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How to Stop Doing a Ministry

There comes a time in the life of every church when it’s time to stop doing something.

Maybe it’s a program that has run its course. Maybe it’s a ministry that used to work. Or maybe the needs of the community have changed and it’s time for something new.

If you find yourself needing to cancel a ministry program, you’re really facing a stewardship issue. It’s a difficult decision, but money and time spent on a ministry or program that isn’t working is better spent elsewhere.

In fact, what you stop might be more important than what you stop. It’s entirely possible your church isn’t as effective as it could be because you’re putting too much energy into something you shouldn’t be doing.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to stop doing a ministry. In this article, I want to lay out one principle and three action steps to help you stop doing a ministry or program.

Key Principle: Handle with Care.

Empathy is a critical pastoral skill. As you move through the process of evaluating ministries, making decisions and communicating to the church, you must handle the entire thing with care. Here are three reasons you should move carefully when thinking about pulling the plug.

  • People don’t like change. As a leader, you know change is necessary. But most people don’t like change. Don’t get angry at your church for pushing back on a decision to stop doing something. People resist change, and it’s up to you to lead them through it.
  • People in the church are often more committed to a particular program or ministry of the church than the church itself. There’s a lot of emotional attachment to ministries, particularly ones that have gotten a lot of time and focus from people in the church.
  • What needs to change was once the change. The thing you want to stop doing was started at one point. The thing you want to kill was once an innovative idea. When you want to stop doing something, it’s helpful to think about the reason it was started in the first place.

So show a lot of empathy. Put yourself in people’s shoes and don’t rush into changes. And when you’re ready to stop doing something, here are three steps you can take.

Action Step #1: Start with honest evaluation.

Stopping a ministry or program must start with honest evaluation. You must look at each program through the lens of your mission, vision, strategy and resource, and have an honest conversation about effectiveness.

Effectiveness really is the key word when you are evaluating something. You’re not trying to discover if people like the ministry. You’re not trying to figure out if it was good or helpful. You’re trying to measure effectiveness.