Programmatic Ministry or Organic Ministry? Here’s a Third Option

My latest post at

“Moving the ministry of your church forward requires a delicate dynamic of giving and receiving between the leaders and members. If not monitored closely, this dynamic morphs into a tug-of-war match, which always ends up with one side tumbling. If not both.

When the effort behind the ministry tugs toward the leaders, programmatic ministry results. This is when the church does things through events and campaigns run mainly by the pastors and elected church leaders. On the other hand, when the members mostly pull the ministry forward, organic ministry will characterize the church. That is to say, spontaneous, relational service and outreach will be deemed most valuable and authentic.

Both programmatic and organic ministry have strengths that all churches desire. We need pastoral ministry teams that can dream big and make big things happen. Furthermore, it is every pastor’s dream to have members so invested in kingdom work that they reach out to their fellow church members and cities without being prodded.

Despite the strengths that each model brings, if either programmatic ministry or organic ministry is allowed to run the church, the church’s ministry efforts will soon be hindered.

Here’s why.”

Read the rest here.


  1. Eric,

    Thank you for your post on this topic. As elders of about a four year old church plant, we have been discussing the whole organized ministry vs. organic ministry for quite some time.

    I think your conclusion of “structures” is generally correct, but many times I have a hard time distinguishing between structures and programs. So, for example, we implemented Grace Groups (i.e., Small Groups) back in January. Is this a program or a structure? Our whole purpose has been to provide A CONTEXT for the one anothers of Scripture. Our desires it that through the “program” (or structure?), people will organically be doing the one anothers, so that if we cancelled formal Grace Groups, the stuff of Grace Groups would still happen.

    Any further thoughts on distinguishing between programs and structures? Would you call a Small Group ministry a program or a structure?


    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Dan, you bring up a great point. I would call small groups neither a “structure” nor a “program” because it is bigger than those two things. When I think of programs, I think of events, campaigns, etc. that come to an end, whether after a day, a week, or a couple months.

      Since small groups go on indefinitely, I would simply call it a “ministry”, but I would want to support it with streamlined structures. For example: processes to join a small group and training of leaders.

      You’re right to point out that you want to see organic ministry happen as a result of small groups, which indicates that they are structure-like.