Conference 2024



The Church Buffet: Leading Your Church Out of Ineffective Ministry

The Church Buffet

Leading Your Church Out of Ineffective Ministry

When you look at your church calendar, it’s likely filled with great ministry events and opportunities for others to meet together and engage with one another. What an amazing list of options!  In our consumer culture, even churches have unintentionally bought into the idea that more is always better, and by offering a buffet of options and opportunities to connect, they are a much healthier church.

At Intentional Churches, we believe the opposite is true. 

We believe in clear, intentional, simple steps to engagement, not a pick-and-choose buffet of options.  IC’s leadership system, ChurchOS™, helps fix a church’s focus on the Great Commission (Jesus’ actual mission for us), brings clarity and simplicity to its programming and helps eliminate the buffet. 

Is your church over-programmed? It’s a question worth answering. None of us desires to spend a lifetime leading ineffective ministries. How do you know if your church is over-programmed? 

Here are a few thoughts about the ministry buffet:

Results in less engagement – A buffet of options makes an attendee’s next step unclear leading to decision paralysis so that more options actually result in less engagement. We’ve all experienced multiple announcements crammed into two minutes of stage time that left us dazed. 

Depletes financial resources – With no clear commitment to what’s most important right now, big initiatives are not resourced. ChurchOS™ helps churches identify the most important initiatives and prioritize its resources.

Requires more volunteers – When you are already short volunteers, a buffet of options is a recipe for competing ministries and volunteer burnout.

Requires more and more control –  forming committees, structures, systems. As Rick Warren says, “You can either structure (your church) for growth or for control, but not both.”  Enough said. 

Distracts from the mission – A buffet can tug leadership in different directions and out of alignment with the Great Commission. We’ve all experienced silos and distractions that lead to ministry ineffectiveness. 

The Springs in Ocala, FL runs ChurchOS™, and as the church grew, so did its number of events. With a beautiful facility surrounded by land, opportunities were endless and kept presenting themselves. We talked with Hal Mayer, XP at The Springs and asked him how The Springs prioritizes its programming. 

“A few years ago we were doing a lot of events. We are not against events, but now we

always ask, ‘How is the event tied to the Great Commission?’ Anything that didn’t have a next step, we decided to discontinue. Today, if there is an event, the leader must state what the next step is and then measure its effectiveness.”

The Next Steps question is key to this decision. The Springs had an awesome annual Trunk or Treat event, and thousands were coming. Their team worked tirelessly to prepare for this event and prioritized collecting names and phone numbers for follow-up afterward.  “But, we couldn’t find one person who had come back to The Springs because of it. I’m sure someone did, but with all our searching, we couldn’t see how it connected people to Christ or made disciples. We made a change and held it on Sunday morning between services. We had a big bump that weekend, but they still didn’t come back. We had to ask ourselves, ‘Is our goal to get a bump in the crowd or make disciples?’  So we focus our energies elsewhere and we try not to engage people in a one-time event.”

Crossroads Church in Corona, CA also runs ChurchOS™ and made a big change from a buffet of ministries to a Lifegroup model. Galen Thomas, Sr. Executive Pastor shared with us, “We simplified our next steps. Gone are the pet ministries and it wasn’t an easy process. I can’t say enough how important great transition management is!  Since the change we’ve grown the number of our LIFE groups to over 450 with an average weekend attendance of 5600, and we’re not done. We’ve also been meeting demographic needs with a large/medium/small group gathering strategy. For example, our women gather 2-3 times each year for a high-quality, large conference (over 800) that we put on.  They then continue to meet on campus for six weeks as table groups taking next steps together, and at the end of the six weeks they become a LIFE Group that meets off-campus. We currently do this for men, women, and singles, but no event is stand-alone. All events move people along our pathway to greater engagement through LIFE Groups.”

Are these types of changes easy?  Absolutely not. Sacred cows and ineffective ministries and activities are hard walls to demolish. But as Hal says, “We want to do things that are effective for the Kingdom. When you explain that, most people will see the vision and jump on board.”

Is it time to take a look at your church’s programming?  

This is the hard stuff of leadership, but hard work that results in greater Kingdom impact. It takes courage to lead through change. We pray God opens doors of growth and change for you as you fulfill Jesus’ mission and unlock the gospel potential in your church.

“. . . let us also lay aside every weight, . . .  and let us run with endurance the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

If you like this blog and would like to learn more about ChurchOS™, check out our book and resources, Intentional Churches: How Implementing an Operating System Clarifies Vision, Improves Decision-Making, and Stimulates Growth.

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