Managing Expectations

Photo by Anna Gru on Unsplash

I was talking to a friend earlier about an upcoming virtual game night were planned to have this weekend. We tried this last month too and it didn’t go very well. I thought we were playing games at 7, but everyone else thought they were starting dinner at 7, chatting while cooking and eating, and starting to play games at 8:30 … then only play for 30 minutes because “it was Friday and their brain was ‘done thinking’ at this point.” So 4 weeks later when we tried planning again, we discussed our frustrations from last month.

Why is this important? Because conflict happens when we don’t manage expectations, and conflict is what I want to write about today. I’m working with a diocese to create a team building workshop for their pastors, and one of the healthy behaviors of members on the team is “Healthy Conflict.” As someone who almost never sends a meal back when it comes out wrong or even has to muster up all of her courage to tell the grocery store clerk an item rang up at the wrong price, I also dislike talking about conflict.

Conflict is hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s almost always avoided. However, when we avoid conflict, it just gets worse. We think we can tolerate something, but then all of a sudden one small thing has us exploding like a volcano. We do this with our roommates, spouses, children, co-workers, and neighbors.

I also think it’s going to happen when we come back to Mass in a few weeks (dates still to be determined, of course). So how might we prevent conflict before it starts? By managing expectations.

The main expectation I want to talk about is this: Everything will be just as it has always been when we go back to Mass. That’s unrealistic. Each Diocese is working on different rules and policies for when we go back. I’m going to list some questions you need to ask when communicating these changes to your parishioners, and maybe some things you haven’t thought of yet.

  • If the number of people who can be at Mass will be restricted, how will you communicate that to parishioners? Will people sign up or be turned away at the door?
  • Do you have an opportunity to hold Mass outside? If so, how will you keep families socially distant?
  • Will you create a printed worship aid that can be thrown away or recycled after each Mass to avoid spreading the virus?
  • What will you do about the offertory since passing the basket will be unwise?
  • Will daily Masses look different than Sunday Masses or will you try to spread people out throughout the week?
  • If an issue arises as people are coming in, sitting close to one another, or any number of things, who will address it? Will you train your Ushers, Greeters, or a different group of people?
  • How will you continue to live stream Masses for those in vulnerable populations and any who aren’t yet comfortable leaving home for a large group gathering?
  • What will distributing the bulletin look like? Will you?
  • Will you prop open all of the doors so no one has to touch any door knobs? Even more than having someone hold it open who won’t be able to stay 6 feet from those walking in.
  • How will you distribute communion? How will you communicate the new plan to attendees?

Again, this is not an exhaustive list or even a measure of prescriptions, but instead a list of things to consider and questions to ask. What do I need to add?

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