The art of one thing

by Joe Loughlin on March 17, 2016 in Faith

Being the ultimate single-tasker, I often find myself overwhelmed with the aspects of ministry that resemble some version of juggling--believe me, those who've mastered tossing and catching chainsaws and things afire have nothing on today's ministry leader. But, more often than not, I have found the ability to hone in on one thing at a time to be a distinct advantage in three-plus decades of ministering in and through transition. It's the art of the one thing.

For example, when I arrived at a new ministry assignment which clearly called for major transition (the only other option was for the ministry to die), I found myself overwhelmed with numerous aspects of the setting that needed to change. But, I resisted and focused on the one thing that was most obvious--Sunday morning. At the time, the usual Sunday morning format included two 45-minute time slots, back-to-back, one for Bible study and one for worship (hymn singing followed by a brief devotional). No doubt, it would have been easy to succumb to the temptation to make major changes to almost every aspect of the church's ministry and programming, but I knew that would exhaust everyone, especially me. So, I decided to focus solely on sprucing up the Sunday morning experience.

And, we kept it simple focusing on three basic areas:

Small Groups

We added one adult Sunday School class for couples, so that there was another option beside the one women's or one men's classes, depending on your gender. We didn't ask permission. We simply found and enlisted a couple in their mid-forties (there were about four such couples in the church) and turned them loose. They immediately began to reach adult peers with kids the same age as theirs (teenagers!!!).


The church had sort of a "chapel in the woods mindset, which was quaint and cute but lacked anything resembling fellowship. We noticed attendees tended to arrive a mere couple of minutes before the worship service began and cleared out immediately after it concluded. So, we added a coffee and donut time before Bible study and added a 15-minute break between Bible Study and Worship. We also added a greeting time during the worship service. Before long, we noticed people arriving earlier and staying afterward.

High-Quality Atmosphere

We strived for excellence in every aspect of an attendee's Sunday morning experience, taking advantage of the pristine beauty of the church's physical structure as a reference point. Truly, it was an aesthetically beautiful escape in the country, something we could use positively. We brought in musicians from a nearby university, added a full-length sermon (some would argue whether this was an improvement over a brief devotional), and added elements designed to appeal to children and teenagers. The most common attitude we had to deal with was not the expected, "We've never done it that way before," but rather, "We're too small to try that." We had to overcome an expectation that because the church was small, mediocre ministry was acceptable.

Slowly but surely, over the span of a couple of years, we were able to raise the bar on what Sunday morning looked like and how it felt. The result of that concerted focus was new and younger families willing to drive to our remote location and bring their friends with them. Our focus on the one thing made a huge difference. By the time we afforded ourselves time and energy to look at the other blocks of ministry programming, we had the fresh voice of younger thinkers and volunteers to help us carry that load.

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