What are the most important things your church does?
Out of all the programs, ministries, and special events, which ones make the most impact?
These are important questions.
Asking and answering them is tough. Making adjustments based on the answers is even tougher.
But this exercise can make a world of difference in your ministry and help you accomplish your mission.
To unpack this a little more, I want to share three principles and then give one action step.
Everything you do might be equally good, but everything you do is not equally important.
Your church does a lot of good in the community. You have good programs. Good ministries. And you’re doing a good work.
But out of all the good things you do, some make a greater impact.
“Good” isn’t always a measuring stick, because it’s all good, based on good intentions and rooted in good work.
While every program, event, and ministry falls into the “good” category, a handful make the most impact.
It doesn’t sound fair, but these ministries are, in fact, more important.
Most churches are too busy, running programs that used to work or might work again.
“Many of our churches have become cluttered. So cluttered that people have a difficult time encountering the simple and powerful message of Christ. So cluttered that many people are busy doing church instead of being the church,” writes Thom Rainer in Simple Church.
With a world so in need of what the local church has to offer, it’s understandable how churches feel compelled to address everything.
But deep down, we know busy is not the same as effective. In fact, trying to do too much is often a recipe for little impact. Holding on to legacy ministries that worked in the past may not be good stewardship. Continuing to offer programs and events that do not lead to missional wins might not be the best use of our time.
When you’re too busy, your staff and leaders get tired. This creates more work for the already overworked, and the cycle is tough to break.
When you’re too busy, your resources are spread too thin. Everything gets little to moderate funding and is unable to get traction.
When you’re too busy, it’s tough for any message to get through. In trying to communicate everything, you end up communicating nothing.
Very few organizations grow by offering everything.
This isn’t just a church thing, it’s true for businesses and non-profits and home chefs.
When Steve Jobs stepped back into Apple after they had experienced years of decline, he simplified the product line. He recognized they had key products that needed more attention, and the only way to do that was eliminate the internal competition. The way to growth wasn’t to offer more, but to get good at what really mattered.
When non-profits identify a need they can meet and go raise money to make it happen, they can’t divert their attention to other problems, no matter how important the other causes may be. If the mission is to provide clean water, the organization doesn’t create an initiative around Malaria.
The best chefs don’t try to use all the ingredients in the pantry to make a dish. They choose select ingredients that work well together. Just adding more stuff doesn’t produce a better result.
The best path forward is one of focus.
That’s why we encourage every church to have a sometimes-difficult conversation and identify the five most important ministries.
These ministries – we call them Keystone Ministries – hold up the church. Without them, your church would lose your distinctives. It would be fundamentally changed. If ministry #32 went away, that may be sad, but it wouldn’t dramatically change things.
Start by identifying every program, ministry, regular event, and special ministry your church does. Then start ranking them.
If you’re in a meeting, ask everyone to come up with their top 10. Then try whittling down to 5. Embrace the tension. Here’s a worksheet to help guide your discussions.
As you think about all the things your church does, which programs or ministries make the most impact?
Which ones contribute the most to your identity? Which ones, if you were to remove them, would fundamentally change who you are as a church? Those are your keystone ministries.
Maybe your list looks something like this…
- Sunday morning church service
- Kids ministry on Sunday morning
- Small groups
- Wednesday night youth ministry
- Serve day
When you identify your five most important ministries, you can…
- Promote them. These ministries need more announcements, more videos, more testimonies, and more space on your website. Ironically, churches spend most of their communication promoting special, one-time things rather than the ongoing ministries that make the most impact. When you think about your keystone ministries, how much time do you really spend talking about them, emailing about them, and announcing them? In most churches, it’s all the auxiliary, one-off stuff that gets the most promotion time.
- Fund them. Your keystone ministries deserve a greater percentage of your ministry budget. Fairness isn’t a virtue here…the issue is stewardship. The ministries that are most important need most of the budget dollars. In most churches, the pie is divided up so many times, it’s nearly impossible to do things well.
- Staff them. You need to put your best people on your best opportunities. Whether paid staff or volunteer leaders, these are the ministries that need people.
This top five exercise, while it can be tough, can bring a lot of focus. And this focus often leads to growth.
After all, we don’t want you to just be busy – we want you to be effective.
Need to stop doing a ministry that is no longer effective? Here’s some advice.
Need to talk to one of our coaches about how to navigate changes? Join Church Fuel and book a call with any of our coaches.