One of the problems many churches face these days is that they’re neither great at things or terrible at things.
They’re honestly just…mediocre.
Streaming has made watching other churches’ services easier than ever, and as I’ve scrolled through my Sunday morning feed or visited different churches over the years, I’ve been a little amazed at what I’ve seen.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of fairly so-so experiences out there.
That probably sounds judgmental, but there’s a lot at stake here. And I say this as someone who’s produce my share of mediocrity over the years.
The goal isn’t excellence…because I think excellence brings dimishing returns.
But mediocrity is something every church leader should battle.
Because the mission of the church is anything but mediocre, the expression of the church shouldn’t be mediocre.
When your church experience is mediocre, it should be no surprise unchurched people aren’t lining up to join you and that you’re not attracting and keeping the amazing leaders who might attend your church but don’t want to get involved because things are so sub-par.
And don’t be discouraged. Every leader and every church can be great at something, regardless of size, budget or location.
So it’s not a question of being a large church or having a million dollars. It’s a question of discovering what you can do well, how you can best express the mission of the church at the local level.
It’s a question of doing the best you can with what you have.
Creating a compelling experience can happen with five people or fifty. And 500 people can end up putting on something that’s less than stellar.
Size doesn’t determine impact or effectiveness, so don’t be discouraged.
So, how do you know your church has settled for mediocrity? Here are 7 things to look for.
1. You have non-singers singing and bad players playing
One sure sign you’ve settled into mediocrity is that on your music team, you have non-singers singing and bad players playing.
We’ve all seen that happen. Singers are regularly off-key or flat. Musicians are struggling to keep up with chord changes or can’t quite get the rhythm right, all the while being glued to their music stands.
And the only people who seem to be enjoying it are the people on the music team. Everyone else is wincing or zoned out, or has become so used to it they’re now part of the problem.
And streaming the experience makes it a little worse.
So why does this happen?
First, too many church leaders value inclusion over gifting.
You ask a few questions and you hear things like:
Well, he really wanted to sing.
She really loves the keyboard.
He’s so passionate about music.
Yep, except they don’t have the talent to match their enthusiasm.
Drill a little deeper, and you soon discover the people who realize this is a problem are far to scared to do anything about it.
They feel paralyzed.
How do I tell them?
I’ll hurt their feelings.
Hey, they LOVE doing it. How can I tell them they don’t have the gifting?
And so we let the concrete of mediocrity harden and set because we’re too scared to do anything about it.
Instinctively you know you’ve caved into cowardice, but you just can’t muster up the nerve to have the hard conversation.
If you recognize yourself in this scenario, just know you have to make a choice.
You either choose the feelings of three people who can’t play or you choose the future and the dozens or hundreds of people you might reach if you actually improved your music.
If you want more, here’s some further help on this very tender subject.
2. Bad Production
In addition to sub-par music, many churches settle for bad production…poor sound, poor lighting and a mediocre team running it all.
Often this is a case of trying to do too much.
You’re better off to have a few good tech things (like a great set of speakers or a few good lights) than to try to do many things poorly. Most churches overshoot their ability here, trying to get as much as possible for very little money.
When faced with limited resources (and we ALL have limited resources) investing in a few quality pieces always beats buying a lot of cheap pieces.
It’s also important to find people who know how to run what you’ve bought, or even to invest a little in bringing in an expert who can train your team on how to run it. Having a decent soundboard and excellent speakers don’t help much if your team has no idea how to run it.
When it comes to production, doing a few things well always beats doing many things poorly.
3. School Play Quality Live Streams
It’s great to see many churches go online…and many churches big and small are now streaming their services.
It’s so easy to do with Facebook Live, other streaming services and a simple camera.
But as you go online, ask yourself: would you watch you?
Honestly, I’ll bet the answer a lot of the time is no.
Many churches suffer from what I call ‘school play’ syndrome. Their services look like an elementary school play. Not great lighting, not great production, not great sound, and a lot of sincere people who really don’t know what they’re doing.
Let’s be honest. The ONLY reason you watch a school play is because your kid is in it. And the number one question you’re asking the entire time is “when will this be over?”
So question: if your church service looks like a school play online, why are you broadcasting it?
If you’re going to be online, audio and video quality matter.
Again, you don’t need a six or seven-figure solution here to make it better. Making sure your online sound is captured through a good set of mics and mixer, a few well-placed lights and a decent camera will help immensely.
And now that many are building home studios, the cost to entry is actually surprisingly low. You don’t have to spend big money to make a big impact.
The question worth asking is: am I helping people come to Christ by sharing this, or am I keeping people from Christ by sharing this?
Maybe ask a few unchurched people who will tell you the truth to evaluate your stream.
