The following article is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia
When someone says, “just be faithful,” how can that even be measured? We all know being faithful in ministry is important, but what factors determine faithfulness? One important aspect in defining success is having metrics by which one can even engage the question. What does success look like?
The Bible provides a helpful symbolic definition of success; Jesus says in John 15 “abide in me” and “whoever abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” These verses provide us with our metrics for success: abiding in Christ and bearing much fruit.
Bearing fruit is a helpful symbolic idea of success. Rick Warren once said, living things grow, growing things mature, and maturing things reproduce. Success in ministry must reproduce something— successful ministries bear fruit. How we define fruit will change based on the church, location, and ministry calling, but there are a few metrics we can use to see if fruit is growing.
Going by the Numbers
An easy way to tell if ministry is growing is by the numbers everyone loves to quote: Sunday School/Worship attendance, baptism numbers, church visitors, new members, etc. We shouldn’t immediately discount the numbers by saying “numbers aren’t everything” Yes, numbers aren’t everything, but they are metrics that represent real people and real changed lives. A decade no baptisms isn’t just a bad number, it’s a sign of a dying church.
Each church goes in cycles, so don’t live or die by the weekly numbers. For example, when I first arrived in Georgia, I was told not to look at church attendance numbers in July. The advice was true, nearly everyone went on some sort of vacation in July. Numbers were way down, all our services looked bear. If I had set my hope in weekly numbers, I would have been crushed. So look at the trends and see how your church is doing over all. A healthy church is making new disciples and reaching new families. A healthy church has an upward trend in numbers.
Demographic work can help determine success in terms of numbers. If the town where the church is located is booming and growing in large percents, the church should be seeing an influx of visitors and growth. A way to measure success then is in the percent of people who visit the church and become members. This data point can also be helpful in determining if a church is dying. If the towns population has increased 50% but the church has actually lost members, the church is not being successful in outreach and assimilation. Knowing where the church is unsuccessful is crucial in turning the tides around.
Going By Love
For pastors who are new to a church, how well do you know and love your people? The first year of serving in ministry should be spent getting to know the people. Have them over to the house, get to know their story, and spend time finding out where they are spiritually. Sometimes ministry success is defined by knowing the flock. Remember as an under-shepherd, Pastors are responsible for both the healthy and the sick. Loving the more difficult people and caring for them is an important gauge of success.
Going by the Vision
Often times, the Pastor’s vision is considered the vision or DNA of the church. How many people believe in the vision and buy into it? Do the people even know how to participate in the vision? J.D. Greear’s book Gaining by Giving sets the tone for defining success not by seating capacity but by sending capacity. Greear’s church can show measurable success in those who participate in the vision to go and plant churches. The church where I serve our motto is “Where Love Surrounds.” If our DNA, our vision, is to surround people with love, how do we measure that? I chose to give the vision two arms of measurable success: Save the Lost and Grow the Saved. We measure success by the percent of people participating in out reach (how many go out to seek the lost) and how many people are making disciples. Therefore, our measure of success is how many people are participating in the two arms of our vision.
Remember we are to bear much fruits, but that phrase comes by understanding the condition of abiding in Christ. Only God can grow a church. Therefore, we plant and we water, while we await God’s growth in our church.
Summerville First Baptist Church