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3 tactics to help you tackle ministry

| by Bob Whitesel

To maintain a healthy balance between an inward and outward church focus is to tackle ministry needs. Tackling ministry needs could involve refocusing, creating, or ending ministry. 

The term tackleis fitting, because this may require the most energy. Long histories and good fellowship often cause a church to focus on congregational needs in lieu of non-churchgoer needs. Thus, churchgoers often focus on ministries they enjoy doing even when these programs are no longer meeting the needs of non-churchgoers. As a result, tackle is absolutely critical for church health. Three tactics will be needed: 

1. Refocusing: Some of a church’s programs will need to be refocused to better meet the needs of non-churchgoers. 

2. Creating: Some programs will need to be created to meet
the needs of non-churchgoers.

3. Ending:Some programs will need to end so that volunteers and assets can be redeployed into programs that better serve the needs of non-churchgoers. 

Refocusing and creating ministries: The A-B-C-D approach 

The key to refocusing or creating ministry is to:

a. Assembleboth canvassers and ministry leaders. 

• The goal is to compile a master list of needs and draw connections to existing ministries or create new ministries that will meet those needs. 

• A convener (chairperson) should be selected. This will usually be a staff person or the leader of the canvassers. She or he will oversee the A-B-C-D steps.

• Convene both canvassers and church ministry leaders as soon as possible after the canvassing. Some churches will conduct their canvass on Sunday or Saturday morning and then meet that afternoon. This can allow leaders to consider the results while the conversations are fresh in their minds. 

b. Brainstorm a master list of needs.

• When the canvassers convene after their canvass, everyone shares the needs.

• From these lists,create a masterlist of needs (of those that reoccur with the most frequency on the canvassers’ lists).

• Combine similar needs into categories. Column 2 of Figure 2.8 illustrates how a master list of needs might be categorized.

c. Correlate needs to ministries the church offers or can start. • Just as you brainstormed a master list of categories, now it is time to brainstorm a list of ministries you can refocus or launch to meet needs in each category.

• Put these ministry ideas in Column 3 of Figure2.8. 

d. Distribute your list of refocused or created ministries (Figure 2.8) to church leaders. 

• Send this list to all department heads and ministry leaders. 

•  Ask them to look over your suggestions in the right column of Figure 2.8 and add their own.

• Ask them to report back in thirty days with their responses of how their ministry can be refocused to better meet community needs.

• The report will be received by the staff person or convener who oversees the canvass.

Ending ministry: Three guidelines 

As noted, some ministries may need to end. This is especially important when volunteers need to be redeployed into ministries that better meet the needs of non-churchgoers.
One example comes from a client church. This church had a group of ladies that meet Wednesday afternoons to knit quilts, which they sold to raise funds for missionaries. The missionaries were appreciative, but the efforts raised little funds. The ladies mostly enjoyed the fellowship and felt they were supporting outreach. 

A canvas of the community found that many of the families with two wage earners needed after school child care. Armed with this information, the leader of the canvass asked the Wednesday knitting group to consider hosting a play and tutor time from 3–5:30 p.m. once a month (the time during which they typically knitted). Community residents and children so enjoyed these afternoons with their newly adopted “grandmas” (and the senior ladies enjoyed it, too) that this ministry soon replaced the weekly knitting circle.
Still, there are three criteria that must be met when ending a ministry and redeploying volunteer skills.

1. Redeploy people.Volunteers involved in a ministry that is ending must clearly see a redeployment for their skills and fellowship. The knitting circle became an afterschool team of surrogate grandmas. At first the knitting circle was hesitant, but once the members saw that their skills and fellowship would be preserved, they relinquished one ministry to launch another. 

2. Move slowly.Most people will need time to process the end of their ministry as well as the value of diverting their skills. One of the key lessons of research into church change is that leaders often doom the change process by proceeding too quickly (by not giving congregants enough time to grapple with the change). 

3. Add if you can’t subtract.If you can’t end it, leave it, and add something else. Some people are so wrapped up in their ministry that they cannot envision ever doing any- thing else. While it might not be the most desirable tactic, if ending a ministry is causing too much division or grief, it is best to leave the ministry alone and launch something new. Many a church leader has become bogged down trying to end something when that energy might have been better spent launching something new. 

Fill in Figure 2.9 to ensure you meet all three guidelines when ending a ministry. 

Ending a ministry may be the most difficult and thorny task you undertake in growing a church. So remember, if ending a ministry becomes too problematic, it is best to let it begin something new. 

Excerpted from Cure For The Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing House 2012)

Bob Whitesel

Bob Whitesel (D.Min., Ph.D.) is a sought after speaker, church health consultant and award-winning writer of 13 books on missional leadership, church change and church growth. He is founding professor and former professor of missional leadership of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. He also holds two earned doctorates (D.Min. and Ph.D.) from Fuller Theological Seminary where he was awarded “The Donald McGavran Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Church Growth.” His website is

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