Are we that brilliant? No. We just don’t start new ministries any more. We try experiments, instead.
If I were to start the turnaround process in a church again, this is the #1 rule I would follow from Day 1 – outside of scriptural principles, that is.
Put an expiration date on every new idea.
The principles in God’s Word are perfect, timeless and never need to be changed. Everything else is up for grabs.
Don’t Announce Ministries, Experiment with Ideas
I’ve never had a perfect ministry idea in my life. I don’t ever expect to. Even my best ones run out of steam after a while. Many of the ideas I think are great, end up being stinkers pretty quickly. (No, I’m not going to give you any examples.)
So, instead of launching a new idea as “the way we’re going to do ministry from now on”, we tell people “Hey, we have this fun, new idea we’re going to try until the end of the summer!” Or December, or until Easter…
Then, at the end of the summer, if it doesn’t work, it stops happening, just like we announced it would. No failure, no problem. If it does work, we keep doing it. Maybe we extend it for another three or six months at first. If it keeps working, it just stays on.
(I have to give credit for this to Gary Garcia, my youth pastor for 20+ years and counting. He suggested going “summer casual” more than a dozen years ago, and I haven’t had to wear a tie since.)
Experimentation is one of the advantages a Small Church has. In a larger church, the congregation expects a level of excellence in every ministry from the moment it’s launched. In a Small Church, people can live with a longer learning curve.
Putting expiration dates on ministries has several advantages. Here are a few. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments, below.
27 Advantages of Using Ministry Expiration Dates
1. If the idea is a non-starter, you don’t have to live with it for long.
2. Failures aren’t failures any more. They’re just experiments that reached their expiration date.
3. Extending an experiment that works is easier than killing a permanent ministry that doesn’t.