Do you have a business or ministry you are completely passionate about, but is not thriving? Are you growing discouraged or frustrated by slow growth or a recent downturn? You are not alone. These things happen to us all at one point or another. Writers, speakers, ministers, and entrepreneurs, Kathi Lipp and Michele Cushatt know a thing or two about business and ministry. Today the ladies discuss 5 steps you need to take when your business or ministry is in a slump.
Episode 159: What do you do when your ministry isn’t growing. Part 1
Hosts – Kathi Lipp and Michele Cushatt
In today’s episode, you will know:
- How to recognize the seasons of business and ministry.
- The 5 steps to take to quell the panic.
- How to get your heart in the right place.
- How to focus on what matters and not on what distracts.
Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
To share your thoughts:
To help out the show:
- Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
- Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our list now and never miss an episode or blog.
Join us for next week’s episode (Part 2) when we talk about the next steps you can take to get your head in the game and get through any slow season.
Transcript of this Episode
Read along with the podcast!
Communicator Academy Podcast # 159
What Do You Do When Your Ministry or Business Isn’t Growing?
Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Communicator Academy, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicator God created them to be. Joining me today is my swerve-y friend, Michele Cushatt, ’cause she can go to the left! She can go to the right! She do all the things! She can change it up. Hey, Michele!
Michele – Hey there, Kathi. Swerve-y. I like that. It’s different than swarthy.
Kathi – Yes, that’s true. I don’t want you to be swarthy.
Michele – Swarthy is dark and hairy and I don’t feel like being that.
Kathi – You know, it was so funny. I had to come up with a title for somebody – you know Sarah Troutman, one of my farite people on the planet – and I told her she was a Stone Soup Starter. Half the people at the table didn’t know what I meant. I’m a thousand years old, because if people don’t know the story of Stone Soup, I won’t take the time here, because we want to talk about communication, but it’s one of my favourite stories.
Michele – Now everybody’s going to have to go out and Google Stone Soup.
Kathi – You know what? Go to the Wikipedia page. There’s a Stone Soup. She’s just somebody that creates communities of sharing and giving. Yes, so you’re swerve-y, and I like swerve-y.
Michele – After summer, I am a little swarthy, ‘though I don’t have the hairy part.
Kathi – Hey, when I go to The Red House, and nobody’s there…?
Michele – Are you swarthy? Swarthy is really about dark skin.
Kathi – Let’s just say, from Tuesday morning, when Roger leaves to Thursday evening, there may be a lot less shaving going on than normal.
Michele – And to all our Communicator Academy friends, you just got way more information than you wanted. I love you!
Kathi – That’s right. Somebody will bring it up to me. Okay, so, the reason I consider you swerve-y, is because you, like many of the people I know, you and I have been in ministry and business slumps.
Michele – Yes! ‘Cause that’s what happens.
Kathi – That’s the real life here. It’s the real life to business. I don’t know about you, but there are so many times I would go through a slump and be like, “That’s it! I’m not going to write any more books. I’m not going to do any more speaking.”
Michele – Remind me again? How many times have we said that? “I’m all done!”
Kathi – “I’m all done!” and “Nobody loves me!”
Michele – “Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me!”
Kathi – “I’ll go eat worms!” So, I know that I have some friends that are sitting out there right now, who are saying, “I think it’s all over. I think I’ve written my one book, or I’ve done my one talk, and nobody needs to hear from me again.” And, can we just say? Maybe that’s true, (not that nobody needs to hear from you again) but I do believe there are seasons of ministry, and about three years ago, I was like, “I want my only job to be Mrs. Roger Lipp. That’s all I want in life!” Roger’s like, “Yeah, that’s adorable, Kathi.” But there are times when the bookings aren’t happening. The contracts aren’t happening. Everybody is succeeding except for you.
Michele – Everybody. I love how we use ‘always’ and ‘never’ and ‘everybody’.
Kathi – “All of my friends are getting these huge book contracts. They’re showing up on the Today’s Show. They are starting a book club and a thousand people join in the first three minutes. This is happening to everybody around us, except for us.”
Michele – “Everybody!” By the way, I just love our drama. It’s so much fun. We’re like our own reality show. We live on the fringes of emotion.
Kathi – And, during those times, the only people that like us are our dogs.
Michele – This is why we have dogs, so we have one person who can’t leave us a terrible review on Amazon.
Kathi – And it’s pretty funny that we keep calling them people. That shows our emotional state. So, here’s my question. What do we do when things aren’t growing? Or, maybe they’re shrinking. Maybe you looked at your Facebook numbers (which I highly suggest you don’t do) and a bunch of people just left. The spike is down. It’s a valley, not a mountain.
Michele – Facebook numbers as well as ConvertKit numbers. You send out a blog post and instantly three billion people unsubscribe, and you’re like, “Oh, my gosh! I’ve offended everyone!’
Kathi – Michele, do you know how many lists I’m still co-dependently on, because I don’t want to unsubscribe, because I don’t want to contribute to somebody else’s misery? That is the ultimate of co-dependency.
