20 Questions… Does my church operate in EXCELLENCE?

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A few years ago, I took some friends to one of my favorite churches,  Cathedral of Faith Family Praise Center, located about 45 minutes south of Atlanta in Forsyth, Georgia. We had barely pulled into the parking lot before we were embraced by their spirit of excellence. As we were walking through the parking lot, a family who were also heading in smiled warmly and greeted us. Then, a gentleman ran ahead of us to open the door, saying “welcome to Cathedral of Faith.” I knew from that moment that this was a church of excellence, and that the members and leaders alike were well trained.

Kudos to Apostle Vertise Rozier and all the staff, clergy, leaders and members of Cathedral of Faith for showing that excellence is indeed a standard.

It’s hard to really explain what excellence looks like in a church; it’s just one of those things that you recognize when you see it. Establishing excellence in a church is even harder since so many seem to disagree on what excellence is. I usually gauge how excellent a church is by how smoothly things run. Excellent churches should run like a well-oiled machine. Here is a quick survey to help you figure out if your church operates in excellence. Keep in mind, this isn’t a scientific survey. It’s pretty much just based on my insight and experience (like the rest of OIC).

  1. Is the exterior of your church (lawn, signage, building exterior, windows, steps, rails, parking lot, etc.) clean, well-maintained, well-lit and attractive?
  2. Can a first-time guest easily identify who the ushers are? Leaders? Clergy?
  3. Can a first-time guest easily identify where they should enter the parking lot, where they should park, which door they should enter, and where the restrooms are?
  4. Will a first-time guest find your church and common areas clean, tidy, well-lit and odor-free?
  5. Will a first-time guest find your members, volunteers, staff, and clergy to be smiling pleasantly and willing to assist with any basic needs (finding a place to breastfeed the baby, sharing information about upcoming services)?
  6. Does your service start on time and end at a reasonable hour? Is your church fluff-free or mostly fluff-free?
  7. Do you plan services, meetings, rehearsals, and other gatherings far enough in advance to get the word out in a timely fashion and to plan every detail to perfection?
  8. Are those who serve in ministry (in any capacity: youth, hospitality, clergy, administration, etc.) qualified to serve in the area in which they work?
  9. Does your church conduct regular and thorough internal training and development for all ministry workers?
  10. Does your church maintain an open and clear line of communication with its members?
  11. Do your ministries serve well? Do the choirs sound excellent? Musicians? Praise team? Do the ushers know how to usher? Altar workers? Announcement clerks? Are your staff, clergy, leaders and volunteers regularly evaluated for progress and growth?
  12. Is the chain of command clear within leadership, staff, clergy and members? Does everyone know who to go to with questions, concerns, and authorization, and what to do if they are dissatisfied with their outcome? Are the procedures clear (e.g. submitting announcements, requesting meeting space, planning an auxiliary event, joining an auxiliary, registering for a class)?
  13. Do you utilize media to add a more modern element to your ministry (video announcements, electronic newsletters, e-mail blasts, Facebook, Twitter, streaming services, an updated, professional, uncluttered and current website)?
  14. Does your worship service flow smoothly, without a glitch, from start to finish? Are all who are on the program in position on time and prepared to minister with excellence? If there is a presider or expediter, is s/he aware of who is doing what? Are the people who are on the program aware they are on the program?
  15. Do your ushers work diligently to minimize excessive walking, talking, eating or other irreverent behaviors in the sanctuary?
  16. Does the pastor (or other preacher) have a thoroughly prepared sermon each week?
  17. Has a sound check been performed before service?
  18. Is everything your church does, carried out to the very best of your ability? (Programs, flyers, services, church bulletins, newsletters, conferences, trainings, Sunday School classes, correspondence, planning, etc.).
  19. Does your church have an annual budget? Are your bills, invoices, payroll, and other obligations paid on time? Does your church conduct regular internal and/or external audits?
  20. Do you adhere to the laws that govern non-profit organizations, and obtain outside counsel or professional advice when you don’t know what the law is?

If you answered “yes” to all 20 questions, it sounds to me like your church is pretty excellent. Kudos to you for making the body of Christ look good!

