Managing Expectations in the Call Process

A young pastor was new at his congregation and preparing for the service when an elder approached him. “I’ve been taking a poll,” the elder informed him. “It’s about the new guy. Word is he’s not as good as the old guy, but he’s not bad.” The elder then left the pastor, who had to lead the service with this unsettling conversation weighing on him.

In their work with congregations calling pastors, President Hagan, Rev. Bill Geis and Rev. Gene Wyssmann have seen many situations lead to people feeling dissatisfied with their pastor. Many times, it has nothing to do with the quality or dedication of the new pastor, but unrealistic expectations that have crept into the hearts and minds of the call committee members, sometimes without their even realizing it.

Missouri District Supports Congregations in the Call Process

The call process is initiated by President Hagan, with Rev. Geis and Rev. Wyssmann also supporting congregations as they take an objective look at their congregation and where they hope to take their ministries in the future. The district uses tools, including a robust survey to learn about the needs of the congregation and compare their answers to those of other committee members. This experience allows people to get on the same page about critical topics such as goals, leadership styles, priorities of different ministries, as well as the congregation’s strengths and weaknesses.

The survey also asks respondents to specify a limited number of responses, which gets people in the mindset of making choices and deciding that some aspects of pastoral care are going to be prioritized over others. Meanwhile, district staff walks alongside the call committee members, using the survey results as a springboard into dialogue, strategy, and of course, prayer and God’s Word.

The Dangers of Expecting Too Much from One Person

It often happens that unwritten expectations can be just as important as the ones that go into the written ministry description. Rev. Wyssmann says, “They want a pastor, and they want one fast, but they also have this idea in their head of what it means to be a pastor and it doesn’t always match up with reality.”

For example, congregations that focus heavily on education sometimes expect their new pastor to be good with kids of all ages. This isn’t true of educators, so why would it be true of a new pastor? However, people sometimes don’t realize they’re making these assumptions. This can take effect in all types of congregations, but it’s especially common in smaller ones, because they feel more pressure to get more out of the one position they can afford (which is understandable).

Expressing disappointment in a new pastor can manifest itself in small comments, like, “Pastor, I don’t know, I just thought you’d be more inspirational than you are,” to more extreme situations. Whether it’s expecting a new pastor to be just like the old one or thinking people can do more in a work week than is really possible, managing expectations is critical to a successful call process.

If you’re embarking on the call process, contact Rev. Gene Wyssmann to learn how to get started at or (417) 766-2183.

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