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Is your ministry a laser or a lightbulb?

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

PENTAX ImageA lightbulb can brighten up a dark room. A laser can cut through steel. Lightbulbs disperse soft light in every direction for a short distance. Lasers can only be focused in a single direction but, theoretically, one beam can travel infinitely.

In the same way your ministry is either a laser or a lightbulb.

After his resurrection Jesus gave his disciples a laser-like focus to “go and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:19.) The book of Acts is the working out of this mission in real and tangible ways. Yes, part of this disciple making process was gathering together on a regular basis (Acts 2:42) and prioritizing key values Acts 6:4) but the pulsating heart of the early church was active disciple making. The apostles were laser like in their focus. As a result the church exploded from Jerusalem to Rome in less than 30 years.

What does this have to do with your ministry? Plenty!

There are far too many nice, little 60 watt ministries that do nice, little 60 watt activities and get nice, little 60 watt results. These ministries shine some semblance of light but usually it can’t be seen outside the sanctuary they are meeting in (for the third time this week.)

But laser-focused ministries have a single obsession. Everything they do surrounds and supports this one thing. As a result the results of their efforts are visceral and powerful.

I can’t help but think of my youth leader friends Jason and Laura Loewen in Michigan. For years they were a lightbulb ministry and that lightbulb was about to get burnt out. Laura wrote, “Overcommitted and maxed out, we took our students to summer camps, winter camps, service projects and had a monthly outreach event. In conjunction with our Sunday morning and Wednesday night programming, we had far too much on all our plates and were headed for status-quo, soon-to-burn-out youth ministry.”

Jason attended a youth leader training sponsored by Dare 2 Share where he had a “lightbulb” moment about their lack of a laser focus. According to his wife, “Jason then had somewhat of a lightbulb experience: what if we scratched all the ‘stuff’ that wasn’t producing much fruit and just focused on a couple things that had real potential for life change? With that, we vowed to not waste our or the students time with quick-fix, short-term programming.”

As a result their ministry has experienced significant growth (both spiritual and numeric) because of their singular focus on making disciples who make disciples.

What’s true of churches is true of para-church organizations as well.

The ministry I’m blessed to lead is called Dare 2 Share. We started in 1991 with the laser-like focus of “energizing a generation to evangelize their world.” But, slowly, over the years we broadened our mission statement. We ventured into developing more tools and resources to help teenagers grow deeper in their faith, own their faith and live their faith. Of course these are all part of the disciple-making process but not part of Dare 2 Share’s original mission statement.

About six years ago our chairman told me bluntly, “We have four bull’s eyes (know, live, share and own) and we only have one arrow…we need to focus down to one thing.” This kind of sent me into a tailspin. Our executive team had been working hard on developing and honing, not just our mission statement, but our entire ministry around these four priorities. His one statement (and the board’s concurrence) sent all of our plans back to the drawing board.

Thank God.

It’s too long of a story to tell now but this singular decision saved our ministry from potential financial failure and prepared the way for expansion in ways we never anticipated.

That’s the power of focus.

Does your ministry have a singular, obsessive focus? Does everything you do support that one thing? Does that one thing match the one thing Jesus gave his disciples?

If not, it may be time to focus.

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