Unrealistic Expectations of Pastors: A Brief Commentary


Lord’s Library contributor Jared Helms offers this brief commentary on the unrealistic expectations of pastors to be aware of. Check out Jared’s YouTube channel and two blogs: A Light in the Darkness and Blind Faith Examples. Lord’s Library’s Ministry Leaders Series is a collection of contributed articles written by ministry leaders on key Christian topics.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgeActs 14:15: “And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:”

There are no perfect pastors outside of Christ. All the men in our local congregations are human, they have all the limitations we have. They can only work so many hours a day, only be in one place at one time, and have only limited knowledge. They make mistakes, forget things, get sick, and have bad days like anyone else. They have to eat, sleep, etc. What is my point exactly?

While we readily affirm these truths to be self-evident many times our expectations betray our unbelief. We ask more than we think of the pastor because we rarely think of all he has to do. There is a description of the perfect pastor I have run across a few times that offers some perspective on our expectations, and this is my rendition of the oft-repeated description (The original and its author are unknown to me).

The Gospel

Unrealistic Expectations of Pastors

The perfect pastor preaches for ten minutes with an hour’s worth of content. He boldly confronts sin without offending anyone. He makes fifteen visits each day and is always in the office to meet. He studies Scripture for thirty hours each week, prays thirty hours each week, and is present at every meeting and activity of the church and association. The perfect pastor lives on forty dollars a week, wears nice clothes, drives a nice car, and gives thirty dollars to the church each week. The perfect pastor is 30 years old with 40 years of experience. He has an effective ministry with the youth and spends most of his time with the elderly. He is handsome, and always smiling with a straight face. He has an excellent speaking voice. He is thoroughly dedicated to his local church above all else.

Editor’s note: If anyone knows where this funny rendition comes from, let us know!

We laugh at this absurd description, while some of us might cry instead, but it is not so far off. We wonder why the pastor hasn’t felt his pastor-sense tingling and rushed to visit with us. We wonder why he isn’t in his office, or at the hospital, or with the shut-ins. We ask if he couldn’t find time to mow the lawn, fix the plumbing, or balance the budget. Why doesn’t he wear a suit? Or, why does he wear a suit? All these little thoughts point back to the description above.

Not only is it exhausting to try and live up to this expectation, but it distracts from the actual work of God which a pastor must do. If a pastor attempts to correct faulty expectations, it can appear he is trying to justify his laziness or tailor his job description to his own liking. As much as it really is the work of a pastor to know his congregation, it is equally the work of the congregation to know their pastor. By knowing the man as an individual, his strengths and weaknesses, his unique personality along with the God-given responsibilities of pastoral ministry found in Scripture, we can set realistic expectations. Realistic expectations allow us to help our ministers help us.

Sadly, our expectations do not stop at the man we hired to shepherd our congregation but extend to his wife and children. Pastor’s wives are sometimes treated as unpaid employees, expected to lead the women’s ministry, or the children’s ministry, etc. The Bible has no job description for a pastor’s wife, only a note on their character. What we ought to expect from this woman is to be a good wife for our pastor and a faithful member of our local assembly. If the pastor’s wife happens to be gifted and called to lead some ministry, we should not expect her to do for free what we would pay another woman to do.

The plight of pastor’s kids, or PKs, is simply tragic. It is not enough that they be good kids, they have to be superhumanly mature for their age, pious to a fault, and totally dedicated to church programs. These kids are, well, they are kids. We ought to expect no more and no less than we would of other kids raised in Christian homes.

The whole ministerial family lives in a glass house, under constant pressure to perform. Their privacy is often interrupted, particularly for those living in a parsonage, and their husband/father is often called away. They have front-row seats when the pastor is abused or forced to watch as their husband/father is maligned by the very people he and they have sacrificed to serve. Given these unrealistic expectations, it is no wonder that many wives and children end up abandoning the Church.

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Jared Helms
Jared Helms

Jared Helms

Jared received his Bachelor of Arts from Bryan College in 2012, and his Masters of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017. He has pastored churches in Kentucky and Tennessee. Most importantly, Jared has walked with Christ most of his life. His interests extend from theology to church history, but he is particularly passionate about ecclesiology and homiletics.

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