I want to give you something to mentally (or literally) say every day: Say, “I must pastor expectations.”
When you answer the phone, make a visit, meet for coffee, sit across the desk from someone, prepare your sermon, and any of the other dozens of things you do to serve your people—silently remind yourself, “I must first deal with their expectations.”
Pastoring your people’s expectations is vital if you hope to be effective.
All good leaders, including pastors, are always thinking of how those they lead can improve, where they need to be, what they need to be doing, and how much better they could be doing…if only they’d listen to the leader. And that is true, if the leader is an effective leader.
However, (Believe me on this!), they will never buy into your leadership and follow you fully until you meet their expectations of what a “good” pastor is and does.
For example, one of the best things you can do for your people is spend many of the available hours you have praying and studying so that you will have a Mount Transfiguration word for them on Sunday that opens Heaven and helps them see Jesus in all of his glory, majesty, and power.
But, if your people’s expectation is that a good pastor is out each week visiting shut-ins, or visiting in the local schools and hospitals, or cutting the grass and cleaning the toilets, or whatever. Until you meet those expectations, no matter how great your sermon is, it will not be celebrated and your people will not give you a win. They will always be thinking, “Yeah, that was a pretty good sermon, but…”
It’s like this: Picture a young bride-to-be, when she opens the little box given to her by her Prince Charming, she is expecting a diamond, not a gift card to Lowes for a top-of-the-line Washer and Dryer set.
Believe me, if you are not yet married, buying a Washer and Dryer is in your future, but if you don’t hand over that diamond first, your current girlfriend will probably not be in your future.
Expectation matter…they matter big time. Until you address your people’s expectations you are not going to get very far on your expectations for them.
To summarize, every congregation has a definition of what a “good” pastor is. You must start there if you ever hope to teach them the true definition of what a “good” pastor is.
There are a couple ways of determining what your people’s expectations are:
1. Every church has “the pastor” that is the standard. This is the pastor that your people will refer to when they are remembering the “Camelot days” of their church. Find out who that benchmark-pastor is and mimic him/her—for they are closely tied to the standard of “good pastor” at your church.
2. The best way to find out expectations is to ask. Ask your people what they’d like for you to do. Ask your board, ask your people, ask a particular person and don’t settle with, “Just pray for me.”
If someone dies in your church ask the family to tell you specifically what they’d like you to say. Don’t assume! Don’t use their loved-one’s death as a stepping off point to advance your own agenda.
If someone is having surgery, ask them (and their family) if they want you to be there and when and how often.
If someone calls you and gives you some information ask them what they want you to do with that information. Do it kindly, but put them on the spot and insist that they be specific. Explain that you want to serve them well and you can’t do that if you don’t know what their expectations are.
Bottom line, being very clear on your people’s expectations make for good relations with them and sets you up to win.