Setting the Bar

I attended a very small Jr. High School.  One of the benefits was anyone who was willing, got to play a sport.  There were no tryouts – only invitations to try out a sport so there would be enough players.  Which explains how I ended up on the track and field team as a high jumper.  I still remember what that bar looked like.  If you set it low, you approached it with a confidence that “anyone could jump over this.”  If you set it high, it felt like Impossibility.  No one could jump that high – certainly not me.

One of the most common questions I’ve faced from church planters is: where do you set the bar?  I hear things like:

  • “I met this amazing drummer who wants to play in our band – he also lives with his girlfriend, isn’t sure what he things about Jesus – but he really wants to play.”
  • “There is this great couple who want to join our core team and lead our hospitality ministry, but when I talked with them about our core covenant they said they didn’t think giving 10% was a New Testament thing.”

These are tough questions, but a simple axiom can help you navigate these decisions:

“Lower the bar of community and raise the bar of leadership.”

Many churches have the bar of community set way too high.  To someone on the outside, it looks impossible to get in.  You’d have to perfect like Jesus.  Which is why we say “No Perfect People Allowed.”  There are no perfect people.  Anyone and everyone should feel like it is a place they could belong, make friends and explore faith and even use their gifts to serve others.  So lower the bar of community.

At the same time, it is vital to raise the bar of leadership.  Too often, in a desperate attempt to fill spots, we act like my Jr. High track coach – lowering the bar so anyone can lead.  The problem is that lowering the bar of leadership is ultimately lowering the bar of discipleship.  If you let people lead who are not committed to Jesus nor submitted to His leadership in their own life, you communicate that discipleship isn’t really important.

Doing both simultaneously – lowering the bar of community while raising the bar of leadership –  will help you create a culture where everyone is welcome and everyone encouraged to keep moving towards Jesus.

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