As I consult church leaders who want to lead their congregations into group-driven church life, I often find they have invited an outside ministry to do for them what they should be doing for themselves.
One church desperately needed to multiply their groups, but a non-profit with a marriage enrichment focus had entrenched themselves in this local church three years earlier. The ministry representatives—who raised their financial support through member enrollment—successfully recruited all the potential small group leaders from this church's groups to lead marriage enrichment groups instead. The workbooks and cost of participation wasn't cheap either—they asked for $200 a couple for an 8-week investment.
The marriage ministry's goal was to build the marriage ministry, not teach a church how to help couples fortify their marriages so they could fulfill the church's vision.
When the pastoral staff and elders realized what they had allowed, it was too late. They actually lost a number of people who only cared about marriage enrichment and the non-profit ministry's entrenched process, not the overall vision and mission of the church.
This is the problem with most non-profits in operation today. They truly believe they are in ministry to help a church do something they can't do for themselves, filling an important ministry void. However, their ongoing financial support strategy and ministry expansion method is to embed their model in local churches and milk it for whatever they can get out of it.
I'll never forget my first days here at TOUCH. My dad sat me down and told me something I've never forgotten. He said, "Son, we are not here to be a parasite that feeds off the local church and cripples it by doing something for them that they should be doing for themselves. Our ministry is to equip them to be the church without long-term need of any single outside source."
Everything we offer is to educate you and enable you to do your own ministry in your own church. We even encourage churches who have purchased our materials for more than 3 years to tear the binding off a copy and re-write the books in their own words, weaving their church's values, mission, vision, and stories into the principles and self-publish.
Take a good look at the outside ministries to whom your church relates. Are they helping you learn how to do a facet of ministry yourself with the goal to step away sooner than later? Or do you get the feeling they are sucking the life out of your church members and leaders for funding and expansion?
If you don't know for sure, invite them to give you a firm exit date and work toward it, equipping your people to do the ministry to support your missional thrust—holistic small groups.