Alan Briggs: Expectation Overload

Identifying your limits is crucial for any leader in this age.

I meet with overwhelmed pastors and business leaders every week. Sometimes I wonder where all this overwhelm is coming from. Yes, some of it comes with the territory of taking on more responsibility, making hard decisions and leading through adversity. Leadership is no joke! But something else is at work. I believe we are experiencing “expectation overload.”

If you lead—especially as a pastor—everyone seems to have expectations of you. Most people’s expectations of you are not fair. And unfortunately, they aren’t expressed until you’ve accidentally let someone down. But here is some good news: You are human, and you have limits.

Identifying your limits is crucial for any leader in this age. I am not just talking about observing the Sabbath every week or taking an extended sabbatical (which I am a huge fan of); I am talking about finding weekly rhythms that embrace your boundaries.

What does this look like?

Relational Limits. You cannot be everyone’s friend and close confidant. Raise up others to help you carry the load. For example, ask someone else to lead the pastoral care meetings. Create guards for your social media communications. The guy trying to get quick responses through Facebook Messenger instead can email you.

Physical Limits. Living and leading well requires that you to take care of your body. You cannot afford not to exercise and get good sleep. You also need time away from screens and the incessant lure of the inbox. Try taking on a hobby that energizes you. I have been encouraged recently to see more pastors backing off their teaching schedule and empowering a few others to teach regularly.

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Emotional Limits. Ministry leaders take on a lot of pain. Go find a counselor or therapist to help you process it. You experience a lot of organizational complexity every week; get a coach who can help you navigate it.

Spiritual Limits. You cannot feed everyone else if you are malnourished. Carve out regular time with God (no, not sermon prep). Get some friends outside your church that you can laugh and process with. Find a prayer partner who can share the spiritual burden with you.

Embrace your limitations; do not fight them. This process is hard and beautiful, but it is also vital. As you embrace your boundaries, you will realize you need others in order to live out your calling. And that is a good thing.

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