Out the front of my house I have a five year old Japanese maple tree that is dying. After years of shaping, the tree used to look very beautiful but at the moment it is looking quite poorly. So I have a few options; pull the tree out or try my hardest to save the tree. If I decide to save the tree I would have to do some heavy pruning and recondition the soil. If I decide to replace the tree I will have to start from scratch again with a younger tree, spending time shaping it to the look I want. Both options are going to require hard work.
What if we look at ministry in the same way that we look at the dying Japanese maple? When a ministry is in its prime there is very little work require maintaining the ministry culture because everyone lives the vision. Last week we looked at building a ministry culture but what if your ministry culture starts “dying” or is heading in the wrong direction. Perhaps the culture in your ministry was better a few years ago when everyone seemed positive and energetic to see the ministry succeed. Perhaps your ministry has taken a few hits lately and people have developed a survival culture where they don’t try anything new.
So how can you deal with change in your ministry? How can you change the ministry culture in your environment to get it firing again? You have three options:
- Do nothing: you always have the option of continuing the ministry in the way that it running at the moment. Every ministry goes through ups and downs and sometimes you just need to ride out the storm. Changing the culture of your ministry during a rough time may rob your people of the opportunity to learn the ministry survival techniques they need to last in ministry over the long haul.
- Do some Pruning: perhaps the basics of your ministry are correct but the culture of the ministry went a little off course. Perhaps people became lazy and the culture turned from commitment to a culture that says “we’ll be ok”. Perhaps people lost sight of the vision and the culture of going through the motions developed. Some ministries have times when a lot of new people come into the ministry and the culture was never explained to them, so they picked up bad habits.
If you get to the pruning phase there is going to be some dead wood that needs cutting. Once you prune a tree it never looks the same again. It won’t be possible to get the same ministry culture that you had when you first started, but keep the best parts of that and remove the dying programs or activities. The positive side to pruning your ministry is that cutting back on the programs or activities give your team time to focus on new growth strategies.
- Start fresh: there is something about a new ministry that gets people excited. Every ministry has a start and sometimes a ministry fails. Just like some trees, some ministries won’t grow again no matter how much hard work you put in. Sometime you need to let a ministry finish so that you can start a new ministry in its place. A fresh start is never easy; it involves:
- Communication - you need to be very open in your communication so that people develop a culture of trust and inclusion.
- Planning – you need time to create the new ministry culture, people need to own the new ministry, take time so they catch and live the new vision.
- Prayer – remember that your ministry should give glory to God, so pray for direction and blessing from God.
Change is never easy, hearing how others have dealt with change helps. If you have tried to change the ministry culture in your parish let us know by leaving a comment.