What does an experienced interim pastor do when church leaders are used to skating past their duties?

The departed pastor vacated after a twenty year run. He ran things for the last seven, so the lay leaders got used to operating pro forma without doing much actual work.

Your job as the interim pastor is to turn them into an efficient, effective team. And you don’t have much time; they need to be ready before the next settled pastor is called.

Where do you turn?


Watch Pygmalion

The crux of the Pygmalion Effect is that greater expectations drive greater performance. Another way of stating it as a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you believe something true about yourself it eventually will be.

It’s a powerful management technique. Supervisors use it on the job. It has been proven in the classroom. It is highly effective in training young athletes. And scripture lends its support: “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

An interim pastor who sets high standards for a client church’s lay leaders will see them rise to the occasion.

The science behind the Pygmalion Effect is solid.

Rosenthal conducted the first test of the Pygmalion Effect on school students. Rosenthal led teachers to believe that certain students chosen at random were exceptional. At the end of the school year the group marked as “high achievers” tested higher than their peers on achievement tests.


Later tests showed that teachers subconsciously gave greater opportunities, attention, and feedback to those kids. Their expectations – based on nothing more than Rosenthal’s suggestion – created the reality.

Rosenthal concluded that what we expect of others can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Action Steps

  1. Set high goals for yourself
  2. Expect high performance from the leadership team
  3. Expect significant service from the congregation

Source: 6 Powerful Psychological Effects that Explain how Our Brains Tick – The Buffer Blog.