In my last blog, I wrote on how to invite a guest speaker to a retreat well. This included knowing how to choose a speaker for your group’s needs, giving enough time to prepare for the retreat, and serving him well as he arrives to the retreat. The goal for the time at the retreat is to serve the speaker well so that he would gladly want to return in the future without a second thought. This entry will concentrate on how to host the speaker well at a retreat.

The first thing to remember is that the personal touch goes very far in hosting a guest speaker. This begins with the means and frequency of communication between the speaker and the group. It will be important to speak with the guest speaker repeatedly to update him on all of the details for the retreat. This should include meeting up with the speaker for coffee or a meal to build relationship with him. During this meeting time, many topics as well as the specific needs of the group and the culture of the ministry can be discussed. Specifically, the theme of the retreat and the focus of the messages should be communicated. One last logistical detail that can be done during this time is for the speaker to sign the 1099 Independent Contractor form for future tax purposes. This should be done early so that all the financial aspects can be settled without dispute.

For the host, a number of special considerations should be planned well for the speaker to have a memorable and enjoyable time. This should include a welcome gift basket, bag, or package that should be placed in the speaker’s room prior to his arrival. The contents of the basket should include basic items such as water, basic toiletries like toothpaste, Tylenol, mouthwash, breath mints, snacks like chips, nuts, cookies, etc. But there should be some additional goodies based on preferences of the speaker that could be discovered in the initial meeting between the two groups. An accompanying note of welcome and thanks should be included in the care package as well in order to give it the personal touch.

During the course of the retreat, someone should host the speaker during all the mealtimes. This needs to be communicated in advance. Many times it will be the pastor or another leader from the host church. Different church leaders can take turns in doing this for the different meals. This is very important for a number of reasons. By spending time with him during the meal times, the speaker can build stronger credibility with the group. This also allows for the members of the church to get to know him better on more of a personal level. For the speaker, when he is treated for the meals, he will typically feel greatly appreciated for being there at the retreat. In these scenarios, both parties can be ministered to during these key opportunities.

One final aspect of hosting a speaker has to do with how much he should be paid in honorarium. There are many factors related to this subject including the size and financial stability of the host church. But here are some general guidelines in considering how much to pay the speaker. The general guiding principle should be that if the speaker has been faithful to minister and preach the Word of God well, then he should be compensated well also. This can be found in a number of passage including Galatians 6:6 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18. In terms of standards for the compensation range, there are some important factors to consider. Here are a few important questions to ask when considering how much to give in terms of the honorarium:

  1. How much experience does the speaker have?
  2. How long has the speaker been in ministry? Recent seminary grad or a ministry veteran?
  3. Does the speaker have advanced degrees beyond the basic Pastoral Masters of Divinity?
  4. Is the speaker single or does he support his family? How many children?
  5. Has he published anything? Is he well known as a retreat speaker?

Sometimes, more established speakers have fixed honorariums that they require to be paid in total or per message. These terms should be discussed in advance at the initial meeting. Many times a written contract will also be provided for clarity purposes. The general rule here is to be generous because you are not just paying for the actual messages alone but also the preparation time, the travel, and the time away from other responsibilities. Again, we need to bless those who preach and teach the Word of God well and faithfully. Finally, be sure to give the honorarium immediately after the final message along with a personal note of thanks and appreciation for the time spent at the retreat.

As the retreat is finishing up, a nice way to close the retreat is to actually ask the speaker for some prayer requests and to take some time as a group to pray for him. At this time the entire congregation can gather around the speaker, lay hands on him, and bless him by praying for him as a symbolic sign of thanks and sending him off at the finish of the retreat. This again is a memorable way to close the retreat and to encourage the speaker as he leaves.

It is the intention of this author to make the entire experience of the retreat enjoyable for both the speaker and the host group. Again, I really want to emphasize the personal and relational touch from the host group to the speaker. This can be accomplished through thank you notes, words of encouragement, and sharing from the congregation on how they were affected by the messages. May the Lord give you a wonderful next retreat as you invite and host a guest speaker for the glory of God!