If you want to plant something new into the ground, you prepare the soil. You till it up, add some fertilizer, whatever’s needed to help your new plant grow. How idiotic would it be to plant something new in a flowerbed already overflowing with other plants and then get frustrated when it doesn’t grow? And yet I see that in church life all too often.
The pastor or staff have a great ministry idea, a new program or emphasis that has the potential to help their church break out of the doldrums and go to the next level. This staff, hired to guide and lead the church, have done the research, looked at the alternatives, and gone with the surefire hit. And then they plant that new program into a ministry schedule already overflowing with other programs, some healthy and others that choke the life out of a church like weeds.
The nice term to use is “legacy programs,” but a more accurate term would be “programs-we-can’t-kill-without-getting-fired.” If a church wanted to start a small group ministry in homes, for instance, there is a lot of potential for personal relational growth, fellowship and discipleship. But to start a new program, to plant something new, you’ve got to clear out some existing plants (programs) to make room. If you want to start something like home small groups but instead of clearing space for it you simply tack it onto everything else you’ve got going, then don’t get frustrated when that new plant of a program can’t break free from the clutter of other programs that are choking the life out of it.
If you want a surefire way to kill a new ministry program, stack it on top of everything else without doing the hard work of clearing out sufficient space in the ministry schedule for it. If you want to give your church’s next great program a shot at success, do the hard work beforehand of clearing out the underbrush of other programs that lost their effectiveness a long time ago.