We all have expectations. Merriam Webster says that to expect something is:

  1. To consider probable or certain
  2. To consider reasonable, due, or necessary
  3. To consider bound in duty or obligated

While not intended to show a progression of thought, this definition can describe a progression of how congregants might view their pastor if he is not living up to their individual expectations.

When a new pastor comes to town, people have their idea of what he should do. Certainly he should _________ (and everyone fills in the blank with their expectations). I’m not talking about preaching. Of course the senior pastor does that. But what else does he do? How often does he visit? Does he visit only the sick or should he try to see everybody in their homes (or invite them to his)? Does he teach on Wednesday nights? How much counseling should he do?

Depending on an individual’s personal desires, needs, or background, that person might say that the pastor probably should do all of the things that in his or her mind fit their concept of a pastor. It is what they expect of a pastor.

If the pastor falls short in an area that a person thinks is important, they might just mention to a sympathetic ear at the coffee hour that it is only reasonable that the pastor would do that particular thing – maybe even necessary if he is really going to fulfill his role as pastor.

Further frustration might lead to a coalition forming to demand that the pastor is bound, yes even obligated to do the thing that the group wishes would be done. And conflict arises over unmet expectations.

Unless there are some guardrails for our expectations, they can become demands that can lead to divisions that can become destructive. The guardrails that help keep our expectations on track are found in a job description.

Prior to a pastor or any other employee starting their work, it is essential to have a written job description that clarifies what the church leadership has agreed will be the responsibilities of the role. The job description states what the expectations of the church are. If there are questions about what the pastor should do, look at the job description.

The job description is not going to define every minute of the day. That would not be helpful for anyone. But it should be clear enough that no individual or group can create their own set of duties based on their individual expectations.

We should have expectations of our church staff. Putting them in a well written job description is critical for both the staff person and the people who are served by that person.

For help in how to write a job description, see the job description section in HR for the Church.