10 Tips for Creating Self-Sustaining Ministries

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You never know where life is going to take you. While we don’t have any plans to leave Northwest for the foreseeable future we do believe it is important to develop ministries that are able to sustain themselves in case there is a time that ever does happen. Transitions don’t always take place because of moving. Health issues can happen. Accidents can happen. Plans can change. It is important that we don’t take for granted that we will always do what we are currently doing. It is equally important that ministries don’t fully rely on any single individual for it to be maintained over the long haul. I might go so far as to say that in some instances it can even be irresponsible for a ministry to be unsustainable if you remove a single individual from the mix. This is not true of all ministries but it is true of most.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to create ministries that live beyond the minister or ministry leaders in charge:

  1. Determine if it is a ministry worth maintaining. Let’s face it, some ministries were really good in their day but may no longer be. Some churches have a hard time letting go of things that used to work so well but now don’t really find an effective or meaningful place in the life of the church. You don’t want to build ways of maintaining a ministry that should be left to die on the vine and be replaced by something better and more effective.
  2. Ministries take more hands on work and dependence on the minister on the front end. That is a given. Problems arise and stagnation sets in when a ministry never grows past the skill set of its leader by transitioning the responsibility less on the minister and more on the group.
  3. Find ways to pass responsibility back to the group. People need responsibility.
  4. As people gain responsibility they take ownership of what is happening. As long as someone is there to spoon feed people, people will expect to be spoon fed. But once responsibility is given back to the group they begin to be self-reliant.
  5. People need to be given permission to be self-reliant, to make decisions, and to make mistakes. Once you loosen or let go of the reigns it won’t always go just how you think it should (which can be scary) but that is the necessary evolution of a healthy group or ministry.
  6. With responsibility comes appreciation. Our natural tendency as humans is to more quickly recognize failure than success. We have to break that tendency when it comes to ministry. It is easier to throw someone under the bus for a failure than it is to recognize a job well done and consistently and publicly show appreciation.
  7. Recognize the time your role, as leader, needs to change before the time comes. Often ministries stagnate because the group is ready to take on more but the leader doesn’t know to transition toward giving more to the group and gets scared because they can’t do it all themselves. This is a critical time in the life and growth of a ministry and has to be handled carefully. If it is not thought out in advance it can be detrimental to the ministry. If a leader stands in the way of the group progressing it is easy for that ministry to plateau or even begin to slide. Roles of a leader often change from coordinating, communicating and teaching to maintenance and administration of the group (in a single word, oversight) while allowing others to do what the leader initially did.
  8. Identify areas of the ministry that are wh0lly dependent on a single individual (self included) and begin training others to do those same things.
  9. Give responsibilities in pairs. I have found co-leaders work better than leaders. Two people learn how and you get built in accountability.
  10. Let go. Don’t hold on. Trying to hold onto all facets of it yourself will stifle it all to death. Realize it won’t get any bigger than the palm of your hand until you let it out of the palm of your hand to grow into something you could never achieve alone.

If you have a ministry you are trying to grow all by yourself I challenge you to print this list out and take notes on how this applies to what you are doing and what steps you can take to make your ministry more self-sustaining.

Here is a pdf to help you do just that.

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