The most dreaded question in ministry “Are we supposed to shut it down?”
I don’t like the phrasing of that question, but chances are you have heard it put that way, or whispered it yourself.
It seems to me the more intentional we are to review our existing ministries the less chance of experiencing premature death and all the wreckage that occurs when a ministry is ‘quickly’ wrapped up.
Now I could be wrong on this one, but I see that all expressions of ministry have a life cycle. I also see that the vision behind that ministry expression does not have a life cycle. Here is something I have often considered. The great church of Ephesus continued for 400 years and then ceased, yet the Kingdom of God Vision behind that ministry lives on to this very day.
What I’ve Learned so far
I have experienced ministries being closed. Some I have done well. Some I didn’t. I have learned lots and I know I will learn more. That said, here are a couple of things I’ve realized so far.
- Not everything that comes to an end is done. Sometimes the decision to close a ministry actually triggers a transition into a more vibrant expression of the vision that was behind the ministry being evaluated.
- Closing a ministry requires much more communication than you think it requires. There are strong emotional connections to every ministry. People, including yourself, need process time. We need to pay attention to the grief cycle when closing a ministry. This is critical if you want to finish well in order to transition well. Remember, you want to finish a ministry in such a way that it doesn’t finish you and those affected.
What about failure?
Doesn’t closing a ministry indicate that I failed as a leader? Perhaps but not likely. Regardless, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone experiences failure. However, the bible is filled with stories of how God works through people who failed. But God can’t work through people who quit. When I fail, it hurts. I don’t like to fail. However I have grown because of my failures. We grow from failure.
If you see a ministry that appears to be floundering. Don’t panic. Here is a two-step process that may help.
FIRST STEP: GET HEALTHY THROUGH GAINING A HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE.
- Why does this ministry exist? What was the original vision or purpose for this ministry? Take as much time as you need to get clear on this. Can you see what it would look like if the vision became reality?
- When you look at the vision, how do you feel? What happens to your energy levels when you consider what needs to happen to move towards that vision with the ministry as it is currently organized?
- What are the answers to the last question telling you? Who do you know who can help you process this? What needs to occur for you and others to get into a healthy place to make healthy decisions? Make that your top priority. Delay making any organizational changes as long as possible so that everyone is in a healthy spacious place to do what is needed. If you have ever had a coach in your life, you already know how valuable they are during times such as these.
- From a place of health spend lots of time asking the Lord what you are to do? Ask him for specifics. Take time to pray and to listen to one another. (members of your team)
SECOND STEP – THINK EXPANSIVELY. THINK METANARRATIVE.
- Now that you are clear on the Vision behind the ministry answer these questions, “What are the core values for this ministry? What are the essential values that need to shape the decisions made for this ministry?
- Now it is time to begin evaluating the ministry.
- What is working?
- What is not working?
- What are we learning from this?
- What changes are needed? (including….do we continue this ministry?)
- If not, what is the cost to closing it, or replacing it with something new?
- Who can help us with this?
- What resources do we need to move forward?
- What is our communication strategy? (Give twice as much energy to this than you think is needed. Chances are you will still fall short in communication. Who can help you with this?)
Ministry evaluation is important work. It requires your leadership. Don’t go it alone. Involve healthy trusted companions in the process. Don’t rush it. God is with you. He is cheering you on.