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Excellence doesn’t have to be expensive.

image via TypeInspire

A common misconception is that excellence is expensive. That you’re going to have to expand your budget, buy new “toys,” and constantly be on the cutting edge to have a service that is accomplished with excellence.

Thinking that excellence is tied with money is crippling. If you have the money, you’ll begin to rely on the money to do the work of excellence for you…that’s called laziness. If you don’t have the money, you’ll begin using the excuse, “We can’t do it as well as _____ because we just don’t have the resources.” Bologna. That’s a lack of utilization and equipping.

In the church world, where I spend my time and energy, I’ve seen plenty of leaders let excellence slide because they don’t have financial resources to pour into gadgets, lights, sound equipment, video equipment, new mics, and flashy “stuff.” And while that “stuff” looks nice, it doesn’t, in any way, guarantee excellence.

Want to pursue excellence as a local church? Here’s how you do it.

5 Easy Ways to Pursue Excellence

Execute your order of worship relentlessly.

I was recently a part of a service that was not planned well.  The worship leader didn’t know the lyrics well, and there were lots of gaps between songs, announcements, and the sermon.  Planning the order in advance so that everyone involved can see all of the details is crucial.  Running a rehearsal, including announcements, any videos, and any other elements are seen by everybody involved (before the live service) helps ensure major mistakes don’t happen.

Simplify.

The more programs you offer, the more diluted each becomes. And the less “excellent” each is, because each takes significant amounts of resources (time, energy, volunteers, money) to do well.  The simpler, more focused your church is, the more excellent you will be in each area.

Take pride in what you do.

Look around you. Take note of the little things. It’s often the small, seemingly insignificant gestures that go miles in promoting excellence. Here are a few things we do at Grace:

  • pick up stray trash
  • staff every door on Sundays with a welcoming person
  • keep printed material up-to-date
  • keep volunteers in the loop on information that new-comers will ask about
  • offer good coffee
  • set up an area on Sundays for moms with crying babies to still hear the service and not disturb others
  • keep your website updated
  • respond to emails promptly

Evaluate and improve constantly.

If an aspect of your church isn’t working, it’s time to change things up. Allowing a program to hang around because “we’ve always done it…” pushes excellence right out the window.  Evaluating, improving, and constantly being willing to change things that are broken encourages excellence across the board.

Celebrate.

If you feed something, it lives.  If you don’t, it dies.  Feed those actions, those habits, those strategical and forward-thinking moves that staff members and volunteers take.  When you feed those actions, they (and those they lead) will notice what your church values.  Thank them publicly.  Send them a note.  Throw them a party.  Celebrate steps in the right direction.

Pursuing excellence isn’t about money. It’s about the details. If what you’re offering (the Gospel) is valuable to your congregation, then casting it in the best light is vital.  Pursuing excellence does just that.

Are you serving in a church that pursues excellence?  What steps have you taken to get there?

 

 

 

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Give yourself a break

Ben Reed —  March 9, 2011 — Leave a comment

I remember the day my son started walking.

He had been pulling up and cruising for a few weeks prior, so we knew he was just about ready to start letting go and walking on his own.  My wife and I were sitting across from each other in the middle of the living room floor, and I stood Rex up in between us.  He could barely get his balance.  In fact, he was so wobbly he fell down before he even got started.  So I stood him back up.

Then it happened.

He took a small step, then started to fall forward.  Just before he reached the point of no return (where he would fall flat on his face), he stuck his other foot out in front of himself.  His momentum carried him forward, and he forgot to put his other foot out in front, so he fell face first into my wife, who, along with me, clapped and cheered for our son.  He had started to walk!

So we stood him up again, and he tried once more.  Then he fell.  And smiled.

So we stood him up again, and he tried once more.  Then he fell.  And smiled.

So we stood him up again, and he tried once more.  Then he fell.  And smiled.

Then he got tired, so we quit for the day.

Notice this: he wasn’t so hard on himself that he wouldn’t try again.

