Discover That “Less is More” by Narrowing Your Focus

How can you lead your team to believe “Less is more” in a “More is more” world?

Every day, ministry leaders spend too much time, managing too much church “stuff,” for too little life-change. It is safe to say that the church in North America is over-programming her calendar and under-discipling her people.

Behind this reality is a stark irony: The effectiveness of our gospel work is limited, not by a lack of ministry effort but by an excess of ministry action.

The gospel-centered, transformational impact of your church sits as a malnourished beggar beside an every-growing buffet of church ministry programs.

We get too little discipleship precisely because we have too much church stuff.

Church stuff is the whole of the ministry activities that make up your church calendar. Programming that ranges from weekly worship and groups, to monthly programming or quarterly training opportunities.

Church Stuff = Any event service, meeting, class, or group that your church offers this year.

It’s time to narrow your focus.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Positioning, by Al Ries

What’s the secret to a company’s continued growth and prosperity? Internationally known marketing expert Al Ries has the answer: focus. His commonsense approach to business management is founded on the premise that long-lasting success depends on focusing on core products and eschewing the temptation to diversify into unrelated enterprises.

Using real-world examples, Ries shows that in industry after industry, it is the companies that resist diversification, and focus instead on owning a category in consumers’ minds, that dominate their markets. He offers solid guidance on how to get focused and how to stay focused, laying out a workable blueprint for any company’s evolution that will increase market share and shareholder value while ensuring future success.


Many churches today are multiplying new ministries or extending existing ministries at a torrid pace:

  • Starting a new worship service in a new style – not to reach more people, but because the time is convenient for existing members or because the church across the street seems effective
  • Adding a ministry program (compete with staffing, budget and a launch with a great deal of fanfare) in response to a voiced felt-need
  • Keeping a ministry program around long after its original purpose has passed – yet continuing to pour resources into expanding and keeping up with participant expectation
  • Expansive and ever-multiplying ministry programming in hopes of capturing a larger share of the unchurched “market”

In reality, these actions and more like them are reminiscent of the warning settlers of the old west were given: choose your rut carefully because you are going to be in it a long time.

The time has come to develop an organization’s power by narrowing its focus.

It should have been obvious that an organization cannot keep expanding its products forever. You reach a point of diminishing returns. You lose your efficiency, your competitiveness, and most ominous of all, your ability to manage a diverse collection of unrelated products and services.

Since a focus has to work in the mind of a customer, it can’t be complicated, high-minded, flowery, obtuse, or difficult to understand. It has to be a simple idea, expressed with simple words, and immediately understandable.

A simple focus is unlikely to come out of the overly complex strategic systems in place at many organizations. You are building a perception in the mind. It’s done with words, not bricks and mortar.

A focus is not likely to be found with an overly complicated team approach. A focus might be simple, but it’s not likely to be formulated in a frying pan into which everyone throws an idea or two. The more people involved in the process, the less likely the group ill be able to cook up a powerful focus.

A good focus will be simple, but recognizing a good focus is not so simple. It takes judgment, which is in incredible short supply in the world today.

Al Ries, Focus


Select six ministry programs, activities and ideas that are floating around your leadership team that seem to have good potential and list them on a chart tablet.

Write down six evaluation points or requirements that the idea should comply with, such as number of volunteers required, time, cost, etc. Use your Vision Frame as a core piece of this with these refining questions:

  • Is this idea helping us achieve our mission?
  • Which value is most present if we move forward? Which is most needed?
  • Where in our strategy does this fall and how does it lead forward?
  • In which mission measure do we expect to see growth in an participant’s life?

Now, assign each idea to one person on the team . One of them will present the idea as if it was on “missional trial” while the rest of the team should act as the jury

Right after the presentation, the jury ranks the idea from one to ten, with ten being the best and one being the worst. Base the rankings on both individual evaluations and group discussion.

The person that presented the idea and one random jury member should switch places in order to repeat the process, until all team members have presented their own idea.

Review all the rankings to identify the best idea. See Next Steps for Solutions 2 & 3 for similar ideas, through a different lens.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 42-1, published July June 2016

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.