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95Network Blog

Why Churches Keep Ineffective Ministries Around

11 April, 2018
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I love to collect books.

When my wife and I recently moved, it was made aware to me just how many books I own. Over the years, new books kept showing up and old ones were never given away. So when it came time to pack them in boxes, we honestly didn’t have enough boxes to fit them all.

This is when my wife saw the opportunity to kindly request that we give some books away. I agreed, but this became a more difficult task than I expected…

  • “Oh, grandma gave me that book when I was seven. I can’t get rid of it.”
  • “I really want to keep that one because I like the way it looks.”
  • “Well yes, I’ve had that book for ten years. I’ve only read the first chapter, but eventually I’ll finish it.”

Needless to say, quite a few books are still sitting on my bookshelves. It was difficult to let go of books I’ve owned for many years. Maybe for you it’s something different, but I’m sure you can relate.

If I’m honest, I typically value having books more than I value the majority of the content. Probably a little less than half of the books on my shelf have actually been significant in my life. And a smaller percentage have been read all the way through. I keep them because I’ve always kept them.

Many Churches Do the Same Thing

Here at 95Network, we regularly see quite a few small and mid-size churches hold on to church programs in the same way that I hold on to books. Even when there isn’t a lot of life change happening through the ministry, they keep it around because they’ve always kept it around. And it can (understandably) be just as difficult for churches to let these go…

  • “It’s worked in the past, so we don’t want to miss out on it’s success in the future.”
  • “Well, that class has been a priority for Mike, Sarah, and John, so we’d hate to take that away from them.”
  • “For the time and money we invest, we honestly don’t see a lot of results from VBS, but our members expect us to do it every year.”

Now please don’t confuse what I’m saying. I’m not saying that all church programs are ineffective. I’m not saying that all churches who have a lot of programs are necessarily “over-programmed.” And I’m not saying that every program with fairly low attendance is ineffective.

However, when a program is not leading to meaningful and consistent life change, the time and resources invested could probably be better spent elsewhere. And it can often be difficult for a church of any size to support a lot of programs without each program pulling your church in different directions.

A Challenge For You (And Me)

Choosing to drop any ministry is always hard. And it needs to be let go with care. There will be a level of grief for those who have been involved, and that needs to be acknowledged. But there is immense value in letting go of a “sacred cow,” keeping your church moving in one direction, and fully investing in ministry efforts that lead to people meeting Jesus.

(The Unstuck Group wrote a really great series of articles on letting go of ministry programs. Click here to read those articles.)

So, to bring this full circle, here’s my challenge to you and to myself. For every program you let go of at your church that is not currently leading to life change, I’ll donate one more book off my bookshelf. Seriously. Send me an email and we can move forward together.

It’ll be hard. There might be pushback. But it’ll be worth it.

Austin Savage

From Normal, IL, Austin gets that ministry can sometimes feel anything but “normal.” He grew up leading in the small church his dad pastored, and has since served on the launch teams for two church plants. He holds a Communications degree from Moody Bible Institute and is passionate about seeing churches grow healthier and make a difference in their communities.

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