“We have more resources to fulfill our mission than we need,” said no pastor or ministry leader ever. At least none I’ve ever met!
However, I’ve heard many leaders lament that they don’t have enough resources to properly fund, staff, or carry out the ministries of their church or ministry organization. For most churches, associations, and other non-profits, the harvest is plentiful, but the resources are few.
This reality is certainly nothing new. Since the time of Jesus, there has been a shortage of resources to carry out the mission. In Matthew 9:37, He made the same observation when He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Different time; same problem. And there’s no indication that things will change any time soon. Therefore, pastors and other ministry leaders must learn to become experts in doing more with less. Here are eight practical ways to do so:
- Depend on God’s provision. God has promised to provide for our physical needs (see Matthew 6:25-34). He only asks us to trust Him for that provision. The same is true for our ministry needs. God will provide the resources we need to carry out the mission. After all, it’s His mission anyway. By His grace, we simply get to join Him in His mission. But think about it. If the church has regularly faced a shortage of resources throughout her history, perhaps it’s because the Lord is teaching us to tap into the supernatural resources only He can provide rather than the natural resources we can produce. After stating the reality of the worker shortage in Matthew 9:37, Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). In other words, show your dependence on God’s provision by regularly and fervently asking for Him to provide the resources necessary to carry out His mission.
- Deal with your frustrations. Sometimes, leaders get frustrated by the lack of giving in their ministry context. Whether it’s a pastor who gets frustrated by the low percentage of church members who tithe or the parachurch administrator who gets frustrated by the lack of ministry partners, the reality is that fewer resources produce a level of frustration. However, before you can embrace the mindset of doing more with less, you’ll first need to deal with your frustrations with having less. The only way to do so is tied to the first suggestion. You must trust that the Lord has provided all the resources you need. Therefore, you don’t need to waste your time stressing over the resources you don’t have, but you can spend your time strategizing how to maximize the resources you do have. Only after you’ve come to terms with having less will you eagerly embrace the challenge of doing more with less.
- Define the essentials. Your church or organization might be involved in many good ministries. However, as Jim Collins famously observed, “Good is the enemy of great.” As a ministry leader with only limited resources, you’ll need to focus your time and attention on what matters most – just as the Twelve had to do in Acts 6:1-7. After a complaint arose concerning a group of widows who were overlooked in the daily distribution of food, the Twelve appointed seven men to address this problem. Meanwhile, the Twelve chose not to be distracted by this situation, but they stated in verse 4, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” In other words, they defined the essentials of their ministry and delegated the other tasks to someone else (more on delegation later). As a ministry leader, spend time with your leadership team to define the essential functions of your church or ministry organization. In other words, what is critical to the mission?
- Determine your boundaries. I hope this doesn’t come as a shock, but you’re not Superman. You can’t do everything. Therefore, once you have agreed upon the ministry essentials, you must determine how much of the workload you can realistically handle as a pastor or organizational leader. To do so, begin by consulting with other pastors or organizational leaders to gather their feedback. Talk with your spouse, family, and friends to help you develop proper boundaries. Then, write these boundaries down, and communicate them with your congregation or ministry constituents. This will allow you to say no to many good opportunities so that you can say yes to the great opportunities. Only with clearly defined boundaries and limits can you be effective in the essentials.
- Decrease duplication efforts. Is there another church or organization that is particularly effective with a certain ministry? If so, don’t reinvent the wheel. Eliminate as much duplication as possible. Develop partnerships with sister churches or other parachurch organizations. Work together. Share resources. Utilize available training produced by others instead of starting from scratch. If you’re willing to partner with others, you can save yourself lots of time and energy.
- Develop & deploy others. As you seek to do more with less, enlisting others to help is critical! Therefore, you will need to identify folks who can help you carry out the essential functions of your church or ministry organization. As mentioned earlier, the Twelve appointed seven men to ensure that the widows were no longer overlooked in the daily distribution of food. As you consider potential team members to help you, look for people who match the “3 Cs of Effective Teams” of (1) Character, (2) Competence, and (3) Chemistry. (Google it for more info) First, you need team members with exemplary character – those with integrity whom you can trust. Second, you need team members who can competently complete the tasks assigned to them. Finally, you need to identify those who are compatible with your philosophy of ministry leadership.
- Delegate (or drop) the rest. In a perfect world with unlimited resources, your church or ministry organization could do everything. But in a fallen world with few resources, you’ll need to determine which tasks you will delegate to those who have joined the team and which tasks will simply need to be dropped. If a task or ministry is deemed non-essential, you should seriously consider giving it the old heave-ho. If others in your church or organization insist that a particular non-essential ministry continue, you should explain why it isn’t critical to your mission. If they are willing to assume ownership of the ministry, let them know you’ll be praying for them and will support them as much as possible. If they demand that you continue to lead the ministry, kindly – but firmly – let them know that won’t be possible. If no one assumes leadership, the ministry will need to be discontinued.
- Direct funds accordingly. If you want to discover what is most important to a church or ministry organization, look at how the money is spent, and you’ll have your answer. Once you have determined the essential ministries of your church or organization, you’ll need to direct funds toward those efforts. Otherwise, your newly defined essential ministries will be aspirational, while the actual essential ministries will still receive the lion’s share of the funding. If you genuinely want to do more with less, you’ll need to direct funds to those ministries that provide the opportunity for the greatest kingdom impact.
The harvest is plentiful, but resources are few. However, that’s always been the case. By applying these eight practical suggestions in your ministry context, you’ll be well on your way to doing more with less for the glory of God!