Unrealistic Expectations?

My co-worker RO Smith and I have been talking a lot recently about expectations in the Church.

RO has been concerned with what are some unrealistic expectations placed upon pastors which he wrote about in the post, We Are All Pastors.

After reading the post and talking with him more about the topic I have become concerned with what I think are sometimes unrealistic expectations of those employed in the Church (i.e. pastors, directors, etc.), upon the rest of the congregation.

As a pastor, director, church employee or whatever, it is basically our job to do things in service of Church (really in service of Jesus Christ, but we know how that can become clouded). Without diving into debates over what that “service” means, and what a vocational position in the Church entails, or whether or not we should even be called “professionals” (John Piper deals with this topic extensively in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry).

The reality is this: In ministry we have very flexible schedules, and can cater our schedule however we want to make meetings, meet with people, plan events, make time for events, etc, etc. But I’m starting to wonder about whether or not we take the average church attender into consideration when we plan things or expect them to serve with the same passion, effort and time that we do on an event.

Example: My full-time job is as college director at Bel Air Presbyterian Church. My vocation revolves around thinking about that ministry. But a college student in the ministry for example (and this may be a bad example since college students tend to have the most leisure time of any when you compare them amongst other demographics) has school, work, homework, family, friends, etc. Their schedule does not revolve around the college ministry, and yet sometimes I have expectations of them that it should. We as pastors and directors don’t fully think about the family with two income parents, driving across town in traffic running errands, shuttling kids, and all the demands that revolve around that family. And yet we have expectations of how much time they should volunteer, and how many events they should be at.

So the expectations head in both directions–clergy to congregation, and congregation to clergy–and it seems to create a vicious cycle of stress, burnout and an overprogrammed church and ministries.

So please read RO’s post Stress and the Unrealistic Expectations of the Church at our collaborative youth ministry site (though I have not collaborated to the site very much lately).

After reading RO’s post, I’m looking even more forward to Anne Jackson’s upcoming book, Mad Church Disease: The Church-Wide Burnout Epidemic.

0 Comments

  1. by Tyler on May 12, 2008  11:51 pm Reply

    I think you are spot on here Rhett. This double standard is sad to me. I have heard of churches requiring their pastors to work 50 hours a week or more, but that isn't changing the heart of the issue. Those who work at a church need to have even more of a servant's heart than the volunteers. Sure, we need to be careful of burnout, but we also need to be the lead servant within ministry.

    Awesome post.

  2. by Reg Bertrand on May 13, 2008  2:17 pm Reply

    Good post. I have had a couple examples of this over the past years. The schedule of meetings fits the schedule of one full time minister, and it is expected for those that have full-time jobs etc outside of the church to work their schedule to convenience the one. I do not want to be to hard on the one individual, but I think it fits your post.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.