When Leaders Must Pull the Plug on a Ministry

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When do you cut your losses and pull the plug?

As leaders, we are constantly casting vision to spur our teams forward. Some ideas work and take off like wild-fire while others slowly produce results.

Other ideas never really fly.

You cast the vision, attempting to create buy-in, but the concept never takes root or begins to grow. The vision languishes and people start to seem indifferent.

When do you cut your losses and pull the plug?

I’ve been faced with this question several times, even recently in one of our endeavors. While never simple, here are a few warnings signs it might be time to take the program off life support.

No Buy In.

We’ve heard the old adage that ideas are not taught, they are caught.

If after some time, the idea still seems to only be pushed by you or a select few, you have to consider the team has not caught it.

No Momentum.

You promoted the event or tactic, and no matter what you try, it feels like you are spinning your wheels.

A good idea will gain speed and multiply; involving other giftings and talents making it more well-rounded.

Lagging Results.

Perhaps the idea is actually in effect, but the results are not there. While there is always a case for being faithful and plowing the ground, wisdom and evaluation must always be a part of our journey.

If the results are not there after some time, it may be time to cut the losses.

No Buzz.

Is anyone besides you or the inner circle talking about the idea?

One way to take the pulse is not to bring up the issue for some time. Does anyone notice? If you have not had a certain meeting or gathering recently, is it missed?

When a successful program goes out of the spotlight or the “to update list”, your team will let you know about it.

Chris Lautsbaugh Chris Lautsbaugh lives in Muizenberg, South Africa. He serves with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), teaching and training internationals to be missionaries and church leaders. Together with his wife Lindsey, they lead and steward training programs and ministries in and around Cape Town, reaching out to under privileged communities, planting churches, and meeting needs associated with the issues South Africa is facing. They have been in missions for 35 combined years. They serve together with their two boys, Garett and Thabo. Chris blogs at www.nosuperheroes.com and has published a book on grace, Death of the Modern Superhero:How Grace Breaks our Rules.

More from Chris Lautsbaugh or visit Chris at http://www.nosuperheroes.com

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  • Andrew

    I wonder, when do we ask the God of the possible who can bring the dead back to life His opinion? Just asking.

    • Hersh, or is it Harsh

      Great point Andrew! Back when the earth was still flat 2000, (Joke) I felt compelled, pushed, called…. and sometimes DRAGGED to walk the length of California. I did the usual… I sought wise and godly counsel. I believe I did what we/I are called to do… but many, many naysayer laughed and said “God would never….” After two grueling years of hearing the call/command I finally stepped out in faith and walked 1000 miles over hill and dale from the border of Mexico to Oregon.

      Though to this day I have no idea why I was driven to do it… I can say “Who” drove me. I can also say, I was then and still now super blessed for doing so. Following God’s opinion may be against everyone else some times. One thing is for sure, if it is God telling you to either do it or not… you will know rather quickly!!!

      Who knows… IF the Lord should tell me to write the book about His/my 2,110,00 steps of Faith maybe you’ll read about the the adventures of woe and wonderment in following God’s opinion…

      Again GREAT POINT!!!!

      • Jimmie

        How long did it take you to walk that far?

    • http://www.nosuperheroes.com Chris Lautsbaugh

      Great question Andrew. That has to be apart of the equation. You are right, there are times when we must buckle down and endure. Good addition to the conversation.

    • Jeremy

      Great point, the problem often comes that churchy people hold on to systems and reject people. When God often holds onto the people and changes the systems. Also, God resurrects the dead and they end up being soothing new.

  • Gary Colville

    I have been on the journey for many years of getting people on board with Vision and have been helping other Churches on the journey. The only real reason, in my observations, is that ‘buy in’ has to happen before Vision happens. In other words hearing God on what we believe he is saying is about giving the whole congregation or organisation the opportunity to input on whatGod is saying then constructing the Vision around that with a group of wise Visionary leaders. We call this team the ‘Vision Management Team’ as their role is to bring the Vision together then manage the outcomes through out the next twelve months. It is NOT about the Pastor or key leader making the calls. That person has the responsibility of Delivering the inspiring Vision.
    We use a Red Light, Orange Light, Green light approach to Vision Management.
    Red light = in trouble and should we change this ministry or shut it down? Orange light = a warning that things are not going well and will need some fine tuning or adjustments to make the ministry effective and Green Light is the really important one that often gets missed by Churches because the ministry is going well. With Green we need to regularly help the Team and the congregation celebrate the graet stories.
    This inspires ministry leaders who are not doing so well to raise the bar or rethink their implementation. The VMT is not expected to do the work although with the odd thing VMT members may get involved. It’s about good governance/leadership rather than hands on management. Of course all VMT members are still active in ministries serving our Lord.

  • Ryan

    You might want to make a rule of always having a start and end date rather than starting something and have it become some never ending thing. Depending on what it is, the first start and end date might be a short span to see what interest there is and evaluate this to determine whether to continue. Always, always have an end date for continual re-evaluation. People get tired of things, leaders of the ministry start to get burned and need a brake. There may be others with other ministry ideas to replace the current one in that time slot. Always stay in prayer and in the bible. God may have things go a different direction after a while. You want to keep things new and fresh with people. One important thing is the ministry really needs to be value-added. If there isn’t any real value, people just won’t participate.

  • Sam Rajshekhar

    When I get a new idea, I check if God is in this and if I know I have His blessings, there is no question of pulling the plug. I only have to follow God’s wisdom, grace and love in convincing people to come on board. Very often it is about relationships – with God and with people

  • ServantHeart2012

    Everything that is “new” will eventually grow old. Canned studies and programs come out by the truckload every year and most are truly worthwhile. A big problem I have seen is when a “new” program comes on board and is well attended, but repeated too many times in succession. It’s kind of like the old Tupperware parties. When you run out of friends and relatives to invite it’s time to fold the tent, at least for a while, and take a break. Same with ministry programs. When everyone in the target audience has either been there, done that, got the t-shirt OR have repeatedly declined to participate it’s time to move on to different things. There may be a season down the road where it would be wise to “reprise” a “retired” program or programs, but don’t just run ‘em until the wheels fall off!

    • http://www.nosuperheroes.com Chris Lautsbaugh

      I once heard someone say, as a church leader you need to be thinking 18 months in advance. This keeps things fresh and avoids that recycling you mention.

  • Gwendolyn

    I believe pulling the plug on certain ministries within any church is callous and spiritually unbiblical what about discerning whether or not God has lead that leader, only God can pluck up, tear down, build and renew, allow God to be God ans empower people to live holy for the Lord. Amen

  • PB

    Two of our major guidelines for when to start a new ministry: 1. Does it fit our mission statement and core values? Do we have a champion who will head up that ministry?

  • http://twitter.com/SharonLujan Sharon Craig

    raise lazarus from thed dead.