Pastor Kevin Myers, founding and Senior Pastor of 12Stone® Church, taught a staff lesson on the topic of expectations. It was really good! It got me thinking about expectations and how significant they are in life and in leadership.
That is a true statement!
- Unmet expectations in your marriage can be very frustrating.
- Unmet expectations with your friends can be disappointing.
- Unmet expectations financially can be a real source of conflict.
We are all managing unmet expectations. How you deal with that fact can make you or break you. It’s true that disappointment and discouragement are near the top of the list among the things that church leaders struggle with. And the Enemy loves to use both of those to distract and derail leaders, and pastors in particular.
When it comes to your expectations as a leader, they have a profound impact on how you perceive life and how you lead. I’d like to begin with a few words of warning.
Be careful about your expectations:
1) What do you believe you deserve?
It’s easy to fall into this trap. For example, you work hard, and you deserve your paycheck, right? Perhaps. But that’s not necessarily the best or wisest way to look at it. Here’s a different perspective. You have earned your paycheck, but you don’t necessarily deserve it. That’s a hard statement to swallow for some, but if you can embrace it, life tastes so much sweeter. The less you feel you deserve in life the more content and fulfilled you will be. This is not about lowered expectations, it’s about experiencing life from a framework of gratitude.
2) What do you feel is owed to you?
This is a close cousin to the first caution. A mindset of entitlement sets up a non-stop and unquenchable stream of expectations. Some of the most unhappy people in the world are among those who feel something is owed to them. Pastors have confided in me, essentially, “After all these years of faithful service, God owes me.” I understand the emotion, but the theology is off base. God nor the church owes us anything.
3) What do you want?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask a Christian leader. In some ways it comes from an opposite direction compared to the first two cautions. Church leaders often feel uneasy expressing what they want, almost as if it’s wrong to want something. Like wanting something is unspiritual. The truth is that everyone wants something from life, and it’s healthy to express that desire! Perhaps you want to pastor a different church, or maybe you want a larger salary, or maybe you’d like to work a few less hours a week. Wanting something and being honest about it is normal and healthy. Thinking you can have everything you want is not healthy or realistic. That’s where you can get in trouble.
Leaders and Expectations:
1) Expectations are part of the leadership process.
Leaders believe in a vision not yet accomplished. They possess a certain expectation of success for the good of the people. They expect and possess a hope in a brighter future. This belief is part of what drives you forward. If there were no expectation for your church to grow, for people to change, for salvation to occur, it would be impossible to sustain authentic leadership. A clear and certain expectation will take you to places you have not been. Healthy expectations help shape what you believe for. In January of this year, we had a great expectation that the five new campuses we launched on one weekend would birth successfully. We believed that God would be in it! That expectation, combined with God’s favor and lots of hard work proved out to be true.
2) Expectations can cause you to over-lead or under-lead
Aiming low (under-lead) to avoid disappointment, or in order to play it safe is not the behavior of a good leader.
I love the cartoon of Charlie Brown shooting arrows into a big sheet of paper. He shoots the arrows then walks up and draws the target around the arrows! That makes us smile, but that’s not a good picture of leadership expectations. We don’t have to settle. God has the right size vision for your church.
Further, you don’t want to set expectations based on comparison or competition. Your church has its own unique context, it’s important to lead from that framework. You may not keep up with what the “big church” across town, so just tend to what God has in mind for you.
You can over-lead because of fear or ego. Fear and ego are different, but the result is often the same, leading too big.
Lead out of what you know to be real and true! Set your expectations from your best God lead, along with wise counsel that fits the context of your ministry. Trust your intuition when bathed in prayer. If your key leaders affirm what you believe God is saying, you are in good shape. This doesn’t guarantee the vision, but it sets you on the right course.
3) Expectations require a strong grasp of reality in order to lead well.
As a leader you have a certain and finite amount of energy. Use it wisely. Don’t fret about the things you can’t control. Focus on what you can control. For example, you can control how many times you share the gospel but you can’t control how many people say yes. You can control how many invites you make for a person to attend church, but you can’t control how many show up.
Too many church leaders get a spiritual hernia because they are trying to lift things they can’t lift. Let God do His part. The essence of right-sized expectations is to know how to blend God’s voice and yours. It is knowing how to integrate God’s power and your performance. You are the leader and you are responsible, but when you expend energy trying to “make” something happen that is in God’s hands, your expectations will get the best of you.
If you miss the mark, learn from it. Don’t panic. In each leadership experience you have, (it’s an ongoing process), learn how to better set and manage your expectations. This is best accomplished according to an honest and accurate assessment of your church reality, as it continually unfolds.