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A Lean Ministry Is a Smart Ministry

A Lean Ministry is a Smart Ministry

No one local church can do every ministry. The question then becomes which ministries and how many? How do you decide? How many is too many?

It’s like a local church to continue to add ministries. It is also like a local church to resist eliminating a ministry, regardless of its effectiveness.

Most churches are busy to the point of significant fatigue. Yet, all that activity doesn’t necessarily translate to vibrant and healthy growing churches.

So, what is the best leadership move?

Let me offer a frame of reference for the conversation.

1. When your ministries are allowed to follow their own course (without change and pruning), they will become more complicated and less effective over time.

2. The larger a church becomes, the ratio of energy-to-results yields decreasing returns. Fewer ministries allow you to refocus your energy for greater results.

3. The more complex a church becomes, the less the leaders believe simplicity can be achieved.

4. The larger and/or older a church becomes, increasing pressure is felt from the congregation for the church to provide more ministries.

Assuming we agree that no one local church can or should attempt to do every possible ministry, then the smart approach is one that is spiritually strategic. That is, to pray, seek God on the matter, and choose only the ministries He has in mind for your church.

Why fewer rather than more?

1. A lean ministry model helps to create the margin that allows you to get better at the ministries you do offer. Focused effort on fewer ministries increases the impact of each ministry, and that results in more life change.

2. A lean ministry model approach helps to create margin for your congregation to pursue God personally, and build healthier families. By having fewer ministry programs to attend, families can be at home with more time together. Your congregation, in general, has more time to meet and invite new friends to church.

3. A lean ministry model will help you create the margin that increases your ability to respond to Holy Spirit prompts. Lean ministry does not squelch the Holy Spirit; it creates more space for Him to move. When you are so busy you can barely catch your breath, it’s hard to listen and respond to God’s prompts. I’ll admit that in most churches who practice a lean model, it doesn’t always “feel” like there is much more time, but that’s because they work so much harder and deeper making what they do better. But that, in turn, is how they reach more people.

In other words, rather than doing the same things with the same people over and over again, you are more closely connected to the mission of the church to reach more people for Jesus and help them mature in their faith.

The tension will never go away.

People are passionate for their chosen ministries, and all those ministries are good. That’s why the decisions are difficult. But, when the well-meaning volunteer decides to move on, or change ministries, you now own what they started. You don’t have to do that for many years, or even months, to end up with way too much to do. Much of which is not truly effective. At least not when you compare energy invested to (life change) results.

When I started out in ministry in the early ’80s having “many ministries” was the strategy. The more, the better! It was the way to empower your church and get people connected and involved. The concept of Ephesians 4:11-12 hasn’t changed (equip your people for ministry), but the culture has. Time compression has squeezed out the ability for people to do more. They are already maxed out in their daily lives. I’m not suggesting the solution is to dumb-down the vision of your church. Not at all, but merely to lean out the approach. Less is more.

Let me offer a detailed plan to help you change to a lean approach. This process is in a specific order.

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Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.