Unrealistic Expectations

Adapted from Eugene Wilson’s book, Seventy: Everyone Needs a Team

George Barna, in The Power of Team Leadership, states:

We have been taught that leadership is about one individual’s performing all of an organization’s critical tasks – motivating, mobilizing, directing and resourcing people to fulfill a vision – at a level of excellence and influence that separates him or her from the bulk of humanity.

This flawed concept of leadership is generally what people think of when they think of leadership.

People Expect Extraordinary Things

People expect extraordinary things of leaders. For example, Barna states:

  • 87 percent expect leaders to motivate people to get involved in meaningful causes and activity.
  • 78 percent believe leaders should negotiate compromises and resolve conflicts when they arise.
  • 77 percent look to leaders to determine and convey the course of action that people should take in order to produce desirable conditions and outcomes.
  • 76 percent rely on leaders to identify and implement courses of action that are in the best interests of society, even if some of those choices are unpopular.
  • 75 percent expect leaders to invest their time and energy in training more leaders who will help bring the vision to reality.
  • 63 percent want leaders to communicate vision so that they know where things are headed and what it will take to get there.

Although people have high expectations of leaders, it seems what is expected of pastors is especially high. Pastors are also expected to personally know everyone; be available at all times; provide assistance during emergencies; do the work of evangelism; disciple people; preach, teach and provide counseling; officiate weddings, funerals and baby dedications; do janitorial work and maintenance repairs. Above all, remain calm, relaxed and even-tempered while doing these things.

Not Enough Time

Thom Rainer, in “How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?” presents the results of an informal survey in which he asked twelve deacons in his church to share the minimum amount of time they thought he should average per week in specific areas of congregational responsibilities. The results were as follows:

14 hours for prayer at the church; 18 hours for sermon preparation; 10 hours for outreach and evangelism; 10 hours for counseling; 15 hours for hospital and home visits; 18 hours for administrative functions; 5 hours for community involvement; 5 hours for denominational involvement; 5 hours for church meetings; 4 hours for worship service/preaching; and 10 hours for a variety of other things.

The total amount was 114 hours a week. Rainer says, “If I met just the minimum expectations of twelve deacons, I would have to work more than sixteen hours a day for seven days a week. And remember, I still would only meet the minimum expectations of twelve people in the church, not the entire membership.”

Unrealistic Expectations Impact Ministerial Health

Pressure negatively impacts peoples’ health, especially pastors. Paul Vitello, in an article appearing in the New York Times, states:

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.

Research conducted by Duke University found that in comparison with their neighbors in their census tracts, ministers experienced significantly higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.

Unrealistic Expectations Impact Ministerial Longevity

Unrealistic expectations are contributing factors to ministers leaving the ministry. Research conducted by Barna, Focus on the Family and Maranatha Life reveals 80 percent of pastors feel discouraged in their role as pastor; 50 percent are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living; and fifteen hundred leave the ministry each month.

A Case for Teams

Steve Schobert, in an article titled “Pastoral Ministry: It Takes a Team,” states, “It is simply unreasonable to expect that one person, no matter how gifted, can fulfill all the expectations placed on pastors.” And yet that is exactly the pressure many church leaders feel on a consistent basis.

Pastors are not called to do the bulk of the work of ministry while everyone else receives the benefits. Instead, pastors, along with the other gifts of fivefold ministry, are called to equip others for their work of ministry. (See Ephesians 4:11-12) Ministry is not something one individual does; ministry is something a team does.

Pentecostal Herald
December 2014

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