My life mentor and pastor for many years gave me some advice when I accepted the pastorate. I had made some business cards with the service start time and end times, but he encouraged me to take the ending times off of the card. He pointed out that by setting the expectation that church will be over at a certain time and going over that time will frustrate people. I realized then that setting expectations is important.
I found that first of all it is important for the pastor and leadership to lay out the expectations of the people in the church. I know that is an odd statement, but there are expectations for everyone that attends church. For some churches it is acceptable to eat and drink during service, but for some it is not. Lay these expectations out, but do it in a way that is not offensive; after all it is an expectation of the church people and not necessarily a commandment from the Lord.
After that the leadership and the pastor can outline the expectations they are willing to fulfill for the church. I found that people would start to grow a little fidgety right at noon. I think there was an expectation that was when church let out at noon. However, I don’t usually preach to the clock, but to the issue God tells me to preach to. I decided to change their expectation. I started jokingly explaining how church is scheduled to let out at 1:00 and that I’m such a good pastor that I never keep everyone over. This was a nonoffensive way of telling everyone that they would not be getting out at noon. The fidgeting greatly diminished.
Finally, it is a good idea for the people in the church to define what they expect of the pastor and leadership. They may expect the pastor to preach on certain topics at times. I had one member of the church tell me that he expected me to offer prayer time at the altar after every service. Now not every expectation will be met, but when we voice them we can have a conversation on them, come to an agreement, and deal with frustration before it grows into dissention.
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