3 Dangers of Last-Minute Ministry

A church work week never goes as planned (I know we’re never supposed to say “never” about anything, but it’s still probably true). As church leaders, we want to do good work and accomplish important goals, while also knowing that at any moment one of our people can reach out to us about a personal struggle or emergency in their lives. It is uncommon not to give half a day or more each week to something you could not have seen coming.

I say all that simply to note that it’s understandable when church leaders struggle to plan ahead. If every week is its own emergency, it can feel impossible to chart the course of a discipleship ministry six, twelve, or eighteen months out.

But not planning ahead is often what feeds the routine “emergencies“ of church life, while also bringing into play further dangers of last-minute ministry…

Last-minute ministry makes messes (of people and processes).

The simple truth is that even if you don’t plan ahead for your ministry, you will still end up attempting many of the same things you would if you did plan – it will just be more painful for your people and the other leaders at your church.

For example, you will likely have groups meeting this fall, whether you chart the course today, or in September. You will likely ask your people to serve their community during the holidays, whether you work toward that this afternoon, or the Monday before Thanksgiving. Your church wants to do the work of the ministry and point people to Jesus either way, but the last-minute approach hurts a lot more people and breaks a lot more processes.

The books aren’t going to arrive on time. Now what?

Oh dang, I forgot to tell Sharon that Wednesday won’t work. She’s gonna kill me.

I just realized that because we are doing X, we need to cancel Y, but Y happens tomorrow tonight and it’s too late to cancel.

When church leaders plan ahead, they are able to work wisely within pre-existing plans, work well with other ministries, and protect the hearts of the people they lead.

Last-minute ministry misses opportunities.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before… “I wish I’d known we were going to do that. I would have…”

When ministry plans are laid months in advance, it creates the opportunity for cross-ministry alignment that has exponential impact.

If your kids’ ministry knows months ahead of time that you are adding a new night for more discipleship groups, they can plan to have kids programming as well, to serve the whole family.

If your student ministry knows the content the adults will study in six months requires extra care and discipleship for students (sex, gender, etc.), they can be planning additional shepherding environments and age-level training to lead the students without being caught off guard.

When church leaders plan ahead, they are able to maximize ministry opportunities by combining the focus of multiple teams.

Last-minute ministry stunts leader development.

You can’t prepare people for somewhere you haven’t decided to go. Leadership development should be a core value of a church leader, but with little time between planning and executing comes little time for preparing others.

For a discipleship leader, this week can be the week to plan how many groups you are going to launch in the fall and winter, how many pre-existing groups need to be revived with new content or new leadership, and you can begin identifying, training, and developing leaders for those groups immediately. As soon as you nail down your church’s next serve experience or prayer gathering, you can begin discipling leaders to shepherd people well in those environments.

When church leaders plan ahead, they are able to…

  • Guide others along the way, further developing them
  • Communicate effectively, gathering the most people to on-ramps, groups and events
  • Better ensure people don’t slip through the cracks

If you’d like help planning the next 6-18 months of discipleship ministry, our Rooted Network Coaches would love to help you think through your strategy and timeline (for free) so you can start realizing the benefits of planned-ahead ministry. To connect with a Rooted Network Coach click here and select ‘Connect with a Coach’ on the form.

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