Might now be the time for a proper audit?

As we’re in the middle of lockdown and can’t do almost anything we would usually do, we have been afforded an opportunity to ask a question that we so rarely ask. In the busyness of doing all the things we are doing, we so rarely get the chance to ask whether those things are actually worth doing. We have all these things that we are doing, that take enough time up with preparation and delivery, that we don’t often have the time to figure out whether what we’re doing is really worth all the time and energy we spend on it.

As a small church, we have very few resources. We have limited man power and little in the way of money that we can put behind any given ministry. Very often, the work of ministry falls on the same handful of folks who are usually running multiple things. Whilst it is good practice for any church, we have to take stock and ask whether we are using our scant resources in the best way.

But, as it is, the Lord has suddenly cleared our schedule. Almost everything, apart from Sunday services, got wiped out by lockdown. We now find ourselves with a clear opportunity to think through what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Are the various things we do fit for purpose? Are they achieving what we want them to achieve? Are they making the best use of time?

So, in the next few weeks, we are planning an audit of every ministry of the church. Every meeting, every programme, everything we do. The only thing that gets a total pass is the weekly gathering of God’s people on Sunday. That is something the Lord commands clearly in his Word – along with the various elements that make up the service – so we have no intention of dropping that. It is worth saying, just before lock down we did think through what we do in our Sunday service and whether we needed to think more carefully about the order of what we do and why we do it anyway. You can listen to a bit more about that in one of our recent podcast episodes.

We have assembled a small team who will be meeting together in the next few weeks to undertake the audit. They will be armed with our vision statement, our church values and a list of what we do as a church. We will then ask, honestly and seriously, whether each of these things is fulfilling its purpose and, crucially, whether we should stop doing them. No doubt some of them will continue whilst others probably won’t. We may generate some new ideas too that we think will make better use of our resources, more of the gospel and bring more glory to Christ.

Of course, the problem whenever you undertake these sorts of things is that everything we started running has some merit to it. Whilst we may not have time to critically assess all that we do in as much depth as we would like, we do have a bit of a handle on what is going well and what isn’t. We have stopped doing things before because they just weren’t fruitful or doing anything very helpful. So, we don’t press on with things that are totally pointless just because. Which means everything we are doing has some merit and, as with anything that does, there will always be those loath to stop something that has some value. The difficulty with our task is not deciding what is a pointless waste of time (though there may be some things that struggle to meet that bar), so much as which things are not as valuable as they could be and should not continue. In other words, are there things we run that – despite what value they may have – are not as valuable as the time and energy we would get back if we stopped doing them?

The other question on the table is whether there are things deemed valuable that might be done better. That is, we don’t want to stop them because we think they are fulfilling their purpose, but they are perhaps not doing as well as they might. So, we are not just asking what to stop, but also which things should be kept, but nevertheless could be improved?

I can’t pre-empt what the team are going to come up with. The elders are going to be part of the review, but we’re not the only ones in it. Nor will we be a majority in the room as a collective group. But what I hope happens at the end of the audit is that we end up with a sustainable, consistent and coherent set of things we do as a church that clearly serve the cause of the gospel and are valuable means of either reaching the lost or discipling the saved.

Maybe this is something you might want to think about in your own church too? As things have quietened down and we have the breathing room to think things through, are there ministries that you run just because you’ve always done them? Are there things that were once fruitful but now, when you look at them, aren’t so much any more? Are there things you could be doing that would serve the cause of the gospel more effectively that you aren’t doing because less effective things are being maintained? It may well be that much of what you’re doing now remains part of what you carry on doing. But might it be worth just asking the question now, before everything ramps back up again and we just settle into what we’ve always done for little more reason than it’s what we’ve always done?