Tom Shefchunas

When I Won’t Strive for Excellence

by on in Strategy.

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?