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Every ministry has a sacred cow.

Sometimes sacred cows need to die.

But how do you kill a program in a healthy way?

Here are the steps I follow in order to slaughter sacred cows:

1. Enter a time of prayer and discernment. Since people are, by nature, resistant to change, invite others to join you in this process. When people have a hand in making a decision, they’re more likely to support it.

2. Individually examine the questionable program’s…

Value: What has and does the program contribute to your ministry, congregation, and larger community?
Sustainability: Is your program breathing life into your ministry or sucking life out of it? How much momentum and funding does the program have?
Worthwhileness: Is it good stewardship to continue pouring resources as well as the time and energy of leaders and students into the program? Is the program worth a night away from people’s families?
Seasonality: How long has the program been around? Is it possible it’s run it’s course and that God might be calling it to end?

3. Collectively examine the program’s value, sustainability, worthwhileness, and seasonality. Reach consensus around as many answers to the above questions as possible before then moving back into a time of prayer and discernment.

4. Together with those involved in your discernment process, determine what God is calling you to do.

5. If God is calling you to continue with the program, take time to determine how you will intentionally reinvigorate it. Make plans to reevaluate it at a specific time, so as not to let it linger indefinitely on life-support.

6. If God is calling you to kill a program, carefully determine how to share the news with people. Frame your decision positively and hopefully. Positivity enables you to celebrate and affirm the fruit that’s come from that program. Hope enables you to live into the future rather than dwell on the program’s death.

After working through the aforementioned process, my youth ministry recently made the decision to kill one of our staple programs: A relationally based Kids Club ministry for refugee children, which my high school students faithfully ran for four years.

In many ways, this program was one of our ministry’s best. It gave teens the chance to put their faith into action and provided a frequent entry point for friends to get involved in our ministry.

The problem was by the end of the school year, high school teens outnumbered the refugee children 7 to 1.

So after much prayer and discernment, we killed it.

We are, of course, grieving it’s loss. But we’re also convinced it’s far better to kill a program than to indefinitely keep it on life-support, in the process allowing it to rob our ministry of much needed energy and resources.

We’re also hopeful about the future, curious to see what new ministries will emerge in it’s absence.

After all, in Christianity, life comes from death.

So it is when we kill programs. By intentionally killing some, we make room for others to grow and flourish.