The Power of Communication Invitation and Expectation

We are all communicators. Some are gifted communicators, some are not. Most bad communicators don’t know they are bad communicators, but everyone else knows it…

Have you ever been working with your team of staff, volunteers, or students and found yourself doing tasks that must be done because it’s easier to do it yourself than it is to communicate your expectations? I’m sure you have, I have!

At each Axiom site, there’s a long list of responsibilities and tasks.  After several months of building frustration regarding student volunteers in the café while washing my hands, I decided “I am going to personally train each student working in the café this summer so I know it’s done right”. I had an I’m going to do it myself moment, instead of choosing to communicate clearly.

Now, here’s the problem, it’s not my responsibility to train students in the café at the Oroville Axiom. It’s the Site Managers Responsibility, and if they choose not to do it themselves they could instead choose to recruit and train a volunteer in doing that responsibility. So, though my solution to train the volunteers over summer is a solution, it is only temporary. My time, the managers time, and the students time would be valued more if instead I invited others into ownership and responsibility,  worked to very clearly communicate what my expectation was, and helped to develop a way for that expectation to be communicated in multiple manners.

I am going to use this situation throughout the post to demonstrate the three keys to communication.

The first key is that communicating needs, expectations, visions, a message or sermon, or thought, or opinion isn’t about being bossy or micromanaging. It’s an invitation. Every word is an invitation to something. Some invitations are compelling and exciting, and some… well, they aren’t.

Asking people to take over a responsibility, a task at youth group, or a project often isn’t an exciting invitation. It feels uncomfortable, sometimes stressful.

But when you bring someone in and hand over responsibility you add purpose to their life, you add value to the time they are already dedicating to serve. Equipping other to lead, to have responsibility and ownership will reduce your workload and frees you up to do the tasks only you can do, while it also gives the other person meaningful use of time. 

So, the first key is that communication is an invitation. Invite others into responsibility and ownership. This is more for you than it is for the person you’re asking of. It’s not about how you say your ask, but how you connect to it. Are you providing communication in a way that is just getting thing checked off the list or are you communicating in a way that invites others to have responsibility?

The second key to communication is right from Donald Millers Story Brand, confusion is the enemy. Story Brand is a marketing framework, but the concepts of marketing are relevant beyond business and selling.

So, you’ve done the invitation into responsibility, now you have to clarify and define. This is where a lot of things fall apart. And we take over the task, or the volunteer stops showing up. When we invite others into responsibility (for ministry, for their life, for a project) it’s our responsibility to provide crystal clear vision on what that looks like.

So, it’s no longer my responsibility to train students in the café, I have given that responsibility to the site manager. It’s now my responsibility to communicate with crystal clear expectations about what the students need to be trained in. To outline the learning objectives, the things that would make me say “these students are well trained” and to provide support on completing that training.  If I do that then I have delegated responsibility and communicated the expectation.

The same goes for sermons, you invited others to attend and believe this message you’re sharing. But, that doesn’t mean you get to tell them exactly what to do with the information. You should instead provide clarity through examples, suggestions, and context just like you would for a task or project.

If we do the invitation, then allow for confusion through not providing clarity then we set ourselves and the other person up for frustration and probable failure.

If the first step in communicating is to invite, the second step is to clarify, the third step is to well… clarify again.

Another marketing term is that it takes 6 to stick. It takes hearing a message, ad, or information 6 times before you remember it and consider it as true or important.

Zooming out, how are you communicating with your team. Are you providing a means of 6 different ways for your expectation or message to stick?

To follow along with the example of me taking over the student volunteer training have I followed the 6 to stick idea? No, and that’s probably why I’m frustrated and want to take it over myself. Ask yourself the same question before taking over or continuing to do a critical task that someone else could or should be equipped to do?

Have I met with the other person and talked about it recently?

Have I provided a paper outline of the expectations for the role?

Have I trained the person in fulfilling those expectations in person?

Have I provided opportunities for additional training through a conference, workshop, book etc?

Have I demonstrated the role before?

Have I provided reminders and/or follow up information or suggestions?

Well in my example of the student café training the answer for most of those things are no, so of course, I’m frustrated.

For communicating to your students, to your boss, to your volunteers, your spouse, use the 6 to stick method. Find 6 ways to communicate and follow up on your invitation and expectation. Use those 6 ways to provide clarity, vision, and purpose.

Communicate through inviting others into responsibility, clarify and eliminate confusion, and provide 6 to stick.

Doing this will result in a better result for each party. Your volunteer will find meaning and purpose and enjoy serving at youth group, you students will understand the transformational message of Jesus, your spouse or kids will understand why taking the trash out is a bigger deal than the two minutes it takes actually do it.


In the nature of 6 to stick here’s some follow up training on being an effective communicator.


Some resources that really help for team communication: Slack brings all the pieces and people you need together so you can actually get things done.  There’s iPhone, Android application, and web browsers application, and desktop/computer applications. This tool has transformed the way we communicate as a team at Axiom!

Trello – Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance Trello tells you what is being worked on, who’s working n it and where something is in a process.
Also, there’s and Android and iPhone apps, as well as a web-based site. We use Trello to track student progress and data, to complete collaborative projects, and to organize our week to week activities.

How to Clarify your Message: and the Story Brand podcast. Seriously, we’ve already recommended this in previous posts. Just start listening!

How to do a better Invite:

Start with Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.  Simon Sinek