Pastors: Underpromise

One of the first lessons I learned in sales is that you should always under-promise and over-deliver. When a customer comes in my store and needs something done I do not offer them the moon–though they may be asking for it! I offer them a star or two, but NEVER the moon. That is to invite disaster in my life and job.

In a few instances with churches I have come across the tendency to over-promise and and under-deliver. It may be a tendency to not want to say “no” or a fear that ministry may not happen if the promise is not made.

The principle of under-promising gets the heart of people-pleasing. I struggle with it on the sales floor everyday when I am asked to do something out of the ordinary. I have to risk this person not liking what I say–or me, even–if I tell them that I may not be able to get that item for them. I find, though, every time I under-promise there is a freedom I do not have when I over-promise. When I under-promise, the only place to go is above the line of expectation. When I over-promise the line of acceptability is drawn very high…my blood pressure heightens until the task is accomplished.

Take the stress off and risk the relationship–in order to make it a better relationship. You see, when we under-promise (and over-deliver) our word is good. People can trust that we will do what we say. . . and even go beyond what we say when we can. Whereas when we over-promise and under-deliver we have marred the relationship because we did not do what we said we would do. When a pole vaulter clears a ten foot pole by going 17 feet, he is set apart from the others who attempt 17 feet and only get 16 and 7/8.

In what ways have you seen people under-promise? How do you think this affects their witness and ministry?

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