Why is it so much work to go on holidays? But it seems like there are always a number of things that have to be looked after before the small church pastor can take off. We need vacation time. We need time to relax and refresh and spend with our families and just have a break. But when you are the only pastor on staff you have to make arrangements for things to keep on going while you are gone. Along with other smaller details, you have to make sure that everything for the Sunday services is set up before you leave. Some of us are fortunate enough to have people who will do much of that for us, but most of us need to find someone to preach for us while we are gone.
Here’s some of my experience in how to find a fill-in preacher:
1. Look in your church first. Sometimes there are former pastors in your church who may be willing to preach occasionally. Sometimes there are people who have all the training and are looking for a place to use it. They went to Bible School but didn’t become a pastor. Yet they would love to preach occasionally. Take advantage of that.
Or you can train someone to preach. I have the privilege of having a man in our church who wanted to learn to preach. He had led many Bible Studies and Men’s Groups but never preached. So I spent some time with him and invited him along to a preaching seminar. I invited him into my sermon research. And now he has preached for me 3 times already – getting better each time.
2. Look to neighboring churches. Some of us have larger churches not too far from us who have two or more preachers on staff. Why not look for a way to connect with them and see if they can send a preacher to cover for you when you are away.
I live 30 minutes away from a city church that has about 18 pastors on staff. Someone connected me with one of the younger pastors, who was doing Grades 5 & 6 and just recently moved up to Jr. High Pastor, and likes to preach but will probably never have the opportunity to preach in their main services. His church has given him permission and so he has come out a few times to preach for me over the last couple of years. He loves the opportunity and the people in my church love him.
3. Look to Bible Schools in the area. Is your church within an hour or so from a Bible School? Why not develop a relationship with the school so that when you need someone to preach, they are willing to send a student or teacher to fill in for you? The students need practical experience. And some of the pastoral studies teachers probably miss preaching. It’s worth reaching out to them.
4. Look to retired pastors in your community. Sometimes there are retired pastors in our community who would love to preach occasionally. They may even be from a different denomination, but you can develop a relationship with them and see if you are comfortable having them preach in your congregation.
5. Look to missionaries. If you know that there are missionaries who are connected in any way to your church, whether through your denomination or through your church families, keep connected with them so you know when they are returning. Then invite them to come to your church to share their stories and preach for you. When I hear of our denominational missionaries coming home, I try to book them in as quickly as I can.
6. Look to preaching videos. Wow! I can’t believe I really suggested that. This is a very rare thing for me, but I’m actually going to do this when I go away next month. The president of our denomination sent out his “vision sermon” on DVD. It would be rare for our president to come to our small rural congregation, but I can bring his sermon to my church.
While I’m using this option this one time, I would be very hesitant to use it very often at all. But hey, when we can’t find anyone else, this may be an occasional option.
Well I would love to hear how you find people to preach for you when you are gone. Leave me a comment. I’d appreciate it.