3 Keys to Managing Momentum in Ministry
By Mark Lenz, Society for Church Consulting President
One of the most valuable forces in any organization is momentum. When a local church is energized by prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, and momentum, it becomes a great force that the gates of Hell cannot withstand.
Webster defines momentum as the “strength or force gained by motion or by a set of events.” In other words, momentum is powerful. Physics tells us that momentum is the product of an objects’ mass and velocity. The heavier the object and the faster it moves, the more momentum it creates.
Think of momentum as a person standing at the top of a hill and kicking a ball. With one small kick the ball starts rolling…and keeps going. That’s momentum. Not having momentum is like standing at the bottom of that same hill, and kicking the ball up. If you don’t chase after it and kick it again quickly, it will stop rolling and begin to tumble back to where you started.
In Paul’s ministry, there were times when things rolled really well. He’d touch a handkerchief and someone would bring it to a sick person. And the person got well! But there were also times momentum seemed absent. People openly rejected him, opposed him and became abusive.
If you have momentum on your side, you know it. If you don’t have it, you undoubtedly wish you did. Since momentum is a critical contributing factor in a successful church, here are three keys to managing momentum in ministry.
First of all, how do you build momentum? Sadly, it doesn’t come easily or quickly. In his #1 best seller, Good to Great, author and researcher Jim Collins describes building momentum in an organization. He tells readers to imagine pushing a big, heavy metal flywheel. Lots of energy is exerted, yet because of its great weight, the flywheel only moves a few inches. But with repeated, consistent pushing, the flywheel slowly begins to move, and gain momentum. “Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding…invested effort,” says Collins. “Then at some point – breakthrough!” He says that momentum will finally kick in, in your favor. The heavy weight now begins working for you.
Collins notes that it is never one big push that brings the momentum, but “all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction.” The key word in building momentum in ministry is perseverance. Never give up on the Biblical principles and passion God gave you. Keep at it, like pushing on the flywheel.
Once you’ve built momentum, how do you keep it? The key word here is passion. Passion must motivate through the mundane. Your God-ordained determination needs to keep your people inspired through the routine of ministry. So continually cast and recast vision.
It’s been said that it’s relatively easy to keep people motivated near the starting line. You’ve cast a crystal-clear vision and people are naturally excited. They can see it. And it’s also pretty easy to keep people motivated near the finish line, when the reality of the vision is within sight. But the toughest time to maintain momentum is in the middle. That’s when the vision is most vulnerable. Leaders should do their best to cast vision and inspire in the middle of the process. This will help keep momentum going.
The natural tendency for something with lots of momentum is for it to go off track. If a train is moving with too much momentum and it hits a curve, it will derail, and cause mass destruction.
The key word here is focus. Churches and ministries that have lots of momentum need well-defined, sturdy tracks to guide them and prevent “sideways momentum.” Sideways momentum is devoured by that big, time consuming, energy sucking project or ministry that many churches spend loads of organizational energy on, yet does little to accomplish the mission. Sure, it keeps staff and volunteers busy, but does it bear fruit? Does it move people to the desired destination?
So create tracks that will help define and guide your ministry. These tracks should always point to completing your mission and fulfilling your purpose. Well defined boundaries will preserve organizational energy and keep your ministry moving in the right direction.