Guest Post by Tim Roehl

Almost everyone who has started something new—especially planting a church or launching a different type of ministry—deals with the tensions of expectations.

Expectations come from all kinds of sources. Some come from those above us in positional leadership. Some come from those around us—family, peers, church folks. Some come from inside ourselves.

Expectations can come in all kinds of “sayings,” too. Maybe you’ve heard some of them personally…

  • How many do you have coming to church?
  • You haven’t started church services yet?
  • When are you going to start having church?
  • If you do that, you’ll water down the gospel.
  • Why do you have to move so far away from us?
  • Why do you have to raise support?
  • You’re not going to have ___________?
  • Everyone knows that…
  • I’ve got to have _______ within _________ before our support runs out.

…and the list goes on. Bet you can add some doozies.

Often these expectations come from well-intentioned people who are used to seeing ministry done a certain way. It’s hard for them to understand why we are doing what we do. Sometimes they are trying to help. Sometimes they are just plain critical. Most of the time we feel the tension to doubt ourselves, become defensive or wonder if anyone really supports us.

How can you deal with the tension of expectations? Better yet, how can you turn that tension into positive energy? On a recent coaching call with Jeff and Andrea, who are planting a church for the second time but using a much different method, we compiled a list of ways we can help relieve the tension and redirect the expectations. Here’s what we came up with…

  1. Realize that we are using a different scorecard. Most measurements of “success” in church ministry focus on attendance at one place once a week or how many decisions you can count. It can be helpful to share with others that you are using a different scorecard by paying attention to how many discipling relationships and groups you are developing… often before your first service. It’s the difference between “church planting success = Sunday morning church” and “laying a strong foundation starting by making disciples that can make disciples.”
  2. Report all that you are doing… a true indicator of your missional fruitfulness. Instead of reporting how many are coming to church on Sunday, help them see the bigger picture of missional incarnational ministry. One couple I coached who were planting in a small town could point to over 800 meaningful relational connections they’d made with people in their community… even before they had Sunday services. Share things like these:  “I’ve met with…. ___ spiritual leaders, ___ community leaders, done ___ hours of training, invested ___ (amount) in meeting with potential team, am in ___ discipling relationships, spent _____(time) in prayer…. all to lay the foundation for our work.”
  3. Reinforce your desire for their prayers. What people can’t understand, they can still pray about. Say something like, “Thanks for sharing that. We are trusting the Lord’s leading in our lives… would you pray for us? That would mean a great deal.”
  4. Rhythms—Remember, you are developing new rhythms of life and ministry. This is vital to future ministry and a healthy family. Learn how to encourage yourself in the Lord. For example, Jeff does better when he can process verbally while he walks. Develop sustainable rhythms so you can stay in the game for the long haul.
  5. Resources—Often, we are trusting the Lord in a whole new way to provide for our needs. Share stories (or listen to other’s stories) of God’s provision. Be intentionally thankful for those who support you. Be generous yourself. Remember, we can’t out-give God!
  6. Redeem it—Use the lessons the Lord is teaching you to bless and help others. Leverage it for others’ benefit and God’s glory! Sometimes the well-intentioned advice is just what you need. Make sure you are processing with trusted friends, mentors and your coach. Great coaching can help us make the most of our mistakes.
  7. Reframe the conversation—When people use a different frame of reference (like your tribe’s stated organizational structures), rather than focusing on structures, reframe the conversation on the mission of the Church. Invite them to consider that “We have been given ‘more missional flexibility’ to accomplish our mission. We will honor the vision of our denomination with missional flexibility, realizing that not one structure fits all churches and ministriesit takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.”

Adapting these seven ways to lessen tension will not remove all the expectations, but they can make them more manageable… and even helpful!

Coach Yourself Forward

  1. What expectations have affected you most deeply? Why?
  2. Think of a current situation where there is the tension of expectations. From our list of seven, which ones could you use right now?
  3. What would you add to our list?

TransforMissional Coaching: Empowering Leaders in a Changing Ministry World

TransforMissional Coaching (Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl) has been updated! Check out the revised and updated 10th Anniversary addition with contributions from Keith Webb and Dave DeVries.


Be. Do. Leadership that flows from Christlike character (be) and is culturally savvy and fruitful (do) is more essential than ever in our rapidly changing world. Entering and experiencing the Great Commandment goes hand in hand with expressing and engaging the Great Commission. You can’t have one without the other. That’s why we’ve coined the word transformissional. TransforMissional coaches bring Spirit-led skills to come alongside and empower leaders to be transformed to be more like Jesus and join Jesus in His great redemptive mission in our world. Be more like Jesus. Do more with Jesus. That’s the heart of TransforMissional Coaching. In this revised and updated 10th Anniversary edition, we share more of what we’ve learned about the “be” and “do” of coaching in our changing ministry world.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”