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Chasing the Next "Big" Thing

Bill Anderson

What Will It Take To Fix Your Ministry?

Considering that we live in a day of instant information and rapidly changing technology, life can get complicated.

Leaders' minds are often conditioned to be on the lookout -- always waiting for that next big thing that's going to come along and make our ministries shine in their effectiveness and uniqueness. While there are great strengths in having an adaptive mindset, leaders can fall prey to shortsightedness when constantly changing course or chasing trends and fads.

I'm a great example. I have two weaknesses: I love new stuff and I love projects. New stuff is just cool, and completing projects gives me a sense of accomplishment. So whenever a new thing comes along in children's ministry, I'm gung ho for it. I jump in with both feet, the project takes a couple weeks or months to complete, and when I'm done I feel like I've accomplished something. But have I -- really? I look around and realize that many of my same core issues and problems are still there, and I have to ask myself, What was all that time and effort for?

Don't get me wrong. Many advances in children's ministry have transformed our ability to effectively minister to children and families today. But sometimes leaders expend a lot of energy chasing the next big thing, assuming it'll "fix" a ministry or make it better -- sometimes to a fault.

Here's how I challenge myself: I must discern between the difference between a "real" fix and a "felt" fix. Real fixes happen when an already healthy ministry adopts a new strategy or gives a nod to a new trend. A felt fix happens when an unhealthy ministry uses a new strategy or trend as a bandage and doesn't root out the underlying problems.

So if your ministry is struggling or you're aware of problems, don't assume a big change will remedy it. In fact, it may make the situation worse. It's far better to invest all that energy into building on your strengths while shoring up weaknesses. That's not to say leaders shouldn't seek new technologies, resources, or methods. That's not to say you shouldn't consider organizational changes. But even with these structural changes, consider them within reason. There'll always be a new trend to follow or a new ministry strategy to implement -- but these won't correct or override fundamental problems within your ministry. Consider these basic measures of health before you go after the next big thing in your ministry.

• Relationships -- At all levels, relationships are critical to your ministry's success. Whether it's your relationship with your team members, a toddler teacher's relationship with parents, kids' relationships with each other, or everyone's relationship with God, relationships are the underlying support of everything you do. How are the relationships in your ministry? Are relationships a core value that's receiving the appropriate importance currently?

• Buy-In -- The amount of people's buy-in can mean the difference between success and failure. If you've tried previous changes in course or strategy and they failed, ask yourself whether you had buy-in from key players. For any initiative, you must have the much-needed buy-in of your leaders, parents, congregation, and team members.

• Functionality -- You may've worked hard to develop positive, lasting relationships. You may have the vocal buy-in of your leaders and others. But if you can't execute or function as a team, all is for naught. Your organization needs to run like a well-oiled machine. People need accountability. They need a roadmap so they know where they're going. They need to see the fruits of their labor. They need to know what they're doing matters. And they need you to be the overseer of the organization by fine-tuning, assessing, and troubleshooting. Functionality is key to a healthy ministry.

I love cutting-edge ministry ideas and strategies and I use them often, but sometimes I have to force myself to step back and ask, Is this a real fix or a felt fix? Spending energy on real fixes, which revolutionize the way we do ministry and our effectiveness at it is never a waste of time. When you're able to properly discern your ministry's needs, then you can run your heart out chasing after the next big thing.

Bill Anderson is a family life pastor in Berlin, Ohio, and the Leading Volunteers columnist for Children's Ministry Magazine. Learn more about Children's Ministry Professional Edition at

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