If even one of the four pieces is missing, then the ministry may not be what God wants.

By Bruce Bugbee

Have you ever noticed a need and wondered about starting a ministry to meet that need? Part of the church’s role is to support you as you follow God’s call, by helping you through the process of starting a ministry in a wise and strategic way.

There are four critical steps for effectively starting a new ministry. If all four are in place, then we can confidently and competently move ahead: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). But if even one of the four pieces is missing, then the ministry may not be what God wants, or at least not at this time or in this way.

Here are the steps that you and your church should ensure are in place before you start a new program or ministry.

1. Identify the need.

What specific need do you want to meet through this ministry? Imagine that you want to start a prison ministry. Having a vague idea is not sufficient; you will need to focus on one particular angle. Will you address the worship and evangelistic needs of the inmates? Will you help people with re-entry into society once they are released? Will you minister to the families of those in prison?

All of those are legitimate needs, and all would be worthy ministries. But what is your primary focus? In your context, which of the needs is most pressing? Which do you have the greatest passion for?

2. Create the team.

In order to meet the need you have identified, what specific ministry passions and spiritual gifts are necessary in your team? You will not be able to do this alone. An amazing thing happens when individuals excited about meeting the same need come together—each person’s gifts and passions often complement the others and enrich the ministry.

Keep in mind that each person may have a different priority or focus for the ministry. So, through prayerful interactions, all of you will first need to agree on the need. Once you have that consensus, you can consider which spiritual gifts will enable the team to most effectively meet the need. Are there others who should get involved? A variety of gifts will be needed and should be focused on the team’s common passion and the specific need.

3. Prepare the master plan.

What will the ministry ultimately look like and what are the practical steps to get there? Develop a master plan to help answer these questions. If everything you wanted to do could be put into place right now, and you had all the necessary people to serve, what would your ministry look like? Starting with that end in mind, work backwards. What has to be done in order to get there? Ask that, step by step, in reverse order. Once you have articulated each step, you will have created your plan.

4. Affirm the leader.

Who does your team and the church agree is the best leader for the ministry? Often, the person who gets the ball rolling is not the same as the person best suited for leading the ministry over time. Work through the first three steps of this process, praying and paying attention to see whom God raises up. That person will have the passion and leadership qualities to identify, invite, and lead a team of people. Such leaders are often reluctant leaders because they know the commitment and cost of true leadership. They will take responsibility for the team members and their mission.

No matter what a person wants to do, there must be a clearly identified need, a specific plan or strategy to meet that need, and a team of people committed to the plan, with a leader they can follow. When all four steps have been adequately accomplished, the team’s ability to represent the body of Christ through the local church and to bear godly fruit will be very high. Missing even one step will jeopardize the ministry’s effectiveness to glorify God, edify others, and meet the identified need.

In my work, I can affirm a ministry when these conditions have been met. I can assume that God is in it and wants us to move forward with the ministry at this time. I never want to quench a person’s passion, but I do want to direct it toward a successful launch. When the four-step process has been completed, I assume God is speaking and it is time to start a new ministry.

Bruce Bugbee is regional executive of the Far West Region.