One of the first books I read in full-time ministry was In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. Although it is specifically about excellence in business, I was captivated by the realization that if the secular world would care about excellence in the workplace, how much more should we care about excellence in ministry? I have been on a pursuit ever since to have a ministry that honors God.
Of course, it’s easy to say, “We care about excellence.” But do we actually practice excellence? Do we strive for it?
Here are seven ways we work to strive for excellence in ministry:
1. A biblical purpose—If our purpose is anything less than to glorify God, we may end up with excellent features, but we will be diminishing our effectiveness in leading people to Jesus. We need His power and to lift Him up more than anything else.
2. Internal reviews—Every staff member is reviewed annually according to their written job description. This is a time to give input, receive feedback, and for both the staff member and their team leader to assess their productivity and growth over the past year as well as to address any road blocks or needs for more effective ministry.
3. Post-event reviews—After an event—whether it be Missions Conference or a special community outreach or college registration week—we plan a debrief time to assess how it went, what we should be sure to repeat, and how we can make it better in the future.
4. External audits—Every year, we hire an outside firm to provide a financial audit of our entire ministry. A couple years ago, we asked Best Christian Workplaces to assess our day-to-day office environment and procedures.
In recent years, we’ve pursued Christian accreditation for both our Christian school and West Coast Baptist College. Although growing up, I was told that accreditation equaled government control of the church, we’ve since been able to find that there are actually Christian accreditation agencies that are approved by the Department of Education. We’ve discovered that neither these agencies nor the DOE have control over what we do. While they provide assessment and peer review, they have not given mandates regarding our curriculum or doctrine. Should that day come (and it may), we can and will pull out of the voluntary accreditation. Meanwhile, we’re thankful for the high academic standards, strategic planning, and external peer review of other school and college administrators coming to visit periodically and helping us maintain best practices.
5. Internal questionnaires—From time to time, we ask our church family, Christian school parents, Bible college students, or other groups within our ministry how we’re doing in specific areas. Being open to feedback is one of the best ways to see areas that need attention or growth.
6. Consistent staff training—Weekly staff meetings with a lesson or ministry training and annual staff orientation are two great ways to invest in the ongoing development of staff. Additionally, our pastoral staff often reads a book together and discusses what we’re learning at our weekly meetings.
7. Conferences and personal growth resources—Ministry conferences provide Bible preaching, outside perspective and ideas, and sharpening fellowship. They also provide specific training on needed topics. For instance, at Spiritual Leadership Conference this year, we’ll have topics on planning and guiding a church budget, mandatory legal reporting, the role of worship in discipleship, developing your own faith, personal time management, and several dozen more. I’m preparing a session on creating a dashboard for monitoring key indicators of a church’s health. Whether it is through this conference or an online Bible class or some other resource, investing in personal growth helps grow your capacity for ministry excellence.
Remember, we serve a God who is worthy of our very best. And we serve His church, which Jesus valued so much He paid for it with His own blood.
Surely, our Lord and His church deserve our pursuit of excellence.
Dr. Paul Chappell is the senior pastor of the Lancaster Baptist Church and president of West Coast Baptist College in Lancaster, California. His biblical vision has led the church to become one of the most dynamic independent Baptist churches in the nation. He has been married to his wife for over thirty years and is the father of four married children all serving in Christian ministry.