Michele – Yes. We’re a mess. First is, in our business ministries, there are times when it appears, whether it is perceived or real, that we’re in a slump. That the business is not growing, or it’s shrinking, and we don’t know what to do. And what happens is that, what I typically do when I notice this, well, naturally, I panic, because it’s so helpful and productive. I do the self-flagellation. “Obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing and people have finally figured out I’m a fraud and that’s why everything is falling apart.”
Kathi – That’s what everybody’s been saying behind your back, Michele.
Michele – “That it’s all now true. I’m finally coming to my senses.” Once I get past all that self-absorption, there is a process I walk through to really get clear on, to get my heart right, and then get my head right. On this episode, we’re going to talk about how to get your heart in the right place when your business is going through a slump, when your ministry is going through a slump. Then, on the next episode, we’re going to talk about how to get your head in the right place when your business or ministry is going through it.
Kathi – Because if your head is where it needs to be, but your heart isn’t, this is a temporary fix that’s going to keep with the self-doubt. Then you’re going to wonder, “Why are people liking my stuff?” It’s a twisted, twisted issue. So, let’s get our hearts right, then we can get our head and our hands right.
Michele – Okay, so the first step we’re going to do, when our ministry or business seems to be struggling, is, first of all, we need to pray.
Kathi – What a cliché, Michele.
Michele – Right? But the reality is, when we start to panic and respond to a ministry business that is struggling, what happens is, we search for evidence to confirm what we already believe. What we need to do is step away from all the numbers, and all the reviews, and all the feedback. We need to step away from it and get really grounded in reality. And the reality is: There is a God who loves us, who is sovereign, and that we can trust him. We need to put ourselves squarely at his feet, and the only way to do that is to step back and pray. Stop, and pray, and ask Him, “God, is this still what you want me to do? Is this still where you’re leading? Am I in the center of Your will, right here, or is there something you want me to do differently?” He really is the only one that should have the ultimate authority over whether or not we continue or discontinue our ministry business.
Kathi – Amen. So, we don’t want to trivialize prayer. We don’t want to make it sound like, “Well, if you’re a good Christian, that your first step.” But, I think so many times our heart is just broken. We’ve spent so much time, so much energy, and let’s be honest, so much money, pouring into this ministry, and to not see it grow, not see people being served in the way we thought it would be, it’s time to step back and take some reflection, and also, say, “God, is there something you want me to be doing differently? Or is this just the time right now, to be waiting?” Absolutely.
Michele – At that point, I can be so reactive to what’s happening around me, and prayer is a way of me stepping away from the reaction mode, to being proactive. It’s climbing off the hamster wheel and saying, “Nope. I’m not going to ride this roller coaster. We’re going to make some decisions, not reactions.”
Kathi – I love it.
Michele – Alright, so, the first step is to pray, and I take that very, very seriously. This is where you lay it all out on the table and you let God know, “This is not my ministry. This is Your ministry, God. You do with it what you want. Speak to me clearly. I’m following you, here.” Then, the second step is to Get Back to the Basics. Get back to your ‘why’. Why did you do this ministry in the first place? Why did you build this business in the first place? What was your motive? What was your heart behind this? You need to get back to why you started this entire thing in the first place. Then, the third step is, to also Remember Your ‘Who’. Who are you doing it for? At times, when we start reacting and responding to metrics and numbers and contacts, or the lack of, or speaking dates, or the lack of, we forget our ‘why’ and our ‘who’.
Kathi – Michele, I have a picture of my dad, when I was probably about two years old. When I am feeling lost, I think about how he’s part of the reason I do all this. I know that my day loved me, but his clutter got in the way of so much in our relationship. So, I remember the love. Also, when I get frustrated with people in my ministry, ’cause that happens. “Why can’t you just do this?” I remember the love my dad had for me and how much he wished he could have done for me, except for the issues with clutter. So, I remember that, and that helps keep me back at a place of saying, “I need to come at this in a place of servant-hood at all times.”
Michele – I had something similar recently. Someone left a review on one of my books that was probably one of the most scathing review I’ve ever had.
Kathi – Oh, I didn’t know!
Michele – It was the most scathing review I’ve received today. In fact, I sent it to my team, and they couldn’t read it. It was too painful. It was bad. That happens. It’s normal part of the business.
Kathi – You know I want to look that up and refute it right now, right?
Michele – Just let it go. My temptation in that moment is then to point my ship in the direction of that person, and pay attention to that one person, and redirect my entire cruise ship towards that one person. I had to stop and say, “Nope! I need to remember my ‘why’.” Why do I write what I write? I write for people who are in places of significant pain and suffering, and who are questioning their faith. Those are the people I’m doing it for, and that’s why I’m doing it, to hopefully, meet somebody in a really dark place, and help them see the light of God just a little bit. Just a glimmer of God’s presence. So, that’s my ‘why’, and my ‘who’ is for people who are really struggling. This person who wrote the review, it wasn’t for them. So, I don’t need to change my ship and direct it towards them. I don’t need to correct my course to aim towards her, because, it wasn’t for her.
