Let me give you a few jaw-dropping statistics: Nearly 4,000 churches close every year. Since 1985 every denomination has experienced a decline in attendance. 61% of young adult are spiritually disengaged. 80% of churches in North America are either not growing or in decline. I’m thinking we have a problem. So does Marshall Shannon, founder and lead consultant of Ministry Design Concepts. Ministry Design Concepts is a newly established coaching service for churches, particularly churches who are experiencing a sad decline. We took some time to get to know Marshall, and realized that his organization fills a crucial need in the church today. Here’s why.

First, tell me, briefly what Ministry Design Concepts is. What are you designing?
Ministry Design Concepts is an effort to equip pastors and other ministry leaders with the tools necessary to lead their churches to fulfill the Great Commission. It is our desire to see pastors be their own Ministry Design Architect through our coaching services and the resources available on our website. We believe that every ministry leader should be the architect of their own Ministry Design.

What was the motivation or genesis for MDC? Why did you feel the need to launch a ministry consulting firm, as it were?
We started Ministry Design Concepts because 85% of our churches have either plateaued or are in decline. We’re closing approximately 4000 churches a year and we stand face-to-face with this data and felt that we had to do something to reverse the tide of decline. Ministry Design Concepts is our effort to help existing churches that are stalled out or declining reverse that trend and to assist church planters establish their works on the right footing. In order to replace the churches we’re closing and to keep up with the growth in population, we need to start approximately 8000 churches.

Isn’t the ministry a rather straightforward task—pray hard, preach well, and visit people? Why do people need to learn from someone else?
The survey results of 200,000 from churches between 1985 and 2005 we found that all denominations without exception declined in attendance. In 1965 there were approximately 52 million people in church every Sunday. We have had a net growth in population of approximately 100 million since 1965 and would you like to guess how many people will be in church next Sunday? The number is the same – 52 million. The business world would call that lost market share. What should ministry leaders call that? Lost souls.

What is one of the biggest challenges that pastors, or churches are facing today?
The biggest challenge of today’s ministry leaders is change. Leading their churches to change the way they’ve always done ministry. Albert Einstein stated many years ago that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The vast majority of our country is no longer favorable to Christianity nor to our churchology. It was stated recently by Alan Hirsch in an interview that only 40% of our country is now favorable to our traditional church and 95% of our churches are targeting that 40%. What about the remaining 60%?

If someone feels like his ministry is tanking—he’s losing attendees, he’s discouraged, he’s overworked, he’s got tons of programs with no volunteers, whatever—what should be his starting place in getting back on track and revitalizing his ministry.
I would recommend the book Comeback Churches by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson where their survey of 324 pastors that led their churches out of that kind of situation stated that one of the key things that enable them to lead their church back was to intentionally read and apply what they read. In others words, they found good resources that had helped others and determined what to apply to their own ministries as God lead them. While the mechanics of programs and methodology may offer some sound solutions to the challenges you’re facing in ministry there can be no substitute for your personal, total dependence on God. The single most important thing you can do to reverse the direction or your declining church is to follow Matthew 22:35-37 where we’re told to love God and then others. In short, pursue God and chase souls. Quit waiting for someone else to do it for you.

As you’ve read, researched, thought, and read some more, what are some books that you would recommend to a pastor who is looking for direction and movement?
Well, our website has dozens of books that are full of helpful information for that ministry leader who is seeking to develop himself and his ministry. The problem is not one size fits all and not one book fits all. The website is developed to coach a pastor through which resources to invest his time in. The books and other resources are like tools in a mechanic’s tool box. They each have specific uses. Some can be used more ways than others. The trick is to know which tool to pick up and use in any given situation. Thus our Ministry Design Concepts have been designed to assist ministry leaders with this challenge.

How can a pastor engage the advantage of the ministry design services of MDC?
The services of Ministry Design Concepts have been designed to help a pastor that has no money or wishes to spend no money all the way to that leader that desires on-site, face-to-face coaching. In between these are multiple levels of services available for pastors needing help. The next tier above free is a subscription that provides executive insights through book reviews, articles, case studies, podcasts, blogs and forums. The next tier offers webinars designed to walk a pastor through the Ministry Design process. These are scheduled to start in early 2011. Our next tier is still under development but it will provide Ministry Design pathways. These pathways will be in syllabus form to help navigate a pastor through various types and levels of Ministry Design. Our next tier includes 2 on-site audits. A First Impression Audit which is similar to a “secret shopper” survey gives a 140 point inspection of your ministry, services, staff and facilities from the perspective of a first time attender. The other is a Ministry Design Audit which is a two day evaluation of every aspect of your ministry along with insights as to how you might make improvements. This can be an invaluable tool to jump start your Ministry Design process. The last tier we offer is also divided into two parts. The first of these is off-site coaching which is done by email, text, Skype and phone. The next is on-site, face-to-face coaching.

Marshall Shannon has been integrally designed in church ministry for over three decades. His experience ranges from planting churches, serving as lead pastor, serving as guest-speaker at a Christian university, assisting church planters, organizing church mission, and now, leading Ministry Design Concepts. He brings a wealth of information to the table as he coaches pastors, ministry leaders, and church planters in their roles.

Sharefaith is proud to be a partner of Ministry Design Concepts, and we would like to recommend their high-quality intentional coaching that will take your ministry from floundering as a negative statistic to becoming a powerful force for the Kingdom. Click here to visit their site. You may also wish to consider their ministry strategy coaching and/or resource subscription. Your ministry is worth it.

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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