Two weeks ago Disney announced that, after purchasing LucasFilm from George Lucas a few months back, they are shutting down the company’s video game division, LucasArts.
If, like me, you played computer games in the 1990s and 2000s, this is a time of grieving. LucasArts created some of the greatest games of the last two decades and gave me some of my favorite PC gaming memories:
- I flew against the Luftwaffe over Germany on my friend’s computer.
- I learned how to install additional RAM on my computer in order to steal the plans to the Death Star.
- I helped Professor Jones discover Atlantis.
- I installed a CD-ROM drive to play Rebel Assault (even though I never got past the caves on Hoth).
- I sacrificed a box of wind-up bunnies in order to cross a minefield.
- I piloted a TIE fighter for the glory of the Empire.
So the news left me somewhat surprised and saddened; another little piece of my adolescence has been parceled off.
That having been said, it was probably the right move for Disney to make. LucasArts’s track record in the last few years has been lackluster (their last published game was the dismally reviewed Star Wars Kinect, a game that actually included a Han Solo dance mini-game) and many of the best games using LucasFilm properties in recent years have been developed by other companies.
In other words, LucasArts was no longer producing games at its former levels, and other companies were doing a better job creating games with LucasFilm properties.
What does this have to do with ministry?
One of the hardest things to do is stop doing good things, especially good things we’ve been doing for a long time. Unfortunately we can’t do it all and sometimes we have to stop doing good things in order to do better things. In the case of Disney, this meant recognizing that they could license their propertieis to other companies who were just as capable of making great games, minimizing risk while freeing up resources for other projects and pursuits.
For parishes, this means recognizing when a program or ministry has come to the end of its lifespan. Usually this means a ministry that no longer serves the needs it was created for or consumes too many resources, leaving nothing for other important pursuits. Knowing when to refocus or even end a ministry is a difficult but task for all catechetical leaders, whether it’s a once-thriving small group ministry that has dwindled to a few members, or a youth ministry that has become more focused on activities and trips than the proclamation of Jesus Christ.
They key in all of this is discernment and regular review of a parish’s activities. We shouldn’t be afraid to take a close look at where we are putting our time and resources. Budget time is the perfect time to do this since it means looking at what is already going on and planning for the future. (As a wise CFO I worked with once remarked, a budget is moral document since it tells us what our priorities are.) This doesn’t always mean shutting down ministries; it may simply mean restructuring them or scaling them back to more appropriate levels. But it does mean a fundamental shift in how the parish views its ministries.
Of course this process won’t come without some grieving; as I said, it’s always hard to stop doing good things. But as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time for all things, including a time for endings. Our stewardship of the gifts we have been given requires nothing less than that we use them with care.
When was the last time you evaluated the programs you run? Are there any “good things” you should let go of so as to be free to pursue greater things?