The reaction by many avid users to Google’s announcement that they are shutting down Google Reader reminds me how difficult it is for a church leader to end a program, event, or ministry.
Google stated, “There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.”
Many church leaders have wrestled with the same thinking. A program on their calendar continues to have less and less impact. Yet they still expend energy and resources to sustain the program. They often wonder if the impact of the church’s overall ministry would be greater if there was greater focus.
Few church leaders make the bold move Google made. And we see why. The fallout and criticism can be intense. Some users are even saying they are leaving the Google platform for good.
If you do make the move to eliminate a program (or as Google would say, “retire a service”), here are a few things a church may consider doing differently than Google:
1 – Involve others in the decision
Ensure that the decision is a “we” decision. Wrestle with the overall health of the church, the mission of the program/ministry, and the implications of its elimination within the context of community. Those involved in the discussion with vary depending on your church polity and governance, but don’t make the call in isolation. Involve others.
2 – Uncover the original intention and values
As you are discussing the program or ministry, uncover the creation story. What was the motivation? Has the need for the program changed?
3 – Connect those values to the future
As the decision is being made to focus on fewer programs, affirm the positive values undergirding the program being cancelled. Brag on those values. Show how those same values will still be achieved with a greater intensity in the future even without the program.
4 – Invite the leaders to be a part of the new
When you cancel a program or event, the energy of those who are highly invested will go somewhere. Invite them to be a part of the new. For example, if you are canceling one event/program for greater focus on groups, invite the leaders of the program being cancelled to be leaders in the groups. Attempt to leverage their influence, gifts, and energy for the health of the church.
Or you could do like Google and just send an email to your church…