Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions A Lean Ministry Is a Smart Ministry

A Lean Ministry Is a Smart Ministry

How to Change to a Lean Approach

1) Teach the principle of “The Divine Thumbprint.”

No one church can do everything. So the decisions should not be based on popularity, size of personality, politics or emotion. Be spiritually strategic. Pray to discover the specific ministries God wants your church to offer.

2) Communicate the role of the Holy Spirit.

Lean ministry does not limit the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit breathes life and power into the ministries you do select.

3) Lean into the idea of margin.

As I’ve mentioned, use your time wisely. Lean ministry isn’t about doing or working less; it’s about getting better. Work on your ministries. Innovate and improve.

4) Get buy-in with your staff and leaders before you cast vision from the platform.

It’s not wise to read this post and then announce to your church that you are leaning out the ministries! Your leaders will cheer and call you blessed, until you start discussing their ministry! Then things will get messy in a hurry.

5) Stop adding any new ministries.

As you teach and discuss the “why” with your leaders, and earn buy-in, simply let them know that for a season (a long season), you won’t be adding any further ministries. And if you do, for every add, one must be eliminated.

6) Conduct a thorough ministry audit.

Make a list of every ministry you do. No matter how big or small. The possibilities are nearly endless such as: camp, baby dedication, men’s ministry, divorce care, recovery groups, student leadership, small groups, foreign missions (in detail), pre-marital, counseling, a local food co-op. Everything. Then rate the effectiveness of each one. Which ones are working well, and which ones are not? Yes, this can be subjective, but you will intuitively know right away for most. Begin to think about which ministries are less effective and not needed.

7) Identify your irreducible minimums.

List the ministries you must have. This is the leanest list of ministries, functions and programs without which your church would not operate. For example, ushers, nursery, children’s, worship team, production and tech, etc. Whatever you truly believe you must have for your church to function. Note, the list is surprisingly short. (Think church plant.)

8) Identify the additional ministries that make your church unique.

This is the “Divine Thumbprint” idea. What ministries are not absolutely needed, but make your church uniquely you? These are the ministries that contribute to and help inspire the vision. Caution: Add slowly and prayerfully.

9) Eliminate ministries slowly.

Now that you know your irreducible minimums, and the ministries that God purposes uniquely for your church, it’s time to make a list of the ministries to eliminate. Go slowly. Honor the leaders who have served well.

10) Remind your people they can do any ministry they desire, on their own.

There are dozens of great ministries, and again that doesn’t mean your church does them all. But there is no reason that two or three people in your church can’t do something on their own. But it must be on their own. No announcements from the stage, no meetings, it’s not in the bulletin and you don’t fund it. Just empower them to go for it!

11) You can add new ministries, but be intentional.

Of course you can add new ministries. But be tough in your decision-making. And a great rule of thumb is that every time you start one, eliminate one. This is not a law, but it’s a good guideline. For example, we would add very little to nothing internally. Our additions would be outside the church, from local compassion and justice to global endeavors. And in all these cases we create partnerships with organizations already doing it. We don’t recreate and own it ourselves.

12) Keep casting vision and tell stories of life change.

Coupled with ongoing evaluation, cast vision and tell stories so your congregation often hears about the lives that are changed by your ministry efforts.

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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.