Carefully choose adding ministries to match priorities


          After eighteen years of working with hundreds of churches across America, one thing remains absolutely clear – many churches are Program Hoarders.  What does this mean?
1)      We ADD more and more programs and activities while never intentionally removing or suspending any we already have.
2)     We ask our best, most mature leaders to be responsible for more different things than could possibly be done with excellence. 
3)      We do not take seriously the entire Biblical mandate of, “God’s call on our lives” in choosing where to minister, Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Disciplines
          Consider this example:
            Mrs. Hattie has been in our church for more than 20 years.  She visited her sister in Colorado and went to her sister’s church twice while on the visit.  Someone in their church was gifted with sewing teddy bears.  Mrs. Hattie is a super gifted sewing machine artist. So, she comes back home and starts making teddy bears on her machine.  She begins to carry them to persons in the church who are in the hospital and nursing home. 
            She receives much affirmation and blessing from doing this with others in the name of Christ.  In a few months, Mrs. Hattie cannot make teddies fast enough to keep those on the prayer list supplied.  So, she goes to the pastor and asks if the church would like to adopt a new, “Teddy Bear Ministry” – letting everyone know about it in the newsletter and at the church council.  She shares with the pastor about how many people could be part of this new ministry of outreach.  The pastor says “yes” to people whenever possible and Mrs. Hattie was no exception. 
            The members of the church council think Mrs. Hattie is a true saint of God.  They vote to approve this.  Mrs. Hattie then puts a table in the narthex with 30 bears on it and information for people to sign up to be part of the Teddy Bear Ministry of the church.  She also begins in a sweet way to exercise “the three foot recruiting strategy” – ask everyone who gets within three feet of you to become part of the Teddy Bear ministry. She goes first to the “Yes People” who are already suffering from not being able to pray, discern and say no.  She gets 12 people involved.  Many people say, “Wow!  That’s awesome. She is so cute.” 
            Then September arrives.  The nominations on leadership development committee begin to pray about who God may be calling to serve in next year’s ministries.  Six of the people they discern in their collective prayers are listed and personally visited about serving in leadership – including two new members who joined three months ago.  When they made the six personal visits, five of them instantly said, “No.  I can’t do another thing.  I am involved in Mrs. Hattie’s Teddy Bear Ministry.” She is really keeping us busy helping her with that! 
            Sounds like a happy ending.  But what if the ministry priorities of the church for the coming year don’t include the Teddy Bear Ministry?  What if the priorities are in other areas all together?  Oops!  “NASA, we have a situation…” 
            With a limited number of engaged leaders and active members to draw from for ministry involvement, LESS IS MORE.  And that’s going to be painful until the pastor and leadership become courageous enough to stop giving permission to almost anything (as neat as it may be) to become a church-wide ministry, promoting it like any other ministry, and having people who have enormous potential to be ministry leaders covered up with so much that they can’t see the forest for the trees!  It is also going to require the leadership to PRIORITIZE the long list of existing “ministries” that 17 leaders are trying to keep going. 
            The good news is that there IS an effective process for leadership to use in doing this.  Give us a call if this describes one of the challenges in your church’s growth. 
       Rev. Jim W. Hollis is the Founder and Executive Director of Proactive Ministries as well as a General Evangelist of the UMC. Since 1993, he and his staff members have led ministry training and coaching with more than 900 churches across 40 states in America.  You may reach him at:  OR  OR at their Smyrna, GA, offices: (770) 803-9988.