Stages to take your children’s ministry to failure

man jumping cliff

The Economist recently summarized management guru Jim Collins’ new book, How the Mighty Fail. In his new book Mr Collins examines 11 of the 60 “great companies” studied in his two earlier books that have since deteriorated to “mediocrity or worse”. Mr Collins says that when he charted the factors that led these firms to greatness, he had never claimed that they were certain to stay great. By comparing each one, where possible, with similar firms that had fared better, Mr Collins identifies five stages in the process of decline.

Stage 1: Hubris born of success. Firms take on a sense of superiority and fail to question their relevance when conditions change.

Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of more. Firms overreach – they venture into areas where their original qualities of success do not apply.

Stage 3: Denial of risk and peril. Though signs of failure appear, previous success is enough to carry the firm. Leaders convince themselves that all is well. Problems are blamed on external factors.

Stage 4: Grasping for salvation. Problems can no longer be ignored. Instead of returning to the principles that got them to previous success, leaders take extreme risks and drastically change strategy. Mr Collins points out that many still-great firms have bounced back even after getting to stage four, including IBM, Nucor and Nordstrom.

Stage 5: Capitulation to irrelevance or death. The firm dies or is forgotten.

I believe that children’s leaders and pastors can glean some truth from these stages.

In children’s ministry how many times have we seen:

Stage 1 children’s ministries show up with the refusal to look at new approaches to delivering the gospel? I can’t tell you how many cp.’s move to a new church without ever looking at the culture of the new ministry. They show up with a prepackaged method/approach that they carry out right away due to the success they had with it at their current ministry.

Stage 2 children’s ministries that have a niche of discipleship and because bus ministry becomes popular they move a lot of focus and resources to trying to develop a bus ministry. All the while those resources and people who use to carry out the discipleship are now being moved into an area that they do not see the same return from for their ministry.

Stage 3 ministries begin to see cracks and hear some rumors of things not going as well as they use to. It is still easy to show successes and ignore the signs of trouble. Everyone wants to believe they are ok.

Stage 4 children’s ministries can no longer deny there are problems in the camp. They are ready to switch curriculum, children’s pastors, redesign the volunteer team, put a new facade on the ministry, copy other children’s ministries etc. All of this in hopes of getting back to the original success of ministry for them. Also this (and stage 3) is when Coaches like myself seem to be called in to fix things. If we would only be brought in at stage one.

Stage 5 death and the closing of the doors.

What stage are you at in your children’s ministry?

Have you ever thought of bringing in a coach like me or doing some online training with your teams like I offer, while your ministry is experiencing stage 1 results?

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