Applying Expectancy Theory in Ministry

Expectancy Theory in Ministry

National Association of Christian Ministers Leadership Series

By Michael Mooney, Exec. Elder

Expectancy Theory is the concept that people are motivated by expectations (V. Vroom).  When people are expecting something, they also consider the implications of it coming to pass.  Natural questions that follow expectancy are: What is required to see the outcome?  Is the outcome possible?  Do I believe the outcome will come to pass?  Is that which is expected desirable or undesirable?  How should I respond?

Whether or not the outcome is desirable or undesirable, both have the potential to motivate behavior.  For example, Jesus builds expectancy by telling believers to watch for his coming.

Mat 24:42 MKJV

(42)  Therefore watch; for you do not know what hour your Lord comes.

For obedient believers, this “watching” is an anticipation of eternal life, rewards, and Heaven.  For unbelievers, this watching is a warning of undesirable admonishment.  Whether obedient or disobedient, the expectancy has the power to motivate and change behavior.

Good leadership should practice this principle by:

1) Building expectancy in the directions where they desire to lead others; and

2) Being sure that the expectations they create are also fulfilled

If leaders create desirable expectations, people will follow.  However, if those expectations go unmet, people will soon lose confidence and fade away.

Reflective Questions:

1) How does Expectancy theory compare to Christian faith?

2) How (or why) can people be led by expectancy?

3) What happens with people when expectations go unmet?

4) How can a leader create expectancy in the direction where they wish to lead others?