I’ve always looked forward to my annual two-week vacation. When my kids were small, my wife and I traveled somewhere new to go camping. Being a fly fisherman, I’d check out the rivers, with high expectations of hauling in big Rainbows or Browns on my homemade flies! My expectations ballooned even higher as I visited my local fishing store and checked out the brochures with pictures of fishermen holding monster trout. I was convinced that picture would soon include me! Months ahead, I’d plan each day with copious detail.
But I don’t do that anymore. “Why not?” you ask.
I’ve learned that built into every expectation is a disappointment. The brochures of dreamland vacations didn’t show the large crowds, hidden costs and “No Trespassing” signs where you hoped to pitch your tent and float your line.
When expectations aren’t met, disappointment always follows. And disappointment built into vacation planning can mirror the disappointment of ministry planning, too. Experience has taught me to lower my expectations, or if possible, not to have them at all.
I’m sure you’ve been there… You plan a worship night and built it up with weeks of announcements. You’ve made a flyer and posted it all over your community. You even got a radio spot advertising the event, and organized a prayer team to bombard heaven for grace and favor. And then, the evening arrives, and in your mind, you’re wondering where to sit people in an “overflow room” once the 300 seats in the sanctuary are full.
And then, 30 minutes into your worship night, you look around to find less than 30 seats occupied. The disappointment you feel is not from the empty chairs but from the expectations that never materialized.
Be careful of your expectations, Pastor, especially, with a smaller congregation. Plan the worship night; take care of every detail and advertise it the best you can. Without any expectations, greet all those who show up as God’s honored guests! Ideally, apply that same principle to your Sunday mornings, your midweek service and prayer gatherings. Planning is important; strategy is necessary and preparations need to be made, but do it all with controlled expectations.
The built-in disappointments of lofty expectations can ruin a vacation… and a ministry. But when expectations are controlled, joy, blessing and thankfulness are far more likely to fill your heart, no matter who decides to attend you event, your Bible study or service.