I suspect this post may offend someone, but that's not my goal. I want churches to strive for excellence simply because our calling is to do what we do for God's glory. I fear, though, that many congregations settle for mediocrity. As a church consultant, I've learned that these signs are often an indicator that the church overall does not strive for excellence:
1. No plans for evaluation. When I ask church leaders about their strategy for evaluating the worship service, the sermons, the programs, etc., they often have no intentional evaluations. Seldom does a church move far beyond mediocrity when no assessment occurs.
2. Tolerance of mistakes. Granted, no church is perfect. On the other hand, churches that repeatedly have mistakes in the bulletin, misspelled words in PowerPoint presentations, and confusion in worship services are sending wrong signals.
3. Poor maintenance of the church grounds. It's easy for regular attenders to inadvertently miss the out-of-control bushes, the dying flowers, and the broken asphalt – but guests may not miss the same stuff. What they see when they enter the lot says something about the church's commitment to excellence.
4. Poor upkeep of the building. Maintenance is a never-ending chore, but tasks like removing clutter, painting walls, and replacing light bulbs are not that difficult. To ignore these jobs is to settle for less than the best.
5. No records of attendance, growth, etc. I understand churches that don't want numbers-consciousness to trump their God-centeredness, but my concern is the church that pays no attention to numbers. Seldom have I seen those churches strive to improve in many areas.
6. No clear discipleship strategy. Few churches have a defined strategy to lead new believers toward growth and maturity. The church without a plan will wind up with stagnant, non-growing believers (often even among leaders) – and that's mediocrity.
7. Toleration of sin. The congregation that permits blatant sin to continue without steps toward redemptive discipline fosters a church that looks like the world. To ignore sin in the camp is to settle for less than God's best.
8. No class for membership. Potential members should understand what membership means before they make a commitment to the congregation. Churches without a membership class are essentially inviting members to join with no expectations. Little zeal toward the church – mediocrity, that is – is often the result.
9. Lack of vision. Church vision statements are common – but so are the leaders and laypersons who don't know their church's vision. Churches that are not driven by a compelling, oft-stated vision are frequently stuck in the mediocrity of yesterdays.
10. Little attention to the nations. I admit my biased interest in reaching the world, but I am only reporting what I have seen: churches that do not have a global passion tend to be inwardly focused and self-protective. They seldom push themselves beyond the comfort of their norm.
11. No new workers in place. When all the church workers are the same ones who have worked for years (even when they're excellent workers), something is amiss. The church may have seen no growth, or they may have no plan in place to move new members into ministry. Eventually, a lack of new workers will lead to tired workers who cannot give their best in every area of service.
12. Lack of "healthy chaos." The healthiest churches I know are continually evaluating and stretching themselves while deeply holding to the Word and the truth of the gospel. A bit of chaos is the norm. Stagnation, on the other hand, is mediocrity lived out.