by Drew Dixon
What is the single greatest barrier to your ministry fulfilling its mission? The answer just might be that you’re making too many attempts at fulfilling the mission. Take a look at your ministry’s schedule for this year, this month, and this week. How many trips, events, and meetings are on your schedule? What percentage of these are designed to advance your mission?
It is human nature to see a problem and assume that the solution is to do something. In ministry contexts, this tends to result in new programs. Struggling with outreach? Start an outreach night. Giving is low? Start a giving campaign. Discipleship is not as strong as you’d like it to be? Launch a new discipleship class. Have you ever considered, however, that perhaps the reason our ministries aren’t as fruitful as we’d like them to be is because we are doing too much?
The members of your ministry are involved in other clubs, organizations, and classes. They have jobs and families. They are busy and so are you. The most active members of your ministry are not only juggling all of the above but also the growing demands of your ministry—they are attending Bible studies and meetings and actively helping with administration. Rather than empowering them for ministry, adding a new program into people’s schedules can be demoralizing or even suffocating.
Perhaps 2015 is the year that you need to refuse to add anything to your calendar. It might even be the year that you finally take an axe to those events and programs that you’ve long known are not advancing your mission. Effective ministry requires deprogramming. It is important to note, though, that deprogramming is often a difficult process and should not be entered into lightly. Here are three important steps in the deprogramming process:
While starting a new program feels productive, we need to ask ourselves whether such an approach is effective. Before considering what programs and events would best aid your ministry toward embodying its values and living out its mission, consider whether the programs and events you already have in place are doing so. The first step in the deprogramming process is to identify those programs that are hindering your ministry. This might mean inviting your ministry leaders together to take a red pen to your calendar in order to identify the programs that are clearly ineffective.
Every ministry has sacred cows—programs that seem impossible to change or eliminate because of how dearly loved they are. Therefore, the evaluation process must be followed up with rigorous, consistent, and deliberate communication. The people who make your ministry work will not submit to change if they do not share your ministry’s mission. Make your mission clear, teach your people not only the mission, but the values and measures that are necessary to advance it. Rather than tacking on a new program or Bible study, take an existing Bible study and refocus it on your mission and values. If that sounds daunting, smallgroup.com has a library of more than 1,200 Bible studies that are fully customizable and can help you easily and quickly craft studies that capture God’s vision for your ministry.
Effective ministries are people-centered rather than program-centered. Meaningful change will only come once the men and women in your ministry take ownership of your mission. Don’t attempt to deprogram you ministry on your own, and don’t assume your deprogramming plan is perfect. Teach and teach and teach your mission, values, and measures until your people are as passionate about them as you are. Invite other men and women who have caught the vision to help you evaluate the next steps for your ministry. Deprogramming is difficult, but the more you help people catch the vision and join the process, the less painful it will be.
Drew Dixon is Discipleship Strategist for Lifeway Christian Resources and the Editor-in-chief of GameChurch.com. He also writes for WORLD Magazine, Paste Magazine, Christ and Pop Culture, and Think Christian. Follow him on Twitter: @drewdixon82.