One of the things I enjoy most about my job is organizing meetings. I know. Sounds crazy, right? Even more, I really love planning meetings when the team actually gets to create or ideate new concepts. Give me some big Post-it® notes, markers, candy on the table, and caffeine to fuel the participants, and it will be my favorite activity that brings me joy. And yes, I’m an extrovert. People energize me.
Creating and adding new content and ideas to your leadership or ministry strategy may be fun for you as well, but there’s an additional question leaders often forget to ask when they are moving into the future with new ideas. What are we doing that needs to stop?
For a moment, consider the team, the event, the ministry, or the work you are currently leading. When was the last time you truly evaluated the past and considered how to normalize ending something? Great leaders don’t just add more work to their plate without taking away something that isn’t working. So, what are some practical ways to consider ending something that needs to change? Here are a few suggestions leaders can take to heart.
- Normalizing endings recognizes when something isn’t working. Have you been doing the annual women’s event at your church and you’ve seen a gradual decline in the numbers of women who come? Are the women who are coming the same ones who came last year? And the year before? Doing something over and over for the sake of tradition (or preference) isn’t always a good strategy unless you make changes or say goodbye to the event.
- Normalizing endings is hard. It can even be painful. You might have to end something that you poured your life into, but the Lord may be leading you in a new direction. For instance, maybe the Lord is leading you to another job or position, even though the change can be difficult. You might have to move or make new relationships. You’ll have to watch someone else step into the role you once had. Recognize the difficulty of ending something and focus your energy on the future and not your past.
- Normalizing endings is like the seasons that come and go. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven.” This may sound cliche to you, but just as fashion trends come and go, some things must change in the way we do ministry. It can be as simple as changing some art or updating the way you greet visitors. Consider ways to include younger leaders who have insight into new trends and give them a place to help you spruce up what has gotten stale.
- Normalizing endings paves the way for the new. Just as the seasons come and go, if you end one thing, you make room for something new to begin. There are only so many days on the calendar, and women are busy. When you remove one activity, you are freeing them up to consider something else. Just as we are called to put aside the things that weigh us down, create new pathways for better ideas and opportunities for women to engage with God’s Word and with each other.
- Normalizing endings doesn’t mean everyone will agree. Let’s face it. Change can be hard and even harder for certain people. Be ready for lots of opinions, but seek the Lord’s direction and move forward. Consider how you are ending something and have conversations with those who are the most impacted. Remember Paul’s words in Romans 12:18, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
- Normalizing endings can be a collaborative effort. As a leader, you may have the final authority on what new ministries to begin and what to end. Even so, consider bringing a team of people together and get their input before making major decisions to end something. One practical way to do this is to give everyone four different colors of index cards. Instruct them to use the cards by writing down things you should start, stop, do more of, and do less of (each color represents one of these categories). This simple exercise gives everyone a chance to give input and can help normalize what needs to end.
- Normalizing endings involves celebrating and remembering what worked but also celebrating the possibilities of a preferred future. Before you say “goodbye” to a certain aspect of ministry, take time to celebrate the past and how God used it to draw women closer to Himself. Just because you are ending something doesn’t mean you can’t be thankful. This includes people who might be leaving your team. Celebrate them and remember Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Kelly D. King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church. You can hear Kelly at Lifeway’s You Lead events that are held in several cities around the country or listen to her co-host the Marked Podcast with Elizabeth Hyndman.