Proper Expectations

This past week I spent 2 1/2 days at the diocese of Washington’s Clergy Conference.  I have to say I was not anticipating being as enriched as I was…through the many conversations with other clergy, from hearing about the struggles and successes that other churches in the diocese are facing and overcoming and through becoming more fully aware of the work of the Holy Spirit that is indeed alive and thriving here in the diocese.


One of the topics that came up early on in the conference had to do with what expectations are set for the members of our congregations.  Bishop Mariann told us something that I had heard somewhere before and that I believe is true:  churches that have the highest expectations for their congregations are the ones that are growing the most.  Churches that have the clearest expectations of their members, whatever those expectations are, are the ones that are thriving the most.


The sixty or so priests and deacons assembled discussed this topic for almost 20 minutes and the conversation was fascinating.  Questions that were asked included: “What are your expectations for membership?” to, “When do you communicate your expectations; how do people know what to expect?” and, “Who comes up with the expectations for membership in your church?”


This of course got me to thinking about what those expectations would look like in Matthew’s Perfect Church (and please keep in mind these are solely my own theoretical expectations).  I would be interested to know if all of you who read the Daily Cup think these expectations are ones that you could get behind, or strive for.  Here goes:

1.  Regular Sunday Worship:  When you are in town, come to church.

2.  Devote one hour each week of Christian Education for you and your family.  Adults, go to an Adult Forum, come to a bible study, etc.  For your youth and children, go to Sunday school…every Sunday.

3. Find a ministry that speaks to your heart and do it.  Feel strongly about the issue of hunger in our neighborhood, help with a feeding ministry here at church.  Love arranging flowers, join the Flower Guild.  Enjoy singing, join the choir. You get the idea.

4.  Give to the working of the church out of the abundance God has given you and the average annual pledge at Matthew’s Perfect Church is:  $___________.

5.  Take the next step in becoming a disciple of Jesus.  Not baptized?  Come to baptismal prep class and get baptized.  Baptized but not confirmed?  Come to confirmation class, get confirmed.  Confirmed already?  Run for vestry.  (HA!)  Make a commitment to further your discipleship in some way, growing deeper into your knowledge and love of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.


On the flip side, here’s what you can expect if you are a member of Matthew’s Perfect Church:


1.  We will be here every Sunday so you can worship, have ways that you can learn more about your faith and your relationship with God and develop a relationship with this Episcopal community.

2.  The clergy will respond to you if you need pastoral care.  We will do things like: come and visit you in the hospital, be available to you if you have a spiritual crisis or crisis of faith, pray with you when you need it, etc.

3.  We will baptize, marry, and bury you and/or any member of your family.

4.  We will be good stewards of your gifts–not just of your money, but of the time you spend at church and of the talents that you bring to our church.

5.  We will be a place that provides outlets for you to do ministry that enriches you, that helps to spread the Good News of the gospel message out into the world and that challenges you as you grow in your faith life.


So those are my expectations in my Perfect Church.  How is St. Alban’s like your perfect church?  What expectations do you have for your church?  What do you expect in return?


With the joy of Easter Sunday,



About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Proper Expectations

  1. Margaret Easter says:

    I agree with both lists, would like to add that as a healing team member, we could use some clergy help in identifying new team members since we’ve lost a few due to natural attrition (aging, illness, death). As clergy you meet the new folks more often and could aid by directing a few of them to us for exploration and training in what we offer. Most folks occasionally appreciate healing prayers for themselves or others, and St. Alban’s healing ministry could become much a much more powerful part of our congregational life. But we need new team members to appreciate, utilize, and provide individual prayers during services. As a group, we meet just once a month during the academic year so it’s a manageable commitment even for busy people.

  2. janice molchon says:

    sounds good to me- your post and margaret’s reply too- I think your stated expectations are what St Alban’s expects of us. Janice

  3. Bob Sellery says:

    Outstanding! Never seen it so clearly laid out.

  4. Donna Palmer says:

    Excellent, Matthew. These line up perfectly with my expectations as well!

  5. Laura Ingersoll says:

    I’d add a couple of high expectations, for both congregation and clergy:
    Nurture a community of acceptance and trust, in which we can share personal vulnerabilities as we seek to live ever more deeply into the healing love of God.
    Lovingly challenge ourselves and one another to take specific action, outside of our comfort zones, to confront and strive against poverty, cruelty, injustice, materialism, exceptionalism, and ego-centricism.

  6. Mr. Puzzled and Grouchy says:

    How bout a decent coffee hour in Nourse Hall afer the 11:15 service? Is that too much to expect in Matthew’s Perfect Chuch? Why is that such a big problem at St. Alban’s these days?

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