Decluttering Your Ministry Garage

The greatest barrier to making disciples is a lack of intentionality in our ministry.

Given time, churches accumulate ministries and programs. It’s inevitable. Pastor John from thirty years ago started the gospel quartet. They perform once a year on a Sunday and at special events from time to time. Sweet Aunt Mary started the women’s knitting group twenty years ago; she’s passed now, but it would seem disrespectful to stop. Bob has led a prayer group at Cracker Barrel every Tuesday at 6 am since 1998; he doesn’t ask for much, except for an announcement from the stage every once in a while.

No one thing creates the ministry clutter. No particular ministry is “bad.” But cumulatively, it creates ministry clutter and sabotages gaining disciple-making momentum.

A garage is intended for parking cars, but one in four Americans can’t fit even one car in their garage. One in three Americans is so embarrassed by their garage mess, they keep the door down all the time.

Likewise, a church is for making disciples. But only one in four churches is growing. That means the majority of churches have cluttered “ministry garages” that are preventing them from doing what God designed them to do.

In our free Post-Covid Church Checklist, we promote de-cluttering your ministry garage as one of the required actions for thriving. In truth, the Covid Crisis was like having a flood in your garage. You may not have wanted to clean it out, but now you’ve been forced to do it. Or, if you ignore the opportunity, things will really begin to stink.

In this episode of the podcast, we talk through four steps to de-cluttering your ministry garage. You can watch the video version of the podcast on YouTube, stream the audio below, or subscribe.

Here are the four steps to de-cluttering your ministry garage:

Step 1: Pull Everything into the Driveway

When you clean out your garage, you have to start with a blank slate. You can’t cherry-pick.

Likewise, all of your ministries need to be put into the “driveway.” Everything has to be laid bare. No sacred cows. Not even the worship service. Every ministry needs to see the light of day. You’ll only be able to move forward in a healthy way if you are willing to put everything through the process of assessment.

Step 2: Create a New System for Organizing

Once everything is in the driveway, you’ll need shelves, totes, and a clear plan for organizing your garage.

In the church, we call our framework for ministries a Discipleship Pathway. Your church must determine a clear series of next best steps for spiritual growth. Without a clear structure, your church won’t know which ministries actually make disciples in your church. You also won’t be able to identify any areas for innovation.

Step 3: Put Back What Fits

Once you have a defined place in your garage for tools, seasonal decorations, kids’ toys, and bikes, you can start to place items where they belong. In this process, you’ll find broken items that don’t belong. Or that you have five hammers, and only need one. You may also realize that you have a space for a rake, but don’t own one!

Similarly, as you begin to place ministries into your discipleship pathway, you’ll begin to see that you have too many of one thing or too few of another. You’re also likely to discover ministries that are broken and shouldn’t be put back. Or, if they are placed into the discipleship pathway, should undergo significant revision. Every ministry must have a purpose as it relates to making and maturing disciples. If a ministry does not have an ostensible disciple-making purpose or a track record of living up to that purpose, it needs to stay in the driveway and not go back into the garage.

Step 4: Deal with the Driveway

Arranging your garage is the most technical challenge. But dealing with what’s leftover in the driveway is the most emotional. You might have Christmas decorations that you love, but the lights are burned out or the plastic is cracked. There is no good reason to hold onto it, but it can be difficult to let it go.

Churches must be taught to say goodbye. Hamilton reference, anyone? Historically, churches don’t have healthy mechanisms for ending ministries that don’t fit or don’t work anymore. The biggest mistake churches make in the strategic planning process is thinking they can simply re-arrange ministries without cutting anything (or starting something genuinely innovative). Lasting change requires deep change, and deep change always requires tough choices.

Your church didn’t choose this crisis. God gave it to us as an opportunity to grow, change, and make a difference. Don’t miss out on the thing God is doing. De-clutter your ministry garage, and unlock a new season of effectiveness.

Looking for a process to help? Church Revitalization University is a fully digital strategic planning process. Save thousands of dollars over the cost of traditional church consulting, and get the tools you need to shape your future. For a limited time, create a free preview account. No credit card or obligation. Kick the tires and see if our process is right for you.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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