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Avoiding Ministry Stagnation

October 2002
By: Mark Hiehle
Within the pregnancy care center ministry, every person from the receptionist to the center's board members plays a vital role. The jobs that are performed may be different, but one position is not more important than another. Every instrument in an orchestra plays a different part. When each instrument follows the direction of the conductor, beautiful, uplifting, harmonious music is made. In a similar fashion, the pregnancy center ministry is much like an orchestra under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. As each person plays his part, directed by God, harmonious and moving ministry takes place.

As the board of directors looks at the part it plays in this symphony of ministry, how can it best play its part? One of the most important things to remember is to keep the big picture in mind. When your constant focus is on small details, it is very easy to sometimes forget the overriding purpose of why you exist. The reason a pregnancy center exists is to save and change lives. The most exciting news shared at a board meeting is not how much money was raised, but how many clients were served. Did any clients change their minds from considering abortion, and did anyone ask Jesus to be their Savior? Were people's lives changed?

If a board is not careful, it can lose sight of its purpose and begin to experience and suffer the five debilitating symptoms of ministry stagnation.

The first symptom that causes ministry stagnation is when a board loses its internal desire to bring about change. The members become comfortable and satisfied with their level of ministry and experience. Or they look back and begin to believe that the best years of the ministry were in the past. Drive and desire to serve others are lost. Board meetings are seen as a necessary evil and something to be endured. Members see their function as a body that hears reports, worries about money, and wonders, "How can we keep the doors open?"
 
The pregnancy center
ministry is much like
an orchestra under
the leadership of the
Holy Spirit. As each
person plays his part,
directed by God,
harmonious ministry
can take place.
 

The next symptom is witnessed as members begin to stifle creative, energetic leaders who threaten the status quo. When new ideas are proposed, a reactionary feeling can be felt by "seasoned" members who can unconsciously drag their feet so they don't "look bad" because of potential success. This leads directly into the next phase of stagnation.

When boards feel threatened, they can unconsciously push capable leaders away while consciously appeasing unmotivated leaders of the past. This is a very dangerous place. Relationships are now more important than ministry or obedience to God's leading. When ministries accommodate complacency and allow capable leaders to be driven away so "no one's feathers get ruffled," growth is halted.

The fourth stage is obvious as the board takes the next step and suffers a corporate pessimism that no longer dreams or steps out in faith based upon vision. There is a prevailing sense of frustration and failure. Members ask the question with disgust, "Why don't people support us?" "No one really cares!" The board resigns itself to the belief that things will never be any different, and their job now is to protect what they have.

The end result is a board unwilling to take risks because they refuse to change. They are paralyzed and now lead by fear rather than by vision. From the top down, minor irritations can be explosive, and the corporate morale can be depressing. There is a lack of harmony, and the music that is generated sounds most like a dirge.

How can a board protect itself from suffering ministry stagnation and instead experience a crescendo in ministry and impact? The answer is not complex or profound. Each member of the board must watch the Conductor and be willing to follow His leadership and direction. God raised up the pregnancy center ministry in order to bring hope into people's lives. Every board member must be committed to allowing God to be in charge. That means we must remain teachable in spirit and open to change. As Christians, we know that some things are not open to change. The truth that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ and in His death on the cross is not open to change. There are absolutes, but methods are not divine absolutes. To be open to new methods in order to experience greater ministry means you must be willing to change. John Maxwell once said, "growth means change." In order to be teachable, be open to new ideas. After all, old maps are of little value when new highway systems have been built. Acquire new knowledge and skills so new insights can be gained. Read new authors, and talk to people from other centers in order to learn what God is doing there. This will move you out of your comfort zone. Like a rubber band, you will be more useful as you are stretched. As you associate with new people, be aware that organizations that change usually allow outsiders or newcomers to participate.

The Lord has great things in store for the pregnancy center ministry. As we keep our eye upon the Conductor and follow His direction, not only will moving ministry take place, but we will also experience vitality, harmony, and the best result of all — the sound of saved and changed lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev. Mark Hiehle is the Executive Director of the Crisis Pregnancy Support Center in Clarksville, Tennessee. He can be reached at markcpsc@clarksville.com.

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