I was sitting in my car when I first heard this concept. It was my first call with a coach I had just recently hired. He then said to me, “You have to lower the standard” and then paused. At that point I thought the guy was a fraud, and I was ready to ask for a refund.
He then continued, “you have to lower the standard, so you can raise the quality of ministry.” 3 years later, this concept continues to influence how I structure the ministries I oversee. So let me unpack this for you.
Lower The Standard: What It Doesn’t Mean
So before you delete this email, and black list me let me explain what it’s not.
- It’s not about lowering the quality of what we do.
- It’s not about doing less work or budget cuts.
- It’s not about cutting corners or settling for second best.
Lowering the Standard is about increasing the amount of people who can teach, lead, and serve by lowering the qualifications.
In other words, you don’t have to be a Bible Scholar to be able to lead a Small Group. You don’t have to have a Masters in Business Administration to lead a ministry.
Honestly, what Pastor has a church full of over qualified congregants? What Pastor could not use more amazing leaders? Most of us just try to accomplish amazing things with common people, who have common abilities.
I remember hearing Pastor Chris Hodges, from Church of the Highlands say “everything you need to accomplish the purposes of God for your church is sitting in your congregation.”
The gifts you need, the talents you need, the teachers, leaders you need are all sitting in your congregation. You just have to figure out how to draw them out (proverbs 20:5).
So let me explain what Lowering the Standard does mean.
Lower The Standard: What It Does Mean
When you lower the standard, you lower the qualifications or requirements you have for people to teach, lead, and serve. But you don’t lower the quality of ministry. You don’t accept anything less then the best.
So how do you lower the standard without lowering the quality of ministry?
You have to create what I call Scaffolding Systems. A Scaffold provides a support so that construction workers can be elevated and work, with the goal of building something of significance.
Scaffolding Systems, provide support so that common people can regularly accomplish uncommon things.
Here’s an example:
A year ago I decided that instead of trying to get every person in our church to join a life group, I’m going to ask them all to lead a group. So you could be saved a week and lead a life group. What!!! That’s heresy!!!
Here’s how I lowered the standard:
- I provided every Small Group leader with a DVD curriculum containing our best communicators on camera.
- I assigned a coach to each Group leader who could provide some insight and leadership to the new group leader.
- I required every new group leader to fill their groups with friends, family, and neighbors. I wasn’t worried about who may be a bit off their rocker, cause if they were off their rocker chances are their family and friends were off their rocker. Or at least understood them.
The result was I doubled the amount of Small Groups we had. But even more important – New Group leaders whose friends were not saved, were getting saved in a living room.
How Do you create Scaffolding Systems:
You do it in 5 steps.
- Give them the Answer before the Test: Here’s what I mean, creating values that guide your people when making leadership decisions. So if there is an issue within a Small Group, the Small Group leader is making decisions based on the values.
- Write the Systems Down: By writing it down, you make the system easy to follow. Make sure each step is laid out, add check boxes so volunteers could check off the tasks accomplished. Ensure that volunteers understand each step of the written document.
Systems should be repeatable in spite of who is doing the task.
- Perfect their Imperfections: People will make mistakes. Don’t let them make it twice – every failure is a learning opportunity. Your job as the pastor or key leader is to coach those who are serving in ministry.
- Provide Crutches: I provide resources that support the volunteer and supplement their weaknesses. For example, in Small Groups I provide a DVD teaching to everyone. For our guest services workers, each one of them has a tag and on the back of the tag is a list of pertinent information – just in case they are asked.
- Lastly I Update The System regularly: In other words, as I get feedback from our volunteers, I take the feedback, make adjustments and update the system.