Here are some good questions to help you evaluate what ministries or parts of ministries may need to hit the wood chipper.
1) Who started the ministry and why?
This first question won’t apply to your core non-option ministries such as ushers, greeters, children’s ministry etc. This applies to the unique ministries you believe God has directed your church specifically to offer. On many occasions I’ve asked a pastor why a certain ministry is in place and the response is something like: “Well, the former pastor’s Grandfather started it, and we just felt bad about stopping it.” Sometimes knowing the history will help you in the decision-making process.
2) What is the purpose?
It’s so important to be crystal clear about the measurable outcomes of each ministry. It’s true that most of what we do can be generally summarized to the purpose of life change. But you can also make the purpose of life change specific. For example, within your High School ministry, one life change objective may be to see some students called to full-time ministry. Or see the Greeters Team so engage with each new person that they want to come back even before they experience the worship service! Sometimes you need to get tough in your decision-making. If a ministry is no longer on purpose, and can’t be turned back to that purpose, it’s time to restart it in a fresh way or close it down permanently.
3) Is it working?
This seems like a really simple question, but it’s surprisingly difficult. It’s difficult because in the local church we are temped to be faithful over competent. We remain dutiful soldiers with a losing battle. I want to offer you encouragement and freedom to make the needed changes! Ask these questions. What are the results? Is it operating smoothly? Do volunteers enjoy it and invite their friends to serve in that ministry with them? If it’s not working, why is that true? Do you have the right leader in place? Is it aligned with the culture of the church? Bottom line, is there a better way to do it?
4) Is the effort greater than the return?
I talked about this question earlier in reference to a discipleship process we used nearly a decade ago. There is no way to avoid good old-fashioned hard work, but we can also work smart. Lack of efficiency isn’t akin to holiness. God gives us freedom to make changes so that we see maximum return for appropriate levels of investment. Again, you may need to shut it down as you currently know it and start fresh!
5) Could your resources be better invested in another ministry?
This is a great leadership question, and one that your top staff and board should ask often. Every church has finite financial and people resources. Therefore, every dollar and every hour must be invested for the highest and greatest good. This often requires complicated and difficult decisions to be made.
How about your church? Any trees that need to come down? Do you have any ministries that were once strong, beautiful and productive that now require far more work and maintenance than they produce results? Which of your ministries needs a fresh start?
It might seem crazy at first, but it may be time for the wood chipper.