Starting a Ministry

October 15th, 2013

One of the exciting moments in the church is when you see a member of the congregation move from spectator to participant. Where they once only attended on the weekend and occasional seasonal events, they now feel they have found their purpose: God has given them a vision to start a new ministry.

With both great excitement and some apprehension, they approach you, the Pastor, to see how to get started. They are ready to go! But often times, if this moment and the following six weeks are not handled well, chaos and/or hurt feelings will occur. The most important thing you as the pastor can do is be ready to receive and guide this emerging leader and possible ministry.

If the following elements are included in the conversation, the process for determining the viability for this new ministry will be smoother.

Pastor, consider these five things:

1. Affirmation.

Your affirmation of this individual is critical. After all, you are their shepherd and mentor from the pulpit or more. In their eyes you have been part of inspiring this idea and moving them to action. It won’t make sense to them if you are less than affirming—in their mind, this is what you have been trying to get them to do and they believe you will share in their excitement. This may be easy to do, or you may be less than thrilled with the idea they have brought to you. No matter what you think of the idea initially, keep in mind that to this person, it is the best idea ever! It is probably born out of personal experience; therefore it carries sensitivities with it. Fueled by great personal passion, it is a strong, yet delicate matter: handle with care!

2. Process.

Starting a ministry is a lot of hard work and calls for a thoughtful process to both outline the big picture and hammer out the details. Essentially, the start-up leader needs to think through and prepare a “proposal” for discussion. Addressing the following items (at the least there may be more) will bring clarification to the possible new ministry start-up:

  • Purpose. What is the purpose of the ministry?
  • Values. What are the values?
  • Needs Assessment. Why do you think this ministry is needed?
  • Alignment. How does this new ministry align with the vision of the church?
  • Short-Term and Long-Term Goals. What are the intended results for the first year? What is your ultimate dream for this ministry?
  • Resources. What will the budgetary needs be for start-up costs and yearly expenses? How many volunteers will be needed and how do you plan to recruit them? Is staff time required and if so, who will be the champion?

3. Expectations.

You must lead the conversation for defining expectations. What do they expect from you and from the church? What do you expect from them? Be sure to cover the following:

  • Finances: Are they expecting the church will allocate financial resources to this new ministry? How much and when, or is there no budget for this? Can they fundraise? Are there guidelines for fundraising? Will the church office handle the money for this ministry or will they do it from their personal account?
  • Facilities: Do they need to use the church facilities for this ministry? What kind of facilities availability are they expecting? What can you offer? What are the expectations for using the facility? How do they schedule for space? What if this new ministry has a space conflict with another ministry or event? Will you give them their own church key?
  • Marketing: Will this ministry be advertised in the church and/or in the community? How often? Will there be a cost for marketing? Are there any guidelines for advertising a church function? Can they hand out flyers on the sidewalk Sunday mornings? Can they pay for their own ad in the newspaper and do you need to approve it?
  • Prominence: Will this ministry be a priority for the church? How often will it be in the bulletin? Will you, pastor, promote it from the pulpit? Will you be part of and present at the ministry functions? Or is this a group that requires space only (like AA, or a regional ministry)?

4. Leadership Training.

A purpose of the Church is to equip and develop believers for service in God’s Kingdom. This includes raising up and training leaders. We want people to own what they are doing and know what they are doing. If this new ministry takes flight, your primary role will not be with the ministry itself but with supporting and developing the ministry leader. Items to cover in the first year of leadership training would be:

  • Casting Vision for the Ministry.
  • Organizing the Ministry for Success.
  • Building a Healthy Team.
  • Dealing with Conflict.
  • Making Use of Feedback and Criticism.

5. Follow-Up Plan.

After the first meeting is over, be clear on what will happen next. When will the next meeting be and what will be discussed? What do they need to work on between now and then? After that, if it is decided to start the ministry, immediately determine and schedule follow-up meetings for the next three months or more. Regular follow-up meetings keep critical matters at the forefront, which in turn keeps the new ministry on track for effectiveness. For your follow-up meetings, consider discussing the following:

  • Affirmation. Yes, again. In case you have been busy, here is your chance to provide tangible, continued affirmation. Do they feel your support?
  • Process evaluation. Where are we in all this? How is it going? What is needed? Are there any problems, glitches?
  • Expectations. Are expectations being met on both sides? Are there any unmet expectations? Are there any disappointments or frustrations from the starter’s perspective or the church’s perspective? (This can be a difficult part of the conversation, but keeping short accounts by having open dialogue along the way will prove so much better than bottling up grievances that lead to a future “explosion.”)
  • Leadership Lessons. As a good listener you will be able to hear the heart of your new leader and discern their personal successes and needs. Acknowledge their leadership strengths and encourage them to continue doing that same thing. In the same way, if they are having a leadership struggle, hopefully you can help them identify what that struggle is and match it with a leadership lesson from your own experience that will aid them.
  • Celebration. Taking time to celebrate all the good results along the way is a must! Are there any small victories to recognize? Any good stories of God changing people’s lives or meeting their needs through this new ministry? Share them, celebrate them, and praise God for them!

Moving from spectator to full participant in a church community can be an exciting and scary time for people.

How are you and the church leaders making that transition easier?

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