In part one of this article, I talked about how to identify a dying program, ministry or event. I also promised to offer some thoughts on how you might be able to breathe new life into such a program, ministry, or event. That’s what we will do here in Part 2 of “A Season for Everything.”
Let’s start by going on the record – When the time comes for a program to end, we should end it. I stand completely firm in that conviction. However, there may be a program that is faltering that still has life to it and could still be effective for the kingdom. It is programs like these which may be teetering on the brink which we will consider today.
What is the primary purpose of this program? I know we looked at that in the last article, but we need to look at it again. Maybe the program was initially envisioned as an outreach program, but is not living up to that intended goal. Despite that fact, maybe the program is extremely popular among the members of the church. If this is the case, maybe the focus of the program should be turned to fellowship instead. By shifting focus, you could allow this program to continue to do what it is doing well, while also freeing up people and resources to go to a new outreach program. The one thing I would caution here is that you are careful not to use this as an excuse to keep a sacred cow.
After starting a job we receive a 90 day evaluation. We consider this to be quite normal and necessary, yet we will launch a program and never give any thought to evaluating it until it is nearing death. After you have launched a program take a look at it after 30 days, 90 days, six months and one year. After that, evaluate the program annually. If this is an existing program that you are hoping to revive then I would say perform an initial evaluation then follow this schedule to evaluate the improvements you have made.
Ok, now that we know when we will evaluate, let’s look at how. One way would be through surveys. These can be done via paper, person-to-person, email, or using online tools such as surveymonkey.com. Generally, you will do most of your evaluating by meeting with members of the team. Here are some questions that you can ask as you talk about this.
- What’s right? Start your evaluation with a look at what is going well. This will help to encourage the people on the team who have worked hard and put a lot into this program. Take time to share some stories of the impact this program has had on the people it serves and the people serving in it.
- What’s wrong? Deciding what’s wrong is the only way you can make improvements. So, take time to look back and decide what went wrong, what could have been done better.
- What’s missing? Some of the answers to this one may actually come from the last question. Were there needs that this program could have met, but didn’t? Are there people that could be ministered to that weren’t? Are there people who should be serving in this ministry, but aren’t.
You may be thinking that you cannot innovate. You may be thinking that your church is too small, too old, or doesn’t have enough money. Well, consider this; Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them.” We were created in the very image of the creator. As such we are also creative. Ask these questions:
- When was the last time we invented something new to further our vision?
- How can we use technology to further our vision?
- What are some new ways that we can reach our vision?
- What are others doing to reach their vision? This could include others within your church, at other churches, people doing similar programs, people doing different types of programs, or even people outside the church.
Perhaps even more difficult than the decision to end a program may be the decision to find new leadership. In many cases these people are our friends or family. Despite this, the fact remains that there will come a time when leadership has to change hands. Let me share a story from my own life. For a while I lead worship in our early service. I had wanted to do this for quite some time and was very excited when pastor asked me if I would do it. Well, this worked out great for a while. Then after a time, Pastor approached me and asked how I would feel about letting the pianist who had been playing with me take over leadership of the team. I remained part of the team, but she took over the leading of it. Over the next few months that team went from me, the piano and one teenager singing backup to a full band including 6-8 vocalists, two keyboardists, drums, and bass. You see, I was the right person to lead that team at the time, but when it was time for someone else to lead it I needed to get out of the way. The same could be true for the program you are evaluating. Maybe it is time for new leadership.
One thing that we have to remember as we go through this is that none of it is personal. The evaluation of a program is not a reflection on the value of the people leading or serving in it. It says nothing of them as people. If we are not careful, we can lean toward taking it personally when we are evaluated. Don’t let this discourage you from performing the steps mentioned above, but do be aware of it. In the third and final part in this series I will discuss how to end a program well.