Is Your Ministry a Forest or a Garden?


How much time are you spending ‘tending’ your individual ministries?

As we work with churches to help them grow their ministries, we find that many church leaders are investing thousands of hours every year on their individual ministry efforts. They’re recruiting volunteers, they’re using scheduling software, they’re creating communications about ministry activities and dealing with the dozens of administrative details that come with trying to create an active, engaged community of believers. And they’re often burning themselves out in the process.

When we speak with leaders who are trying to manage ministry this way, there’s one really helpful illustration we put in front of them. We tell them that successful, self-sustaining ministries are a forest. Theirs is a garden.

Think about the differences:

  • Gardens require constant weeding to keep things in order; forests spread out their branches to create enough shade that weeds don’t get a chance to take root. ‘Forest’ ministries allow their leaders and volunteers to naturally band together to deal with any issues that arise, instead of relying on the ‘gardener’ of church leadership to pull them out.
  • Gardens are confined to a limited space; forests naturally grow and spread as they find the right conditions. ‘Forest’ ministries naturally find new ways and places to serve and grow, and effective leaders give them the freedom to do so rather than keeping them within the confines of their original purpose.
  • Gardens require the gardener to introduce new plants into the space; forests take advantage of their natural residents to spread seeds and introduce new elements. ‘Forest’ ministries grow and spread thanks to the efforts of their participants and volunteers, rather than constantly looking to church leadership to take responsibility for finding new members and activities.

Strong, stable ministry structures prepare your church to overcome plateaus in ministry growth and get ready to move to a new level of community impact. They replicate and sustain themselves with limited oversight from their church leaders, and often surprise leaders with their impact and results. They’re healthy, growing forests — not gardens in need of constant maintenance.

Which image applies more to your ministry — forest or garden? How can we help you turn your high-maintenance ministry gardens into forests?

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Posted by Church Community Builder on July 21, 2016