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Facing Unrealistic Expectations

What do you expect of your small group members?

Faithful attendance? Promptness? Having read this week’s study materials? Must all members come prepared to talk about the latest NFL battle, have a fresh joke in their arsenal, and bring a gooey baked good? Warm hugs at the door? Working toward BFF status?

Here’s the question at the heart of it all; are your group’s expectations of each other realistic?

Similar to the expectations wrapped up in a marriage—that a spouse will meet all my needs—small group participants often have expectations that simply go beyond what’s reasonable. The desire can be something like this: close friend, trustworthy confidant, accountability partner, prayer warrior, Bible scholar, and pastry chef.

Let’s not forget a few more items of utmost importance for group members: great parenting skills—exhibited in near-perfect kids, a fairytale marriage, a strong sense of humor, and a nice pad (complete with a man-cave) to host the whole shebang!

The problem with this thinking is that every group and every group member will collapse under the weight of these unrealistic expectations.

Sinners let each other down. Period.

We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all bump and bruise each other. As Christ-followers, we often fail to live up to our own expectations—much less the expectations of others.

Unfortunately, our lives are messy. We don’t always pray as we say we will. We don’t have perfect children. Our marriages often lack grace.

So, what are we to do? How should we engage with others who just don’t live up to our expectations? Consider the practical counsel of The Apostle Paul regarding life among other fallen members of a Christ-centered community.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you…Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:13-15