How do you measure success? More specifically, how do you measure success in ministry? Even if you are not in a paid position at a church, you are still a minister. Therefore, I am sure there has been a time, in your “ministry” that you have wanted to (or had to) measure success? So, how did you do it?
Speaking specifically about youth ministry:
According to many in our American culture, youth ministry numbers seem to stand as THE mark of success. If a youth minister has “X amount” of students coming each week, then he is successful. But, is this always the case? (My mom even makes it a point to ask how many people Paul had in S.S. on any particular Sunday morning).
Is God’s “movement” in your group defined by the number of students attending your program? I would answer, No. God’s “movement” has nothing to do quantity…..but, unfortunately our society sees it differently.
By themselves, numbers do nothing to measure (or even gauge success) in your ministry. They are simply that. A number.
But, we, as the church, have not only allowed society to measure our success via numbers, we have become lazy when it comes to defining success in ministry.
When I was in college (majoring in elementary education) we used the SMART acronym to measure our objectives:
- Are they specific?
- Are they measurable?
- Are they attainable?
- Are they realistic?
- Are they timely?
That’s what is used to measure success in the classroom and/or grade level? But, can those be used to measure success in ministry? In some ways, yes they can. But, success in ministry is SO MUCH MORE.
I believe youth ministers should work to set goals for their youth ministry (as a whole) and use those as a way to measure success. Overall, it seems ministries in church (children, music, education, youth, ALL ministries, really) rarely take time to articulate what they want to see happen in their realm of ministry. Instead, the ministries of the church have adopted the marks of success by numbers, as if we were a part of the business world.
But, I can contend that there are better ways to gauge the effectiveness of our ministries.
Specifically speaking about youth ministry:
If Jesus was a youth pastor in today’s church, He would probably be fired because He spent three years discipling twelve people, one of which fell away from the faith. Based on our numerical standards of ministry success, Jesus’ ministry was a complete failure.
He had many opportunities to minister to the crowds, and yet He walked away (Matthew 14:22,23) (John 6:14,15) to spend time with the twelve.
He was healing people from their sicknesses and performing miracles (Matthew 14:13-21) (Mark 5:2-41) and could’ve spoken (outwardly) of the countless numbers of people He revived, but Jesus’ focus was on the twelve.
Jesus was truly the talk of the town…..but He wanted no recognition. He knew that the twelve (really, the eleven) would one day be the foundation of a force that swept the world. That is exactly what happened in Acts 2—the power of the Holy Spirit worked inside of them and allowed them to spread the Gospel to the entire known world.
In Jesus’ ministry, the focus was clearly not on numbers but on true discipleship and commitment to the mission.
For Jesus, discipleship was learning from the Master and longing to seek His will. How different would student ministry be if we defined success based on discipleship and mission rather than numbers? Do we still believe that a few students empowered by the Holy Spirit can change their friends, campuses, communities, and churches? The message and mission have not changed. Maybe we, as a church “culture” have….
****on a side note: over the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about this, so I asked a few of my friends what they thought….Their responses are in the next post!! Stay tuned….