By Joe McKeever
The megachurch pastor I was interviewing for a seminary term paper was telling me how he did ministry. The preaching load he carried was great by any standards.
I asked him, “Do you ever let one of your assistant pastors preach?”
I’ve never forgotten his answer: “My people won’t allow that. They want to hear the pastor and no one else.”
He paused a second, then added, “They expect me to hit it out of the park every time I come up to the plate.”
This means they’re sometimes disappointed. No preacher bats 1.000.
Unrealistic congregational expectations are the bane of every church leader. Some might say it’s because of the influence of TV preachers who are coiffed, tailored, coached, and edited.
Others suggest the proliferation of mega-churches in most cities in America means people have lots of choices and don’t have to settle for what they consider “less than the best.”
Here are some of the unrealistic expectations congregations tend to put on their leaders.
1. Every sermon should be a winner.
2. Every member should be happy.
And if someone is unhappy, clearly the pastor isn’t doing his job. The job description for such a pastor may as well read, “Please everyone.”
Not going to happen. Nor should it, according to Galatians 1:10.
3. Every doctrinal question should be cleared up in the sermons.
No ambiguity or mystery allowed. The old saw that goes “My pastor may not always be right, but he’s never in doubt” applies here. Some like it that way.
4. Every program/effort should be successful.
No failure permitted. No excuses allowed.
5. Every minister should always be available.
Ask any pastor. We’ve all heard variations of, “What do you mean it’s your day off?” Or, “You mean you chose your child’s ball game over my retirement celebration?”
6. Every worship service should meet everyone’s needs.
Some church members will leave the worship center muttering, “I didn’t get anything out of that.” We can’t scratch everyone’s itch.
7. Every minister should be superhuman.
Church leaders are people. They grow weary, become irritable, or need a raise in salary.
8. Every person on staff is responsible for children’s spiritual development.
Some parents in the congregation expect the church to handle all the religious training of the child. A juvenile delinquent can sometimes be seen as the church’s failure.
The list is endless in variety and expectations.
So what can be done to change the course?
Get the people praying.
Few things will adjust the skewed vision and out-of-control spirit of any Christian like an hour on one’s knees on a regular basis.
Address the issue in smaller groups.
In one-on-one conversations and in small groups, counsel members to be more understanding and appreciative of their ministers.
Leaders should constantly talk to members about losing the perfectionism. No one is perfect and neither should we put impossible standards on one another. Scripture teaches, “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).
Focus on discipleship.
There’s no substitute for spiritual growth. As God’s people mature in their understanding of the Christian life, they’ll become more realistic in their treatment and expectations of one another—even church leaders.
While these and other methods can help to curb the unrealistic expectations of church members, the problem will always be with us due to the fallen nature of man. Leaders will do well to maintain a constant effort to grow their people. It’s called discipleship, and it’s our mandate from the Savior Himself.