The youth leaders and some of the leading students in our group had a conversation on Facebook about what a successful ministry actually is, and the conversation was so good that I wanted to share what was said.
What a successful ministry is not
- A successful ministry is not about numbers
- So many ministries measure their success strictly by the number of committed members (in this case the number of youth attending) or by the size of the budget for that ministry. Measuring the success of a ministry in this way not only discredits the fact that God is working, but places the entire ministry on the skills of its leaders. We talked about how ministry, all ministry, is God’s work. It really doesn’t depend on us at all. We need simply be committed to doing what God has called us to do.
- A successful ministry is not about programs
- Programs are good. At Gorman we offer a great Sunday School program, a great children’s program, a great youth program, a growing young adult program. Women’s Bible studies, Senior Adult luncheons, Financial Peace University, AWANAS, Upward Sports etc… Emphasizing programs as the end-all ministry of the church implies that the church’s goal is to entertain. Though there is a valuable place for entertainment in the work of God’s kingdom, entertainment is not the church’s goal. Our programs cannot define our ministry.
- A successful ministry is not about income
- Let’s just say, there is a reason churches are listed as Non-Profits.
- Ministry is not about popularity
- Some of the best preachers and teachers and pastors on the planet are those who are not known. As ministers of the Gospel (I think every Christian fills the role of a minister), our objective is not to be known, but to make Christ known.
- A successful ministry is not about being contemporary
- Even though being contemporary helps to reach a contemporary culture, there are traditional churches (hymnbook and King James) that see more people come to know Christ every year than churches that have the “coolness factor” of being contemporary. I am glad to belong to a church that values contemporary style, but this is not what church is about.
- A successful ministry is not about being perfect
- We are all sinners; I think that we can be mature enough to admit that and to not expect all those involved in our ministries to be perfect. If a ministry was composed of perfect people, only Christ would be worthy. We can welcome in even the worst of sinners, knowing that God is in the business of making all things new.
What a successful ministry is
Consider the ministry of Jesus as He was on this earth. He did not seek a position at the Temple. He did not promote Himself as a public figure or a personality. He ministered to those who would listen. He did not have a cool name for His ministry. He did not classify Himself as a Pharisee or a Zealot or an Essene, and certainly not as a Sadducee. He was a Jew by birth and He ministered mostly to Jews. Ministry to Jesus was service and while serving, He told people how they could have eternal life. There were no cool logos or regular services, yet many came to salvation because of Christ’s public ministry before His death and resurrection. What, then, is a successful ministry?
- A successful ministry is all about relationships
- Good relationships are the basis for a successful ministry. This requires that we connect even outside of “church service”. How often do we call each other, spend time with one another, invite one another over for dinner, etc… This is one of the marks of a successful ministry. Jesus spent most of His time with the people that He was ministering to. There are only a couple of times in Scripture when Christ is recorded as being by Himself (e.g. when He prayed and when He left the crowd of 5,000 as they were trying to make Him king). Ministry is all about relationships.
- Church ministry will not be successful if we do not maintain relationships other than on Sundays and Wednesdays. Call a friend just to say hi! If you are a social network kind of person, always encourage and interact with others.
- A successful ministry is all about service
- Everywhere Christ went, He was serving others. Not only is service a necessary component of church ministry, but also a necessary component in relationships and in personal ministry. Service can present itself in a variety of ways, but the heart is always the same. Our service reflects the genuine care that we have for others. If we want to reach our community, let us serve! Here’s the exciting thing: the church does not have to sponsor a formal program for people to find a place of service. If we see needs in our community, that is a call to service! If we see needs in the lives of others, that is a call to service! If the people of the church were committed to individual service, God would be reflected in our community, and the Church, I have no doubt, would grow exponentially. Many of us do not feel close to God because we have not reflected Him in serving others. Individual service is just as important for the Christian as individual Bible study. For, the group of Pharisees who are the famous self-centered religious people of Christ’s day knew the scriptures; but they did not serve.
- A successful ministry is all about the Gospel
- Service and relationship both open up opportunities for us to share the most important truth of all: the truth of what Christ has done for us. Jesus always told others how they could have eternal life as He lived with them and as He served them. Through the proclamation of the Gospel by every believer, the Church will grow by God’s grace and for His honor and glory.
The sad reality is, most western churches have lost what it means to be a successful ministry. Either they put too much emphasis on programs and events or they focus on numbers. Some churches are strong in sharing the Gospel, but weak in service; not realizing that people don’t care what we know until they know that we care. We can make good-looking logos and offer a multitude of programs, and these are good things; but they mean nothing if we do not maintain good relationships, serve others and always have the message of Christ on our tongues. The success of any ministry relies on the commitment of all its members to these three things. Let’s go out and make a difference for God’s kingdom!