It is difficult to let a once-thriving ministry at the Church end.
Yet, it often needs to happen for the Church to move forward positively.
Let me explain what occurs in every community of believers. First, someone new starts connecting to the group of people who worship together every week. They are new to town, changing Churches, or are a new believer. They get excited about something that God has laid on their heart. For example, they are driven to do prison ministry. They share their excitement with others, recruit volunteers, and they make things happen. Because of their enthusiasm, the ministry has success, and the people who serve are blessed along with the people being served. The Church soon has this dynamic prison ministry of which everyone is proud.
Then the unexpected happens. This new person has one of life’s three significant events: they move, quit, or die. Suddenly the excitement is gone, and there is no vision for what happens next. People keep doing the ministry because we are the Church with the dynamic prison ministry, after all. The work becomes tedious, and volunteers are difficult to find. The leaders struggle to manufacture enthusiasm, and soon no one is blessed by the work, even though it continues to happen.
One of the lessons I have learned as a pastor is that a ministry must have a committed leader with a God-inspired calling for it to succeed. If not, it struggles to survive and can be a burden for those who try to carry on the work.
Here is the tough bit of wisdom; it is okay to let a ministry die when the leader moves on. It is a healthy practice to eliminate once-great ministries that are no longer a blessing. I know it is a complicated decision because of the history and how we were known for doing this job well, but it still needs to be made.
“I am sorry to inform you that this ministry will no longer happen” will be emotional for some people to hear. But a necessary part of Church leadership is deciding that some events and practices need to die. It is not a part of the job that I enjoy, but it is vital for the overall health of the Church and the people involved in it.