A Simple Exercise To Help Your Church


Every church can learn a lot about the way it does ministry by doing this simple exercise:

Take your church calendar and ask, “If someone or a family of four participated in everything our church offers, what would their day planner look like, and how much would it cost financially?”

It’s a blunt, but enlightening instrument. When I first asked those two questions, the church I was serving in was asking for 15-20 hours per week, and roughly $2,000 per family above and beyond the tithe annually. This included all retreats, breakfasts, studies, camps, service projects, etc., and a $100 extra offering for special mission and benevolence offerings we took up. We were typical.

We had many takeaways from the exercise. One was, we needed to chill. We needed to simplify. We needed to do less, better. Maybe you do, too.

We simplified, and involvement grew. Lives balanced out. People smiled more and families spent more time together. But, some felt guilty for doing “less”–though we were doing better by doing so.

Ask those two questions. Try the answers on as a single mom. Try them on as a father of five with major time commitments at work. Try them on as a single person. Try them on as an elderly person.

We found the answers demanded simplicity. Things may be different in extremely large churches where expectations are mitigated by the realization no one can make everything. For most of us, though, the answer lies in simplicity.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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10 thoughts on “A Simple Exercise To Help Your Church

  1. So true! We have to do better than just fill up everyone’s calendar and make them feel guilty when they can’t make everything. I’ve found that the less “church stuff” I do, the more opportunity I have to do the stuff God actually wants me to do. My life is much more rewarding because I am more in line with His will. I still love the Church and I still love hanging out with my brothers and sisters. I just choose my church activities very carefully. I don’t attend everything and I have finally learned to not feel guilty about it too!

    • Hey Kari! I think that’s easiest to do in big churches where most understand no one can do it all. To me, burnout is most common in the mid-size church, and smaller churches that were once mid-size churches and never shrunk their ministry system as they declined. Thanks for sharing…and it’s so good to hear from you, old friend 🙂

      • Old!?! You be careful there, Tim…

        I’m not sure how much church-size has to do with it, though I’m sure that may be a factor. My experience has been with smaller congregations- under 200 people, or there-about. The biggest factor for me is that God revealed to me how much I live in a “church bubble” and He is calling me out to reach people who don’t make it to a church service or church activity. I found that I could easily fill up my calendar with various church activities- I would be in a comfortable environment, hanging out with people I love. But I continued to be ineffective in reaching the world around me. Yes, in a smaller congregation it’s been harder to say no and to not show up at things, because everyone knows you aren’t there. But I really have been “there”- I’ve been where God wants me to be, volunteering where He wants me to volunteer and serving where He wants me to serve. Sometimes it’s at a church activity, and other times it’s outside the walls of the church, as God molds me, challenges me, and transforms me.

  2. Tim, a book i’ve been reading (The Essential Church) talks alot about simplicity and helping people believe the church is God’s tool to bless our lives.
    The Essential Church (authored by Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer) is a sequal of sorts to The Simple Church (Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger).
    Thank u for ur insights. God bless. Grace and Peace.