Thursday, September 1, 2011

Characteristic Excellence

By Dr. Randy Stone
NOBTS  has five core values . This year the faculty, staff and students have been asked to focus on the value of Characteristic Excellence.  The past few months I’ve been visiting a number of churches across the south and have discovered that mediocrity rather than excellence seems to be the core value for most churches. I really try to participate as a worshiper but I find myself distracted by the inattention to details and how little changes could dramatically improve the worship, communication, organization, or general presentation of the church I am attending. I’m certain my experience as a staff person and church leader push me to watch and listen more critically than I ought. In some cases I’m embarrassed by our churches and what we are communicating to the casual attender who enters our doors. Responding to Jesus’ ministry the crowds said, “He has done all things well.” Mark 7:37 Here are a few thoughts about some basic principles that can help any church “pursue ministry excellence.”  

Purpose.  Know the purpose of each action, activity, ministry, or program. You must ask “Why are we doing the church pot luck dinner?”  We expect the “Youth rally to accomplish….?”  Every song selection, media presentation, announcement and prayer should have a purpose.  

Priority.  Too many churches do too many things with too little results. The new motto seems to be “Busyness is next to Godliness.” What are the most important things you do? Invest in them! Use your resources (people and money, time and attention, commitment and communications) wisely!  What produces spiritual and or numerical growth?  Don’t clutter up your Sunday mornings with too many programs.  Don’t fill your week with activities that distract from one another and compete for resources. Allow your people to breathe spiritually.   

Planning. Take the time to map out what you want to accomplish. Projects and ministries need to be considered weeks, months, and even years before you do them. Think about the seasons in your church. Some activities will flow much better at certain times in your church. Don’t forget to think about personal, school, and community calendars.

Preparation.  After your purpose is determined, a priority is established, and planning is considered. Make a commitment to prepare.  Invest the time preparing the details. Make sure you have included elements for success. Think about space, resources, leadership, or training. The little things make a big difference.  

Participation. Consider how to engage people in the ministry activity? Who are the leaders? Who is the target group? Who needs to be part of the experience? Think about worship teams, ministry teams, the congregation, committees, age groups or small groups.

Presentation. How does this “look” and “feel” to the audience.  We take a lot for granted. Guests do not know your congregation. When someone is on stage…introduce them.  When you have an activity that targets  guests, make sure you communicate time and location. (Not “Joe’s house regular time”.) Ask  staff or leadership teams if something is too “internalized.”  We may value something because we are “family”. Outsiders may be frightened by the lack of competency they see.  Telling personal stories can overcome this to some degree. Make yourself “presentable” to guest who are considering your congregation.

Productivity  What did the activity, ministry, program, experience produce?  If you plant a crop you expect some produce. If you practice the piano you expect to play. What is the effort you’re expending in ministry producing? Sometimes it’s not what we believe.  Sometime the fruit we get is not what we thought we planted.  Is our activity producing spiritual fruit (new believers, spirit filled Christians, servant leaders, healthy families) or just tired and angry church members?

Evaluation  Review regularly and determine whether or not you should continue to do an activity, program, or ministry.  If you were not already doing something….would you start doing it now? Why should you continue doing a certain ministry or activity? If resources were limited could you eliminate this program or ministry and not impact your evangelical effectiveness or discipleship efforts? The smaller the church the more selective it must be. Better to do fewer things well than a lot of things poorly.

These are few of my thoughts. Your comments are welcome.   Check back regularly for contributions from our faculty.  Press on in the pursuit of excellence!


  1. Randy...great thoughts. I'm thankful today for you! :) -Jamey