Unrealistic Expectations – Jay Rivenbark

Expectations, we all have them. When it comes to those responsible for providing specific goods and services to us we often place unrealistic expectations upon them. For example, we visit a local restaurant to enjoy a nice meal. We have expectations that the facility is going to be clean, the food prepared fresh to our order and done in a timely manner. We expect the server to be knowledgeable, engaging and to make us feel welcome and special. If all goes according to plans we leave feeling content and satisfied. We may have even enjoyed the experience so much that we invite friends to join us there the next time. But, should we encounter a problem on our visit, we are probably going to complain to our server about our dissatisfaction. If the restrooms were not cleaned properly the server will hear about it. If the food was not cooked to our liking, tell the server. If the music is too loud, tell the server. If we don’t like where we are seated, complain to the server. The truth is, the server is just that, a server. They are not the cleaning staff, the plumber, the cook, the facility manager or the personnel manager. They happen to be the one employee you have seen, heard, and with whom you have temporarily had a connection. Because at that moment they are the face and representative of the business, we place all of our expectations upon them. We justify this behavior because we are the “customer” and they are the supplier of our needs, wants and desires. Therefore, we often place upon them unrealistic expectations.

Sadly, we often view church and church staff in much of the same light. We treat church as if we are its customer and it’s there to service our every need at our every beckoning call. We place unrealistic demands on it and its employees (staff). We expect the grounds and parking lot to be fresh, bright and welcoming, the facilities to be modern and kept in immaculate condition while at the perfect temperature. We want service and event options on our personal menus and we want it served quickly and prepared to our own liking while being offered world-class child care opportunities. If the music is too loud or if we don’t have a certain menu item (program) available or if anything else is not to our liking, then we complain to the server.

The church is not a restaurant that exists to provide all of our needs ordered when and how we want it. The church should be made up of many diverse members serving Christ and serving each other with mutual consideration. The consumer mentality is not what God intended for the local church. In the book of Romans chapter 12, Paul describes the pattern and purpose of the local church. We are instructed to offer ourselves as living sacrifices both to God and to others as forms of true worship that ultimately reveal God’s will for us. We are to be humble servants using whatever gifts, talents and abilities God has given to us for the common good of everyone. Like our example of the server, we may tend to look at “staff” members as people who should be at our beckoning call and as a depository for any of the complaints we have when things don’t meet our expectations. Church staff members are real people with real issues and struggles just like you and I. They simply serve in a vocational role for which they may or may not be compensated. Most of them serve long hours, carry heavy burdens and strive to meet the ever-growing demands and needs of their church and the people they serve. God has placed people in position of authority and responsibility within the church to ensure the most effective approach to serving the needs of its people take place. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t. My challenge is to stop asking “What can the church do for me?” but ask “What can I do for the church?” Paul indicated that when we become the “servers”, it will move us from selfishness to selflessness.

The next time you’re out to eat or out to church give your server and your staff members a little consideration. Try sharing a little encouragement and be intentional about pointing out something positive with them. Try to see things from their perspective, maintain realistic expectations and don’t forget to “tip” them well. I guarantee your experience will be better next time. You may even want to bring along a friend to share in the experience.

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