When a pastor or church leader surveys the landscape of the church, they normally see a plethora of wonderful ministries that are truly effective in fulfilling the mission of the church. That last thing they are thinking about is to stop ministry.
However, there are times when that same leader suspects that an effective ministry of the past may have seen its best days, may be on the decline and should probably end. The question that comes into focus is, “How does one know for sure?”
I recommend church leaders go through the following process in making the determination of whether or not to discontinue a ministry. This is not a casual 10-minute process. This will be an intensive evaluation of activities with deep spiritual roots. It should not be taken lightly. It is best done according to the collective wisdom of the church leaders (board and staff).
1. Determine the Core Mission of the Church
You do not need to look much further than Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you….” Without this mission the church has no reason to exist.
Make sure before you start any process of evaluation that you have this standard clearly embedded in people’s minds. You do not need a shifting measure while you are trying to determine the effectiveness of ministry. You need a clearly identified core mission of the church. If you do not do this one right you are set up for big problems down the line.
2. Create a List of Key Leaders
Determine which people you want to participate in the evaluation of ministries. These should generally be staff and board members, not the whole church. They could be key ministry leaders as well. However, just be careful that you do not set up a system whereby one ministry leader tries to beef up their ministry to the detriment of another.
Inherent in this process will be a sense of defensiveness when it comes to pet ministries. Please be careful with those you choose for evaluators. When possible, I recommend to only use board and staff. For illustrative purposes only, let’s assume you choose nine leaders.Stopping certain ministries may actually help you do ministry better. Click To Tweet
3. List All Ministries
Have everyone in leadership list all conceivable ministries of the church. Do not just list Children, Youth and Adult Ministries. List the various ministries within each of them and every other ministry. By the time you are done with this list it probably will be fairly lengthy. Do not gloss over anything you are doing in ministry by not including it. For illustrative purposes only, let’s assume an arbitrary number of 62 ministries.
(NOTE: Want to know the 18 Rules of Engagement for Church Boards? Click here)
4. Rank All Ministries
This will be very time consuming. Have your key leadership of nine people rank all the ministries from top to bottom in effectiveness to reaching the core mission of the church, not by how much they like the ministry or the people in it. It is all about core mission.
In our illustration of 62 ministries, all nine leaders must rank them 1 (most effective to mission) to 62 (least effective to mission). This means that in the middle of the pack they will have to make a personal determination that, e.g., ministry #24 is more effective than ministry #25 and less effective than ministry #23.
Yes, I know it will be tedious but it is necessary to gaining a collective agreement as to which ministries are most effective to mission and which are least effective to mission.
5. Calculate a Collective Ranking of the Ministries
For example, if you have 9 leaders doing this collective ranking you should add the numbers together of all 62 ministries as ranked by the 9 leaders. I recommend throwing out the high and the low rankings of each ministry. That way, for example, if 8 of the 9 leaders felt the ABC Ministry was ranked either as #3 or #4 and the ninth person ranked it #61, the ninth person skews its ranking. Removing the high and the low mitigates this issue.
Take the collective ranking of all ministries and list them in rank order with the smallest number at the top and the largest at the bottom. The small number rankings are more effective-to-mission ministries. The large number rankings are less effective-to-mission ministries.
6. Begin to Systematically Discontinue The Bottom 10% of Ministries
In our illustration of 62 ministries, this would mean that the bottom 6 ministries would be up for discussion to set dates to discontinue them. At all times, while listening to the collective wisdom of the leaders, the lead pastor must remain the ultimate decision-making leader.
People will begin to provide a number of reasons to keep these ministries, but none will drive to the core mission of the church. They will almost always have to do with the nice people who work in those ministries and the concern for their feelings. If you are diligent in following this process you will be positioned best to stay true to the collective evaluation of your leaders.
If you end these 6 ministries, your core mission will not be affected in the least and you will gain energy to put toward the top 6 ministries.
Once this process is completed, you can go on to the next 10% until you have refined the effectiveness of your ministries and are investing the best of your energies in that which will drive to your core mission.
I do not pretend to suggest this is simply a nuts-and-bolts, easy-to-implement process. I do suggest that it is necessary if you are going to stop doing the less effective ministries — those that are preventing you from doing the most effective ministries which drive to your core mission.
Is it clear to you now why the articulation of core mission is so important? It is critical to the long-term focus of your church.
A great book for your consideration on this subject is Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. Click here to read my review of the book