Kathi – You know, Cheri Gregory is the one, and I don’t know who she quotes. It feels terrible that I can’t remember it, but, she always reminds me, “When you speak to your critics, you’re turning your back on your audience.” So, don’t face your critics, face your audience.
Michele – So, part of this process, when your business is in a slump, or you’re going through a struggle in your ministry, or it doesn’t seem like it’s working, or you get those reviews and you really think they’re right, you have to get back to your ‘why’ and your ‘who’. Why did you start doing this in the first place, and who are doing it for? Who is the person you’re doing it for?
Kathi – Absolutely.
Michele – So, the fourth and fifth steps kind of go together. So, you pray. You remember your ‘why’. You remember your ‘who’. Number Four: You Recognize Seasons of Rest. There are times, a season that you would call a slump, is simply a sabbatical. Why call it a slump, when you can call it a sabbatical?
Kathi – An unintended sabbatical, sometimes, but yes, a sabbatical.
Michele – Yes, a sabbatical. We can reframe it and call it something different. Rather than looking at this as, “Oh my gosh! My ministry is going under!”, reframe it and look at it as just a season of rest. Maybe this is a season of space, to pull back, and re-calibrate, and start building again. That means, it could be the best thing for you and your ministry or business.
Kathi – I love it. There are often times when I feel like, “Why is my calendar not booked? I was crazy this time of year.” I look at my Facebook feed and it’s like, “Oh! I was in this place and that place, and now I’m home a lot.” It’s amazing how many times I needed to be available for that.
Michele – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had several months that were wide open. “What’s going on? I have nothing coming up!” And, it turned out, I needed to be home for four months straight. It was God’s provision. So, sometimes you just need to recognize that there are seasons of rest and that it’s not your enemy, it actually could be a great asset. Then, the fifth step is just to recognize the rhythm of business. I have been self-employed for twenty years now. My husband has owned his own business for about sixteen years now. I have done this a long time. I coach entrepreneurs, and business owners, and ministry leaders all the time. Business operates according to rhythms. There are seasonal rhythms, times of year that pick up and times of year that slow down. There are rhythms of business. Every couple of years, there is a year or a season that is really slow. Don’t panic too much at a slow season. It could be merely the rhythm of business.
Kathi – It’s so interesting, because we look at our business and we think that if we’re succeeding, it’s just going up, up, up! And our groups are growing and our sales are growing, and so often, we need those times. Business cannot always be going up. It just can’t, and we need those times. I always think about it this way. I just had this interview with Ty Burrell, not Ty Burrell, oh my goodness. Ty from Extreme Home Makeover! Pennington! Ty Burrell, he’s on Modern Family. I’ve done this twice now. I can’t believe I do that.
Michele – I like that show.
Kathi – I like both Tys! I can’t help myself. So, he was talking about how we get creative when we have boundaries put on us; when we have limitations. So, when the money’s not coming in, that’s when I remember things like, “Oh, I should go check through all my subscriptions to see if I’m paying for things that I should not be paying for.” Or maybe there are people on my payroll that we don’t need to have there anymore. It’s caused me, recently, to reevaluate how we do our banking. I know that seems like such a small thing, but, we’ve been reading this amazing book called Profit First, and it has changed everything we’re doing financially. It’s caused us to pay attention. Actually, we’re not in a slump right now, but we were looking at ‘Why are we working so hard and there’s not the money coming in that we expect?” It caused us to go back and look and see what we need to do next. So, we need those limitations; those times where business is not at its best, so we can say, “Okay, how can we run lean and mean?”
Michele – Yes, exactly. That’s just the rhythm of business. The point of this first part of this podcast is for us to not allow ourselves to go into panic mode. Panic will not serve you. Fear, shame, doubt, panic, none of those things will help you if you are in a particularly difficult season of ministry and business. Really getting back, and getting grounded is going to be essential in coming through the season of struggle. The steps to that are, first to Pray, to really step away from all the negative evidence that you are seeing and to just get really grounded. Second: Remember Your ‘Why’. Why are you doing this in the first place? Why did you start this? Third: Remember Your ‘Who’. Who are you doing this for? Remember the face of the person that first inspired you to start this ministry. The pain point of that person. That pain or need you wanted to meet. Four: Recognize Seasons of Rest. Everybody, ever business ministry and person needs a season of rest. Also, recognize the rhythm of business. The business is not just an always up trajectory. There is a rhythm to that. When you stay grounded in these five different steps we’ve presented here, today, it will keep you from slipping into panic. Then, in the next podcast, we’re going to walk you through some practical steps you can take to help pull your ministry out of a slump, and push it forward.
Kathi – In other words, we’re going to get down to business. I know. How dorky is that, right?
Michele – Well, alright. Thank you for joining us, friends. You’ve been listening to Communicator Academy. I’m Michele Cushatt.
Kathi – And I’m Kathi Lipp.
Michele – You’ve been given the best message in the world. Now, go live it.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items
Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Author, Speaker, Mastermind Coach