You’ve decided that you would like to have someone other than you speak on your next retreat, but need some advice on how to go about doing it. Well, before you book Rob Bell, here is some advice:

Get someone who relates well to youth!

She may be an awesome teacher and preacher, but if she can’t communicate to youth you will be disappointed in the end. (I would argue that a great preacher should be effective at relating to youth, but they may not always be the case.)

Work with someone who you have heard before.

If you have never heard him preach, then how can you be sure what you are getting? Better than hearing him preach is hearing him speak to youth. Folks who speak regularly often have recordings or videos on their websites that you can listen to.

Make sure they come from a similar theological perspective. 

The Church is divided in wide varieties (denominations) and theological understandings. If you are going to spend money to bring someone in to inspire, teach, or preach to your students you want to make sure you will not spend the weekend trying to correct his theology. When you attend a youth event, you may not have any control over this (other than doing your own homework on whether the event is a good fit for your group), but when you book someone you are responsible.
I personally had to give someone the hook at a large event, because we trusted a friend’s opinion and experience without doing our homework. I don’t recommend it and I had to pay him anyway.

How much should I pay?

Speakers come in a wide variety of price ranges. Most of you will not be booking someone famous, but you might book a sought after youth speaker. I believe $150 a day should be the minimum that you pay someone. Most veteran youth ministers who speak are going to expect to be paid $1000 to $1200 for a weekend event and $1500 to $2500 for a week. A recognized speaker for a weekend could cost $3000. Keep in mind that you should pay the speaker’s expenses including transportation to and from the retreat and room and board while at your event.

Make a contract

Folks who speak regularly will have a contract that they send you that simply outlines the agreement. If they do not, you should make one. It should include:

  • Dates
  • Speaker’s expected time of arrival and departure
  • Financial agreement that includes travel reimbursement
  • Information about room and board
  • Schedule of events
  • Any other expectations you have of the speaker while at your event

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Don’t neglect the most important part: communicate with your speaker about the following:

  • The theme for the event
  • Theme scripture
  • Retreat goals
  • Her role or roles in worship
  • Where your youth are spiritually
  • Things he might need to know about your ministry. (Example: A student’s mom just died of cancer, so a sermon illustration about cancer may not be appropriate.)
  • Do you expect her to give an altar call? Do you not want him to give an altar call?
  • Would she like to talk with the worship leader about song selection?

I recommend giving your speaker a detailed order of worship for each worship time on the retreat. At the retreat set up a meeting at least an hour prior to worship to make sure everyone is on the same page about what is happening.

Where to find a good speaker at an affordable price

  1. Veteran youth ministers
  2. College chaplains or ministry leaders
  3. Talk to summer camps or conferences about speakers they have connections with
  4. Get referrals from youth ministers you trust
  5. CYMT’s staff and many of our coaches are outstanding communicators. We would be glad to help connect you with someone for your event.

A great speaker can really enhance everyone’s overall experience. Make sure you do your part to make sure you find someone who will be great for your group. A lot of this advice comes from learning the hard way. Click here to read the companion to this article, How2 Book a Worship Band.
What have you learned about booking a speaker?