best in”tensions” #2

Ministry Growth: Fast or Slow?

Late last year I watched a show on the Discovery Channel about Nationals Park, the new baseball stadium in Washington D.C.  As I remember, it seems there was a pretty hard and fast deadline to complete the park for opening day this year. With time being of the essence, the architects would not have time to complete the entire design and blueprinting of the park before construction needed to begin. So, they ended up dividing the entire stadium into 7 sections. The architects would design a section, the contractors would begin building that section as the architects would then design the next section, and so on and so forth. As a result, the stadium was designed and built quicker, more efficient, and under budget than following traditional construction logic.

There is genius in this. Most times we either design and plan everything first before building, or we build it first with a poor design. I suppose there are pros and cons with both solutions, but taking a page from the ballpark seems to be the perfect balance.

Sometimes the most efficient method is to break the big chunk into medium size chunks.

So often in ministry we want to have it all at once. We want it now. We are seemingly impatient with ministries and programs if they don’t experience immediate growth. We need XX amount of people attending XX ministry event by noon tomorrow.  Most often times this fast and frenetic pace results in building without a plan. We just throw money and resources at it thinking it will cause growth. It seems to work at first. People flock to see the big thing we built. However, when people discover in the rush to build that the doors have been hung backwards, that the stairwells lead to nowhere, and there are rooms with no windows, this “thing” is not useful anymore.  Fast is a killer.


We invest the necessary time in planning out every little detail. We think through all the possible scenarios. We line up the focus groups. We send out the surveys. We crunch the data. We do the politicing to get the necessary buy-in. Design it thoroughly and begin to build. Sounds like a good plan right? What’s wrong with that?  Well in today’s society some speed is necessary. In all the time it took to design and complete, the needs have changed.  Slow is a killer.

I’m convinced with a ton of money and resources we could triple the size of our student ministry in short amount of time. Maybe even by noon tomorrow. (Mac, don’t get any ideas!) But there would be little substance. Very little long term growth. Or, we could sit around and talk about it all day long, take a staff retreat to plan where we want to be in 5 years, ask the students what they wish the ministry looked like etc., and watch it die a slow and painful death.

The solution is somewhere in between. Design and build in medium size chunks. Keep up the pace but be ready to adapt when necessary.


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