Congregational expectations vary from place to place and congregations expect much from their preacher(s). Too often these expectations are not written down and this lack of concrete expectations can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I suggest having as many on the table (written down) as possible. We also know that some expectations are ridiculous or out of the ordinary. Again expectations vary from place to place and group to group, but there are some that are common and that no preacher should ignore. Let’s talk about those:
1. Challenging Lessons
Churches have a right to expect challenging lessons. One elder I served with a number of years ago called these challenges “aha” moments. He believed that sermons and lessons should lead Christians young and old to reflect on their life and make needed changes or additions. Sometimes this “aha” is a new idea; “Aha, I did not know that.” Sometimes it is a reminder of what we already know to do; “Aha, I do need to do that.” When lessons and sermons are the rehashing or regurgitation of oft preached sermons, or are straight from sermon books or websites, there is a staleness about them that does not affect people. Stealing (borrowing) sermons and ideas is fine, if you recast them in your own language, dialect, style, vocabulary, etc., but not if you preach them just as they are. Take the needed time to prepare lessons that are Biblical and challenging on differing levels.
[To expedite challenging lessons, the preacher should not have an office, he should have a study or two. Have a room at the building, at home, or both where there are books and materials that benefit growth in Biblical knowledge and spirituality. Spend ample time in this place to prepare for your sermons and lessons. This can consume up to half (½) or three-fourths (¾) of a normal work week. Use the materials available in your study (studies) to help you understand specific passages. Read, read, and read again. Someone said, “Leaders are readers and readers are leaders.” Do not limit your reading to books you know you will agree with. Challenge yourself to learn a different opinion or stand on various topics. Do not neglect to take time for private study. You need to grow to be effective in helping others in their spiritual growth.]
2. A Good Reputation
Churches have the right to expect the preacher to have a good reputation in the surrounding community and at other congregations. If an elder is to be “of good report,” we have every cause as preachers to be the same. This affects how we deal with businesses, neighbors, government, and our creditors. Everyone may not like us, but we should do our best to “live peaceably with all men” so that our “accusers” can find nothing evil to say about us. A preacher with a good reputation makes the evangelism that members do easier. “We know your preacher, he is caring person.”
3. A Willing Servant
Churches have the right to expect the preacher to have a willingness to serve and an openness to be involved in people’s lives. In 30 years, I have helped change tires, pull trucks out of the mud, clean fish, feed animals, chase chickens into a pen, babysit, drive older members to the store, provide transportation to and from services, fill gas tanks, type letters to editors, unclog toilets, on and on and on . . . all so that by some means, I might win some to Christ or keep them near to Christ.
4. Compassion and Understanding
Congregations have the right to expect the preacher to be compassionate and understanding. This is especially true of medical conditions, family situations, and death. A preacher needs broad shoulders for members to lean and cry on, and a soft heart that breaks when touched by the pain others are going through. A preacher is to be a real person, a complete individual in love with God first and man second (Matt 22:36-40).
[Spending time each day in prayer helps develop a heart of compassion and understanding. Pray for yourself, your family, the congregation you are a part of, the community in which you live and work, the efforts and advancement of the Kingdom of God, pray for the sick, pray with the sick, spend time thanking God for prayers answered positively and negatively. James reminds us that “ . . . the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (Jas 5:16b).]
[Also remember that spending time with people is invaluable; you cannot know people you do not associate with. Be visible in the community. Attend events at other congregations. Eat at local restaurants occasionally even going alone. Do business at local retail stores, grocers, and fuel stations. Let people get to know you, and you get to know them.]
5. To Be a Good Husband to His Wife and Father to His Children
DO NOT neglect your family in ministry. Your wife and children are as much a part of the community and congregation as any other member, and in some way are more important. Your marriage and home life reflects back on the congregation and on the Lord. Be sure to be a superb husband and father. Many preachers lose their families by neglecting their role as a husband and father. Live out the passages you teach and preach concerning marriages. Paul reminds Timothy to be an example to others. If a preacher stands before the congregation, reminding men to love their wives and to bring their children up in the Lord, yet he neglects his wife’s need for a loving, compassionate, affectionate husband and helper and leaves the spiritual guidance of his children to her and Bible class teachers, he is not a good example of what he teaches. Preachers need to learn to say, “No, I have plans with my family.” Then suggest alternate times you can help or talk with the one asking for your time.
6. Be You.
Modern society calls this being authentic or being real. People can see through pretense, just be a Christian who the congregation asks to spend extra time in God’s Word to help them learn to deal with life having Christ in their life and His word as their guide.