I grew up in “the ministry”. My parents served faithfully for over 40 years in ministry. I seemingly followed in their footsteps upon hearing God’s calling for my life. Since that time I have spent the last 15 years in ministry in positions such as youth pastor, church manager, worship leader and a full time pastor (Salvation Army Officer). I have seen ministries come and go in that process. I watched some wonderful ideas seemingly crash and burn, while other evangelistic ideas that I thought would never work stand the test of time.
Within my span of being “in the ministry”, please allow me the opportunity to highlight some reasons ministries fail in the first five years:
5 Reasons Ministries Fail In The First 5 Years:
1) The “Blue-print” Transfer Ideology:
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ― Dwight D Eisenhower
Within this church-growth ideological vein comes the preconceived notion that if something works in one community, it will undoubtedly work in another. This translates into moving an evangelistic plan or possibly key “event” from one functioning church location to another. Some of the factors that can be easily overlooked in this kind of “Blue-print” transfer, however, can include specific community demographics, the leadership factor, and adequate planning. This leadership ideology and “idea” transfer can lead to failure in a ministry. Just because something worked in one location doesn’t always mean it will transfer successfully into another completely different ministerial environment. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that we shouldn’t try these ideas, but before plunging headlong into such a campaign, do the research, ask the questions, count all of the variables.
2) A Lack Of Vision & Planning
“Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”
― V.S. Naipaul
This goes hand in hand with doing the above recommendation of doing the research! What are the needs of the community that you minister in? Who is your target audience? Why is such a ministry needed? How will it be executed? What are the outcomes of success? (meaning, how will you know that this ministry has reached its potential and succeeded?) In order to prevent failure of any new ministry these (and more) questions need to be answered. It is one thing to have a brilliant idea and have a “pie in the sky” vision…it is a completely different thing to execute that idea with precision and proper planning. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that we ought to be planning everything to death and the need to micro-manage, but it does mean that some forethought must be put into any formation of a new ministry.
Here is a simple SWOT analysis link that could help you if you are planning to begin or revitalize a ministry: SWOT Analysis Tool Worksheet
These two vital issues can cause a ministry to fail in the first 5 years or much, much sooner. What happens when the senior pastor doesn’t share the same vision as the church board or council? What happens if the youth pastor or the worship leader cannot catch the vision of the senior pastor? These polarizing views of what the mission should be can cause a ministry to crash and burn. Without a clear vision (as listed in #2) that is shared by all of the leadership team, the ministry will the run the risk of failing gloriously. Coupled with this sharing of the same vision, is the crucial component of possessing a stable group of leaders. Without the team, “super pastor” will fail. Without the “core group” who do the initial grunt work to get a ministry off of the ground, it can become next to impossible to succeed in something new. The “core group” must possess the same shared vision and should be willing to not only work together to accomplish great things, but ought to be fervently in prayer and in support of one another to do “all things in Christ who strengthens me (you, us, the team)…” -Philippians 4:13. The fastest way to fail in a ministry is to possess a murky, vague vision while possessing an unstable, sub-par team to execute this new, fuzzy ministry poorly.
4) Rigid Iron-fisted Leadership Model
“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.” ― Jeff Bezos
Once the vision is caught and the plan is executed within the realms of a new ministry, there is a tipping point that can occur that will either make or break any and all potential future success. The tipping point begins and ends with the need to adjust, change and become flexible without compromising the overall mission and vision. Do we, as church leaders, possess the ability to be both firm within the vision while maintaining an element of flexibility in outcomes? I would venture a guess that “flexibility” is often the most difficult element to maintain when striving for success in ministry. Things can and will change in the team environment. Strategy needs to be re-tooled to offer better chances at succeeding. Often times pride and stubbornness have caused ministries to fail miserably. The evidence of true leadership is the willingness to let others lead from time to time. True leadership allows for adjustments of the plan and letting go of the Iron-fisted grip while maintain and upholding the vision and the intended outcomes. If we, as church leaders, allow our pride and stubbornness to blind us to the necessity of flexibility and adjustment mid-stride in the execution of the plan, then we will inevitably fail.
Note to self (and perhaps this applies to you as well): Wake up, it isn’t about me…it’s about the mission!
5) No “Next Level” Plan..
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” —John Maxwell
Once the new ministry is off the ground, and flexibility allows for course adjustments and moderate re-shuffling and successful outcomes are reached what happens next? One of the crucial needs of the church is to recognize when a plateauing of a ministry is taking place and a plan to take things to the “next level”.
Samsung and Apple (among others) are corporations that are notorious for providing the “next big thing” when it comes to portable technology such as telephones and tablet/computer devices. They stage public media day events to attract world-wide attention and get people interested in their products…and people keep coming back for more. Why do people come back for more? Because these companies know how to make things relevant, marketable and desired. They do the “next level” really well.
A Word Of Caution:
We must be careful here to identify with “business models” because our motivation isn’t centered on financial gains and success in this way, but the principle of how it is done can assist us in planning the “next level” within our church ministries.
Tools for the “next level”
* Re-visit the vision of the present ministry.
Ask questions such as: –Is it still working?
–What should we do differently?
–Have we met our yearly outcomes?
–What can we do better this next year?
–Are we reaching the targeted audience?
–Do we need to re-tool our leadership base?
–Do we need different teaching materials?
–Can we write new materials?
-Are we meeting the needs of our community?
These are just 5 reasons that ministries fail in the first 5 years and some tools to help us stave off the “crash and burn” hall of fame awards.
Do the research.
Spend money and time on a quality core team around you.
Plan, plan, plan…but be flexible!
Look to the future, prepare for the “next level”…and get ready to execute it well!
-Just something more for us to ponder today!