The numbers game
Over a coffee, one of my Pastor friends was lamenting the recent low attendances in his church. “It must be the school holidays,” he said, “people go away.” He was obviously a little discouraged. It’s funny how the numbers affect us. We are up when they are up, and down when they are down.
Get a group of pastors together, ask them the size of their church and you will likely get some spin on the answers. That’s because church size is perceived as the primary indicator of personal ministry success. The leaders of larger churches are deemed to “have it” while those of smaller churches “have not.”
Undoubtedly church size is an indicator of something, but is it alone the indicator of success? That’s a good question to reflect on. The discovery of other more valid indicators might just save you from the emotional oscillations that elate or deflate the soul, depending on how the numbers roll.
Quantity versus quality
We want our churches to grow but what if our primary goal shifted from growing the numbers to growing the people.
However many people God has entrusted to us, their spiritual maturity should be our first concern. Certainly, the goal is growth, but the best growth is that which leads people more deeply into the person and purpose of Christ. This is a quality kind of growth.
When quality rather quantity is the goal, the question for evaluating ministry success is not how many people are in the church but rather how much “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness…” etc, is in the church? I get a kick out of seeing people grow in Christ. A church full of the evident and experiential presence of Christ through its people is far more fruitful than a church that is just “full.”
Your real potential
When measuring our success (or lack of it) the worst thing we can do is compare ourselves with others. Comparison is futile because God doesn’t grant everyone the same.
Your potential influence will be determined by three factors:
Your Call – the specific purpose you are to fulfil
Your Capacity – the specific anointing/gifting to fulfil the call
Your Context – the specific place where the call is to be fulfilled
It is important to get a revelation of God’s destiny for you within those parameters and go for those. Such insight reveals that ministry success is never measured by church size but whether your ministry is progressing towards its potential according to call capacity and context. In the end, ministry success is just one thing, doing what God has asked you to specifically do.
Who are you chatting with about how you really feel?
Ps Wayne Peat has over 30 years experience in pastoral ministry leadership. He is Senior Minister C3 Church Howick NZ. His book Staying Power is a helpful read. “ “Staying Power – surviving ministry long term” addresses some of the key issues that lead to the high attrition rate in ministry and provides ways of overcoming them. My prayer is that it will help pastors and leaders prepare for and negotiate the inevitable challenges so that they will stay the course.”
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