Monday, June 4, 2012

So... what DO you expect?

In the family welcome and check in area for our kid’s ministry we have a Giant Gumball machine. Children often come with their coins in hand, looking with great anticipation as they place their money in the slot, turn the handle and crouch down waiting for the Gumball to come down the chute and out the bottom. They know that every time their money goes in the gumball comes out; it’s consistent and reliable. On a rare occasion, for no particular reason, they get two, and that’s just a bonus!

These same children have expectations as they walk through the doors of our ministry. They expect to see people they know, friends and leaders; familiar faces.

They love to be known, recognised as they are greeted by name or have their birthday or some other significant event remembered. Children expect to have fun!

As leaders we expect to teach the Bible in a creative way, in a way that is relevant, memorable and applicable to our kids in their everyday lives. Our volunteers expect to be able to use their skill, passion and gifts in a meaningful way.

However, frustration and disappointment set in when expectations are continually unmet.

In ministry this is a constant tension: managing the expectations of children, parents, team, church and, of course, ourselves. Expectations need to be realistic, achievable and sustainable. We manage expectations by creating language around them; painting a picture of “what could be”. Disclosing the purpose behind these expectations helps our teams see that these are not rules; they are values.

As a ministry leader we want to promise only what we can deliver. We have a picture in our minds of what things could look like and what it will take to get there, yet naming current reality helps everyone pace themselves on the journey.

I have an expectation that each child will come to the same service every week and be in the same small group with the same leader. Currently this is not true for every child so we manage the expectations of our parents by describing some of our groups as “intentional small groups”, our preferred picture, and some as simply “small groups”; not yet where we want them to be but nevertheless meeting a need.

Being aware of expectations helps us as a leader to think more critically, and evaluate more rigorously, what we do and why we do it. Are we consistent in what we provide for our kids and families both programmatically and relationally? Do we try to have leaders in the room with whom they can really connect or do we simply roster people because that is easiest?

Our expectations will have a significant impact on the results we see. When we anticipate life change then we plan for it, vision cast it, teach for it and look for it; not resting until we see our expectations becoming a reality.

Imagine if all those within your ministry had expectations that were aligned under the one strategy?
Imagine if everyone spoke the same language and had the same end in mind. How would your reality change?

Your ministry does not stand alone. It’s not up to you to do it all by yourself. Getting others on the same page takes time, intention and strategy. Be willing to work together on a common picture with other ministry leaders. Paint the picture of what you want to see then communicate it with passion and enthusiasm.

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor

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