Expectations, Part 2

by think on December 18, 2007

istock_000002154670xsmallJohn Cleese and Michael Palin of Monty Python did a great sketch about a cheese shop. Mr. Mousebender (Cleese) visits “Ye Olde Cheese Emporium” in London. The shop is owned by Henry Wensleydale (Palin), purportedly a “Purveyor of Fine Cheese.”

After asking by name for a number of cheeses and finding none, Mousebender’s expectation of “purchasing cheesy comestibles” is fading.

Mousebender: It’s not much of a cheese shop, is it?
Wenselydale: Finest in the district, sir.
Mousebender: Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.
Wenselydale: Well, it’s so clean, sir.
Mousebender: It’s certainly uncontaminated by cheese.

I have visited churches and trained church leaders who aspire to lead a “church of small groups.” By this, they are saying that they intend to offer a small group experience to every attender and organize all of church life around living and growing in small communities. This is not the same as being “church with small groups” in which small groups are just one option among many. The expectations for each are dramatically different.

A problem exists when something goes south between expectations and execution. I have heard lead pastors brag about their church being “of” when it was clear that they were barely “with.” I know the frustration of being on staff and serving as a volunteer in a church that set expectations for one and then did the other.

It is not that one or the other is “right.” It’s just that the expectation you raise through vision-casting, announcements, story-telling, and printed materials must be met… or frustration and disillusionment will rule. The implications of this are huge. You cannot say you are going to be a “church of small groups” without implying that other competing programs may go away. People cannot do it all. Be clear about what you want them to do, and where you expect leaders to spend their time and resources.

If you expect everyone to be in a small group, your strategy, tactics, and budget will need to reflect it. You’ll have to provide training for the leaders who will lead those groups. You’ll have to care for those leaders through a coaching structure. You’ll have to provide a mechanism for people to find and join those groups.

If you promise to be the finest cheese shop in the land, you’re going to have to stock some cheese.

This post originally appeared on the Willow Creek Association Group Life Blog. It has been edited to remove outdated material.

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