The Road to Exceptional
Although it sounds crass to say, and it makes me cringe every time I do, people “shop” for churches today the way they shop for everything else. There is very little brand loyalty any more.
Just as consumers will buy a Kia as quickly as they will buy a Ford, people searching for a church will attend a Methodist congregation down the street just as readily as they’ll drive across town to a Presbyterian one.
When it comes to looking for a spiritual home, few people care about denominational differences or the nuances of Christian theology. Studies show that many don’t even care if a church is large or small. They just care that the church feels “alive” and is a “good fit for them.”
But what does this mean? Just like cars, congregations come in all shapes and sizes. Not everyone needs an SUV. Sometimes a compact or a sports car will do even better. What makes churches “alive” is not whether they are big or small, or if they play this type of music or another type, it is the quality of spiritual community they offer day in and day out.
If you ask them—and I’ve asked a lot of them—you will find that people searching for churches are generally looking for just three things: (1) a community that will bring them closer to God, (2) a community that will bring them into meaningful relationships with others, and (3) a community that will provide them with an opportunity to make a difference in the world.
The capacity of congregations to provide these three things in a quality and consistent way is what sets them apart from all the other ways people can spend their time these days. That’s why it is so important for churches to make their best selves available to those who are seeking a spiritual community, and why our presbytery is so deeply committed to helping congregations not just be “ok” or “adequate,” but to be exceptional.
An expression of this commitment is the investment our presbytery is making in the Church Assessment Tool administered by Holy Cow Consulting. The tool helps church leaders to expertly and quickly establish priorities that make sense for their congregation and unique situations. Because there is no one-size-fits all approach any more, it is critical that congregations know their neighborhoods and the specific people they feel called to reach.
The idea is that every congregation, because of their unique makeup and ministry context, has the capacity to be exceptional. Whether they are just starting out, or have been in ministry for decades, every congregation can improve the quality of their life together and the rigor with which they connect to God’s work in the world. Leaders just need to know where to invest their energies, and, perhaps just as importantly, where not to.
The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Philippians: “This is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
Apparently, “love” and good intentions are a great start, but they are not enough on their own. Church leaders need to add “knowledge” and “insight” so that they can determine what is “best” for their congregation’s futures.
By using tools like the Church Assessment Tool, leaders can discover where their congregations are on the road to being exceptional, as well as increase their confidence that they are doing everything in their power to bring glory and praise to God.
For more information about this tool, and how your congregation may benefit from it, please give me a call or send me an email. I’d love to tell you all about it!