27 Advantages of Putting an Expiration Date on New Ministries

egg 200cIt’s been over a decade since our church started a ministry that failed.

Are we that brilliant? No. We just don’t start new ministries any more. We try experiments, instead.

If I were to start the turnaround process in a church again, this is the #1 rule I would follow from Day 1 – outside of scriptural principles, that is.

Put an expiration date on every new idea.

The principles in God’s Word are perfect, timeless and never need to be changed. Everything else is up for grabs.


Don’t Announce Ministries, Experiment with Ideas

I’ve never had a perfect ministry idea in my life. I don’t ever expect to. Even my best ones run out of steam after a while. Many of the ideas I think are great, end up being stinkers pretty quickly. (No, I’m not going to give you any examples.)

So, instead of launching a new idea as “the way we’re going to do ministry from now on”, we tell people “Hey, we have this fun, new idea we’re going to try until the end of the summer!” Or December, or until Easter…

Then, at the end of the summer, if it doesn’t work, it stops happening, just like we announced it would. No failure, no problem. If it does work, we keep doing it. Maybe we extend it for another three or six months at first. If it keeps working, it just stays on.

(I have to give credit for this to Gary Garcia, my youth pastor for 20+ years and counting. He suggested going “summer casual” more than a dozen years ago, and I haven’t had to wear a tie since.)

Experimentation is one of the advantages a Small Church has. In a larger church, the congregation expects a level of excellence in every ministry from the moment it’s launched. In a Small Church, people can live with a longer learning curve.

Putting expiration dates on ministries has several advantages. Here are a few. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments, below.


27 Advantages of Using Ministry Expiration Dates

1. If the idea is a non-starter, you don’t have to live with it for long.

2. Failures aren’t failures any more. They’re just experiments that reached their expiration date.

3. Extending an experiment that works is easier than killing a permanent ministry that doesn’t.

4. People can live with almost anything if they know it isn’t permanent.

5. The leadership loses their reputation for being stubborn.

6. People are more likely to give it a fair try if they know they’re not stuck with it.

7. The best way to know if something works is to try it. That’s why companies beta-test their new products.

8. You can get feedback from the congregation while you’re trying it, instead of hearing arguments about why it won’t work, and “I told you so” if it doesn’t.

9. You can field test several ideas and choose the best one, or create a hybrid of the best ones.

10. It helps people become more open to new ideas.

11. New church members don’t feel like latecomers to everything.

12. You don’t have to “sell” anyone on anything. Good ideas sell themselves, and bad ones disappear.

13. People feel more comfortable offering up their ideas. And you can try more of them out, with less risk.

14. Trying new ideas is fun.

15. It’s more cost-effective. You don’t invest a lot of money until the experiment has worked.

16. It’s easier to raise the needed money after people have tried it and liked it.

17. It creates an environment that makes it easier to end long-term ministries that reached their expiration date long ago.

18. It’s easier to find leaders when they know how long the commitment will last. And if it works, they’re more likely to continue. If not, you have someone who can train the next leaders.

19. Some people are starters, not maintainers. This gives them a role they can fill.

20. More new things can happen. There’s nothing like new ideas to attract new people.

21. It sparks an environment of creativity and innovation.

22. It reduces territorialism.

23. The church becomes more adaptable to shifts in the culture, the community and the congregation.

24. Some ideas can be rotated in and out on a seasonal basis, if that’s what works best for them.

25. It matches how people make commitments now. In chunks, rather than over indefinite periods of time.

26. There’s less burden on the leadership to be make perfect decisions.

27. When biblical principles are permanent, but the congregation’s ideas are temporary, it reinforces what we really value.


So what do you think? Are there any other advantages to putting expiration dates on new ministries?

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(Egg photo from Mark Turnauckas • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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7 thoughts on “27 Advantages of Putting an Expiration Date on New Ministries”

  1. Something that was self-evident but not evident to me for many years was the new things that work best are the things that just show up. By ‘show up’ I mean we did not pre-plan them but in the process of ministry they just emerged from something we were already doing. Or in other cases something we were not doing.

    The biggest challenge with this is being ‘patient’ for these things to show up and then being ‘discerning’ enough to realize that a God-thing just dropped on us.

    One way I keep an eye our for these ‘God-things’ is staying close to the people. In a small church you CAN really do this. Our little core-group of leaders is on the watch for what the rest of the congregation is doing. You would be amazed how much your people may be doing (little things to big things) that you may not have a clue about. These ‘things’ are mostly NOT part of your program–but may be your next best NEW thing being incubated by a church member.

    As an example–every church probably needs a prayer team. We are no different. Over the years I had started and organized a number of prayer teams and prayer ministries. A couple of years ago I discovered that 3-4 of our ladies were meeting every week for prayer. Right under my nose!!! How dare they do that!!!! They became what is now a POWERFUL prayer force for the entire church. I/we did not plan it or organize it–it just showed up.

    Take a look around…your next BIG NEW THING may already be here.

    1. Mike – you are SO RIGHT about things just “popping up”… a lot of small church ministry is done by the people themselves…acting as “free agents”…doing ministry on their own to whomever God leads them. It’s a pretty awesome thing actually. It’s like the church is mainly there to strengthen, encourage and equip the people to GO OUT and do ministry…not that a specific ministry has to be done WITHIN the church building…cool. (and isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?)

      1. That’s exactly the way it was in the book of Acts. Spirit led and fed. Lydia already had a house church–she just did not know it yet.

    2. Amen and Amen!!! These same exciting things are happening at our church. That is a Pastor’s Joy, to teach, and then watch the people go out and witness, do great Exploits for our Lord !!

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