Programs vs. steps

My favorite book on ministry strategy remains “7 practices of Effective Ministry“. Today’s blog is based on Practice #2.

Here are 3 great questions every ministry leader should ask about their ministry: “Where do you want your people to be?” “What do you want them to become?” “Is your ministry or program designed to take them there?”

Changed lives happen one step at a time. Don’t mistake activity for progress. Programs can lead to life change or they can just become a way of life. If all your activity isn’t taking people where you want them to go then it’s a waste of time. In fact, you’ll frustrate people by giving them a clear vision, without a strategy for achieving it.

A good step is – easy, obvious and strategic.

1. If it’s not easy for people to do, then they won’t do it. Ministries that claim “people are no longer committed” may mistake their own complexity for people’s lack of commitment.

2. If it’s not obvious, your people may go the wrong way. You don’t want them to have to guess what the next step is.

3. Each step has to be strategic. If a program isn’t a strategic step, then it can be a waste of time/money. Good things can knock you off target. “A flood is simply a river that couldn’t decide where it wanted to go.”

Competing programs can fight for budgets, calendars and volunteers. The gravitational pull of a church is usually toward over-programming. We must be ruthless at saying ‘no’ to everything that could keep us from arriving safely at what we have determined is the mission.

‘Programs’ are usually created to meet specific needs that have surfaced. In contrast, ‘steps’ having a primary goal of helping someone get to where they need to go rather than just meeting a need. A step is part of a series of actions that systematically take a person somewhere.

When you think ‘programs’ you start by asking, “What is the need?” and then you ask, “How are we going to meet that need?” The result is a program-orientated ministry – it is designed to meet a need. When you think ‘steps’ you start by asking, “Where do we want people to be?” and then you ask, “How are we going to get them there?”. The result is a ministry that works as a step – it has been created to lead someone somewhere.

Think about helping people take the next step in their spiritual growth. Your goal is to keep people moving toward spiritual maturity.

Our church’s discipleship strategy primarily moves people into small groups. It’s not that a small group is the only place for discipleship to occur but it just seems that it happens best with a group of friends who are ‘doing life’ together.

Our conversation will be better if you participate.

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