If you answered “yes” to 15-19 questions, I’d say you’re pretty close. Keep up the good work, and strive to do better.

If you answered “yes” to 10-15 questions, not bad, but you definitely have room for improvement, in my opinion. I suggest you develop a plan to perfect those areas that are lacking, and make haste to implement the plan!

If you answered “yes” to fewer than 10 questions, your church is probably just focused on the worship aspect of service, and not the logistics. If you’re happy where you are, carry on.  If not, give me a call and let’s get you on the path to excellence.

If your church practices excellence, tell me about it. I’d love to hear what excellence looks like in different churches.

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He’s an On-Time God… Yes, He is!

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I love Miss Dottie, but this one isn’t about her…
Raise your hand if you’ve ever busted your behind to get to church, praise team rehearsal, a ministry meeting, or something else… fussing at the kids because they’re moving too slowly, mumbling under your breath because the person you’re picking up wasn’t outside at 10:17 like you asked her to be and then had the nerve to ask you if you could stop at the store so she could get some pantyhose… but through it all, you still managed to screech into a parking space and make it to your seat by 10:45… only to sit there and wait 36 minutes for somebody to take the mic and begin the service.

I don’t know what it is about small churches (or their pastors) that make them think it’s okay to start stuff late. That is so uncool… and it just doesn’t seem to reflect the characteristics of God. No, there’s no hidden commandment that says “Thou shalt start all thine services at the appointed hour and thou shalt end at the appointed hour.” There may not be a scripture, but c’mon seriously… can you picture God saying “make me a sanctuary and I will dwell among you. I’ll meet you there at 11:00a for prayer” and then He strolls in at 11:15? That’s just not God-like. God keeps His word. In fact, He watches over it to make sure it happens the way He said it would. Lateness is not only NOT God-like, it tends to reflect a nonchalant, lackadaisical attitude toward worship and the things of God. The Bible admonishes us to do all things decently and in order, and to excel in everything we do. Starting late (or BEING late) is not “excelling” — it’s doing less than average. It’s failing.

Below average… failure
Beyond the spiritual and moral implications of lateness, it also shows a lack of regard for other people’s time – which is a major no-no in my book. I once sang with a praise team that would only start rehearsal once everyone had arrived — and of course, someone was always late. So I would just have to sit there for half an hour (or more) waiting… I would feel so disrespected. So disregarded. It was as though the leaders and other praise team members felt like my time wasn’t worth much so it was okay for me to sit there and waste it.

And what about the first-time guest who was told your service starts at 11:30, so she arrives at 11:25… and just sits there in the sanctuary… just her and the sound guy… for 20 minutes… sitting uncomfortably, smiling awkwardly, trying not to appear bored, adjusting her pearls, watching the door, checking the big clock hanging in the back… her mind on everything BUT worship, at this point.

A good name is better…
You’ve been there. A friend invites you to a service at a church you’ve never visited before. You ask “do you all start on time?” They say, “well… I wouldn’t rush, you can get there at about 8:15 or so.” The pastor may not know it, but he’s building an image, and everything his church does – good or bad – is a pixel in that image. In their reputation. Their name. Their name.

Tardiness is such a vicious cycle. You can’t start without the people, so you wait for them. They come late, so you start late. If you ask them, they will tell you they come late because you start late. You say: if you come on time, we’ll start on time. They say: if you start on time, we’ll come on time.

You can’t start a service without the people there, can you?
I know some of you are wondering, “how can I fix this? We’ve been starting late for 8 years, you can’t start a service without the people there, can you?

I’m so glad you asked that question; I knew you would. Yes, you can indeed start a service (or a rehearsal, prayer, meeting, class, whatever) without the people there. You want to know how you can fix this? It’s simple: start. on. time. Accept no excuses from yourself or your leaders. Be a person of integrity and one who keeps his word… just like God. Protect your name and image. If you say that service starts at 11:00 and there’s no musician there and not nary member in the pew, YOU start service. YOU open in prayer. YOU sing a song. YOU read announcements… after a while, they will come on time because they will see that you’re starting on time. YOU must set the example, oh fearless leader, and they will follow.

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