In the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, he is marooned on a deserted island. When he first explores the island he yells, “anybody?!” And the viewer realizes this is indeed a desolate place without any people. Hanks will be alone. As a student pastor I have had this feeling on many Sunday mornings. I look around and silently yelled, “anybody?!”
Whether it is a vacation season, test week, or just bad weather, there are many reasons our people decide to miss church. This is a challenge for the obvious reasons, but it is also a big deal when it impacts our momentum. When we have seen our people respond and invite and understand the vision for the ministry we experience this momentum. It drives week after week and it looks and feels great. Things are working and we thank God for all that He is doing to grow the ministry. But what happens when the momentum stops? When things aren’t working out? Do we blame God? Do we blame our own ministry methods? Do we blame our people? And regardless of where we put the blame, how do we recover and grow forward? Perhaps even getting that momentum back? Here are a couple ways you can adjust when the momentum stops:
- Determine if the stop is at the base of a new incline or if it is a cul-de-sac. Seth Godin wrote the book The Dip to address this situation. We experience the Dip when we slow down or stop progressing. The question we have to answer is whether or not the stopping/slowing is a result of it being at the base of a new mountain that will take you up and further or if it is a cul-de-sac that will take you nowhere. If it is the latter, then the way forward is clear: you must adjust to a new reality and change how you do things. Maybe even drastically. One example is a ministry in which we did it all: games, giveaways, awesome worship, the best preaching, and a terrific environment in which it could all happen. And we experienced great momentum and growth for years. Then it all stopped. And it never picked up again. We determined that we needed to break everything down and focus only on what mattered. Fewer games, basic worship, solid expositing of the Scripture, and a place that was welcome to all. We declined a bit more and then we started growing. And this new growth came with its own momentum. If, however, the results of your analysis lead to the truth that your stopping/slowing is due to being at the base of a new incline that will take you further and farther, then you need to dig in and press through. Sometimes this looks like working harder on the basics, sometimes it means choosing what ways you will invest and letting other things fall aside. Is everything crucial and important, or are there some areas of ministry that you need to let go of? Whatever the case, the first thing you need to do when the momentum stops is to determine whether or not it is a cul-de-sac or a new mountain and go from there.
- The second thing you need to do when the momentum stops is to reinvest in basic ministry building blocks. Recruit new leaders. Train and invest in your existing leaders. Ensure proper follow-up is happening with your groups. And most importantly launch new groups. It may seem a bit odd to launch a new group when it appears growth momentum is slowing but it is actually a way to reinvigorate the process. There is just something about a new group that draws excitement and momentum. Just make sure you launch them properly. Recruit well, connect the students into the group well, and position the group for continued growth and momentum.
Momentum in ministry can be elusive. Sometimes it follows hard work and planning and sometimes it just happens. Regardless, the most important aspect of momentum is to know Jesus is the one who grows the church, not us and our strategies and tactics. But we are to be good stewards of what Jesus has entrusted to us. By identifying where we are and pressing forward to reach our community with the gospel, we will experience the growth that Jesus wants us to.
This post was written by Chris Swain, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry Publishing