the shape of leadership

Ten Questions to Ask Before Launching a New Ministry

Put ideas to the test before jumping in

Launching new ministry initiatives can be exciting for any church or leader. These new ideas provide energy, anticipation and the opportunity for new momentum. However, in many churches — and organizations — there’s an abundance of new ideas, but not the clarity to know which ones to launch.

Without clarity, churches will burn through large amounts of money, staff and volunteer hours, emotional energy, and possibly even organizational credibility.

Finding focus is critical if you want to launch the right new ministry. So, how do you know if a new initiative is the right path to take? I recommend 10 questions to get you started.

1. The God question: Do you sense the Holy Spirit giving you a green light on this initiative? You obviously don’t want to move forward with an idea if you don’t sense the Spirit’s peace and prompting. There are lots of good ideas, but the God ideas are the ones that make the most meaningful difference.

The key is to keep your heart pliable as the Spirit speaks (Hebrews 3:7-8). Once He does, God will often use the questions that follow to confirm what He is saying to you.

2. The vision question: Does the initiative clearly align with your vision? Your church’s vision should be a filter for decision making. Sometimes, out of passion for an idea, we can convince ourselves that our good idea is a God idea, when, in fact, it may be nothing more than a great idea for somebody else’s church.

When you’re tempted to make a premature move, ask a trusted friend or co-worker whether the initiative truly matches the church’s vision. It would also be helpful to craft a handful of “vision filter” questions before ever coming up with your next new idea. This will give you a decision-making framework before your emotions become involved in the process.

3. The competition question: Will the initiative compete with existing ministries? Churches often add new ideas, programs and ministries without ever subtracting the ones that no longer work. As a result, we build churches a mile wide and an inch deep. We don’t hone our time, energy and focus on what matters most, and on what will deliver the greatest impact.

This competition between ministries often produces what Andy Stanley calls “sideways energy.” Sideways energy occurs when ministries compete with one another, or when we manufacture enthusiasm about programs that are no longer flourishing. Publicly, we’re telling everybody to get involved, but privately, we wish the program would quietly die. You can probably think of a ministry or two fitting that category in your church.

4. The leadership question: Do we have the right person to lead this initiative? Everybody wants to add programs, but few people want to lead them. Discipline yourself not to start what someone else can’t lead. You’ll experience far more fruit, and for far longer, if you recruit the right leader before ever launching the ministry. The right leader should be trustworthy and full of character, with a passion for the initiative and the ability to lead a team.

There are lots of good ideas, but the God ideas are the ones that make the most meaningful difference.

5. The resource question: How will we secure the resources to launch the initiative? Notice, I didn’t say, “Do you have the resources to launch the initiative?” Many leaders forfeit God-inspired ideas because they don’t have the money to get the idea off the ground, and yet God often gives us vision beyond our capacity.

Rather than focusing on what we don’t have, we must ask ourselves how to get the resources to see the initiative take flight. It might involve a special offering, a major campaign, extended prayer and fasting, or cutting funding from initiatives that are not producing fruit.

6. The sustainability question: Once we launch the initiative, will we be able to sustain its ongoing health? We’ve all seen ideas launch with a flash, only to fizzle a few weeks or months later. That’s what you don’t want. The initiative should be sustainable in three areas: money, time and energy. If it requires an enormous amount of money, demands large amounts of time, and drains excessive amounts of energy, the initiative likely won’t last.

7. The timing question: When is the best time to launch the initiative? Some ministries and strategies should launch during a specific season (like fall or spring), on a specific day of the week, or at a moment in the church’s life when it can deliver the best result. You might need to bury a program first, recruit a team, hire a staff member, or wait until a difficult season or crisis passes. Don’t underestimate the impact timing can have on the successful launch and long-term health of a new initiative.

8. The testing question: Is there a way to test the initiative before committing to it? Sometimes, we pursue a new initiative with an underlying assumption that the service or program is something people need and want. Why not test a scaled-down version of the idea on a small group or through a one-time event before making a major commitment?

For example, if you want to launch a ministry to the homeless, begin by organizing a service project in partnership with a local homeless ministry. This will give you a front-row look at how many volunteers might participate and the tools you need to deliver effective ministry to the homeless. It will also reveal unforeseen gaps in your strategy.

9. The buy-in question: Are key influencers on board with the initiative? Sometimes, leaders launch a new ministry out of enthusiasm without first ensuring their key influencers are on board. You don’t want leaders to find out about a new program for the first time when they receive a newsletter or email, or while scrolling through their favorite social media site. Get buy-in first.

10. The metrics question: How will we evaluate success? Every ministry you launch needs a set of metrics to determine whether it is accomplishing its purpose. Too often, we define success after the ministry starts and unintentionally create metrics that don’t align with the initiative’s primary purpose.

Every new initiative should meet a need or solve a problem. It’s imperative that you determine the necessary metrics prior to launch to ensure you’re measuring what matters most. These metrics can extend far beyond participation to include stories of life change and impact.

Think about a new ministry, program or strategy you would like to launch, and then use the 10 questions above as a filter to determine whether it’s the right initiative to pursue. Because leaders often develop emotional ties to their ideas, it’s best to answer these questions with a core team that will shoot straight with you.


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