The Untapped Power of Clear Expectations

It’s frustrating when you expect one thing and get another, right? Your volunteers didn’t handle children’s check-in how you needed them to or an employee totally misses what you’d intended for him to accomplish.

What went wrong in those moments? Maybe your volunteers didn’t understand the instructions or your employee misinterpreted what you said. Regardless of the cause, it’s a mess for all parties involved.

Perhaps what you’re experiencing is a lack of clear expectations. Thankfully, that’s fairly simple to fix, starting with opening up the conversation. Discussing expectations can include explaining a task to the person who’s going to handle it for you and asking what he understands the task to be. It can also be quite revealing as you clarify terms (what do you mean by “in a timely fashion”?) to ensure you’re defining things the same way. That process may uncover different viewpoints, ideas on how a program should be run, and more.

To prevent an expectation misstep, here are a few key moments for defining expectations:

Hiring Staff

The process of crafting a detailed job description, complete with measurable expectations (Sun-Thurs workweek, stay within your departmental budget, plan 3 youth events per school year) and qualifications required helps you evaluate candidates and helps them determine if they’re willing / able to meet those expectations.

Inviting Volunteers to Serve

Before they sign up to serve, potential volunteers want to know the commitment involved and what they’ll be asked to do.

  • Are they signing up to serve 3 services a week, every week or one weekend per month?
  • Are they going to fill the same role each time they serve or will you ask them to be flexible and move to another area if needed?

You’ll have better volunteer retention if you set clear expectations up front and stay true to those once they start serving.

Promoting Church Membership

Some churches have potential members complete a membership class over the course of several weeks, others may only ask for a one-time orientation prior to joining the church. Don’t get people to the membership class and then tell them it’s six months long – set that expectation when you invite them in the first place.

Setting expectations should start at the top. However, if you’re not the senior pastor and you don’t know what your immediate boss or volunteer coordinator expects from you…ASK! Don’t guess or hope you’re headed in the right direction. Document what you think are his expectations, then request time for a discussion. You might be right-on, totally off base, or somewhere in-between. Regardless, this can open up a productive dialog and help you serve your church leadership even better.

How do you set and clarify expectations?