Eight Questions to Ask Before Starting New Ministries
By Gary L. McIntosh
In most cases it takes the starting of new ministries to attract new people and give them an opportunity for the love of Christ to be shown. But what ministry should you start? Here are eight questions to answer.
Question One: Who is our audience?
Reaching the whole world with the gospel is the mission of the Christian faith, but life-giving churches recognize that the world is made up of many different audiences. Since different groups of people have quite different cultures, needs, and methods of communication, a church that intentionally tries to reach a specific group with the message of Christ will normally be much more effective than one that tries to reach everyone with a general outreach. Every church should have a sign that says, “Everyone Welcome,” but unless they have a deliberate strategy in place to help people become a part of the church, they will see only accidental growth.
Question Two: Where do we sense the burden of God in our church at this time?
The number one attitude seen in a church that does a good job welcoming newcomers is the desire to reach out to others. Caring service is the center of all that they do. A church desiring to serve others should seek god’s leading and wisdom and carefully evaluate resources and abilities to implement a new ministry. God desires to use our gifts and abilities to serve others. Carl George, respected church consultant, once noted that in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells us not to ask, “whom am I required to love?” (“Who is my neighbor?”), but “How can I show the love of Christ to others?” (“To whom am I a neighbor?”).
Question Three: What specific group of people is God giving us a burden to serve?
Different people have different needs. Gone are the days of thinking broadly. It is now time to think specifically. At one time churches developed a one-size-fits-all ministry for adults. Later we thought in terms of a ministry for younger adults, middle-aged adults, and senior adults. Now we must view adult ministry even more specifically. Young adults can be divided into several categories, such as collegians, career singles, young couples without children, young couples with children, and single parents.
Middle-aged adults are never-married singles, couples with elementary-school children, couples with junior higher, couples with senior higher, couples with college-age children, empty-nest couples and single parents. Older adults include the recently retired, adults living in care facilities, adults living with their children, adults raising their grandchildren, and on and on. A church cannot say it wants to minister to adults. Today you must be very specific about the type of adult to whom you want to minister.
Question Four: What needs do these people have that we could meet?
If you don’t know what the needs are, ask the people. Sticking to your own idea of what people want without asking them for their input is a mistake. Not all new ministries end up in the Hall of Fame. Some end up in the Hall of Shame.
Question Five: What specific ministries are we qualified to start that fits with God’s burden and the people we wish to serve?
People in a church like to think that they can care for everyone. In a general way churches do care for people from the cradle to the grave. But when it comes to beginning a new ministry, we must think strategically. The fields are truly ripe for harvest. People are hurting and need to be loved and served in ways that will draw them to the Great Shepherd Jesus Christ. No church has all the necessary resources money, people, time, knowledge, skill to do everything that can be proposed. Thus we need to investigate as many ministry opportunities as reasonable before deciding which one to pursue. Talk with leaders from other churches who are already doing the ministry and, if possible, even participate in their ministry for a short time. While you are doing your research, prayerfully ask God what he wants your church to do.
Question Six: What similar ministries are other churches or individuals already doing?
Once God gives you an idea of a ministry you could start, investigate other churches doing similar ministries. Talk with those involved. Learn what is working and not working. What types of responses, roadblocks, and problems might you expect? Learn all you can from these ministries.
Question Seven: What will be our strategy and plan?
Study your target group and put together a plan to reach them, beginning with a specific need. Everything doesn’t need to be planned before you get started serving others, but do consider the resources of your people, their time, commitment, knowledge, skills, and money. Do not allow your desire to know everything beforehand to squelch the burden and momentum for ministry that has been growing. Learn by doing.
Question Eight: What process do we need to follow to get approval from our church?
Understand and follow the process for ministry approval from your church. Go ahead and start your ministry so that leaders will know you are serious and know hat you are doing. Leaders will want to give you suggestions, advice, and ideas. Some may even with to get involved. After approval, be certain to keep leaders informed on the progress of the ministry.
Adapted with permission from Beyond the First Visit: A Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church, Baker Books, 2006.