I’m tired of hearing church leaders say five simple words: “That does not work here.”
Whether it be small groups, video teaching, online giving, Millennial-focused worship, or one of many other steps forward, I’m still surprised at how quickly leaders throw in the towel on new ministry approaches. And when they do, so many offer a simple reason for their failed attempt: “That does not work here.”
Here’s what concerns me about that statement:
It puts the responsibility for failure on the program, not the leader.
Could it be that you didn’t take time to fully understand the new approach?
…or didn’t develop a clear plan for implementation?
…or didn’t recruit and train the right leaders?
…or didn’t fully inform your staff and congregation of the new approach?
…or didn’t cast vision and gain the buy-in of others?
…or had a competing system of programs that choked this one out?
…or didn’t give it the resources it needed to get off the ground?
…or stretched your staff too thin to do something else with excellence?
Could it be that you are responsible for the failure of that new approach?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very ok with leaders who make mistakes. There is no progress without failure. But I’m not ok with leaders who don’t take ownership of their mistakes and try to improve upon them.
Could your church be missing out on a great ministry opportunity because it was discounted after a single failed attempt?
Try making a list of the things you’ve assumed do not or will not work in your church. Then evaluate them with the following questions:
Did we take time to fully understand the new approach?
If you’re going to take on a new ministry approach, you have to take time to fully understand it. Did you read several books on the subject? Meet with leaders at multiple churches that do it successfully? If not, you could still be missing out on a great ministry approach that you never fully grasped.
Did we develop our strategy to implement it well?
If you launch a new approach to ministry without a clear strategy, you can’t expect it to perform well. Did you plan out detailed steps to put it in place? Recruit and train the right leaders? Take time to inform and involve your team and congregation?
Did we identify and remove barriers to success?
It’s likely that your staff and congregation are already consumed by plenty of options to engage. Giving them one more thing only adds to that complexity. Did you reduce clutter for staff and attendees before tossing in another ministry approach? If not, it probably didn’t get the attention it deserved.
If you can honestly answer “yes” to all three questions, you’re probably right about your failed approach to ministry. You can say with confidence, “That really does not work here.” But if you find yourself uncertain about any of these, it may be time to give it another, better chance.