I was having a conversation with a church’s staff members the other day and mentioned that the six words church leaders should dread are, “That won’t happen again, will it?” As in, if that continues then we’re going to have to make a change by getting someone who will ensure “that” doesn’t happen again.
Related: The Six Most Powerful Accountability Words
One of the staff members turned on his heels and responded “What are you going to do when you run out of leaders?” (It was a dismissive final-word “gotcha” move on his part.)
So, when did systemic mediocrity become tolerated, let alone expected, in the church? The staffer was clearly suggesting that it’s not okay to hold ministry leaders accountable for their performance and behavior.
Related: Five Secrets to Getting Volunteers to Perform
Some of you may remember Candy Stripers. They were young ladies who volunteered at hospitals and helped out the nurses by taking on some of the important, but mundane, tasks. They held these “volunteers” accountable because people’s medical health and even their lives hung in the balance. Indeed, one former Candy Striper told me that if you missed your shift you might get one extra chance. But if you missed a second shift, they relieved you of your duties – not to mention your red-striped Candy Striper uniform. People’s health was just too important!
But when it comes to eternity, apparently, the typical church doesn’t seen to take it that seriously.
- If you’re on a committee and don’t feel like showing up, that’s okay. You can catch up next meeting.
- If you’re scheduled to serve in worship, but Aunt Betty-Sue drops in, you get a Bye and don’t need to even get a replacement.
- If you’re in charge of the projection during worship and you’re preoccupied and forget to advance the slides during the hymn of invitation, you’ll just be encouraged to do better next week.
Apparently, for these … or any of a thousand other mistakes, missteps, etc. … the church is supposed to just shrug, say, “You can do better, but please don’t leave your position because God really doesn’t count on us for excellence in much of anything.” The thought of saying to a “volunteer” That won’t happen again, will it? and replacing them if they continue to perform poorly is abhorrent and unthinkable.
The solution to systemic mediocrity is accountability. But it’s only fair to hold someone accountable to the goals and the level of excellence that have been agreed to in advance. Therefore, every staff member, every leader, and every worker-bee needs a written position description that outlines the expectations of the position … including meeting attendance and what the position responsibilities entail.
In a perfect world, the description is less a bullet point list of “Do this; Do That” and more of mission and vision. For instance, a Children’s Sunday school teacher’s position description might look something like this:
Mission: To help children not only learn about Jesus, but to connect with Him and begin the process of becoming a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.
Vision: To create an effective environment where learning, training, and mentoring meet fun and a yearning to return again and again!
Goals: To increase the number of children actively involved in faith development practices both on and off site.
Objectives: (1) To increase the average attendance of children by 50% by this time next year; (2) To lead 5 children into a commitment to Jesus Christ and to baptism; (3) To provide discipleship materials for parents that are suitable for using at home with their children/family.
Rubrics: (1) Embody the congregation’s Membership and Leadership Covenants; (2) Pray, plan, and implement a comprehensive and effective children’s disciple-making program; (3) Meet with the Children’s Director monthly for one-on-one encouragement; (4) With the support of the Children’s Director, recruit, train, supervise, and coach Teacher Assistants; (5) Identify and mentor at least one Teacher Assistant to be your backup and replacement; (6) Attend monthly Children Department planning meetings.
In this case, once a teacher signs on, then it’s up to the Children’s Director to ensure that mediocrity doesn’t slip in through the back door. But we’ve found that when the expectations clearly communicated, when they are mutually agreed upon, then those who serve tend to step up … especially when there’s a coach who meets with them and holds them accountable.
The truth is, most people want to make a difference – they want to do their best. No one really likes being mediocre. With a compelling vision, a meaningful mission, good coaching, regular encouragement, some training and modeling and mentoring, along with a healthy dose of accountability, most people will step up and into excellence. (And starting with a great position description really helps!)
Pastors, Take Your Church to the Next Level
Today’s church is struggling in today’s culture. Pastors have been using a wide variety of tools and programs designed to grow their churches, but they’ve been finding it difficult to get any traction. The problem isn’t the tools and programs – most of them are really good – but most of us pastors weren’t taught how to inspire, motivate, and lead a congregation in this fast-changing culture.
The Next Level Coaching Network was developed to help you, Pastor, develop your God-given gifts and talents so you can move your church from the plateau or even from a decline into effective, sustainable growth.
The Next Level Coaching Network includes
- Six months of training and support
- In depth leadership training videos
- Monthly group coaching
- One on One coaching
- Weekly accountability
The Next Level Coaching Network is our advanced Master Group that builds on your leadership style and …
- Gives you a clear plan and path to reach your goals
- Resets your priorities so you can focus on the important rather than the urgent
- Gives you the tools and the bandwidth to get more done in less time
- Maximizes both life and church transformation
- Rekindles your job satisfaction
Don’t take our word for it, hear from one of our clients …
I recently got frustrated with mediocrity in my church and backed away. I was leaving meetings very frustrated and sometimes angry. I felt it was better that I back away temporarily and hopefully develop a new attitude. I didn’t want to say or do anything that would cause harm or dissention. I came from a different church background where leadership training was a constant and an atmosphere which encouraged improving current systems and processes, looking for new ways to promote growth – spiritually and numerically.
Mediocrity is embraced the moment sincerity becomes a core value.
I could go on for pages…. But at its core, the reason that we embrace mediocrity is that we do not believe that church is an essential part of life anymore. It’s an extra, an add on and so we should be grateful that anyone with a pulse is willing to take on any of our many tasks.
At its heart however is the reality that the model we have inherited is fundamentally broken and cannot be repaired. We need a new model and don’t yet know what God is leading us to become. But it isn’t what we have now. Here is the link to my most read column in 2021 that I write for Broadview Magazine on this.: https://broadview.org/united-church-disappearing/