Thursday, January 05, 2017

Knowing What to Give Up

Will Mancini is one of the most creative church consultants on the contemporary scene.  In a recent post on “11 High-Impact Planning Ideas for Senior Pastors for the New Year,” Mancini provided a list of actions that could transform a church of any size.  One that particularly caught my attention was:

“#9 Create a stop doing list and execute.  Whether our church is growing, plateaued or declining you will greatly benefit from identifying and eliminating the 20% of church’s activity that is the lowest return on mission. . . . As a team, ask the question ruthlessly, ‘Why do we do what we do?’”

As churches, we often keep doing the same things and see declining results.  Even so, we are hesitant to give up certain activities.  Why is this?

First, some people in your church want to maintain the familiar.  A pastor friend announced that the church council had agreed that Sunday night services should be ended.  He had a visit from a group of church members who insisted that the evening services should continue.  Wishing to get some clarity, he asked, “How many of you will commit to being here for those services each week?”  One of the group said, “That’s not the point.  I won’t promise to be here every week, but I just want to know that it is there.” 

Second, others may see this as a sign that the church is in decline.  The decision to quit doing an activity may be just another indicator that “the church just isn’t what it used to be.” 

Third, for some, it is an emotional issue.  An activity or program may be where they came to know Christ, met their spouse, or found a lifelong friend.  To give up the activity seems to dishonor their own experience.

So what is a leader to do in this situation?  Here are some ideas:

  • Ask those who want to continue the activity how committed they are and if they are willing to staff it.
  • Agree to continue the ministry but only after a thorough assessment of its purposes and desired outcomes.
  • Suggest a “sabbatical” or summer break and wait to see if those involved miss it.
  • Design and implement a new ministry or activity that achieves the goals that the former activity intended but failed to reach. For example, rather than a Sunday night service at the church, invite members to host small groups for worship, study, and fellowship in their homes.

Of course, no matter what the leader tries, some will disagree, resist, or drop out.  I have spent more time that I can remember on trying to prop up under-performing ministries.  The leadership team must have the courage to identify what actually makes a difference in the life of the church and furthers its mission, then place their emphasis there.

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