June 7, 2017 Tony Morgan

12 Ways to Recognize Mediocrity in Your Ministry

The Harvard Business Review published an article a few weeks back called What to Do About Mediocrity on Your Team. The opening line is poignant:

“The toughest test of a manager is not how they deal with poor performance — it’s how they address mediocrity.”

Wow. For reasons I don’t like, this line jumped out at me as something church leaders need to chew on.

How do you recognize mediocrity in your ministry? I asked the team at The Unstuck Group to share some ideas based on what they see in the churches we’ve served.

You Might Be Tolerating Mediocrity If…

  1. You’re trying to please everyone.

  2. You’re waiting to perfect a new strategy before you try it.

  3. You spend all your time trying to perfect what you’re already doing today.

  4. You spend your whole budget to fill all the roles you think your church needs, rather than investing more in the best people for fewer roles.

  5. You measure your church’s devotion to prayer by how many people show up to a “prayer gathering” on a certain day and time.

  6. Your ministry model is complex. Mediocrity is a natural result of complexity. You can’t do a lot of things and do them all above-average.

  7. You think measuring results isn’t spiritual.

  8. Your team consistently does the minimum required; there’s not an effort to exceed expectations.

  9. You don’t require accountability from your staff or volunteers.

  10. You don’t prioritize coaching, training and mentorship for your staff or volunteers.

  11. You have meetings, more meetings, and meetings about the meetings.

  12. You allow a fuzzy vision to prevail for years.

Chronic mediocrity and apathy are close cousins. It reveals something is lacking in the vision and/or the communication of it. It usually also reveals a lack of preparation. Or a lack of stewardship. Or both. It demoralizes the team members who want to strive for excellence.

So, What Do You Do About About Mediocrity?

The HBR article has some good ideas. A second quote in the article really stood out to me:

“Chronic mediocrity is a symptom of ineffective leadership, not anemic personnel.”

It will take an intentional, courageous leadership shift to change the tide. If you’re willing to engage that journey, I recommend getting an outside perspective on every aspect of your ministry as a starting point.

You can invite some church “outsiders” to give you their feedback on your weekend services, website, social media and promotions. You can anonymously survey your staff members about areas where they see (and feel) mediocrity. Or, you can engage a “secret shopper.” (We do that for churches as a part of The Unstuck Group’s Ministry Health Assessment.)

Whatever you do, allow yourself to go back to the why. Why were you called to lead? Why does the church exist? Why is the mission important? Dwell on that until it inspires you to take action. Addressing mediocrity may be one of the toughest tests of a leader, but be encouraged: Mediocre doesn’t have to be a permanent state.

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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