The Excellence debate

“Excellence honours God and inspires others”

Have you ever gone into a church for the first time and seen something that made you think “that is a little out of place”?  Have you ever been to a church or attended a ministry event and thought things looked a little sloppy and could have been done better?  Or on the flip side have you ever been to a ministry event that ran like clockwork and you were impressed?  It seems that we all have our own interior benchmark of what we think is “done well” and what we think is “done poorly”.

Yet I often hear from people that the Church needs to pick up its game in terms of the standard of events, presentation and hospitality.  I have also heard from others who say the Church should never be too slick or fancy.  Whilst some churches are pursuing excellence others are deliberately keeping things low budget so as not to look perfect.  So my two questions for today are:

  1. What level of excellence is appropriate in the Church?
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?

Let me start by giving you a few examples that I have witnessed from the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry:

Worst

  • I attended a young adult camp where the worship band left plates on stage from breakfast.
  • One church had posters for a youth group that looked like they were designed by a kindergarten class.
  • One church foyer had three different style of notice boards, posters about Christmas at Easter time and a pile of lost property that just looked messy.
  • A guest speaker had to rearrange the stage before he could start speaking because the musicians just walked off without clearing the stage.

Best

  • My church has a well-designed event template for all their posters so they look professional even though the ministry leader drops their event details into the template.
  • A ministry team that turned the cheap hall they hired for a youth camp into an inspiring place for worship.
  • A café night at church that had tasty food with enough for everyone to have extra.
  • A celebration night at church that had proper wine glasses and plates for the food (no plastic forks!)

These are just a few things that I have noticed.  But what have you noticed?  I invite you to leave a comment at the end about what you judge to be the best and the worst of excellence in church and ministry.

  1. What is the right level of excellence in the Church?  The right level of excellence is doing the best you can with the best you’ve got.  Excellence doesn’t mean spending more money; you have to have excellent budgeting skills too.  Excellence is about enabling people to encounter and experience God without any barriers in the way.  If the goal is excellence then we have failed.  Excellence is a tool to help you bring people into an encounter with God.
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?  The Church should do the best it can to make it easier for people to encounter God, make disciples and join in the Mission.  The Church should be a place that inspires people to see the grandness and greatness of God.  People in ministry should offer the same level of service, or higher, that a person would get if they visited a hotel, restaurant, shopping centre or cultural museum.  I think the problem is that we either don’t inspire people or we go back to “traditional” methods that Christians used last century to inspire people but they don’t inspire 21st century people.

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Louie and Shelley Giglio about the level of excellence at their Church, Passion City Church.  They shared their thoughts about the right level of excellence in two ways:

  • When they get ready for Church or events their team doesn’t pray for excellence, they pray that the Holy Spirit might touch people.  For Passion City Church, it is not about achieving excellence but removing barriers.
  • When the Church is excellent in presenting its craft, services/ministry, then it encourages people to go into their jobs and be excellent at their craft.  Louie said “the best evangelism happens when your lifestyle is so inspiring that people ask you what makes you tick.”

So don’t kill yourself or stress your team or break the budget to achieve excellence in your ministry.  But please don’t be sloppy, unprepared or messy as it doesn’t do anyone any favours.  Could you please leave a comment about what you have seen as the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry?

The Concorde vs the 747 … and your next ministry project

You may not know this about me but I have a soft spot for aviation.  Recently, a story came to my attention that I thought had implications for those of us in ministry.  It is a story about the battle between the Concorde and the Boeing 747.  After Boeing had failed to match the makers of the Concorde with a similar aircraft, Boeing went a different route to build the 747 Jumbo.  Here is a match of the features:

The Concorde

  • The downside – it was a very expensive aircraft to develop costing over a billion dollars to build.  The maintenance and running costs were much higher than other aircraft meaning that it became the passenger airline for the rich and famous.  It was also one of the noisiest and most polluting aircraft in history.
  • The upside – this aircraft was the first passenger aircraft to fly at twice the speed of sound, going from London to New York in 1/3 of the time of other aircraft.  Because this aircraft was so expensive the engineers had to constantly innovate to keep the costs down.  There were many new accomplishments in the design of the Concorde.  Many technical developments, such as fly by wire, are almost standard on all other passenger aircraft.
  • The Lessons for Leaders – the Concorde was such a huge project that once it was started the companies had to see it through.  Often as leaders we skip such a bold project because it will cost too much, take too long or have too many opponents.  Yet the Concorde project shows us that industry leading innovation comes out of the bold projects not the safe projects.

The Boeing 747 Jumbo

  • The upside – the Jumbo was about a quarter of the cost to build, maintain and fly as the Concorde yet it could carry four times the number of passengers.  It made international passenger flight possible for many more people than the elite that flew on the Concorde.  The Jumbo became the aircraft that every airliner in the world had to have.  It was a business smart aircraft that kept costs down.
  • The downside – the Jumbo was the “play it safe” option for the aviation industry.  I don’t want to downplay how important the Jumbo was at the time but it didn’t fly faster or raise the standard.  The Jumbo was the next step in the process of development of large passenger aircraft but it was leaps ahead.
  • The Lesson for Leaders – the Jumbo won the battle because it made more sense for the average person.  Sometimes as leaders we can have our heads in the clouds and not realise what the people we are leading actual want.  It is not a bad thing to go with the project that learns from the boldness of others.  We need to have projects that take our ministry to the next level without breaking the budget.

So what projects do you have on the horizon?

  1. Bold Projects – Do you have a really bold project that will push your boundaries and force you to innovate?  Is this a season where you can try something so bold that you ministry will never be the same?  Perhaps you need a project so bold that it forces you to pray like you have never prayed before.
  2. Next step projects – is it a season for playing it safe and learning from the boldness of others?  It is not a bad thing to take your ministry to the next level through a project that will get wide spread support.  Perhaps you need a project that everyone can get behind rather than pushing the boundaries.

Whilst the 747 Jumbo won the battle, the Concorde is in a league of very special aircraft.  With all its faults and expense the Concorde change the passenger airline industry.  However the 747 Jumbo won the battle because it made the best business sense.

Please leave a comment.