THE HOKEY-POKEY: Living Things Grow Up


“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  1 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV)

Living things (like the church) are supposed to grow up. My daughter is 5 now and she has grown significantly from the time she was a baby.  If this were not the case, if she looked and acted like a newborn, there is not a doctor in the world that my wife and I wouldn’t seek out.

Something would very obviously be wrong and we would do everything in our power to help her.


In the same way a church and/or ministry should grow up, not physically but functionally.  At a ministries inception, during it’s newborn phase, it will stumble around, need to be nurtured, cared for and carefully watched over. It will need constant attention, someone to feed it and sustain it, someone to clean up after it’s messes . . . it’s a lot of work.

Many ministries stay in this phase of life, never growing much past the toddler phase. They require constant attention, constant cleaning up after, constant handholding/carrying/containing and the occasional nap time. This should be disconcerting.  Something is wrong, call a doctor.


No one has ever started a new ministry and thought, “this thing is going to crush my will to live just before it fizzles out and goes nowhere.” Yet, so frequently I have seen this as the end result. The problem, in most cases, is that the ministry never grew up.

How can you tell if a ministry is stuck in adolescence? Well, here are a few key indicators

  • No new leaders have been identified or added.
  • Most things still feel disorganized and chaotic.
  • People seem confused about the when and/or the why of the ministry.
  • A lot of time and focus goes into gimmicks instead of people.
  • There’s no vision or plan for the future.

These are just a few clues that your ministry, whatever it may be, hasn’t really grown up yet. The scary thing is, some of these same things can be said of ministries that are near death.

So what can you do? Is there any hope?


It’s time to diagnose your ministry. It’s time to ask some hard questions, to make some big changes and to get other people involved. There is no cookie-cutter way of going about this, as each church and each ministry has it’s own unique life. There are, however, a few things I might suggest you try:

  • Take a break. It needs to be long enough for you to gain some perspective. If your ministry meets once a week then take a month off. If it meets twice a month, then two months should suffice. You need to give yourself enough time to think, pray and do some research. Take a break.
  • Get help. Identify one or two people who are competent and capable, then ask them to take ownership of your ministry alongside of you. Meet a few times. Discuss everything… and listen to their suggestions. Get help!
  • Make a plan. Nothing is worse than a ministry that doesn’t have goals or a purpose. Chances are, if you can’t articulate what your ministry is about, why it’s important and how it’s going to accomplish it’s goals in a clear and simple way then you don’t really have a plan. Make a plan.
  • Plan a relaunch. Your ministry has lost steam, it’s lost it’s momentum and, in so doing, it has lost it’s identity. Relaunching a ministry offers you the opportunity to regain much of what you’ve lost. It’s not really starting at square one because you take into this relaunch all of the lessons and experience you have from the months or years you’ve been doing it. Let’s get people excited again. Plan a relaunch.

All of these things might help… however… here is a hard truth: Some ministries need to die off. They’re not growing, they’re not changing, they’re not helping, they’re basically just existing… they are not healthy.

Do an honest diagnosis of your ministry, and remember that growing up takes time.  Not 10 years, but time.

The original post that introduced this evaluation method can be found here: THE HOKEY-POKEY: An Evaluation Tool


One thought on “THE HOKEY-POKEY: Living Things Grow Up

  1. Pingback: THE HOKEY POKEY: Living Things Go Down | Gospel Driven

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