Tom Shefchunas

When I Won’t Strive for Excellence

by on in Strategy.
excellence-700x290

I cringe when I hear the word “excellence” thrown around in the church leadership conversation.
It seems everybody loves it. But, while I think it is a great concept and something to be concerned about… it can be dangerous.

Here’s my problem. In my years as an educator and working in churches, I have seen the word “excellence” used to validate and rationalize some of the most expensive and worst decisions I have ever seen.

I see this in church programming all the time.

I felt the pressure of this recently at North Point.

Early this year, our high school ministry, InsideOut, put on a big event called MyLife Weekend. It was incredible! Their program was insane… I have never seen anything like it for high schoolers. It was excellent.

But my problem? Our big middle school ministry event was the following weekend.

What do you think I wanted to do once I saw our high school ministry’s production?

I wanted to “out-excellence” them!

I could have done it too! We had budgeted for fewer kids than showed up so I had some wiggle room. I could have spent a bunch… rented lasers, snow machines, giant sumo suits, that giant dunk tank full of Twinkies I’d always dreamed of… I could have done all of it, in the name of “excellence” and reaching a lost generation for the Lord!

But I didn’t.

Why? Because strategy stopped me.

At North Point we believe in stepping up our programming as kids get older. For example – why throw a full worship band at them when they’re eight years old and are blown away simply by a single singer and a track? We introduce them to a full, live, worship band in middle school to help keep their attention and give them something to look forward to. This goes back to my post about The Law of Diminishing Astonishment. 

So… I didn’t fall into the “out-excellencing” pit. Our event was great (and I can say that because I had very little to do with it). It may not have had all the bells and whistles of the high school ministry’s program… but that’s exactly how it was planned.

When we pursue “excellence” without a clear strategy, it is a dangerous and foolish pursuit.

This continual pursuit after excellence can easily become organizational gluttony… to put it in “church terms.”

“Excellence” is a great goal… but let’s use it well.

Where does excellence fit into your strategy? Have you ever sacrificed excellence for the sake of a bigger strategy?

  • This is definitely a tough beam to balance on. As student pastors, we obviously all want to be excellent and have excellent ministries, but at what cost and for what reasons? Do we use all of our resources and money on making one event so excellent that there’s nothing left (either in our budget or our energy tank) to sustain or follow-up? A lot of times we out-excellence our own ministries! I think a lot of churches do this at Easter as well. We make our Easter services so extravagant, and it draws people in, but the next week, it’s back to the norm, and what drew people in to begin with is no longer there to keep them. I agree that we have to get people in the door, but sometimes we’re so focused on excellence for excellence-sake, that OUR excellence may be pushing the Holy Spirit out the door. Great article, Tom. I believe we should be excellent, but be excellent for God, and that includes going back to wearing suits and ties to church (Just kidding, on the suits and ties part).

  • Nick Ballard

    This is definitely a tough beam to balance on. As student pastors, we obviously all want to be excellent and have excellent ministries, but at what cost and for what reasons? Do we use all of our resources and money on making one event so excellent that there’s nothing left (either in our budget or our energy tank) to sustain or follow-up? A lot of times we out-excellence our own ministries! I think a lot of churches do this at Easter as well. We make our Easter services so extravagant, and it draws people in, but the next week, it’s back to the norm, and what drew people in to begin with is no longer there to keep them. I agree that we have to get people in the door, but sometimes we’re so focused on excellence for excellence-sake, that OUR excellence may be pushing the Holy Spirit out the door. Great article, Tom. I believe we should be excellent, but be excellent for God, and that includes going back to wearing suits and ties to church (Just kidding, on the suits and ties part).

  • JC

    Love this post!! Thanks Tom!!

  • JC

    Love this post!! Thanks Tom!!

  • Mike Sheley

    I love technology and can get caught up in the excellence trap in this area. So when we setup our middle school fall retreat, we went for simplicity. No computers or projectors. No sound systems or iPads. We use a local camp. Spend lots of time reading the Bible, praying, practicing other spiritual disciplines, and connecting in small groups. We have fun with options like the camp’s zip line & paintball course. At the end of the day, I have found that cutting out the technology areas of excellence actually made us improve our relational excellence!

  • Pingback: FREE SEO Services()