Barriers: Overcoming the Barrier of Unfruitfulness in Your Ministry

Dr. Paul Chappell

Have you ever looked at your church program and ministry and seen much activity but not much fruit? This barrier is, quite simply, a lack of fruit that remains—and it is hardest to see in a very fervent ministry. We feel good when we are busy, when our calendars and schedules are full of ministry activity. But how long has it been since you really analyzed what all the “activity” is producing?

Jesus said, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8). God desires for you to bear fruit. You may be doing the wrong things, or you may be doing the right things the wrong way. Our church has hit this barrier more times than I can count, and every time we step back, re-evaluate, restructure, and re-engage.

Here are five ways to make sure all the activity of your church is finding some traction and taking the church toward fruitfulness:


Structure is important. Often a church is spinning its wheels because of a lack of clarity—either in purpose or in ministry function. A lack of clarity could be true of the whole church or of one ministry within the church. Step back from the situation and ask, “What is this ministry trying to accomplish? Does the team understand the function and purpose? Is the structure in place for it to function fruitfully?”


Define what you expect and then hold up those expectations. As a leader, you are the overseer of the ministry and you must inspect what you expect. Something that is not productive may be lacking in basic accountability. Dr. David Gibbs once told me, “Your standard is not what you write down on paper, it is what you allow.”


I realize this sounds “corporate,” but it is biblical and healthy. Have you ever walked around on Sunday morning to watch teachers teach, nursery workers serve, and greeters welcome people? If not, it’s time. Establish a system of reviewing your ministry—both your staff and your program.

We conduct annual reviews for our staff in January. This is a formal time when each staff member meets with his team leader or with the pastor. In this meeting we talk transparently and openly about strengths and weaknesses. It is a non-threatening, growth-oriented time of personal review and challenge. The feedback goes two ways in this meeting, and while there is some nervousness building up to it, everyone appreciates the meeting in the end. These reviews help us to stay productive as a team and to not take our responsibilities lightly or for granted.


Sometimes your ministry review will lead you to the basic conclusion that there needs to be some restructuring. These are sensitive changes involving the emotions and insecurities of people, and they need to be addressed wisely and compassionately.

The key is communication. When the leader communicates to his team clearly and positively, a true team will rise to the prospect of accomplishing more together for the Lord.


A growing church often involves hiring people for a new position. Finding the right people, training them, and then giving them the right responsibility is one of the most labor-intensive responsibilities a spiritual leader can have.

Excerpted from The Spiritual Leader by Paul Chappell