Let's be real--local churches, often on the same city block, vie for the attention of prospective members. But what causes certain ministries to experience consistent growth, while other groups experience little or no growth? How do successful groups attain prestige and a good reputation? The answer is one word: excellence.
To be excellent means to possess outstanding qualities. The verb form of this word is excel, which means "to rise." In essence, every effort made to obtain a spirit of excellence in both spiritual and practical matters will cause your church to rise above the status quo in ministry.
One trademark of excellence is consistency. Whether it is with a weekly worship service or an annual event, consistency is a good indicator of a church's level of commitment. When my husband and I co-founded the New Antioch Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, we rented a small storefront, painted the inside and made it look as neat and as attractive as possible. We didn't have printed bulletins, welcome ribbons or greeters at the front door as we do today.
Every local assembly, annual conference or retreat had to start somewhere. Scripture tells us not to despise such small beginnings because the Lord rejoices to see the work begin (see Zech. 4:10).
Even though the number on your staff may vary and your budget will fluctuate, an attitude of excellence must be apparent because it leaves a lasting impression on people. Don't become "stuck" in the mode of "any ole thing will do." With the many choices people have nowadays, you will find yourself doing it "any ole way" all by yourself.
Excellence will only flow in fresh waters. Archaic methods obstruct churches from doing extraordinary exploits for God.
Tradition is valuable when applied to principles, posterity or moral values. However, tradition and excellence will often collide when leaders become locked into the mind-sets, "We've always done it this way," or "If it's not broke, don't fix it." These statements are key indicators that mediocrity is the order of the day.
The following strategies will help a ministry thrive in a spirit of excellence:
Meditate on the excellence of God. We are created in the image of our awesome and excellent Father. He has given us access to all that He has and is. Because all that He is, is available to us, why not flow in His strength and wisdom?
Develop a mission statement. This helps you to focus on your goals and objectives. Insist every staff member be aware of and frequently rehearse the mission statement. It will become the standard for accomplishing tasks.
Regularly assess accomplishments and ministry needs. Every composite group possesses strengths, gifts and abilities unequaled to any other. While excellence mandates consistent evaluation, it is also crucial that the morale of team members be fortified with affirmation and appreciation.
Interface often with accomplished leaders. Be inquisitive. Find out what other effective ministries are doing. Attend some of their meetings. Go "incognito" if you can. This allows you the freedom to observe and to ask questions.
Spend quality time with those whose experience and achievements surpass yours. Most leaders will freely share their successes and failures.
Godly leaders on the cutting edge often speak of excellence and display it in both their public and private lives. God positions these leaders as conduits for progress. It is often said that excellence is not a destination, but a process. Why don't you allow God to chart your path to a more excellent way?
Barbara McCoo Lewis is the supervisor of women for the Southern California First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction for the Church of God in Christ. She oversees the leadership of women in 250 churches.