Is it time to close a program in your church? Many leaders will tell you, "When the horse is dead, dismount." But this classic advice rolls of the tongue  much easier than it plays in real life.

As a leader in ministry you have no doubt faced ministries that just ought to go. Like sour milk, they live past their shelf-life. But for various reasons, you just can't do it. Maybe there is still a group of precious saints being served by the program. Or maybe the decision-making culture of the church just requires more time to process.

The question becomes, "What are the strategic alternatives, to cutting a ministry altogether?" There are three I recommend regularly.

#1 Combine the ministry with something that is working well

Combining ministries is like creating an internal merger. Look for the similarities to something that is working. Talk to the leaders about leveraging the momentum of one with the other. Seek the win-win with diligence and you might be surprised. If the merge works, then you have cut the duplicate work of promotion, communication and  leadership training for two initiatives into one.

#2 "Contributize" the ministry

Before you make fun of my poetic license with the word "contributize" listen up! Think of a ministry that is only trickling with effectiveness as an opportunity to redirect that trickle into a more effective stream. In other words, turn the program into a contributory for a more strategy ministry. For example, what do you do with that monthly men's prayer breakfast that's been dwindling in attendance for the last 3 years. Rather than shutting it down, ask the leader to integrate a promotion for immediate and urgent opportunities for service in the last 10 minutes of the morning.

#3 Cage the ministry

Caging is close to just cutting the ministry, but with one big difference. You essentially make the ministry "dead to the world" with regard to promotions, communication, staff-time allocation and new funding, while allowing the ministry to exist. Think of it as a strategic way to allow a ministry to die with grace. Sure you may have some hard discussions or even some battles to fight. But its easier to fight for not publicly promoting a ministry  than it is to shut it down.

In the end, the predicament of change-resistance is not a programming issue or a people issue, it's a vision issue. Use these three strategies to solve the clarity problems of yesterday. But walk into the future with a clear vision that will keep people emotionally connected to your direction and values, not your programs.