Pastors and Expectations

Someone once told me that a pastor is the only person who has two hundred bosses. That is…if you serve a church with two hundred members. The larger the church, the more ‘bosses’ you have. Of course I chuckled at that. It isn’t nearly that bad, but one of the pressures of being of pastor is a sense that you have different sets of expectations that aren’t always compatible, thus the idea of multiple bosses.

In the previous article I listed the expectations the Discipline has. They are varied and many. Yet, there are times when the district has their own set of expectations (that are usually backed up in the Discipline) as does the conference. There are also expectations coming from your church, your community, your family and even yourself. Over and beyond that we have a sense that God has expectations too. So, what is a pastor to do? Who trumps whom? Should we always meet expectations coming from our church, or should it always be the district/conference? Or maybe our family? Where do our own expectations formed in prayer, silence and spiritual practices come into play?

There have been times when I’ve felt like I’m running around trying to keep multiple plates spinning at once. Other times I feel like I’m walking on a tightrope high above the cold hard ground trying to stay balanced. Keeping conflicting expectations (which do occur) balanced isn’t so much a science than it is an art. I believe age and maturity can help us prioritize our lives. Our understanding of worth and where we receive a sense of validation is one of the main factors in how we keep things in balance and decide what we must do and what we can leave undone. If we receive our worth and feelings of validation from being viewed as the pastor who has it all together and can do ‘all things’ then the church’s expectations will probably win. If our validation comes from a positive view of our DS, bishop or other connectional colleague, then we will try to meet and exceed our conference/district expectations.

A sense of worth, validation and esteem are powerful motivators. Jesus even spoke to this. He asks, what good is it to gain the whole world, yet loose your soul? I have to ask myself: What good is it to have all those around you sing your praises if you are empty inside? If we get our sense of worth and validation anywhere other than God, there is a possibility that we will be led to a wrong end.

We will always have conflicting expectations. The question is, will we be able to manage them? I suggest spending time discerning what God’s call is for you as a pastor. What passions has God placed in your life? There will always be expectations surrounding you and ministry, but it is important to spend time allowing God to leading to those one or two things God has called you to. This is not as easy as it sounds. We must first put aside all of our agendas and ambitions. We must stifle the voice of the culture that will try to define what ‘success’ looks like. Success is discovering God’s will for you and following that without guilt or apology. Listening in prayer is important and so is listening to spiritually mature individuals whom you trust.

Once you believe you know what God’s call for you is, then it is time to deal with issues such as productivity, distractions, time management, delegation, etc. I will discuss these things in later postings. The first task is to spend time with God discerning God’s will and praying the prayer that Jesus prayed (“not my will, but Your’s be done”). God’s will is the foundation from which ministry will flow.

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