Part of the hindrance to our spiritual growth is that we’re too hard on ourselves.  We beat ourselves up over and over again, when we’ve got a Father who, while we’re still a long way off, is filled with compassion for us, and is running towards us so He can throw His arms around us and kiss us. (Luke 15:20-21)

We, like the Prodigal Son, still beat ourselves up.  We respond, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:20)

To which our Father says, “Let’s celebrate!” (Luke 15:23)

I’m not saying that we should act like we’re perfect, and can do nothing wrong.  But I am saying that we should not be so paralyzed in our sin that we don’t take another step forwards, towards our Father who’s running our way.  We could live in the reality that we’re sinners who are “no longer worthy to be called your son.”  But wallowing in our guilt and shame doesn’t help us move towards God.

Maybe we should start reminding ourselves that our Father is cranking up the music, getting His dancing on, and grilling up a feast for us.  Because He loves us that much.

Do you ever find that you’re too hard on yourself?

Is it time to give yourself a break, and celebrate even a small step in the right direction?

Do you know someone who needs to be reminded of this truth?


 

 

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If you’re looking for a small group, you probably wouldn’t like mine.

Why you won’t like my small group

  • Nobody’s perfect. Our group is rather messy…in fact, much messier than I ever thought it would be.  If your life is clean and put together, and messiness frustrates you, you’ll hate our group.
  • We celebrate small steps, not just the ‘huge’ ones. And small steps may seem insignificant to you, so if you’re not willing to get excited over a step towards Jesus (no matter how seemingly insignificant), you’ll not feel at home with us.
  • There’s no teacher. Just a facilitator.  And the facilitator doesn’t have all of the answers, so if it’s merely answers you’re looking for, mosey on.
  • We talk about challenging stuff. And I don’t mean that we debate obscure theological dogma.  I mean that we work to apply the Scriptures to our lives.  If you love a great, obscure theological debate, you may not enjoy our group.
  • We expect full participation. Nobody in our group is lazy.  In one way or another, every member participates, and is vital to the success of the group as a whole.  If you want to be a lazy sponge, don’t join us.
  • We know each other’s stories. No hiding in our group.  Our group kicked off its first month by encouraging everybody in the group to share their faith story.  Comfortable?  Nope.  This group’s not for you.
  • We’re transparent. Mere platitudes aren’t acceptable.  If all of your answers start with, “Someone once said…” instead of, “I am dealing with…” then you’ll never be comfortable in our small group.
  • We’re diverse. If you’re looking for people that are just like you, who look, smell, act, read the same books, live on the same side of town, have the same number of kids…keep moving.  You’re not going to find that here.
  • Our group is going to end soon, and I’m going to ask each group member to take a step of faith and lead a new group…each one of them. No moss will be gathering with us.  If you like moss, find another group.
  • We serve together. Don’t want to serve?  That’s fine.  Just don’t get frustrated with us when we ask you to join us in making a difference in our community.
  • We have fun. Every week.  We laugh so hard that we snort.  We play games, share stories, and study the Bible…all while having fun.  I wrote more extensively about the importance of having fun in small groups HERE.  If you don’t like having fun, you’re an old codger.  And old codgers don’t last long in our group.

Based on the reasons above, would you want to join my small group?

 

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Cultivating the drone

Ben Reed —  March 20, 2010 — Leave a comment

Do you celebrate volunteers who do exactly what you ask them to do?

Or do you encourage creativity, outside-the-box thinking, and pursuing God-given passions?

Teaching people to punch a button is easy.  Raising up (and giving space to) leaders who are creative and innovative is not.

Raising up creative leaders is:

1. Messy – When you ask somebody to think outside of the box, it ceases to be “clean, concise, and manageable.”

2. Decentralized – It’s difficult to have a two-hour training on this stuff.  It’s more about cultivating an environment than about transferring information.  And allowing creativity to permeate each person (rather than having those you lead simply parrot back a response) means that you won’t be the sole trainer.

3. Slow – Since it’s not chiefly about transferring information, it takes much longer.

4. Difficult to replicate – Many times, this process differs from person to person.  Creativity is unique to the individual, and thus not exactly duplicate-able.

5. Risky – Asking people to think outside the box means that they may go off in a direction that you didn’t intend.

However, I think that it’s worth dealing with each of the above.  Because in the long run, organizations that embrace and encourage creativity will produce innovators who work through plaguing problems, promote development, and help a company (or a church) sustain long-term growth.

If you’re content doing things the same way you’ve always done them, then you’re going to raise up leaders with that same value.

 

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