By Lovett H. Weems Jr., Special Contributor…
A phrase made popular by management writer Philip Crosby is, “Quality is free.” It reminds us that efforts to ensure that work is done right do not cost us time and money. It is the errors that cost. Just think how much extra time and effort are required to correct a mistake or redo something not done properly in the first place. Time and procedures to ensure that things are done correctly may appear to be burdensome, but they are scarcely comparable to the cost of mistakes.
A major equipment manufacturer built a new plant a few years ago. The layout of the new plant was noteworthy in one significant way: There was no space built in the new structure for “rework,” a term for products not built correctly in the first place and thus requiring rework. What is remarkable about this design is that in the former plant the rework area had, over time, grown to be larger than the regular assembly area. What a message the new physical layout must have sent about a commitment to excellence.
While saying we “offer our best to God,” do we tolerate less than the best? In the church there is often a tendency to ignore quality concerns and just do things “close to right.” The irony is that in the one place where one would expect to find the highest standards for all endeavors, one may actually find more tolerance for carelessness.
Do we simply assume that much of our work will not consistently be done properly? It is distressing that people so easily suggest that to have such high standards is unrealistic. They seem to imply that no one should have such expectations. However, have you noticed how error-free payroll functions normally are? It is remarkable that an organization that can be so inconsistent in many areas will have a near-perfect payroll system.
The case in point is inadequate proofreading of material. The regularly published collections of mistakes from church bulletins are humorous to church professionals but probably not to laity who endure them weekly. The big question is, “Who is proofreading these publications other than the person preparing them (who is normally too close to be a good proofreader)?”
Over the years I have been told by numerous Korean students about how their parents would go to the bank to get “new” currency so that when they made their offering at worship, they truly were giving “the best” to God. When new bills were not available, on Saturday night their mothers would use a hot iron to press the older currency before it was put in the offering on Sunday.
Are we offering our best to God in all that we do in our churches?
Dr. Weems is director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Leading Ideas, the Center’s online newsletter.