Ministry Systems: Counting the Cost

Earlier this month, the Willow Creek Association Blog shared a story of a time of explosive growth at Willow Creek.  The post is entitled Explosive Growth Equals Dramatic Meltdowns, and talks about how tragically under-prepared the church was for the growth that it experienced.  Not enough parking, children’s ministry space that was standing room only, and other miscues led to a sense of failure in the success:

Our excitement over all that new growth was quickly tempered by the painful reality that we had dropped the ball. We had dropped a dozen balls. We had been so singularly focused on our plans to get new people into our church that we failed to provide necessary infrastructure in the event that all that planning actually bore fruit.

Several years ago I had the privilege of serving at a church which was growing at a remarkable rate.  During that time, we learned the importance of putting in the work needed to sustain a rapidly growing ministry.  With a church tripling in size in just over three years, each ministry had to be prepared to not only handle that kind of growth, but also to be able to maintain the standards we had set earlier on in our ministry.  I came away from that experience having learned that the key to surviving these periods of explosive growth is spending the time required in the months and years before preparing the foundation required to support what you are going to become.

In Matthew 14:28-30 Jesus says:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

While the context of this passage refers to understanding fully what it means to be a disciple, I believe that Christ’s words are a great warning for church leaders preparing to launch a new initiative, campaign, or are expecting to grow.  The difference between the leaders who negotiate growth, change, and new directions well are the ones who put in the time and effort to count the cost and build the foundation required to support where the ministry is going.

Let’s be honest, it takes more than six weeks time to prepare to launch a new initiative in our church.  While everything around us screams “now, now, now” and “faster, faster, faster” forgoing the time required to develop the leadership, systems, and processes that will allow your ministry to scale will ultimately harm your ministry far more than a twelve month delay ever would.

How do YOU ensure that YOUR ministry can scale well as you grow?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.