How To (Finally) Stop Giving In To The Pressure to Add More Ministries In Your Church

When you’re a church leader, you feel a lot of pressure.

Almost every leader feels the pressure to do more when the key to effectively accomplishing your mission is often doing less and doing it well.

As Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger argued a decade ago in Simple Church, the most effective churches these days are often the churches that do a few things and do them well. That’s still very true today.

So how do you resist the constant pressure to add more programs, especially when those programs seem to be programs that won’t lead the church forward?

First, realize that much of the pressure you feel is not external, it’s internal. It’s a pressure I felt for years, until one day it vaporized.

So much of my desire to add programs and my guilt over not doing it was based on a false assumption I held and many leaders hold.

Let me explain.

A key source of that pressure is that you’re leading a church. 

Your church is on a mission. Quite literally, it’s on a mission from God.

And the terms of that mission are written within the scriptures, a document everyone who attends your church (and even those who don’t) can read anytime they want. And a document you hopefully read daily.

As a result, many people have opinions on what your church should be doing or shouldn’t be doing.

And even as you read the scripture, you probably find yourself thinking we should do more of X, or I believe that we need to introduce Y so we can be more faithful to the church’s mission.

You don’t need anyone to suggest new ministries because you feel enough pressure to generate them all by yourself.

Most local church leaders feel a deep pressure to do everything they read about in the Bible in their church. After all, you lead a church.

But should you?

You shouldn’t. And here’s why.


How the Pressure Mounts

I lived with that tension and pressure for about a decade. Over time, as our church grew, I assumed we had to add more programs so we could be faithful to our calling.

You feel the pressure to do more as you read the Bible and see the need around you. And even if you didn’t or said nothing (which most leaders would never do), often the program ideas and ministries get suggested by people as you grow:

The church needs to care for the poor… we should start a food bank.

There are a lot of bikers in town… who’s going to reach them?

What are we going to do for moms of pre-schoolers?

We need more services with different music/teaching approaches to reach more people.

The needs in Asia are so great… why isn’t our church doing anything about it?

As a result, most churches by default start doing everything they can to meet every need they see around them. After all, you’re the church. You should do that!

But in the process of doing everything for everyone, a few things happen:

You end up doing nothing well.

Your ministry becomes a maze with no sequence, no progression and end in mind for helping someone grow in their relationship with each other.

The ministries and programs end up competing for time, energy and money.

People are out 5-7 nights a week, and ultimately some people burn out, including you.

When you try to be everything to everyone, you usually end up being nothing to anyone.

So why is doing everything in one local church a bad approach? 6 reasons.

6 reasons.

1. You’re A Church… Not THE Church

So how do you resolve this tension? Or do you?

The penny dropped for me a few years ago as I was reading the scriptures one morning.

We are A church. We are not THE church.

Before you declare that heresy, think about it.

Your church is not the entire, universal church of Jesus Christ. It just isn’t. It’s an expression of the capital C church. It’s a local embodiment of the Church. But it isn’t THE church. It’s A church.

Maybe Jesus doesn’t expect you do absolutely everything HIS church will do because HIS church is bigger than YOUR church.

Follow that?

This should be a tremendous relief to most church leaders.

Suddenly the weight of being all things comes off (Jesus is all things anyway, you and I never were).

And we, as local church leaders and local churches, get to do the authentic work of Jesus in the areas in which we are best equipped to do it.  No more. No less.

I’ve come to believe that local churches function much the way individual people do within the body of Christ. Together we make up the body. Individually, we are parts of the body. As Paul famously said,  a body is comprised of feet, ears, eyes and even elbows. So it is that God weaves all of us together to be the body of Christ.

I think local churches function the same way.

2. You are not the only church in town

Chances are you’re not the only church in the city. So don’t act like it.

Understand God has raised up other leaders and other congregations with slightly different giftings. Each church can play its part.

What you might not be great at, some other church is. What you’re best at, others aren’t.

3. Your church will never be the only church God uses

You will never be the only church God uses. You just won’t be.

I’d bet we’d all get along better if we adopted that approach.

God designed churches to complement each other, not compete with each other.

I’m not saying we need more joint ministries between churches (let’s all merge and become one is probably not a very good idea).

There is an effectiveness in diversity that many people miss. Assuming orthodoxy within many local churches, each of those churches is free to do what each does best.

I’m thankful for the other effective churches God has placed in the cities in which we have locations. It’s going to take all of us to accomplish the wider mission the church has been given.

Think about it. As a church leader, your competition is not the church down the street. It’s the beach on a sunny day.

4. Thinking you’re the ENTIRE church is a sign of ignorance or arrogance

When church leaders act like they are the only church in town or the only godly leader in town, that’s either ignorance or arrogance speaking. Sadly, it’s most often arrogance.

