****SCROLL DOWN TO READ PART ONE FIRST****
Hopefully you’ve read Part ONE:
here are some of their responses (from my previous post).****
A professor from seminary: Success in ministry is incredibly subjective. It is made more difficult due to the corrupting influence of our culture that want to measure everything objectively (numbers, etc.). By those criteria Jesus was an abject failure. Second, we ministers could take the subjectivity for granted and allow ourselves to become what I call “self-righteously complacent.” Third, no matter how we define success, it is almost always defined for us by others and in terms that are beyond our control. I like the old quote that Jesus called us to be faithful, not successful.
A teacher and a friend: I used to be very concerned about numbers, and that is how I used to measure success. I’ve worked in almost every capacity in the church, and never in a paid position, from being on the board, Sunday school, youth, women, and many others…lol! The Lord has taught me to keep sowing and investing in those that are hungry. I’ve learned not to chase people. I pour, invest, and sow in to those that are hungry! That’s my calling! To equip, build up, and train those in the Body of Christ. To help them mature in their faith…to disciple. Now, if i was an evangelist, and i didn’t see conversions, i’d be concerned… Lol, But i look for fruit. When I see growth in whomever, a teen, a woman in ladies group, a student at school, i know I’m doing what He has called me to do. The lord reminds me that there will be some fruit that I won’t see until heaven, but to continue to sow, pour, and invest no matter what! So…I know how frustrating it is when you give and pour and work your rear off and you don’t see much. But just continue to walk out your call knowing that as you obey and sow, others may water, but is the Lord that causes it to grow! I’m a big believer in, as we do what He has called us to do, and we seek His face, and hear his voice, He will bring the growth. Depth is more important to me. I guess cuz discipleship is my thang! It’s my heart! So… I hope I have helped in some way. Please don’t get me wrong… Conversions are important! Gotta have those before we can disciple. Missions too! That’s gods heart. We should not only be concerned about here, but the lords work around the world. But we must each obey and do what He has called us to do. Walk it out and leave the results up to him!
A S.S. teacher and former pastor’s wife: I have never measured my ministry by numbers. When I first starting ministering as a adult I was teaching Acteens and I would just have 1 or 2 each week. I remember being discourage and the pastor’s wife told me that even if I have 1 it that was my ministry. I measure my ministry by the spiritual growth that is happening. I have had many of those girls that I ministered to on a one on one basis tell me years later how that ministered to them and was instrumental in their spiritual growth. 1 Cor. 3 talks about each has his own task and ministry. We are to be a seed planters & waters and only God can do the growing
A (former) Catholic youth leader: the long answer is that over 10 years at the same parish, i was able to build up strong relationships with the families and much of our success came from being able to work with siblings, as well as families who just knew who i was after so many years of seeing me. i was always very in tuned with the trends in youth ministry and the teens in our area and always tried to adapt and stay a little a head of them. we also asked the teens to help us build the curriculum. i had the sessions that i had to do per the curriculum i had written, but then had a few sessions every year that i would get their input on. i always told the teens that i wanted to put on a program they wanted to go to so getting them vested in some part of the planning process always helped get them there.
the short answer is… i didn’t care if i was successful. Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn’t call us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful.”
A S.S. leader and former youth worker: In our humaness I think we judge by all those factors. That’s our human yardstick. We are a results oriented society. We do get discouraged when we don’t see the results we believe we are working to achieve.
In the end analysis (you’re not gonna like this:), I believe we have been successful in ministry (and life) when we are obedient to what God has ask/called us to do. He only holds us accountable for the seed He has ask us to sow. Not for the results of that planting.
Probably not the answer you were looking for….probably hoping for something much deeper…but that’s really what I think. That’s not to disregard examining ourselves, our call, our mission, our motive because it’s so easy to get caught up in “our” idea’s of how “our” work should turn out. I know that I do that, and if after examining myself I determine if I’m on or off course, I have to change what I’m doing (if I’m off) or trust I got the call right and just keep doing it. He always honors our obedience.
A minister’s wife: I think since I have been married to Brian I am learning more and more not to measure success by numbers. I (and I know Bri struggles with it as well) in my fleshly nature want to brag about numbers. When we were at FCC are numbers went up dramatically and it was hard not to brag about it or assume we were doing amazing stuff. But when we really look at things and evaluate we had some people coming just b/c it was fun, many came b/c their friends invited them (success on the kids part)….Now with all that said, it is still important to preach God’s word to these people even if we don’t see fruit during our time with them…so maybe that is success. As I type this maybe success in ministry is doing God’s will in ministry. Now Jesus preached to the multitude, did life with the 12, and did really poured into the 3 so I don’t think we was necessarily looking for numbers. In fact he was so unseeker friendly that he drove away thousands of people b/c he wasn’t willing to waterdown his message.
I think our goal here on earth is to love God and love people the way Jesus did. So maybe that is success if we do that. I mean we want true conversions of course, and we want people to love Jesus of course, and we want hearts to be changed and lives to follow of course, but I don’t know that that is our call. We can do what God has called us to do and share and love and maybe that is success.
