Managing expectations can be the key to contentment in our chaotic and unpredictable lives. When I go to a hole-in-the-wall hot dog stand, I generally don’t expect a lot. Maybe that’s why the hotdogs always taste amazing. I have such low expectations that I’m blown out of the water when I find that something good can come from a place that looks so run-down. But when I let my wife know I’ll be home to binge watch Scandal with her, I expect there to be popcorn ready. If there isn’t, I am severely disappointed.
Expectations matter. But setting those expectations—which ones are important and which ones are kind of silly—requires understanding the priorities. Priorities can be the nuts and bolts of setting expectations, especially when you have ministry and senior leaders to answer to, and team members looking to you for answers. So I’ve broken each of these topics down to help us.
Setting Priorities for Ministry or Senior Leaders
Priorities can only be set when a clear strategy has been given. Don’t worry, your leaders probably already have one, but they may not have written it down or it’s not quite clear at the moment. But it’s not your mission statement—it’s how they hope to achieve their mission. Your church strategy is your marching orders. Once it is set, you can more easily determine where to focus your energy, resources and attention (e.g., if it is not the strategy of your leaders and church to reach your community through sports, you should not prioritize lots of money and resources to communicating Frisbee Golf Night). That doesn’t mean you ignore things outside your main strategy, it just means it drops on your priority list.
For a lot of churches, the weekend teaching and worship experience is high priority. Communication efforts should match that strategy. For some churches community involvement and volunteering is a key part to their strategy. Media dollars and manpower for communications should be devoted to that strategy. But the strategy cannot be to just do everything. That’s lazy. Your church leadership needs to prioritize.
Setting Priorities for Your Team Members
Remember that church strategy your leaders gave you? Now it’s time to create a communication plan based on that strategy. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? But it will make your life easier down the road. Find a way to set priorities through tools like Basecamp, Google Drive or Evernote. In our church world, we tend to tackle the upcoming weekend items early in the week. Then later in the week, we can zero in on longer-term projects and priorities.
Don’t have a team? Your priority is to start looking for pieces to hand off to others. You will never be able to prioritize and become less reactive if you are trying to execute everything yourself. Start finding ways to engage volunteers.
Setting Expectations for Ministry Leaders or Senior Leaders
I am sure we have all heard of under-promise and over-deliver. Your leaders do need a reality check on what you and your team can execute. But they also need to know you will find ways to get things done. They want results, and so do we. But how do we estimate those results? This is where data is your friend. Use web traffic, connection cards, online sign-ups and head counts to measure against what communication efforts went in to achieving those results. Let ministry leaders know they should not expect droves of people to sign up for community groups from just a few lines of text in the bulletin. Let them know you can’t get hundreds of students to come to an event happening in 10 days. Set the expectations. They will love you for it.
Setting Expectations for your Team Members
Timeliness and excellence are key expectations for your team. They should have a general understanding about the level of quality and excellence you are looking for. And you should be aware of how long it takes to execute that quality. Work in time for send-backs and revisions. If you push your designer to turn around a project in 24 hours, don’t expect jaw-dropping design that clearly communicates your vision.
Still don’t have a team? See above.
The Tough Conversations
So start asking questions. Write down your priorities. These are the tough conversations and steps that need to happen in order to communicate the greatest message of hope.