Christian Living

What Should We Expect from Our Pastors?

People Too Often Make Unreasonable Demands of Their Church Leaders

Surveys confirm that many ministers are overwhelmed, burnt out, and unhappy with their work. Many of them think about leaving the ministry, and some do.

They reason that there are better ways to earn a living, and they’re probably right. A big reason for this is that parishioners expect too much from their spiritual leaders.

Here are some things we expect from our pastors, even though we should not:

Always Available

When we call, we expect our pastors to answer, and to do so with a smile. It doesn’t matter when. When we email, we expect them to reply. And when we text them, we expect a response.

When we request to meet with them over a “concern,” we assume they’ll schedule an appointment—and soon. When we have a crisis, we insist they be there to support us. They must always have time for us. And if they don’t, they must make time.

In short, when we say jump, we expect them to jump. We presume they’re our on-demand support person for any situation at any time.

Give Flawless Sermons

We also expect our pastors to deliver impeccable messages. Their sermons must be engaging, easy to follow, and make us feel good about ourselves, without confronting what we do or think. If they make us squirm, they’re to blame.

They must be articulate, never misspeak, and evoke appropriate emotion without being too passionate or too dry. Their delivery must be textbook perfect.

Agree with Our Views

We also assume our pastors will agree with us. This goes beyond biblical interpretation and theology. It extends into politics, finances, and family.

If they preach a sermon that doesn’t align with our understanding of Scripture or expresses a view we disagree with, we’re quick to take offense. The disconnect is their problem and not ours.

We forget there’s value in other perspectives aside from our own. We’ve lost the art of hearing what others say with an open mind. And we can no longer embrace counter opinions as having value.

Be Present at Every Event

We, of course, expect our ministers to officiate every wedding and every funeral. And we anticipate they will do their part flawlessly. Any deviation from perfection justifies us taking offense at their conduct.

Beyond that they must be present every time the church doors are open.

They must accept every invitation to our parties and celebrations. Once there, they must be ready to offer a public prayer at any moment.

And at each one of these events, we scrutinize everything they say and do. Even worse is when they don’t say or do what we expect them to.

Have Perfect Families

Not only do we scrutinize our ministers over every word and action, we do the same for their families.

Their spouses must be beyond reproach, conducting themselves with precision, exemplifying excellence in every way and situation.

Likewise, their children must be well behaved at all times. They must never act up, rebel, or fail to be a positive example for our children.

Though we’re quick to offer our own offspring grace when they fall short, we hold our pastors’ kids to a higher standard.

Final Thoughts about What We Expect from Our Pastors

Though these expectations exist at all churches, they may be more pronounced at smaller ones, especially when the minister is the only staff person. Even so, parishioners at larger congregations also carry unwarranted expectations for their ministers.

We should remember that our spiritual leaders are people just like us. The things we expect from our pastors should be no more than what we expect from ourselves and are willing to do for others.

We should offer our ministers the same grace that God offers us. We should love them as Jesus loves us.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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