Doing an inventory…

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In my last post, I compared becoming a church’s pastor to inheriting a workshop. You have a lot of tools and materials to help make disciples, you just may not understand the set up of the workshop yet. It will take you a little bit of time to learn the organization.

Today I wanted to talk about one of the things I wish I had done when I had arrived at both of my two churches – an ‘inventory’ of ministries. Going back to the workshop imagery, imagine that you have dozens of tools, an entire room full of lumber, and what seem like a countless supply of nails, screws, glue, and so on. At some point, you’re going to want to know what you’re working with. So here are a few thoughts and questions to ask as you inventory your church’s ministries:

“What ministries does the church have?” –  Starting with the obvious one. Many churches have dozens of ministries, ranging from huge annual functions to small ongoing collections. The thing is that many of these ministries are kind of intuitively known by the congregation members, who may not think to tell you about them. They’re not being mean, they just don’t think of it.

Each ministry was created and started because of someone’s vision about how that ministry could help create disciples. This means that the ministries your church is involved in tell you what the vision of the church was/is. By writing down each ministry, you can begin to get a better understanding of the churches overall vision.

I suspect that many churches would be stunned at the raw number of ministries they’re currently maintaining. This question helps reveal just how busy or inactive the church is.

“Who is the ministry for? –  Each ministry has a target audience, a group of people that it’s trying to help. Maybe it’s single moms, recovering addicts, or young families, but each ministry is FOR someone. And while you may not know who each ministry is designed for, someone does. So ask.

This question is there to give you a focus, so that you can better answer the next question.

“What is the intended fruit?” – Each ministry should have a desired outcome. Maybe you give out 50 “Christmas kits” or help young families connect with the church. Each ministry should have a desired outcome (read: fruit) that it’s geared toward. A word of advice here: be as specific as possible. “Planting seeds” or “speading the Gospel” are great church words, but not really measureable, and therefore, ineffective goals.

This question is there to give you a measure or mark to see how effectively your ministries accomplish their goals.

There are more questions you can ask, but those are the big ones.

Next, look over the answers, and try to paint a picture of the “workshop” of your church. Do you have 25 total ministries, with 10 of them aimed at young families (40% of your total work) but only 10% of your congregation is “young families”? Something isn’t working.

If I had to guess, your church likely has about 3 dozen ministries, with about a dozen different ‘target audiences’, and a few vague ideas about what the finished project is supposed to look like.

It can feel like going to a mechanics shop to get your car worked on and finding a table saw in the middle of the workshop. Something doesn’t quite add up.

Here are another couple of things to keep in the back of your mind.

Be objective –  Before you go into evaluation mode, you have to check yourself for a bias. Many pastors, myself included, go into churches carrying a proverbial hatchet, ready to eliminate the first program/ministry they encounter. It’s unfair to the church, and it’s dangerous. As the saying goes, “check yourself before you wreck yourself”.

A way around any bias you have is to have others involved in the audit, including having them conduct it. Even if you’re the one conducting the audit, get it reviewed by other leaders in the church. Ask people involved from each ministry to tell you their experience with it. I may not see the fruit from a ministry, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent.

It is better the assume that every ministry in your church is fruit bearing than the inverse.

Count the Costs – Every ministry a church has costs something, including the “free” ones. Each ministry takes time, energy, and attention. And each of those things is finite. For example, let’s say your church collects coupons for single parents in the community. Even though there is no monetary cost, it still takes someone(s) time to figure out how they want to collect and distribute the coupons, as well as how they advertise it to the congregation. That is time and energy that is not going to other ministries.

There’s another cost that isn’t thought of too quickly; opportunity. For every ministry a church already has and maintains, there are ministries that cannot be started. The community may need a food pantry, but your church can’t do that because it’s too busy doing other things.

There’s more to the whole process than can be included here. Take your time, leave your assumptions at home, and ask lots of questions.

Remember, I love y’all, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Let me know your thoughts down below.

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