6 Indicators that it's Time to End a Ministry

6 Indicators that it's Time to End a Ministry

Aaron Buer

Digital giving apps and tools

Here’s something I’ve learned recently: Every program, ministry and even church has a life cycle.

It’s either picking up steam or running out of energy.

It really has nothing to do with how long a church, ministry or program has been around; rather it's all about energy.

A few times a year, we gather key leadership for a strategic conversation. Part of this conversation includes evaluating every ministry and program in our church and placing each in one of four categories.

  1. Accelerating
  2. Booming
  3. Declining
  4. Tanking

Occasionally, when we all agree that a ministry or program is tanking, we are faced with a tough decision and there really are only two options:

Is it time to revive this or time to end this?

It sounds kind of harsh but choosing to tolerate or ignore a tanking ministry or program is just delaying the inevitable.

So, here’s a question: How do you know when it’s time to end a ministry or program?

Here are six indicators.

1. It isn’t Connected to the Mission

When it comes to Church, there really is only one mission and it’s the mission that Jesus left us with: Make Disciples.

If we aren’t making disciples then, quite frankly, we’re doing it wrong.

The easiest way to evaluate whether a program or ministry needs to end is asking, “Is it making disciples?” Often a program used to make disciples back in the day but has drifted or become ineffective.

Again, the only real options here are revitalize or end the program in question.

2. There is no Scoreboard

Imagine a football game in which there are two teams, fans in the stands, refs in striped shirts and a giant game clock but no scoreboard.

How would anyone know who is winning or losing? At this point, the game has lost its purpose.

It’s a ridiculous scenario to imagine but also is exactly how we do often do ministry.

What’s the purpose of each program or ministry and how do we know if we are winning?

Each program or ministry should have an agreed upon goal and also a scoreboard for how to determine whether or not the program or ministry is successful.

I’ll use our student ministry as an example. The goal of our student ministry is to ground students’ identity in Jesus. That’s the win for us.

And how do we know if we are winning? There are a few ways we keep score:

  • Did our ministry grow by 10%
  • Do we have an adult small group leader for every 6-8 students?
  • Did 90% or more of our leaders attend the last night of ministry?

If the ministry or program we are evaluating has no scoreboard then it might be time to revitalize it or end it.

If the way forward is still unclear, I would suggest agreeing upon a scoreboard for the ministry for a season and then reevaluating.

3. It Competes with our Strategic Focus

All too often, we compete against ourselves. The strategy of a few decades ago is still around competing against the strategy of today.

The clearest example I can think of is "adult Sunday school" vs "adult small groups". Sorry of this one hits a little too close to home...

It’s not that one is necessarily a question of what is more effective (both Sunday school and small groups can help produce disciples) but rather it's a question of focus.

Are you encouraging people to attend a Sunday school or are you encouraging them to join a small group?

One clear strategy that everyone understands is far more effective than two competing strategies that people choose from. When two programs are competing, it’s likely time for the less effective program to end.

4. There are Smarter Options

There are obviously many ways to do ministry, which is why we have so many churches and programs.

It is also true that some ministry options are far more economical than others.

A few years ago, we made the decision to alter our missions focus in our student ministry.

While taking students to places like Ukraine and Africa led to incredible results, we realized that we could achieve similar results by taking students to Central America and the Caribbean within our own hemisphere and therefore save thousands and thousands of dollars in travel expenses.

By adjusting our destinations, we cut our missions budget in half.

These kinds of decisions don’t just apply to mission (or even money for that matter).

We recently adjusted how we do retreats and camps because we realized how many hours it cost our team to prepare and execute.

Often, when evaluating a program or ministry, we come to the realization that there are smarter options. I think it’s wise to consistently evaluate by asking:

“Is there a smarter way to do this?”

5. It Requires Too Much from Families

Recently we evaluated all of our programs and ministries based on how many times we were asking families to participate in something church related in a week.

The result was pretty embarrassing. Between all of our ministries it was astounding how much we were asking of families just to be engaged with our church.

In the end we decided to prune a bunch of programs and implemented a new event scheduling process to keep ourselves from overscheduling families.

6. Your Main Concern is What “They” Will Think

The last indicator that you probably need to end a program or ministry is fear-based.

Often we delay ending a program because we’re worried what “they” will think. Often “they” have been around forever. “They” have a loud voice in the church and we know “they” will make some noise if we take away their pet program.

Here’s the truth: We’ll never make everyone happy.

There will always been people who are upset with some decision or other that we made.

We are called to lead and leadership often requires difficult decisions because staying on mission is deeply challenging.

People and organizations never drift toward mission, we drift away from mission and our job as leaders is to direct our people back to the mission.

Wrap Up

So there you go: 6 indicators that it might be time to end a program or ministry.

We’d love to hear if any of these items have been particularly useful in your own church or if there's additional indicators church's might want to consider. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Share this Article:

Looking for easy-to-use software to help manage your church?

We'd love to show you what we built!

Join 10,000+ happy churches using Breeze ChMS™.

loves Breeze

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

loves Breeze

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

loves Breeze

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

David P.
loves Breeze
St. Pauls United Methodist Church

Breeze has been incredible. Their customer service, commitment to innovation, and their product are top-notch. I love the features, the ease of use and the mobile applications.

Karen M.
loves Breeze
Hillcrest Church

All of our database needs have been more than met, it's easier to use than the last database we had, and the price is amazing - what a value this has been to our church! All of our staff can use this software and they do regularly. We use it to track…literally anything a church could possibly need to track regarding it's attenders.

Chris K.
loves Breeze
Crossroads United Methodist Church

Breeze has been a great asset to our church and congregation. Especially from an administrative standpoint, it has been the most adaptable and easiest church database I have ever used. The features from blast emails to giving on-line, and texting have been one of our greatest assets. Thank you!

Ed R.
loves Breeze
Church Admin

We switched from a major, web-based ChMS to Breeze and our decision is confirmed every day. We are a medium size church and we use Breeze for contributions, member management, event checkin and a few other applications custom to our church. I had trouble getting any staff to use our previous ChMS but almost all staff are using Breeze. The product is very well designed, extremely easy to learn and use and customer service is incredible.

Ellen G.
loves Breeze
Grace Church

Breeze has opened the communication highway for our congregation and staff, with very little training. Because members can update their own records and search easily for other members - and map their locations, send emails and text right from Breeze, they love it and our data is more real-time accurate. Our ministries are stronger, because they can trust the data in Breeze, which is easily accessed anywhere, anytime.

Steve H.
loves Breeze
First Presbyterian Church of Ramsey

Breeze is the first ChMS my volunteers have actually embraced. That's because it's so easy to use. The software is very flexible and gives us the opportunity to make decisions based on actual data we've collected and not just hunches or stories we believe to be true.

Allicia B.
loves Breeze
Ellel Ministries Canada

I cannot say enough about Breeze. Their customer service is so friendly, you feel like you have friends and family helping you get started, they're prompt to reply and will do whatever they can to help you get things sorted out. It's been so easy to learn, our staff is loving it and best of all even our staff who are not computer savvy find it a breeze (pun intended). We are just thrilled by our choice.

Kevin D.
loves Breeze
Central Baptist Church

From the start of our process looking for an online solution, Breeze has exceeded all our expectations. Fast data import, fast and friendly customer support, and we can’t say enough about how much we like the program itself. Very well designed and user friendly. On a scale of 1-10, Breeze gets a 15 from us!

Rated 4.9 stars – 480+ reviews on Capterra