youth ministry, youth worker, stop

Stop What You’re Doing

By Doug Franklin April 2, 2013

The hardest leadership decision in youth ministry is deciding to stop running a program. We are great at creating new programs but we are terrible at stopping them. Many of our programs have run their course and need to end. We can’t even remember why are doing them. If you can’t remember the problem your program was solving then it’s time to pull the plug. The real problem is that some of our staff & parents love those programs or remember when they were a student and how much that program meant to them. The issue for us as leaders is communication. I was having lunch with a senior pastor who told me he had canceled a popular children’s program at church, he just hadn’t told anyone yet. He told them to take a spring break in the program and that it would come back next fall but he had already decided to end it. This fall he is going to be in a world of hurt. Ending a program takes guts, honesty and great communication. He had the guts, but was lacking in the honesty and communication.

Here are some healthy steps to ending a church program:

Measure Results
When a program is not reaching its desired results it needs to end but most people don’t even know what the results were supposed to be, so educate them. Be very clear about what results you were going for and why those results were important. You can also give them some of the costs behind the program and how the cost is not adding up. This will give the “why” behind ending a program. Without this “why” you will just be making a bad decision. With a “why” you will win over the common sense people who will make up about 70% – 80% of the people who care about your program. The other 20% – 30% will never listen to common sense, because the ending of the program hurts them personally.

Key people
Meet with the key people involved in the program to share with them why you are ending the program. Personal face-to-face meetings show lots of value and allow people to tell you how they feel. They show you care about them and the program but you need to make a change. You should get a good response from these meetings and you will know who will be a problem for you as you end the program.

Make space for people to voice concerns
Good leadership honors the past while casting a vision for the future. Have a time where people get to celebrate all the good that has come from a program. Allow them to share their memories and disappointments. Don’t let it turn into a rally to save the program but do give people freedom to share their feelings.

Cast the vision for what is next
Share your visions for what comes next, which I am guessing will include what was working in the old program while getting rid of what was not working. So help people see how the future program is going to help you reach the results we talked about in point 1. Share your heart, spend lots of time on “why” the new program is important. It’s a good idea to start the new program as soon as possible. When a new program starts, much of the old program is forgotten.

The key to all this is to over communicate. The more you communicate the easier the change will be.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More