By Colleen Derr, Associate Professor of Congregational Formation and Family Ministry at Wesley Seminary
There was a book a few years ago that suggested that what we do on Sunday morning should be the “best hour of the week” for everyone who attends. And at first glimpse that sounds like a great idea. The best hour would mean it would be exciting and attractive. People would be motivated to attend and mark it as priority on their calendar. It would also mean that they would remember it all week, talk about it, and tell their friends about it: “You have to come with me, it is the best!”
But how do you define “best”? What does best look like?
My daughter shared with me a recipe for the “best pancakes ever”! She has been bragging about these amazing made from scratch, diet friendly pancakes that she loves. Said she could eat them every day and would choose to make them even if they weren’t healthy. For three weeks she would ask “have you made the pancakes yet?” and I would have to respond “no”. She couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried them and would insist I was really missing out on something amazing. Last night I decided it was a good evening for eggs and pancakes for supper. I followed her directions exactly, mixed up the batter, pre-heated the frying pan, and made those pancakes. And they were awful – not just not the “best”, but terrible. I ate them anyway but have no need to ever make them again. What’s the deal – did I make them wrong or miss an ingredient? No – it’s just that her definition of “best” and mine aren’t the same.
Now I’m not confident that what we do in our ministries should be defined as “the best hour of their week”, but I do believe that what we do should be excellent. What does it mean to be excellent in our ministry? How do we achieve that? Is there a “secret recipe”? No secret recipe but certainly some general guidelines to move from mediocre to excellent:
- Start with prayer – Ask the Lord for wisdom, vision, and insight to see what is possible and then pray for the courage to do it!
- Seek the Spirit – Understand that even with courage the power to achieve what is possible is greater than our own.
- Think about it – Once you have a vision for what is possible, what your kids can achieve, and who they can become, think about the “how”. What needs to happen? Be diligent in your preparation.
- Be genuine and humble – Check your motivation and make sure it is the right one. And then be honest, open, and humble with those you serve beside and those you lead.
- Do everything on purpose – Be intentional and deliberate about what you do, what you say, and how you do and say it!
- Together in community – Recognize that none of us is excellent alone; we are excellent together. Each part of “the body” has a valuable role to play – and it takes us each doing our part in harmony to be excellent. In children’s ministry we know that we need each other – play as a team and live as a community!
- Stay on target – It is easy to get sidetracked with really good priorities, plans, and agendas. But no matter what we do, it must all point back to the Gospel message. Titus 3 describes what is excellent and how to achieve it:
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:1-9, NIV)
This passage also reminds us that the source of excellence is the mercy and grace of God, the sacrifice of His Son, and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.
The “best hour” – may not be the goal but doing everything with excellence so that the name of the Lord is praised and His message of love and hope is heard – YES that is an excellent goal.