It’s not easy to create a culture of renewal, change and adaptability in an existing small church.
But it is essential.
There needs to be a renewal process in place or the changes will be random, unsettling and ultimately, unsuccessful. We'll end up work harder without working smarter.
The healthiest churches are relentless about being effective, not just busy. They trim off anything that saps time and energy. They refuse to be burdened by clutter. They do this by following the Closet Rule.
What Is the Closet Rule?
When people have to live in small spaces, de-cluttering experts tell them this: before you add a new item of clothes to your closet, toss out an old one.
Small churches need to do the same thing.
This is the Closet Rule for small churches: Don’t add a new ministry until you’re willing to lose an old ministry.
(If you're interested in more ideas like this, check out the upcoming Big Little Church Conference– April 11-13, 2016.)
How Churches Get Cluttered
We love having new things, but we hate change. So we add new things without removing old things. This leads to clutter. Physical, emotional and spiritual clutter.
I was guilty of this for many years. I would get a new ministry idea from a church leadership seminar or new book. But when I presented it to the church, I’d get blank stares.
It wasn’t because the church was filled with heel-draggers and vision-killers. It’s because what I saw as an exciting new ministry opportunity, they saw as one more thing to add to their full calendar.
The Closet Rule forces us to prioritize. To think before acting. It helps us enact changes according to a logical process, not on a momentary whim.
How Churches Can De-Clutter
Imagine the ministries of a too-busy church as a cluttered closet.
We all have those clothes in the center of the closet that we like and wear regularly. But we also have clothes that make their way to the back and sides – and they stay there. They haven’t been worn in years. But we can’t bring ourselves to toss them even though they cost us valuable space.
Church ministries are the same. Many small church pastors feel like we're accomplishing very little, even though we're constantly busy, because we're trying to do too much.
Any church that's been around for a while has long-standing ministries that are loved and used all the time. They’re front-and-center.