Throughout my time in church, both as a member and a minister, I’ve been a part of many church programs, some that are still continuing to this day and others that have been cancelled or fallen apart for one reason or another. Today I want to write about church programs and what it takes for them to succeed. I don’t pretend to have all the answers and this certainly is not an exhaustive list, but I think it is a great place to start when thinking about beginning a new church program or ministry.
Give Them the Effort They Require
If you want a ministry to succeed, people have to be involved. This involvement can take many forms. For some ministries involvement means money, for others time, and for some the involvement is man-power. Regardless of what that involvement is, you need to make sure you have it before launching a program. If you don’t give your ministry the effort it requires, it will fail.
Don’t Do Too Many Things at Once
Supporting missionaries, running a food/clothing pantry, hosting community seminars, and having bi-monthly church work days are nice, but sometimes trying to do all of those things results in nothing getting done or, perhaps even worse, many things being done sloppily. It’s not wrong to have a desire to do a lot of things for God’s kingdom, sometimes though you need to cut some programs in order to carry out other ministries more effectively. The more you do, the more your members get burnt out. This means that we have to choose what programs we do now and what ones we do later. Trying to do too many things at once is a good way to make sure your ministries fail.
Let the Leader Lead
One of the biggest killers to any ministry is micro-management. It’s not enough to say “you’re in charge” you actually have to let that leader be in charge. Constantly asking the leader if they “got such and such done yet” or if they’ve gotten around to planning this event, ordering food, enlisting volunteers, etc. makes that “leader” feel like anything but a leader. If you trust someone enough to make them the leader of a ministry or program then let them lead! To constantly interfere is to undermine them and it doesn’t take a lot of undermining to get your leader to quit, leading to a failed ministry (or a poorly run one).
Before we go to the next point, I thought I’d add something extra (free of charge!). It’s important that you check on leaders to make sure that the task you’ve given them is being accomplished. That being said, it’s a lot better to ask “how are things” or “do you need any assistance?” than it is to ask “have you gotten this done yet?”. If you trust someone enough to put them in a place of leadership, let them lead and get out of the way.
Keep It Up to Date
Some programs that were extremely effective in times past may not be as effective now. For example, bus ministries used to be a very effective means of getting people to church. Now a bus ministry would be seen as creepy and very off-putting. Sermon charts and projectors used to be a great way to teach someone the gospel, but would be seen as archaic if used today. I’m not saying that these ministries are completely worthless, but am simply making the point that your ministries need to be relevant to the time we’re in. Some old ministries can be updated; others may be beyond updating and need to be done away with. Use discretion, and make sure the programs you’re church is trying to launch are relevant. If a ministry isn’t updated to be relevant, the people you’re trying to reach will ignore it, leading to a failed ministry.
Make Sure the Ministry Fulfills a Need
Sometimes great ministries are mediocre because of the area you are working in. A clothing closet might be a great evangelistic tool in a poor community, but might not fair too well in a wealthy neighborhood. It’s important that you understand your community and the needs of that community before launching a ministry. The idea for a program might be great, but you have to evaluate whether that idea is great for your congregation. A great idea for a ministry might become a failed ministry if employed in the wrong place.
We have to remember that our goal with every ministry or program is to bring others to Christ. Sometimes that means bringing Christians closer to God, and other times that means bring non-Christians to Him for the first time. When a ministry is done poorly, it will fail to reach others (and worst case scenario, may even turn someone away from God). That’s why these points are so important. Anything worth doing is worth doing well and that is especially true of church work.
Ministries that are successful are ministries that are given the effort they require by people who aren’t overwhelmed with tasks, are led by someone with the ability to lead, and are relevant to the time we’re living in and to the culture we’re seeking to reach. When ministries have these elements they succeed, and when ministries succeed, the kingdom grows.