Expectations and Boundaries

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Road through forest

Photo by Pranam Gurung on Unsplash


Just as cars operate more successfully when they stay on the road, leaders and teams operate more efficiently when they have clear expectations and boundaries, and stay within them. One of the most important things to do as a leader with a team is to make sure that we clearly communicate our expectations and boundaries to our teams, and then hold them accountable to it. It can also be one of the hardest things to do, especially the accountability part.

Leadership is a high calling, at whatever level you find yourself. It is a position of influence, and as such it requires that we hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard. The issue arises when there are unspoken boundaries and expectations. So if you are the primary leader, it is your responsibility to clearly define your expectations and communicate them to your team.

It is also important to link your expectations and boundaries to the bigger picture and to give the "why". If you expect your team to be friendly, welcoming and remember student's names, then let them know that it is because every young person matters to God, and so they matter to us and how we treat them reflects God's love to them. If there are things you don't want them to do then let them know why.

When I talk about boundaries, I am talking about areas that we want leaders to avoid. And when I talk about expectations, I am talking about things to live up to.



It is not my place to tell you what boundaries to have in place, that is a conversation to be had with your senior pastor as well as some work in researching what scripture says about leadership. It also can be contextual to those you are working with and the culture you are in. I find it can help to engage with our teams to get their input before finalising them as well. Some scriptures to consider:

  • 1 Timothy 3:1-13
  • 2 Timothy 2:1-13
  • Titus 1:5-9
  • Acts 6:1-6
  • Exodus 18:21-22



What do you want your team to do? What standards do you want them to rise to? What behaviours do you want to see happening? What culture are you trying to build and how is the team going to contribute to that culture? What is the vision and mission of your church and group, and how can the leaders on your team play their part to see that vision move forward?

Set the bar and encourage your leaders to stretch into it, and then watch them rise.


Where to from here

Once you have researched, worked on and finalized the expectations and boundaries, it is time to communicate it to the team and get them on board. If you can do this before they become part of the team, as part of the introduction, then they know right from the start what they are getting into.

From there, it is time to monitor yourself and the team to make sure you are all working towards the ideal. We all know there are going to be hiccups and disappointments, as well as successes. It is important to address the hiccups and disappointments with grace and love, especially when it is your own. It is equally important to celebrate the successes.


When you need to stand a leader down

Unfortunately, there are times when leaders consistently fail to meet the requirements that we have put in place. It is never easy in those moments but it is crucial for everyone that after repeated conversations when grace is extended but boundaries are restated, that we have the hard conversation.

The best way that I have heard it explained when talking to your team is using the simple image below. 

parallel lines The lines are the boundaries of leadership. Leadership exists between the lines. You can live anywhere between the lines and be considered as eligible for leadership. If you choose to live outside the lines, then we still love you but you are choosing to not be a leader. Living outside the lines means you are not eligible for leadership. If the expectations and boundaries have been communicated, then it is up to your team member if they choose to be eligible to be a leader or not. It is our job to set and communicate the standards, and then hold our team accountable to them.



Frustration is most commonly caused by unmet expectations, and most unmet expectations are first uncommunicated expectations. I encourage you to go through the process of setting and communicating your expectations, monitoring them, celebrating successes and addressing issues. It creates a healthier team and a healthier ministry when we are all working from the same page.

We hope this is been helpful. If there is anything in this that you have questions about or would like to discuss, please contact me - bruce@youthmin.org.nz

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