Exceeding Expectations

The key to almost everything is to exceed expectations. When Jesus spoke of going the second mile, He was speaking of exceeding expectations. The key to almost everything is to exceed expectations.

James M. Kouzes' research indicates that people are six times more likely to tell a friend. All of the power of word of mouth advertising is in exceeding expectations. If I rate a restaurant as a "5" on a scale of 1 to 5, I am 6 times more likely to tell a friend of that restaurant. That is the power of exceeding expectations.

This was illustrated to me when I attended a Mercy Me / Michael W. Smith concert in San Antonio. Someone had arranged to get us tickets, which turned out to be free. That exceeded my expectations. Then, when we picked up the tickets they had arranged to get us a "meet and greet" backstage pass for afterwards. That exceeded expectations.

This was Michael W. Smith's 20-year anniversary tour so he did a lot of reminiscing. He talked about how, to get started he ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and did odd jobs to keep going. He also did some writing for others. "One of my favorites is. . . I think you will recognize it. . ." As he started playing Lead Me On, a slender silhouette made its way to center stage. Amy Grant surprised us with an unannounced appearance. That exceeded expectations. And today, I am telling 7,897 people about it via this e-mail.  That is the power of exceeding expectations. That is why. . .

  • If you want to get a promotion or raise, exceed expectations
  • If you want to double your church in five years or less, exceed expectations
  • If you want to make more money, exceed expectations.
  • If you want to double your class in two years or less, exceed expectations.

Exceed expectations in the way you prepare

In my newest book (still in production), I will argue that I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. Teachers ask their students to drink from a living stream. That is, they are constantly learning, growing, reading, listening to tapes. They are always stretching, always thinking. Their insights and perspectives are fresh and alive because they came from what is really going on in their life.

A disciple is a learner. He/she is a student. We think of a student as someone who will eventually graduate from school. We are called to be lifelong learners. So, let me ask you some questions:

  • What have you read or learned about the Christian life that has stretched you recently? How about this title: Everyone Seems Normal Till You Get to Know Them, by John Ortberg. Great book. I love John Ortberg.
  • How is your marriage and your ability to parent growing? What have you learned recently?
  • What have you learned about teaching and group life recently? I just picked up Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson's book on Walking the Small Group Tightrope. Great stuff. You would enjoy and benefit from reading it. I also recently purchased and am reading Townsend and Cloud's Making Small Groups Work. I have read some other stuff recently, but you get the idea. In addition to the actual time you spend preparing for your lesson, spend some time in reading and learning and growing yourself.  I am a big believer in question and answer as a core method of teaching adults. Still, this is not pooled ignorance. The teacher's fresh infilling of truth assures that it is so.

Exceed Expectations in Presentation

Preparation only matters because it helps us with presentations. One of the primary arguments in Disciplemaking Teachers is that people don't really care how much time you spend in preparation. What they care about is presentation. here are some keys to make your presentation exceed expectations:

  • Teach with enthusiasm. One of my favorite verses on teaching is about Apollos. The text says he "spoke with great fervor." The New Living has it, "with great enthusiasm." Romans 12.11 reminds us never to be lacking in zeal. If we ever lack in zeal, let's don't do it when we are teaching. Bored teachers make for boring classes. Who was it, (Spurgeon?) that said the preacher should catch himself on fire and people will come to watch him burn.
  • Teach with creativity. Make it fun to learn. As the proverbs says, "A wise teacher makes learning a joy." Proverbs 15:2 [Living]
  • Teach for take-home value. Put a sign over your desk that says, "So what?" Here is a fun one: look closely to discover how this verse is misquoted. Only two words are changed from the actual NIV text. Can you find them: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20 [NIV-changed] Ok, let's make it a little easier. Let me give you the actual text to compare. Can you find it? "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20 [NIV] Two simple words make all the difference: to obey. Teaching them to obey. Teaching them to do, be, feel, think and behave differently. We are not out to make smarter sinners. We are to make saints.

Exceed Expectations
After Class

The most important time to exceed expectation is not in preparation before class or in presentation during class, but after class is over. The goal is to communicate in a hundred tiny ways that you care about people. People don't care what you know until they know that you care. I had someone in Utah say to me once, "The best Sunday School teacher I had wasn't a very good teacher." I suspect it is true of many of us if we think about it. What he meant was, this teacher wasn't much of a presenter, but he was so good at caring for people that it forever changed his life.

It is an unfortunate thing, in a way, that we call Sunday School teachers teachers. Since we call them teachers, there is an implication that their job is, well, to teach. While that is one job, it is certainly not their only job. The job of a Sunday School teacher is analogous to that of a pastor and it has everything to do with exceeding expectations after class.

The church exists on several levels. There is the invisible, universal, "capital-C" Church where Billy Graham and James Dobson are the Pastor and Family Minister. Then there is the local church. But, the church also exists on the micro-church, small group, Sunday School class level where YOU are the pastor. One job your pastor has is to preach and teach and communicate the Word. But, it is only a small part of his job. Similarly, one job you have is to teach and communicate the Word. But, it is only one job. Broadly described, your pastor's job is to oversee the overall healthy functioning of your local church. Similarly, your job is to oversee the overall healthy functioning of your micro-church/ Sunday School class/ small group. A good part of what you are to do happens outside of class.

Romans 12:13 [Living] says, "Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner." "Dinner" in this context, can mean "dinner," or, it can be a kind of metaphor for dinner, coffee, coffee cake, card playing, ball games, camping (I only camp at Camp Marriot), Diet Coke, long walks, short walks, deep talks, casual talks, personal talks, friendly talks, pizza, barbeque, and key lime pie. It is this stuff that will exceed all expectations.

Get in the habit of pastoring your small group. Figure out some things that work for you, that you enjoy--things that are not an obligation or a duty, but a delight. Find some things that you can stay with over the long haul. Maybe it is pot-luck dinner and a movie on a Friday night. Perhaps it is Pizza on Sunday. Perhaps it is golf on Saturday. Perhaps it is coffee cake, card playing and Diet Coke on Friday night. Discover some things that work with your lifestyle and life situation and family situation and life. And get in the habit of inviting three groups of people:

  • Your best friends so it will be fun. You have to have a fun group to invite people to.
  • Absentees. Consider what the following verses teach about caring for His sheep: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? [3] You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. [4] You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. [5] So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. [6] My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. Ezekiel 34:2-6 [NIV]
  • Outsiders. People who are far from God. Because people matter to God. The best way to reach them to exceed all expectations. Inviting them to your home for pizza and a movie will help.

The key to almost everything is to exceed expectations. When Jesus spoke of going the second mile, He was speaking of exceeding expectations. The key to almost everything is to exceed expectations.