Can You Spot the Difference between a Step and a Program?

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steps not programs“Next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends.

Next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends is a core concept in my ministry strategy. It’s an adaptation of one of Andy Stanley’s 7 Practices of Effective Ministry (“steps, not programs”).

If you’ve been along for very much of this conversation, this is not news to you. Still, you may have questions or wonder what might be defined as a step (as opposed to a program)? And it will pay to have a keen eye for the difference, if only because long-time advocates of certain programs will question your reasoning when you begin to trim your belong and become menu. See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.

Here are several key lines from the 7 Practices of Effective Ministry that will help break it down:


“According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a program is ‘a system of services, opportunities, or projects, usually designed to meet a social need.”

“When you think programs you start by asking, ‘What is the need?’ The first question is usually followed by a second question: ‘How are we going to meet that need?'”


“The American Heritage Dictionary defines a step as ‘one of a series of actions, processes, or measures taken to achieve a goal.’

“When you think steps you start by asking, ‘Where do we want people to be?’ That question is followed by a second, more strategic question: ‘How are we going to get there from here?'”

If you want to build a ministry that effectively helps people move from crowd to core, you must understand how to spot the difference between a step and a program. Designing a belong and become menu with a carefully selected set of steps is an essential activity. See also, Foundational Teaching: Next Steps for EVERYONE and Crowd-to-Core: An Essential Understanding at the Heart of My Strategy.

Image by Nicholas Raymond

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