By Thom Rainer
Can an overcommitted church become a balanced church?
Can a complex church become a simple church?
The answer to the questions is an unequivocal “yes,” but it won’t be easy in most churches. In my previous post, I identified some of the reasons our congregations have become so overcommitted. Now here are seven realistic but challenging approaches toward simplicity and balance:
- Don’t say add without subtracting. Is your church too busy? Are many of your members overcommitted? If so, don’t even think about adding a ministry, event, activity, or program without taking at least one away. At least your complexity will not become more complex.
- Do a zero-based ministry budget every year. Before you begin your financial budgeting process each year, conduct a zero-based ministry budget. With this exercise, you go through a total do-over process. You ask what ministries, activities, and programs you would have if you started from scratch. You may not be able to eliminate as many as you like, but it will at least get your leaders thinking in this direction.
- Determine the essentials. The essentials of my church are stated in three words: Belong. Thrive. Go. Those words are both our vision statement and our minimal expectations. We are to participate in a weekly worship service (Belong). We are to grow as disciples in a community group (Thrive). And we are to be involved in at least one ministry of the church each year (Go). We keep it simple, and thus we keep our busyness to a minimum.
- Evaluate all meetings. Some churches have committee meetings, business meetings, and program meetings because that’s the way they’ve always done it. Evaluate all those meetings ruthlessly. Would the church fall apart if you eliminated a few? Do you really need a monthly business meeting?
- Make heroes of those connecting beyond the church buildings. We rightly praise and express gratitude to those volunteers who do ministry inside the walls of the church. But do we recognize well those who are connecting outside the walls and having meaningful gospel conversations?
- Merge ministries and programs. Your church may have some redundancy in its ministries and programs. Merge them. See if you can be just as effective with one ministry instead of two or three.
- Become a simple church. Eric Geiger and I wrote the book Simple Church first to describe how churches could have a clearly articulated process of discipleship. One of the steps in the process of discipleship is “focus,” which means eliminate those activities that don’t align with the vision and the process of discipleship. I would encourage you to read our book if you are a part of a complex and busy church.
Busy churches may not be effective churches. Indeed busy churches may be the very thing that’s keeping our members from connecting in the community and having meaningful gospel conversations.