It’s a great time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go—both as an individual and as a church leader. It’s a also a great time to start thinking about what programs need to go and what need to stay in your church.
Admittedly, the idea of shuttering a ministry—especially one that’s been around forever—might release the butterflies in your stomach. After all, you’ve got just enough stress and conflict to keep things interesting. Why pick a fight over tradition?
Still, if a church is going to grow, change is inevitable. And part of change includes letting the sun set on a program near the end of its life cycle.
And January might just be the perfect time to take those first steps, according to Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
“What you quit is just as important as what you start,” Wilson said during December’s Leadership Momentum Podcast. “In the church, we love to start stuff, but we hate to quit. So, we just accumulate all this stuff.”
Sometimes, it’s easy to know what your church needs to quit. Other times, the decision isn’t so cut-and-dry. For those times, here are four questions you can use as a filter for keeping or quitting a ministry.
1. Is this ministry based on principle or just practice?
Many sacred cows are all about tradition. Carefully examine each ministry in the context of your church’s mission—why you exist and what you want to accomplish. If it aligns with those core principles, that’s great. If not, it may be time for a change.
2. Is this ministry effective?
Every program means something to someone, and emotional ties can be strong. But is the ministry in question actually accomplishing anything? Of course, not every decision should come down to money, but being a good steward does play a role. You need to make sure the money dedicated to a particular work actually makes a difference in the body or the community.
3. Is this ministry supported by the congregation?
Enlisting people to carry the load in ministry can feel like pulling teeth, and it really shouldn’t be that way. God promises to equip the body for every work. So, if you can’t get the necessary support from within the congregation—support that goes beyond lip service—it may be time for that ministry to end.
4. Is there a better way?
The battle cry of many dying churches seems to be: “We’ve never done it that way before!” But just because you’ve always done it one way doesn’t mean there aren’t other—better—ways to accomplish that ministry. Again, it’s a matter of stewardship. Use your congregation’s time and talents for the greatest ministry impact.
Once you’ve decided what you need to start and what you need to quit, use the basic tools of vision casting to share the message. Explain the leadership team’s decisions often, including how they will strengthen your church’s ability to meet its mission. You may still field some negative feedback, but stand strong. Change is never easy, no matter how many times you explain the reasons.
Leadership can be tough, and ending a program may be one of the hardest parts of the job. But just like plants are trimmed back to promote new growth, refining what your church does can actually pave the way for a more fruitful ministry in the days ahead.