And don’t get discouraged, you may be a few tweaks or simple purchases away from being school-play quality.
All of this should help you accomplish the mission, not hinder the mission. And I’m just not sure school play quality broadcasts help much in most cases.
4. A Neglected Website
Another sure sign you’ve settled for mediocrity is a website you haven’t thought about for, well, a while.
Many churches build it and forget it. Sure, hopefully you update it with the current series and a few announcements, but no one has really taken the time to think through it deeply.
Chances are everyone who visits your church for the first time in person has been to your website first.
After all, that’s exactly how you behave. You never go to a restaurant, hotel or even city without first checking it out online, and any new person is going to check your church out online before they visit.
Act like that’s true. Invest like that’s true. Think like that’s the case.
The home page of your website should be built with your guest in mind.
If you don’t have a First Time, New Here, or Plan a Visit option with location and services on your front page, you’re not thinking about your first-time guest.
The most visited pages of your website will almost always be your home page, your message content and (believe it or not), your staff or team page. Making sure those are designed with the guest in mind can make the difference of someone deciding to come or to stay away.
Mediocre churches are reluctant to invest time or money into their website. Smart churches do both.
5. Your Info Isn’t Current
Few things broadcast mediocrity more loudly than out-of-date information.
Whether it’s your church sign advertising an event from last month, or still wishing everyone a happy 4th of July in August, or your church website or podcast is three weeks late on uploading the current sermons, having out of date information screams “we don’t really care” to anyone passing by.
And for sure there are reasons. The sign guy was sick. Or that unreliable website volunteer once again needs reminding. But again, all of that screams mediocrity.
You’ll have a hard time recruiting high capacity volunteers (and new people) into a culture that does a lot of shrugging and constantly sighs “oh well.”
6. You’re Resigned to This
Maybe as you’ve read through this post you think there’s no way out. You’ve resigned yourself to this.
Don’t. The surest way to ensure a mediocre future is to resign yourself to a mediocre present.
I started in very small churches with not a lot of top-tier talent. I get what it’s like to have to start with almost nothing.
But if you focus on the best you have at the moment, and bring all of that to your mission, you will create a better future.
Eventually, more and more talented people will emerge from the crowd and new people will join your mission, and soon you’ll be so much further ahead.
Was our band always great? No.
Was every singer always on key? Nope.
Did every volunteer always crush it? Of course not.
But we did the best we could with what we had.
And you’ll soon discover if you do the best you can with what you have, your best keeps getting better.
The path to an excellent future is this: constantly improve an average present.
I have two full units in my Breaking 200 online course that will show you how to spot, recruit and develop the talent you have in your church that will move you into a far more excellent future.
There are principles I learned as I led our church from small and rather unskilled in most ministry areas to where we are today (larger and with many gifted leaders).
7. You’re Afraid to Change
So maybe you don’t want to resign yourself and your church to mediocrity, but you’re afraid to change.
I get that.
But change bridges the gap between what is and what could be. It bridges the gap between a not-great present and better future.
At some point you have to ask yourself, what should I fear more as a leader: change, or never accomplishing the mission?
Now go and accomplish your mission.
If you need practical help leading change, try this.
Overcome Mediocrity, Starting With Preaching
As much as the digital reality has changed everything, some of the core principles of sermon preparation and excellent communication never change. Great communication is simple great communication.
If you’re ready to start preaching better sermons and reach the unchurched without selling out, then it’s time to start using the right tips, lessons, and strategies to communicating better.
The Art of Better Preaching Course is a 12 session video training with a comprehensive, interactive workbook that will help you create, write, and deliver better sermons. The course contains the lessons Mark Clark (lead pastor of Village Church, a growing mega-church in post-Christian Vancouver) and I have learned, taught, and used over decades of being professional communicators.
This is the complete course you need to start preaching better sermons, including:
- 7 preaching myths it’s time to bust forever
- The 5 keys to preaching sermons to unchurched people (that will keep them coming back)
- How to discover the power in the text (and use it to drive your sermon)
- The specific characteristics of sermons that reach people in today’s world
- Why you need to ditch your sermon notes (and how to do it far more easily than you think.)
- How to keep your heart and mind fresh over the long run
And far more! Plus you get an interactive workbook and some bonus resources that will help you write amazing messages week after week.
In the Art of Better Preaching, Mark and I share everything we’ve learned about communicating in a way that will help your church grow without compromising biblical integrity. We cover detailed training on everything from interacting with the biblical text to delivering a talk without using notes, to writing killer bottom lines that people will remember for years.
Don’t miss out! Check it out today and gain instant access.
Any Other Signs?
Any other signs you’ve seen that a church is mediocre?
How have you beaten mediocrity in your church?
Scroll down and leave a comment.