Aligning New Ministries Within Established Churches

If you have ever designed a room or redecorated a house, you know that it is much easier to work with new furniture. You buy furniture with the room in mind. If it does not fit into the design of the room, you do not get it. The challenging part is figuring out where your existing furniture and pictures fit.

The same is true for alignment.

The most challenging aspect of alignment is pulling existing ministries and existing staff in the same direction, especially if they have been moving in opposite directions. It is much easier to align new people and new ministries to the overall direction.

If they do not fit, you simply do not allow them to begin.

According to the research we gathered for Simple Church, we found it is vital that you make sure new ministries fit into the simple process before they begin. Finding out afterwards is always too late.

We asked vibrant and comparison church leaders to state their level of agreement with the following statement: “Before we begin a new ministry, we ensure that it fits within our process.” Of the vibrant churches, 68 percent strongly agreed or agreed compared to 40 percent of the comparison churches. The vibrant church leaders tend to ensure new ministries understand their place in the process prior to their launch.

Checking the Fit

Before you purchase a new pair of shoes, you wear them in the store. You walk around in them. It would be unwise to buy them without knowing if they fit right. Shoes that do not fit are found at the bottom of your closet. They create more clutter. Checking the fit is essential.

Simple church leaders check the fit. Before a new ministry is launched, they ensure it is a viable part of the simple ministry process. They clarify specifically how the new ministry will move people through the process. And they ensure that the leaders of the new ministry understand how the ministry is part of the big picture.

We are drawing a distinction between a program and a ministry. Ministries are different from programs. Ministries are either entire departments (ministry expansions) or specific groups (see ministry additions) that help move people through one aspect of the process.

In a simple church new ministries can be divided into two broad categories: ministry expansions and ministry additions. Checking the fit prior to inception is critical for both.

Ministry expansions are new ministries that are geared toward a specific age group or life stage. The church ministry is expanding to focus intentionally on a specific group of people. The new ministry is going to be a new department within the church such as a new middle-school ministry department or young couples department. In both of these cases, these groups were formerly a part of a different ministry. Now they will have their own identity. For ministry expansions, begin the new ministry with the same simple process. Be sure the programs within this ministry are placed to move people through the process. Ministry expansions are a great opportunity to highlight the simple process. You can begin them without the clutter. You can use these new ministries to show existing ministries the benefits of a streamlined approach.

Ministry additions are new ministries that fulfill a specific function within the simple process. These ministries must be set up to help move people through the process of transformation. For example, the baptism ministry team makes it easy for people to move to baptism. The guest reception ministry helps move guests into the life of the church. If it is unclear how a ministry addition will move people through the simple process, do not launch it.

In either case, whether you are expanding or adding a ministry, always ensure the ministry fits within the larger church process and vision.

 

If you’re interested in evaluating the clarity, movement, alignment, and focus of your church, you can take a free online Process Design Survey at EricGeiger.com.

Adapted from Simple Church (B&H Publishing Group, 2006)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-two books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, I Am a Church Member, is scheduled to be released in 2013 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
"The guests perceived some of the church members were faking it." Some of that is due to personality types. I'd imagine most existing members who are introverts would come across as "faking" it when greeting guests, because they probably are faking it to a degree. Doesn't mean they're not sincere, they're just uncomfortable as well. "Boring or bad service." IOW, not entertaining enough. Not sure if that's necessarily a bad thing.
 
— Rico
 
I'm really trying to understand the widespread opposition to greeting each other. I am a Catholic and we have a time in the mass where we wish each other peace - no personal information, just peace. Regardless, can people honestly say they come to the house of the Lord and are surrounded by their brothers and sisters and take offense or find it wrong to greet each other in His house? Awkward or shy or whatever it is called, it seems like that would be a time to be able to get past that and at least say hello.
 
— Jillian
 
A lot of comments were criticizing types of worship that they didn't like. Remember that different churches meet the needs of different people. You might like hymns, but someone else likes loud praise team songs. You might like in-depth sermons and others might like something lighter. Those differences were not what this article was about. People of various denominations looking for various worship experiences had ten similar things to say about looking for a church. Wandering into a tongues-filled church is far different than wandering into a KJV 1611 church then being disappointed. ALL churches should work on having clean and safe areas for children. My husband and I actually changed churches before we had children because our home church nursery was far from being clean and safe. ALL churches should work to have clear information about service times and directions on their websites/signs. ALL churches should encourage their members to be genuinely friendly. These are things that should be found regardless of one's personal taste in what they want from a church. It would be nice if websites had a sort of "what to expect" page for visitors as far as when services start, what they usually consist of, how children are handled, what to expect for communion or other rituals. This would make people feel welcomed. It's just like when you have someone in your home. You tell them where the bathroom is. You show them where to put their purse so your pet doesn't get into it. You point out drinkware and beverages. I think that many churches EXPECT that people will know what to do, but it can be very confusing going to a new church, even of the same denomination. Not knowing what to do can make people very uncomfortable. There's no reason not to make every effort to make everyone feel comfortable in church. And if a church does ALL it can and a person doesn't come back, it's not that the person is somehow unloving towards God. It could just be that the church wasn't what the person was looking for. This article was pointing out ways that churches could do better. I would like to comment about the whole "this is my pew" problem. A lot of schools have gone to randomly assigning seating from day to day in the lunchroom. This breaks up cliques and helps everyone feel included. Kids get to meet different kids than they might if they just sat at the same table all the time. Just think how it would be at church if everyone was encouraged to rotate where they sat and to never sit in the same pew in the same month. Talk about shaking things up!!
 
— Emalyn
 

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