As you look across your ministry, where do you have momentum? Where do you lack momentum? And what the heck is momentum?
We typically recognize it by experience and not definition. We feel it in a sporting contest when everything starts going your team’s way. Or in a company that has month after month of increasing sales. Generally, if a company lacks momentum the leaders do something about it immediately. The church can go generations without responding to stagnancy or decline. Ministries that lack momentum are a drag. But when you have momentum, even the problems are fun to solve.
Ministry momentum is a powerful force. It’s created by the Holy Spirit and leaders must stoke the fire and not mess it up! Read through the book of Acts and you’ll see the spirit moving and the early church responding by putting people and structures in place to keep the momentum going in the right direction.
Momentum can be defined as forward motion fueled by a series of wins.
Every time a few wins are strung together, a great event, some baptisms, an amazing story of life change, you will begin to feel the effects of momentum in your ministry. Let’s talk about some basic truths about momentum:
- Momentum is fueled by spiritual health. Healthy things grow. And momentum has an engine that is powered by collective spiritual health. Dysfunctional people and unhealthy systems can destroy momentum before it even begins. Before you try to manufacture momentum with numeric growth efforts, focus on health. It’s a slower path, but it will begin to gain steam naturally.
- Momentum is contagious. Like a magnet, momentum will attract and pull even greater momentum towards itself. People are drawn toward momentum. Volunteers follow momentum. Funding follows momentum. Word-of-mouth-promotion follows momentum. When people are part of something that’s happening, it’s contagious.
- Momentum is disruptive. If it came with a warning label, momentum would caution of the potential discomfort and disruption it is likely to bring. The unspoken mission statement in most churches comes down to two things, “pay the bills” and “keep the members happy.” If we do those things, But when those two things become the focus of a ministry, ironically neither of them will happen. Momentum will come when the mission is central and we’re chasing it together, but it won’t always be comfortable.
- Momentum can be identified and expanded on. Andy Stanley once said, “the only thing worse than not having momentum is having it and not knowing why.” It’s important to stop and think about the why. If you don’t have momentum, why? And if you do have momentum, why? And what might you put into place to keep it going. On that note, I think there are at least…
8 ways to create or capitalize on ministry momentum
- Foster Spiritual Renewal
Spiritual renewal always creates ministry momentum. When there are stories of life change, capture them and tell them. A marriage healed, an addiction overcome, a bold step taken. Whenever something like this happens, celebrate it and encourage others with it. You can also host a series of prayer or worship nights, plan a season of fasting together, or create a devotional book to go along with a teaching series. But whatever you choose, be sure to create a mechanism through which people can tell their stories of what God has done so you can celebrate and share.
- Strive for steady and consistent quality
If you grew up in the church growth megachurch model the core value of choice was “excellence.” Unfortunately there are few churches that can pull off excellence on a consistent basis without either spending lots of cash or selling their soul. And often a ministry can pull off one big event or service that’s excellent every once in a while, but the rest of the time the quality of things is a bit of a crap shoot. However, for the sake of momentum it’s much more important for the quality to be “pretty good” consistently than to be excellent haphazardly. This is important because the people who are inviting others to attend will have an accurate sense of what they are inviting people to. If your inviters don’t know whether it’s going to be an excellent week or a train wreck, they won’t invite at all. Better to be steady and consistently “ok” than unpredictable.
- Do something New
New things have a tendency to kick start momentum. Why do you think every product on the store shelves have a big banner across their logo saying “new and improved!” People are drawn to new. One of the reasons that we embraced the sermon series model of preaching is so that we could have a new series to invite people to on a regular basis. It helps the flow of momentum because there are consistent on-ramps for people to come in. Your new might be a new program, or a new season of the year, or a new look in a wing of your facility, or a new venue. It could be a new name for a ministry, a new initiative, or a new prayer journal. But momentum tends to follow when you launch something new.
- Get the right people in the right places.
When you get people serving in their sweet spot, it’s one of the keys to ministry momentum. I was talking to a pastor not long ago. They were feeling stuck and stagnant in their church. There was no life as people worshiped. No energy to their ministries. But they found a diamond in the rough. They happened to have dinner with a young woman who was looking for her place in the church. Over the course of the meal they determined she would be perfect for the kids ministry. She stepped into a leadership role and started crushing it. Her gifts in the right spot caused a ripple effect through the whole church and they experienced instant momentum.
- Understand the flow of the calendar
It is possible to look ahead and plan for momentum by stringing together a series of initiatives. This doesn’t guarantee that it will happen, but it positions you should God choose to bless you with a special move of His spirit. If you are teaching on Prayer during the month of March, each week encourage your church to pray for specific people that they will plan to invite to Easter services, present the gospel on Easter, offer a baptism service the following week, and then plan a worship night in early May where everyone who was baptized will tell their story of faith. This is an example of preparing the calendar in advance for momentum. It is allowing room for a series of wins.
- Purge or Consolidate complexity
We have always made it a priority to clear the programmatic decks for church-wide initiatives. We press pause on all supplemental ministries throughout the week so that the whole church can experience a month of fasting together. Or a 3-month overview of the Bible together. It creates energy and forward motion when everyone is doing the same thing together. Getting rid of complexity also helps momentum. Our membership process used to involve four 4-week classes. The structure was overly complicated and difficult to track and manage. When we consolidated it down to one 4-week session we saw unbelievable momentum.
- Build on things that are working
Sometimes when you have a successful initiative, when you plan something and it really works, the tendency is to thank God and congratulate yourself and wait a while until the next good idea comes along. But when something works, instead of thinking of the next new idea for the future, you should think of how to build onto this idea that worked. Just ask, “what do people need next?” We presented a message a number of years ago simply called how to read the bible. It was the right subject at the right time. Not only was there a buzz around the topic, but it exposed a hunger for more practical bible study tools and resources. What do people need next? We made an impromptu decision to do a follow up workshop the following week to provide practical bible study tools and resources. It was attended by hundreds of eager participants. What do people need next? We created a series of groups that would meet weekly and practice these bible study methods together. Sometimes “new” is not the answer, it’s simply building on things that are already working.
- Celebrate and tell stories
I know I mentioned it before, but this really is the lifeblood of momentum. As a leader, one of your most important roles is the Chief Storyteller. You are the carrier of the tale of what God is up to in your midst. A story will captivate the imagination of your people like nothing else. It will remind them of why you are doing what you are doing. You need to constantly seek out, collect up, and winsomely relay stories that capture the workings of God. Momentum will follow because people will want to be part of the story too.
Just a warning… momentum can be killed just as fast as it’s created. Things that kill momentum are the opposite of the the 8 items above; ignoring spiritual renewal, inconsistent quality, the wrong people in the wrong places, etc. Along with things like slow decision making, and paralysis of analysis, and repeating mistakes from the past. All of these things slow the pace of momentum.
But most of all, for you as a leader, it’s important that you never stand in the way of what God wants to to. Be sure that your private devotion keeps pace with your ministry momentum. Be sure that the intensity of doing the work of God doesn’t destroy the work God is trying to do in you. Be sure that your character is what is dictating your capacity. Be sure that you’re not too busy ministering for God that you’re too busy to meet with God. When the Holy Spirit is at work and bringing you ministry momentum, get your pride out of the way, fan the flames as best you can, and whatever you do… don’t screw it up!