Your church is not the ENTIRE church. And you are not the ONLY church leader God has appointed.

Rather than being threatening, this should be liberating. It really should be.

And it will be, as long as you have the humility to realize that the Kingdom of God is bigger than any of us.

It’s arrogant to act like your church is the only church in town. Just ask the other pastors.

5. Ministries also happen personally, not just organizationally

So what do you do with all these great ideas that come along, building the pressure to be all things to all people?

I think you realize you’re playing a small part of a bigger story.

First, look to other organizations that could do it better. At Connexus, where I serve, we decided when we launched that we wouldn’t run a food bank. Instead, we partner with local food banks who do a far better job than we ever could.

Second, realize other churches might be better at doing certain ministries than you are.  In our community, for example, there are churches who do recovery ministries astonishingly well. We don’t have to duplicate their efforts.

Third, there’s no reason the person with the idea couldn’t start something personally.

I am amazed at how many people at our church run ministries on their own. Several run international relief and mission agencies. Others are deeply involved in personal ministries. None have to have a Connexus ‘stamp’ on it to be God-ordained.

This frees them up to do what they do best and for us to do what we collectively do best.

6. Do what you are best equipped to do within the larger body of Christ

So what should the local church do? What that church believes it can do best given its gifting and resources.

For sure, there are core elements like the ministries of the Word and Sacrament and the gathering that have to be met to be a church. But beyond that, there’s some freedom.

So let me give you an example from my context.

What do we want to do at Connexus? It’s simple.

We want to be the best shot an unchurched person has at coming to faith in Jesus Christ, and we want to get as many Christians involved in that mission as possible.

In the process, we want to lead as many as we can into a growing relationship with Jesus.

I realize you might be thinking well isn’t that what every other church is trying to do? Not really.

Not all churches will be as explicitly outsider focused as we are.  And even if they are, they will express it differently. Their music, teaching and the way they gather will be different.

And they will reach people we’ll never reach. That’s great.

And we may reach a few others won’t reach. That’s equally great.

But we won’t feel the pressure to be something we’re not. Neither will they.

We’ll each be free to pursue the ministry and gifts God has given us.

This Can Be Very Liberating

So just imagine.

God has set you and your church free to contribute the best you can to a mission that’s bigger than all of us.

God has set you free to become the leader you were designed to be, equipped with your best.

And God hasn’t left you alone.

How amazing is that?

Do you struggle with feeling the false pressure of being the entire church?

How have you overcome it?

Scroll down and leave a comment!


  1. Check out | HeadHeartHand Blog on February 13, 2017 at 6:45 am

    […] How To (Finally) Stop Giving In To The Pressure to Add More Ministries In Your Church The most effective churches these days are often the churches that do a few things and do them well. […]

  2. […] Carey Nieuwhof   |   How to (Finally) Stop Giving in to the Pressure to Add More Ministries in Your Church […]

  3. David on February 7, 2017 at 4:12 am

    This is a helpful article. I agree with Time2speak. 1Thessalonians 4:1 says, “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.” Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” 1Peter 2:17 further says, “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” This principle is also found in Ephesians 6:6 “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” The more that there is the fear, i.e. deep respect, of the Lord among us the more united and effective we should be and we will please God. May God help us with seeking HIS face, through God’s Word and in prayer, and humbly doing HIS will.

  4. Marcus on February 6, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Carey – this is really helpful – there is always pressure to just do more – rather we need to focus and thats when we really see fruit. Most of us operate best when we focus on just a few things.

  5. eddie_dantes on February 4, 2017 at 9:40 am

    excuses another step by some “respected” minister to knock down the authority of the bible. Go ahead do what you want. That is called serving the flesh or as I said above, just excuses because you are failing.

  6. ServantHeart2012 on February 3, 2017 at 9:04 am

    If each of us can answer the question; “What breaks your heart?” and begin to work toward healing that heartbreak, we can make a difference. Seek out an organization that is already doing good work in the area that “breaks your heart” and partner with them as an individual, couple, family, small group, whatever. Share your time and resources as you are able. That is BEING the church! Great article!

  7. Time2speak on February 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    This principle applies on so many levels. What it comes down to is that each entity, whether person, local church, para-church organization, etc must ask the same question. What has God asked/called ME to do and how has He equipped me/us to accomplish that task. I suspect that when we lose this focus, we run the risk of being those who told the Master that they had cast out demons in His name, etc. The problem isn’t so much what they did but what they didn’t do. i.e. What he asked them to do–there’s a parable on THAT as well. Doing our own thing, though good, is rebellion and likely means we don’t know our Master too well, certainly not well enough to understand what He asks us to do.

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