There comes a time when a beloved event, ministry function, or recurring project must come to an end. Since these were birthed by the passion and time of your volunteers and church leaders, sunsetting them can be a touchy topic to approach. Wisdom shows us that everything has its time and season. Whether or not the church ministry is loved or formerly successful does not necessarily make it effective or entirely helpful. How do you pull the plug on a church ministry or know when to keep it on life support? After all, every ministry has a shelf life.

Ministry Shelf Life: How to Determine When To Quit or Save a Church Ministry

There are several questions to ask and answer before either entering the arduous process of pulling the plug or committing to propping up a dying ministry. With each question, things may become clearer. There are only so many days in the year and dollars in the budget. Our church members should be encouraged to be good stewards. However, leadership is about making their stewardship count as much as possible. If we do not lead intentionality, we might actually be sending the message that we don’t respect their time, treasure, or talent.
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Does this activity still achieves its intended goals?

Some events on the calendar have been there for years. Every season, I proposes a checkup and review to rate how the actual goals are reached. I know this sounds business like, but we need to measure something, right? In business, the goals are often simply profit and loss. In ministry, people are the goal. What are the goals for each event or ministry at your church? Often, it quickly becomes clear if there are no goals. Either they have not been communicated, modeled, or accountable. If your goal is to reach seniors at a tea and no seniors show up then you are not reaching one goal of that event.

Is the funding based purely from vision and mission?

Sometimes, money finds its way because someone’s heart was touched for a project. But, is this ministry funded from the intentional vision and mission your church–the main budget? It is not bad that people do things on their own, but if you are running a ministry with a rogue budget to keep it alive perhaps that is taking resources from your main ministry. If this ministry is from the vision and mission, then the main budget needs to reflect that. Have you audited how resources flow to the main activities of your church?

Are new people able to assimilate into the activities?

A stagnated event will rely on the same people each year. In a typical city, nearly 25% will be transitioning. You should also account for other factors such as people leaving the church for personal reasons, deaths in the membership, and the population growth of your town. You soon get a picture that maintaining a certain attendance equals a certain number of new people. If your ministry is not tooled to assimilate these new people, you surely will find it on the decline. Also, after so many years people might be ready to give up the mantle of leading or running a ministry. New people are the best recruits. If this is overlooked, then it may be time to pull the plug.

Is sentiment a possible driving factor to keep it alive?

There are some who loathe the idea of change. And, there are memories attached to songs, services, and experiences of the past that have shaped people’s faith. It is no small thing then to consider ending a function or ministry at your church. But, if the driving factor is only the sentiment of past experiences, then it might actually sour the current memory of church for those who don’t share those feelings. What can your church fully in unison experience today? Is there a way to bridge the past with something new that includes newer people? Be wary of sentiment driving your ministry.

Do you add events, or limit them on the calendar?

Probably the biggest reason to pull the plug is when you as a leader know you need to do something new. Often it is politically expedient to simply add a new thing and leave the rest untouched. However, it actually defuses the resources and focus. Less is more when it comes to the church calendar. Are you over scheduling your people? Are there too many choices with fewer attendees at each? Or, would you desire bigger events with more impact? Sometimes a buffet is in order. However, choices have a price. Does that price keep you from succeeding at some ministry ideas your have on your heart? Calendar saturation must be checked. 

Leadership in these issues will never be a clean and simple process. As we deal with people, we must be able to lead them to trust that what we ask of them is intentional and fully on point. Church ministries have a shelf life. So, pull the plug. Or, keep it on life support. How will you decided?

About The Author

Rich is a writer, blogger, speaker, musician, father and husband to his best friend. You can check out his latest book, The Six Hats of the Worship Leader, on his website,

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