If two ministries are equally committed to God, both listening for God’s direction, but one flounders and the other floats, what is the difference? One of the key differences will most likely be how each approaches people. Healthy ministry combines a commitment to the Lord with a respectful, caring approach to people.
This is not rocket science, but I’ve started ministries and been a part of ministry plants where it was assumed that the labels “prayer meeting” or “Bible study” would be enough to draw in the flock.
Ministry heavily depends on connecting with people where they are. Understanding people and accommodating to their context is not the same as compromising the message of the Gospel.
There are a series of questions we should ask such as: What are the demands on these people at work, within their families, and in the church community, if any? How much free time do they have? What are their struggles? What is our goal for this ministry or meeting? How can we keep a balance between structure and freedom so that God is able to work, but chaos is not inevitable?
My own experiences in the nonprofit world have demonstrated that structure cannot be imposed on a group. It must grow and adapt within a group. When a non-contextual structure is imposed, the group feels trapped, resulting in a loss of momentum and interest.
The group I speak of flourishes with a very informal leadership structure, loose mission statement (in fact, it’s not necessarily needed in a formal sense since everyone knows why we meet), and open participation within the group. That format was planned based on the situation of the members and the longevity and health of the group illustrates the success of such an approach.
It’s not enough to just plan a Bible study or a prayer group. Whenever there are people involved–and unless your Saint Francis, that will be the case–our ministries face the challenge of meeting people where they are.