Fights will occur in your church.

Not fistfights in your parking lot (even though that’s been known to happen).

I’m talking about conflicts.

The type of conflict with a church member that strains relationships, disrupts peace, and causes division.

These types of fights are bound to happen.

Anytime you put one sinner with another sinner; you’re going to have tension.

Let me ask you this:

If you could minimize conflict in your church, would you?

If there were one thing you could do that would help your church to live in peace, would you do it?

Are you game?

Great!

Let’s talk about one way you can infuse peace into your church.

Clarify expectations in your church

In the life of your church, there are expectations and reality.

The difference between the two of these is what tends to cause disappointment.

Let me explain.

As a church leader, let’s say you expect your church members to support the life of your church by volunteering their time. However, let’s pretend a fictitious church member expects you and your staff to do the work of the ministry.

In this scenario, work will not get done, and the church leader and church member will be disappointed.

Why?

Simple:

Neither one’s expectations are being met.

When this type of poor communication occurs, it can lead to disappointment, resentment, and outright conflict. The existence of unclear or unmet expectations is nothing to bat an eye at either.

Unrealistic expectations can be a significant reason why church leaders leave the ministry. And unmet expectations can be reasons why church members will leave your church.

How do you keep things from blowing up?

In this post, I’d like to share why your church should clarify expectations for everyone involved.

We’re going to cover:

  • 4 expectations of a church
  • 2 expectations of church members
  • 4 ways you can clarify expectations

4 expectations of a church

In general, there’s one big thing people expect from your church:

Be a church.

From long-time church members to first-time guests, people expect your church to be a church.

What this means from one person to the next can vary widely.

But there are four core ideas this boils down to. People expect your church to:

  1. Be biblically based
  2. Be rooted in tradition
  3. Help them live the Christian life
  4. Provide a Christian community

Most people want to be involved with a biblically based church—one that preaches the Bible and helps its members to know God better. Parents and guardians want their children provided with biblical instruction.

Many people also want to know that their church is rooted in tradition.

I’m not talking about bad traditions, like holding onto something your church has been doing just because you’ve always done it that way.

What I’m talking about are good traditions.  

The traditions that are rooted in the Bible and have been passed down throughout church history—in particular, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Don’t believe me?

According to research from Barna Group, 67 percent of Millennials prefer “classic” churches. I know church traditions include more than administering the sacraments. But help your church feel connected to the Church by explaining the “why” behind your “what.” In other words, let them know that the good traditions of your church are being practiced around the world and have been a part of the Church for thousands of years.

Finally, people expect a church to help them live the Christian life—to live and love like Jesus.

Based on a survey conducted by Pew Forum, one of the top reasons adults in the United States chose to attend religious services was for help in becoming a better person. What is more, according to this survey, parents and guardians also want help in laying a moral foundation for their children.

In this post, I don’t want to get into the details of what it does or doesn’t mean to be a better person or provide a moral foundation.

But here’s what I want you to know:

Adults and parents want help in trying to live and love like Jesus.

A big part of the way you do this as a church is by being biblically based. But there’s another equally important thing you need to do—provide a Christian community.

The majority of your church members and visitors are interested in having a Christian community. They want to know people and be known by others. Make it easy for your church to meet people and make new friends by building a healthy small group ministry.

Does this cover every expectation people may have?

Not exactly.

But these are the four big things people expect from your church.

But what about you, church leader?

Can you expect anything from your church members?

Well, yes.

There are some healthy things you should expect from your church, which we’ll get into next.

2 expectations of church members

Your church isn’t a country club.

Your members don’t pay dues to participate.

Know what else?

Your church isn’t a movie theater, amusement park, or mall—it’s a church.

Your members shouldn’t expect to be passive consumers.

As a church leader, your primary goal is to make disciples. One way you can do this is by creating high expectations among your members—expectations that let them know you’re a church.

To create high expectations among your members, there are two things churches have found helpful:

  1. Believe
  2. Belong

The foundation of your ministry is what you believe.

To make sure your church members are on the same page, it’s essential to emphasize your essential and non-essential beliefs.

When it comes to your essential beliefs, these are non-negotiable. These are the beliefs your church does not question or dispute. You hold them with a clenched fist. For many churches, this includes what you believe about Jesus, the Bible, and Salvation.

Your non-essential beliefs are the things you hold with an open hand. In other words, these are beliefs that are open for discussion and are not essential to the livelihood of your church. Common non-essential beliefs among churches include your position on the end times, your view on spiritual gifts, and your style of worship.

To create high expectations for your members, encourage them to belong.

When it comes to belonging, several things come to mind. Members who belong will:

  1. Attend worship services
  2. Volunteer
  3. Financially support the church
  4. Support your pastor and staff
  5. Encourage one another
  6. Seek unity

As you know, this is easier said than done.

Asking someone to commit doesn’t mean he or she will make that decision.

To influence your church culture, you have to talk about expectations more than once and continually reinforce your message. Here are four ways you can do just that.

4 ways you can clarify expectations

Ready to get everyone in your church on the same page?

Here are four things you can do:

  1. Provide membership classes
  2. Preach on church membership
  3. Share stories
  4. Equip through classes and small groups

Many churches provide membership classes to let new members know more about their church and to share expectations. During this time, it’s best to let people know what they’re getting into. This way new members will become more comfortable with committing to your church.

Another helpful tactic to pursue is to preach on church membership. Whether you share one sermon or preach through an entire sermon series, inform your church about church membership from the Bible. After you’re done, don’t keep this message on the shelf. Make sure your church and visitors can easily access this material.

Reinforce your church’s culture and expectations by sharing stories. Identify people in your church who model your church’s values, and share their example. Letting your church “see” what you’re talking about is a great way to provide a positive example. You can share stories on social media, during your church announcements, or during a special event.

Finally, you can also reinforce expectations through Sunday school classes and small groups. From creating your own curriculum to using resources like I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer, Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman, or Committing to One Another by Bobby Jamieson.

Raising the bar

Don’t let unnecessary fights rule the day.

Strive to minimize conflict, create unity, and ensure peace rules the heart of your church by clarifying expectations with everyone.