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Changing an overcommitted church to a balanced one

| by Thom Rainer

Can an overcommitted church become a balanced church? 

Can a complex church become a simple church? 

The answer to the questions is an unequivocal “yes.” However, it won’t be easy in most churches. Inertia often carries the day. 

Seven ways to overcome 

In my previous post, I identified some of the reasons our congregations have become so overcommitted. Now here are seven realistic but challenging approaches toward simplicity and balance: 

1. Don’t say “add” without “subtracting.”  Is your church too busy? Are many of your members overcommitted? If so, don’t even think about adding a ministry, event, activity, or program without taking at least one away. At least your complexity will not become even more complex. 

2. Do a zero-based ministry budget every year.  Before you begin your financial budgeting process each year, conduct a zero-based ministry budget. With this exercise, you go through a total do-over process. You ask what ministries, activities, and programs you would have if you started from scratch. You may not be able to eliminate as many as you like, but it will at least get your leaders thinking in this direction. Fewer programs means less money is required to operate them. 

3. Determine the essentials.  The essentials of my church are stated in three words: Belong. Thrive. Go. Those words form both our vision statement and our minimal expectations. We are to participate in a weekly worship service (Belong). We are to grow as disciples in a community group (Thrive). And we are to be involved in at least one ministry of the church each year (Go). We keep it simple, and thus we keep our busyness to a minimum. 

4. Evaluate all meetings.  Some churches have committee meetings, business meetings, and program meetings—for no other reason than because that’s the way they’ve always done it. Evaluate all those meetings ruthlessly. Would the church fall apart if you eliminated a few? Do you really need a monthly business meeting? What committee decisions could be just as easily handled via text or social media posts? 

5. Make heroes of those connecting beyond the church buildings.  We rightly praise and express gratitude to those volunteers who do ministry inside the walls of the church. But do we recognize those who are connecting outside the walls and having meaningful gospel conversations? We applaud what we recognize. 

6. Merge ministries and programs.  Your church may have some redundancy in its ministries and programs. Merge them. See if you can be just as effective with one ministry instead of two or three. 

7. Become a simple church. Eric Geiger and I wrote the book, Simple Church, first to describe how churches could have a clearly articulated process of discipleship. One of the steps in the process of discipleship is “focus,” which means eliminating those activities that don’t align with the vision and process of discipleship. I would encourage you to read our book if you are a part of a complex and overly-busy church. 

Busy but ineffective  

Busy churches may not be effective churches.  

Indeed, busy churches may be the very thing that are keeping our members from connecting in the community and having meaningful gospel conversations.  

Don’t let your church be among them.  

Photo source: istock

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.

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