, Julius Mutugi Gathogo states:
“the Fang of Gabon believe that an ancestor passes by in the person of a stranger and, therefore, a stranger should be given a very kind and warm treatment. Similarly, the Bulsa treat strangers, orphaned, handicapped people, beggars and lepers very well because of their belief that their ancestors visit them in these forms. Generally, in most African communities, it is believed that unexpected guests are the embodiment of ancestors; hence, they are given the ancestors food. In such hospitality, it means communing with ancestors through such impromptu services to guests, hence, maintaining a relationship through the practice of hospitality.”
Paul spoke frequently about extending hospitality towards preachers. As Ralph Gower states, “It was particularly important for preachers of the time who had given up their livelihood so that they could preach the gospel. They were to be given hospitality for several days, and then encouraged to move on to another place. One could not be recognized as a leader in the church unless one was hospitable.”
Hospitality is a vital part of the preaching ministry and can reflect an eclectic range of ministry service. William H. Willimon defines hospitality as, “the ability to pay attention to the guest.” I can’t tell you how many times I spoke at a church and was not clear on where or to whom I should to report once I arrived. On one occasion, I traveled 400 miles out of the way because my host provided incorrect information about the location.
Preaching hospitality might involve shaking hands with persons in the pews before preaching, providing a bottle of water for the guest preacher behind the pulpit stand, ensuring greeters are in place to welcome all guest, or being a gracious host and guest.
As we extend hospitality to guest preachers, here are a few suggestions a host church might consider:
- Extend a clear invitation to your guest.
- Explain the context of the event or service.
- In some contexts, addressing dress/attire may be helpful.
- Let your guests know where to park.
- It may be helpful to have someone greet guests in the parking lot, especially if your church is larger.
- The host church or institution is responsible for the minister’s travel.
- Either the host or the guest can make the travel arrangements.
- Travel arrangements made by the guest are to be reimbursed on the date of the speaking engagement.
- It is always proper to offer to feed your guests during their visit.
- If you will serve meals, find out if your guest(s) have any food allergies and/or preferences.
- Consider drafting a Hospitality Form to send to your guests. This form should ask for travel and hotel preferences; food allergies and food preferences; beverage preferences before, during and after speaking; whether or not your guest will stay for lunch, will they have guests or bring ministry materials—books, CDs, etc.
- Address the honorarium (if there is one) during the invitation phase.
- Provide a fair honorarium to your guest preacher based on the time, travel, and credentials of your speaker.
- It is best to present the check to the guest preacher once the service has been rendered.
A Word of Thanks
- Be sure to thank your guests for their time.
- It is also good manners for the guest to express words of gratitude for the invitation and any hospitality that was offered.
As the New Testament teaches us,”Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton. For more information about proper attire in the pulpit, check out Lynn’s new book: Manners & Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette.