Whether you’re a lay leader or a staff member, getting a new ministry started in the local church can be a challenge. Having served as both a lay leader and a former pastor myself, I have faced this situation several times, with varying degrees of success. Over time, I discovered two keys that lead to more successes than failures with starting up a new ministry.
Key #1: Identify and follow your church’s process for starting a new ministry
If your church has a formal process for birthing a new ministry, embrace it. View it as a way to lead a ministry the church can support. Identify and meet with the leaders who can guide you in the process, and follow their instruction. Your ministry might succeed without their support, but it would be difficult, and certainly not ideal.
If your church does not have a formal process, don’t give up. Identify the leaders responsible for or instrumental in approving new ministries. Share your vision and ask them to mentor you. These trusted leaders know the ins and outs of getting a new ministry started. They have been down this path before and know the pitfalls. Even if you think their suggestions seem unnecessary, follow their lead. Their influence and wisdom will be invaluable to a healthy launch.
Key #2: Align your vision with the church’s vision
In our zeal to serve the Lord and others, we may focus on what’s in our hearts without lifting our heads to see what is already happening. Most churches have a formal vision statement and/or mission statement that identifies what the church considers most important, and ideally, guides the church’s ministry decisions. In some churches, the vision or mission is so ingrained in the culture that attendees can state it from memory. So identify your church’s vision or mission.
Next, identify how your ministry idea supports your church’s vision. If it doesn’t, make adjustments to align your idea with that vision.
To achieve alignment, ask yourself these questions:
1. Does the vision I have for ministry directly or indirectly support the church’s vision? Identify at least three ways your ministry will support the church’s vision and memorize them.
2. What is my church already doing in the way of ministry? Will my ministry duplicate efforts? If it does, the better idea may be to join what is already happening.
3. Can I state my idea for ministry and how it supports my church’s vision in one or two sentences? Draft your statement and memorize it until you can say it without stumbling or additional explanation.
4. Which is more important: the WHAT or the HOW? Is the ministry result more important than how I go about doing it? Getting a ministry started sometimes requires a change in how the ministry gets done, so hold tight to the desired outcome and hold loosely to the methods for achieving it. This may be hard but doing it will serve you well. In 2003, God gave me a vision for helping the local church help marriages, and I quickly began drafting a plan for achieving it. Years later I am still focused on helping local churches help marriages (the what), but only about 30 percent of how I planned to achieve it is still in place. Be open to making adjustments to ensure your HOW aligns with your church’s process, structure, and culture to achieve your WHAT.
5. Who can help me hone my vision and plan for ministry? Identify two or three people who will give you honest feedback. Ask that they help you craft your ideas as well as check your heart to ensure alignment with the bigger vision of the church. Rogue ministry in the local church is ugly in the end. Ministry aligned to support the overall vision is healthy and inspiring.
If you are a lay leader, aligning your vision for ministry with the church’s vision is a win in several ways:
- Buy-in. When you tell church leaders (and later the volunteers you are recruiting) that your vision supports the church’s vision, who will not pay attention?
- Support. With your vision enhancing the church’s vision, you have a greater chance that church leaders will offer additional support as needed.
- Gratification. You and your team will gain a sense of accomplishment for helping the church achieve its vision as well as having an impact on lives.
If you are on staff at the church, aligning your vision for ministry with the church’s vision is a win in three ways as well:
- Buy-in. If attendees and staff already support the church’s vision, then obtaining buy-in for this new ministry will be easier once people see how it supports the overall church vision.
- Alignment. With the new ministry aligned with the church’s vision, you’ll be able to prioritize it and devote the right amount of time and energy.
- Impact. You will now have more energy focused on achieving the vision, resulting in ministry to more people for Christ.
Sometimes, a church may not have a written vision statement. Even then, the pastor and staff usually have goals for what they want to achieve. If your church doesn’t have a written vision statement, ask the pastoral staff what they want the church to focus on in the next two or three years, and then align your ministry idea to support their response.
Finding favor for your ministry plan
Say these two statements out loud:
“Pastor, I have a vision for a new ministry.”
“Pastor, the Lord has given me a burden for a ministry I can lead that will help people and help our church reach our vision.”
When I was a church staff member, I winced when I heard the first statement, as I feared the ministry idea would actually be a distraction from what we were currently focused on. But when I heard the second statement, I was interested and wanted to hear more. If you’re a lay leader, take it from a former pastor—the second statement is much more likely to be received with favor. Make the choice to align your vision for ministry with the church’s vision, and you’ll have a much greater chance to get the buy-in you need and the support you want.