May 17, 2011

Communicating Expectations

Expectations. Rules. Guidelines.

We all have them and no matter what we are trying to accomplish, they must be communicated. However, the way that we communicate them is one of those HUGE little things that if not taken into account and done well, can help to distract, disillusion, and divide the groups we work with as youth workers. And sometimes, they simply are not heard because of how we tried to communicate them.

Critical to communicating expectations is being CRYSTAL CLEAR the FIRST TIME. If you can't accurately communicate clearly the expectations of a given task or event, we have not done our homework and probably need to simplify it. The clearer we make expectations, the easier we make it for students and parents to be able to meet and support those expectations.

Equally important to clearly communicating expectations is the WORDS that we use to EXPRESS those guidelines. Students today are inundated with rules established in response to actions, expectations established to meet standards, and generally, poorly communicated rationale for those fences. Because of that, we really get one shot at fitting into the bandwidth available in their minds.

Positive communication is critical to this process. So, if we are talking about a trip that a student commits to, communicate everything related to that trip in a way that would enhance their experience. "If you want to be prepared the best for your trip, you should probably take this thing very seriously." The key to this is leaving it at that and continually reinforcing the reality that each student has the ability to make or break their own personal experience.

Finally, underlying this entire discussion is the understanding that NOBODY LIKES A SINKING SHIP. A phrase I first heard from Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens in reference to how to promote volunteer positions applies just as much to this discussion. Most expectations that students encounter are established in reaction to a previous negative experience. The Church of Jesus Christ should understand rules differently, and therefore, communicate them differently. In Exodus 20:2, God makes it extremely clear why He was handing down the Ten Commandments and it was not because He wanted to restrict His people. He wanted them to have the best possible and most life-giving experience possible while they lived on this earth. What if our expectations did the same thing in our ministries and our events?

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