Where You Should Set Your Expectations

A part of youth ministry is disappointment. Volunteers will quit when you are already short staffed. Teenager who are growing in faith will hit stumbling blocks. You’ll have parents no show after you’ve spent hours putting together a workshop for their benefit.


While you are allowed to be disappointed and angry, you also need realistic expectations.  The goal in youth ministry is to CHALLENGE  and ENCOURAGE.  The problem is when we set people up to fail and discourage them instead.

To communicate and set realistic expectations you need to:


People are facing different seasons in life.  They are facing different challenges and obstacles. You need to identify what your audience is facing in life before you set the bar.

Take time gathering data. Look at the…

  • Obstacles
  • Motivations
  • Pressures

…that your target audience faces. Once you understand what you are facing you’ll know where to begin to challenge and encourage them.


How you want your volunteers to behave depends on what you tell them. If you want them showing up at a certain time, make sure it’s clear. Many time we set expectations without explaining why it’s important. 

Communicate vision, mission and values. This goes for volunteers, teens and parents. If you want them behaving a certain way it needs to be explained over and over again.


It’s hard to set expectations if you are unsure of where it is you want to take the ministry. Make sure you are listening to God to give you a vision.  From that vision set measurable goals and deadlines. 

When goals are met quickly look at raising the bar. When the goals are not met look at the systems in place and adjust. The more you measure the more you’ll see why certain expectations are not met.


The only way you will really know if your expectations are unrealistic is if you ask others to evaluate you as a leader. This takes humility and patience.  Gather people you trust to speak truth into your life.  Ask them questions like:

  • What are we telling you we’ll do and not doing?
  • What is not clear about your role?
  • What do you feel like you should know, but don’t?

Don’t be surprised if the answers don’t match your expectations. Remember you are only one point of view. Take that information and use it to better your communication.  Use the answers to understand how it is you are meant to lead.

Where you set your expectations will determine the success of your ministry. Understand your audience, set goals, measure them and review them. When your expectations are realistic, you’ll know how to lead.

Question: Do you feel like you set expectations too high or too low? Why is that your answer?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.