When Two Values Collide, Development Must Win

Often in a ministry or organization, stated and/or unstated values will collide. When two values are at apparent odds with one another, leaders must decide which value wins. If a collision occurs, leaders must declare which value will be primary. A common example in church ministry is the tension between two commonly held values: leadership development and excellence. Let me illustrate…

First Church teaches, preaches, and talks about developing leaders. They preach that each person in the church is gifted by God to serve others. They articulate that every believer has a ministry in the church and a mission in the world. They believe that the people who are developed in the church are deployed in the world as salt and light. Developing leaders is a value First Church holds.

At the same time, First Church also champions the value of excellence. When the staff gathers, the team hears about “offering our best for His glory” and “going all out for Him.” The phrases move from the staff to the key leaders in the church, and expectations continually rise to do things with excellence. Excellence is something the team works hard to embed in the church’s culture.

Beneath the surface at First Church, the two values often collide. A children’s Sunday School teacher is challenged to find an apprentice to invest in. She does, but hesitates handing the lesson time over out of concern that it won’t be excellent enough. The small groups pastor, though he talks about development often, has never handed the microphone to someone else during the quarterly training meetings because he has “worked hard all week to make sure it’s the best ever.” Without realizing it, the longing for excellence can simultaneously steal attention from leadership development as part of development is handing responsibilities to others and letting the work of ministry develop them.

Because the fruit of leadership development is not immediate, it is the value that can be most easily overcome by others. For this reason, it is the value that must be emphasized when two values collide.

Can both values exist in a culture? Absolutely. We can offer our best to Him and develop leaders. From an overarching vantage point, we can do both. But when the two values collide, development must win. Excellence must submit to leadership development. More than excellence in production, excellence in environments, or excellence in programming—ministries must be excellent in developing and deploying leaders. After all, we were commanded to make disciples, not commanded to make excellent programs or productions.