I’ve been thinking about this idea since a conversation at a retreat about a month ago. Now I’m preaching on “The Gift of Community” this weekend at my church’s contemporary worship service, “Mosaic.”
What I’m thinking about is community and the practices of managing expectations on the one hand and negotiating expectations on the other.
When we manage the expectations of others, we are in control (or are seeking to be). We are helping others understand our boundaries and we are maintaining them. Think co-workers, bosses, and those one serves (if in a service industry).
But when we negotiate our expectations with others, we share “control” with the other party/s. We arrive together at our boundaries and we submit them to one another. Think marriage.
I submit that the more we negotiate expectations, the more fully we are in authentic community with one another. Conversely, the more we manage expectations, the less fully we are in authentic community with one another.
In practice, while we would value and aspire to living in authentic community, there are some persons with whom we interact that we will appropriately manage expectations. Probably all relationships begin this way. But some (like a marriage) cannot continue unless they transition into ones that negotiate expectations.
In the church, then, it seems to me that this is another “already/not yet” dynamic. It some respects we manage one another’s expectations of us, thus retaining some control over our schedules, our money, our families, etc. And in other respects we negotiate one another’s expectations, thus sharing control of our lives with others. This requires vulnerability and trust, the lifeblood of authentic community, and inevitably takes time to develop, usually in fits and starts.