Program Mindset vs. Ministry Mindset

In Col 4:17 the Apostle Paul says, Tell Archippus, “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”  I read that verse on the beginning of a walk to my office. I began to think about how this verse applies to me personally and my church team.

In a leadership podcast, Andy Stanley was talking about healthy staff team members.  They “Get Things Done, Are in the Right Position, and Work interdependently” as a team.  A staff team needs to understand the difference between a “program mindset and a ministry mindset” to evaluate the ministries of a church.   I wrote down some differences on my list but asked my staff team to contribute to our list.  Here are the results.

Program Mindset

A program mindset says that a program exists for itself.  The program is more important than the impact on people.  We have done this for 150 years, so it is good for people now. A program mindset says that a program never dies.   This kind of thinking assumes that programs exist for the leaders rather than people in the program.  Leaders in a programming mindset have fallen into a rut and even become hysterically historical about what has happened in the past.  They are past-oriented rather than being honest about what is happening in the present.  They say if we keep doing what we are doing it will get better.  The false hope or fantasy that we can continue riding a dead horse or that horses can be resurrected is the fallacy that program people fall into to resist the change that needs to happen.

With no visible results, there is no vision for the future.  Programs with this kind of thinking tend to be competitive with other ministries, ask for money regularly and develop an unhealthy inward focus which centres on a few people to the exclusion of others.  This kind of thinking leads to pride and isolation from other ministries especially those ministries that might be created out of a genuine need to make a difference in people’s lives.

Ministry Mindset

Ministry mindset churches exist for others, not for the leaders of a program or ministry.  They are flexible, fluid, can change as the ministry environment changes.  Those with a ministry mindset cooperate and partner with others.  Evaluation and feedback are welcomed.  They give away resources and are useful in training others in all aspects of discipleship.  This kind of ministry is not born out of competition or the suspicion of others within the church.  Ministry mindset churches create ministry communities that are outward focused.  While program mindsets build protective bubbles or fortresses, those with a ministry mindset break through these barriers or bubbles to have a more significant influence and impact on people. They are not afraid to bring light into dark places or risk new ways of doing the ministry.  Methods or means of doing ministry are flexible.  Our message is absolute.

I am not saying that churches should not have some internally focused programs but all programs or ministries in the church need to have substantial outreach opportunities.  Four questions that can measure the effectiveness of any given ministry area.  Are they winning the lost in this area of ministry?  Is this program building believers?  Are the leaders of this ministry equipping workers?  Lastly, are they popping, training and developing more leaders?  If the answers to these questions are negative, then you will have to make the clear call.  Some programs need to die.

Greater discipleship happens when our departments have regular outreach opportunities.  Churches need to do a few ministries well.  As a church grows, it will need to have fewer ministry focuses.  Less is more with programs that are not competing with other for staff, resources or time.  Ministries need to be active and efficient in their results that hold to the precise goals and ministry benchmarks agreed upon by the mission priorities and leadership of the church.

No ministry is more important than another nor is a ministry more spiritual than another.  For example, one group might say prayer ministry is more important than the preaching of the Word,  Worship or children’s discipleship.  Maybe you have some comments on the differences between a programming mindset and a ministry mindset.  A ministry mindset is always pursuing the mission of Christ because it is focused on people.

The staff team and the church that has a ministry mindset continue the mission priorities of Christ to make disciples of all age groups.  The Lord wants us to complete the work he wants us to do.  This might help us understand the difference between making effective ministry and those just taking up space on our church calendars.