In my church, I am blessed with over a dozen volunteers. These men and women sacrifice a lot of time for our ministry and its goals. Some of them lead small groups, prepare incredible meals, work with our social media, plan events, and care for our building and grounds. If I were to micromanage any one of these areas, I would find things that could be done differently, or perhaps even "better." But it is not healthy to strive for so much excellence that relationships and passions are squelched in the process. It's easy to understand why someone designing graphics or picking music may want to quit if each week someone shows them a "better" way or a "better" song. While excellence is certainly important, allowing others to minster and serve the Lord with a zeal and an excitement of their own is also as equally as important.
Sometimes it is an opinion-based critique that you must guard against sharing. For example, you may not particularly care for the color of the new youth room, or the decorations chosen for an updated lobby or conference room. But the color is most likely not an excellence issue, rather it is a preference. If a group of volunteers zealously took on a project to help update a room, then rejoice. Celebrate servant who are doing things to help your facility and your ministry needs. Don't miss the big picture that members of the body of Christ took some responsibility and applied themselves to do some work.
Of course, there are indeed times when corrections and critiques are very necessary. My full name is Stanley, most often shortened to Stan, except by my father, who never once called me "Stan." So, when someone sends out an e-mail that reads: "Satan will be leading the board meeting tonight because our chairman is out of town," someone should step in and make corrections. Just so you know, texting doesn't always help to correct this because — according to the text sent out at my church — "Santa" has apparently also been leading many of our meetings.
To get from my office at the church to my house, there are about five good routes. I know which ones I think are best. But my wife and children often take other routes. I do not need to correct them in this or even chide them. I do not need to tell them that they're doing something wrong. They arrive at the same destination that I do every time. In fact, the way my wife goes is actually a few minutes quicker than the way I go. (Even though I know my route is best.)
My point is that we have to let each other work and minister with grace and encouragement. Praise those who serve in your ministry. Resist the urge to micromanage every part of their work. Let them lead, learn, grow, and mature. Teach your co-leaders how to ask for input and welcome input. Teach them how to welcome criticism without giving up or quitting. But keep diligent to avoid micromanagement and micro-criticism. Encourage servants, enable co-laborers, and build up one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Secondly, sometimes we allow excellence to push us into a complicated place. I've been guilty of creating complex programs, systems, or plans for our church (usually trying to adapt something that I learned from a mega-church that looked amazing). Recently I started trying to simplify the way that we do ministry. Bill Hybels' book "Simplify" was an eye-opener. We had events on our schedule that we did not need to be on the calendar. Who says we need to have a Homecoming Service every year? Lightening our calendar load frees up servant leaders and gives breathing room for other events that might be more productive. We are researching alternatives to traditional VBS. In the past, we've done weeklong VBS programs, which utterly exhausted our volunteers. The few Sundays following VBS, we have a lot of empty seats and pews because our team needed rest. So why not simply VBS? Could it become a three-day, two-day, or one-day event? Look at the overall picture of your committee/board/team meeting. In smaller churches, there are usually five to ten people who are in almost all of these meetings. How can you simplify them? Are they all necessary or could one meeting accomplish two or three team's responsibilities? Can some of the meetings themselves be simplified? Can group calls or video calls save team members an hour of travel?
Thirdly, remember that God assembled a team of people at your church for you to encourage and develop as servants of Christ. We are to be equipping others for the work of the ministry, not exhausting them with activities. (Ephesians 4:11-13) Let young people learn how to minister. Give them opportunities to lead devotionals with prayer breakfasts, work days, and nursing homes. Teach them how to serve senior citizens by raking leaves or cleaning gutters at widows' homes. Give new believers opportunities to serve and to share their testimonies. At our church, we have a phrase that's started to catch on: "Every member is a missionary." That's biblical truth by the way. A serious Christ-follower is a missionary every day, all day, all the time. When we have "testimony time" in our worship services, it really should be like a "missions report" from our group of local missionaries.
As ministers, we must equip with patience and practicality. At 6.14 Ministries, we long to help every size church, particularly the small ones, thrive in equipping their people and reaching their full ministry potential. I would be honored to pray for your leadership team and to talk with you if you're in need of some encouragement, revitalization, restructuring, or refreshing. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our official website at 614ministries.org.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this will fellow ministers, pastors, lay leaders, and church volunteers!