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6 Benefits to Managing Expectations

Do you know what is expected of you as a youth leader? And do your youth leaders know what is expected of them and what they can expect from you? Communicating expectations, and thereby managing them, is crucial for keeping your leaders motivated and for achieving results. Here are 6 benefits of managing expectations:

1. You can make informed decisions

My husband and I were small group leaders once in a youth ministry where it was totally unclear what was expected of us. We started out thinking that we’d ‘just’ do our small group, but it turned out we were also expected to help organize events, help out at youth services, etc. Now for us, this wasn’t a problem because we wanted to invest our time in youth ministry, but we didn’t have kids at the time. If we had, we wouldn’t have been able to fulfill all their expectations. If you know what’s expected of you, only then can you make an informed decision whether or not to accept a task or responsibility.

When you talk to people who are interested in becoming a youth leader, be very clear in what is expected of them. And be honest. If being a small group leader means a time investment of 10-12 hours a week, say so. They’ll know that’s what it takes, and if they decide to go for it, they’ll know what to expect.

2. You can say no

You’ll also have to manage expectations where you yourself are concerned. How many hours a week are you available for advice? How often will you sit down with them to ask how it’s going? Being realistic about what your leaders can expect from you will allow you to say no without feeling guilty if you’ve already done what’s expected. If you communicate your day off clearly and tell everyone they’re not to disturb you for anything other than real emergencies, you won’t feel guilty about not answering your phone that day.

3. You can address issues

If you have never communicated your expectations to your youth leaders, you can’t address issues that arise in their ‘performance.’ I’ve been in a teen ministry where it was never made clear whether or not you were supposed to attend the teen services. Some leaders did; others didn’t. But the ones that didn’t come couldn’t really be ‘told’ because nobody had ever clearly said they were expected to come.

4. You can do the right things

If you don’t know what’s expected of you, how do you know you’re doing the right things? You may think you’re doing okay, but does your ‘boss’ feel the same way? Managing expectations allows you or your leaders to focus on what is really important.

I’ve always tried to communicate to my small group leaders that I expected one thing of them: to be a great, caring, and involved small group leader. I told them it would be great if they showed up for events, retreats, youth services, etc, but their main job was to take care of their small group. If that was all they could manage time-wise but they did a great job, fine. If they managed to come to youth services, even better.

5. You can measure performance

If you’ve never told your youth leaders what you expected of them, how will you measure their performance? You can only weigh performance against expectations, but that implies the expectations were clear.

6. You can draw the line

People can crash and burn if they don’t know what’s expected of them. They’ll just keep going until finally they quit. When you know what is reasonably expected of you, it is far easier to draw the line and say ‘when.’

In my last church, I had a contract for 32 hours a week. In the discussions with the board of elders, I specifically asked if I was expected to work more than that. They assured me I wasn’t. I started keeping a timesheet so I knew my hours and what I used them for. Sure, there were weeks when I worked far more than 32 hours, but because I was writing down my hours, I could compensate with a day off the next week. Knowing that I wasn’t expected to work more, I never felt guilty about taking time off.

If you are a youth pastor or if you are responsible for other leaders, communicate your expectations to them. Sit down with all of them and talk about what their task entails and what it doesn’t. It’ll help them enormously.

If you are a youth leader and are working ‘under’ someone else, make sure you know what is expected of you. It may seem like an awkward conversation to have, but you’ll thank yourself later. Just ask your leader for some time and discuss your tasks and responsibilities with him. Don’t leave until you know exactly what is expected of you.

Do you know what is expected of you, and do your youth leaders know what you expect of them? How have you communicated your expectations?  

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Rachel Blom has been involved in youth ministry in different roles since 1999, both as a volunteer as on staff. She simply loves teens and students and can't imagine her life without them. In youth ministry, preaching and leadership are her two big passions. Her focus right now is providing daily practical training through www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com to help other youth leaders grow and serve better in youth ministry. She resides near Munich in the south of Germany with her husband and son. You can visit Rachel at www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com