We all have expectations.
Sitting down at a restaurant, driving in for a day at the office and, yes, even attending a worship service invokes expectations of what is to come These expectations may be met, exceeded, frustrated, or disappointed. And we will have a corresponding emotional response!
That is why, when I offer training, I carefully communicate the course description, learning objectives, and benefits. No matter how good or applicable the training, if it does not deliver what people expect, they likely will feel disappointed and dissatisfied.
Educating people about what to expect from you as a pastor is appropriate and yes, even necessary.
If we don't tell people what to expect, they will create their own uninformed expectations. These expectations may come from their prior experiences with pastors, their own values, things they've read about, or just plain imagined how it would be.
Educate people early on in your pastorate as to what they can expect from you and hopefully save yourself (and them) some heartache later down the road.
Here are just a few topics that demand some education of your people:
Your vision (personal philosophy of ministry, vision/dreams for this congregation)
Your focus and priorities
Your strengths and weaknesses
What you do differently than others
Imagine, for example, you are a gifted teacher and like to focus on basic Christian disciplines. However, when it comes to what some folks think of as exciting, compelling preaching, well, that's just not you.
Educating the congregation about this up front and selling them on the value of your style and focus can help reduce future complaints, criticisms and conflicts. Possibly, they may even come to see your approach as a real asset and gratefully realize the importance of it..
If you let them figure it out themselves over time without the benefit of hearing your rationale and perspective, they may end up feeling disappointed or dissatisfied. You will likely hear some say, “Why doesn't Pastor ever preach exciting messages like Pastor so and so did?”
Of course, some people may still want something different after you educate them. We will deal with that in next week’s post on negotiating!
Meanwhile, how should you be educating people in your congregation in regard to realistic expectations from you?