A pastor: It’s easy to get discouraged, especially when it seems that there are always the mega-mega-places with their multi-million dollar budgets and more people than they actually minister to. A lot of the rest of us wind up feel inadequate, beat down, unappreciated, and wondering if it is worth it when we aren’t and probably won’t ever be “successful” like that. But here’s what I think it comes down to, ultimately: Were you faithful with the gifts, talents, resources, and place that God put you? I’ll never be a radio preacher. I probably won’t have any books with my name on the byline. Thousands won’t flock to hear me preach in tiny little ___________(town). I don’t think I’m one of the servants to whom the master gave 5 talents. I think I got two, at most. But my calling is to be faithful with the place I have and to faithfully produce a return on the Master’s investment. The so-called “three B’s” (Building, Budgets and Butts in the seats) are a dead end. They won’t matter all that much, in the end, when the Master settles accounts. What will matter a great deal is if you were faithful with the task and the ministry you were given. Did you pour out your life as an offering to God? Did you utilize every talent?
Easier said than done, I realize. On my dark days, I have wondered why I am struggling to see growth in numbers and attendance like I want. Why do some people have 250 people on their first Sunday of their new church plant when I would be happy to see 250 people show up at Easter? I don’t know. Jesus said, “the wind blows where it wishes.” My task is to be faithful to my calling and use my talents to bring God glory.
A youth volunteer: I don’t feel success in ministry is necessarily numbers conversions or attendance. It’s being available as you are needed. You plant one seed even and you are successful. That doesn’t mean you stop but you are successful. We had days we were the only ones in class yet we were available. It is just like Missions, it’s availability. You have to continually be there, be consistent and love them no matter what. If they are right on God’s path for them or if they fell off, love them. You show up with a smile and they will smile with you. It’s contagious! It is their choice you just have to know in your heart you did everything you know to have shown them God’s love! There are days you wonder and there are days you feel defeated but if you allow God to continue to use you doors will open, lives will change and you will see growth in numbers. I just don’t feel success with ministry is in numbers. It is about hearts. That’s why numbers go up and down.
A pastor:First, I believe that churches and Christians should “bear fruit.” Naturally, we want to measure “bearing fruit.” So we debate: do we measure the activities that lead to fruit-bearing, or do we measure the fruit themselves? I would say “both.”
In part, bearing fruit refers to the fruit of the Spirit. These are hard to measure, but I think we should have a sense that we’re growing in these fruit.
“Bear fruit” also means we’re helping others to come into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. As a Wesleyan, I believe we grow in Christ-likeness through the “means of grace” like prayer, searching the Scriptures, Holy Communion, worship, acts of mercy to people in need, etc.
The current measuring stick being touted in the UMC (and I think it’s mostly helpful) points to five “vital signs” of vital congregations. They seem to me to be a combination of fruit-bearing activities and fruit-bearing outcomes.
As to your other question: absolutely I get frustrated by “small numbers.” I’m more frustrated by those who don’t get bothered by them, or rather by the fact that there are people who could connected to Christ and his Church but are not yet connected…and we’re fine with that.
What else can we do?
First, tend your own soul. I can’t help others be disciples if I don’t take my discipleship seriously. Again, in Wesleyan terms, this looks like keeping my love for God alive through the means of grace. This is probably the most important thing.
Second, don’t stop talking about the mission – to make disciples – just because others are not interested. Influence who you can influence. Try to shrug off those who look at you with glazed eyes or the stink eye.
Third, keep inviting people to Christ and into the Christian community…and keep telling other people to do it, too. I don’t know what ministry context you two are serving in (youth?), but you have tell people to invite and show them how to invite.
Finally, be patient. Change and progress, as I’m learning, take time.
A pastor and Paul’s best friend: That is a hard one. I guess I try to measure success by how much the kingdom of God is furthered. So if we change negative perceptions about Christianity because of a community event that is a win. If someones life is changed then great. If someone becomes a Christian awesome. ETC. I have started trying to do this because it is harder to quantify. The numbers game is depressing.
***I’m sensing a theme. Perhaps, I should start to listen.
My faith (in ministry) has, unfortunately, been stuck on the idea that success is measured by numbers. Right, wrong, or indifferent, it is a thorn in my side. I think I give it to the Lord (so He can handle it) and yet I still have reign over it. So, I give it up again. And, I take it right back. Over and over again.
My worry over success (for Paul, mainly) is driven by numbers. And, it shouldn’t be. I know that. But, it’s a matter of control. It’s a matter of easily being able to see progress.
Have our numbers at FBC gone up and down dramatically since we’ve been here. Yes. Sometimes we have 10-12 at church. Sometimes we have 3.
It’s the nights we have 3 that really upset me. I show emotion and frustration over those nights.
But, do I show emotion for the nights we have 12? No. Should I? Absolutely.
I should be praising Jesus if we have 3. I should praising Jesus if we have 12.
Regardless, I should be praising Jesus. Because my roots are planted here, and I intend to grow.