At a pastors’ fellowship, one just-up-the-road colleague in ministry, pastoring a struggling fellowship, surprised me with his candor. “I struggle,” he blurted, “between dismissing all the proffered measuring sticks of pastoral success and the reality of my own inadequacy and limitations. It’s truly discouraging.”
You, too? I mean, if you’re in the company of those of us trying to lead and grow a church, which of us doesn’t long for the positive momentum of growth? It’s our intuitive measuring stick.
And, which of us hasn’t taken in (again) the following tough news: “this family” or “this couple” is now attending “the other church.” What? Why? I’ve frequently retreated to the office and stared out my small window, asking God, “What am I not doing right?”
It’s taken a while, but I’ve arrived at what I believe are some simple, helpful questions which can promote good personal balance and sharpen my self-measurement efforts. Frankly, they have little to do with numbers, or who may be slipping out the back door.
Question #1: Am I praying fervently? Surprisingly, many pastoral leaders simply do not pray enough. They do not get on their knees often with their key leaders. Praying with leaders is truly a battlefront with the enemy. Studies suggest that there is a correlation between how much time pastors regularly spend in prayer and how satisfied they are with their prayer lives. In other words, more is more. And yet most pastors admit a lack of satisfaction. Perhaps the first and best measuring stick is found in the closet.
Question #2: Am I clear on the “what” and “how” of my ministry’s mission? One of my mentors used to say, “If it’s a mist in the pulpit, it’s foggy in the pew.” What might be your (and your leaders’) finish to the statement – “——– Church is out to …!” And if there is reasonable clarity about that, then can you specifically identify what you are doing (i.e, your church body) that is truly accomplishing what you’ve stated? Admittedly, this is both tough and rewarding thought-work. Should you discover muddy, or even divergent, answers to these questions, then the best thing is to huddle with your leaders and make a pact to seek God for clarity on these key matters. Alignment of mission and effort = ministry momentum.
Question #3: Am I sharpening my leadership gifts? I recall a time when I attended a preaching workshop. I felt in a rut. My leaders were thrilled. “Way to sharpen the saw!” my board chair smiled. Arriving, I was surprised to find that I was the only one over age 45 there. The workshop was an incredible help, especially when I put the training in play.
I’ve been to a ton of “conferences;” few are very fruitful in the long run. But targeting the sharpening of a ministry gift can be very good. And it will be an exemplary motivator for your leaders.
May I encourage you to forget the numbers game? Lean into prayer, honest assessment of mission and strategy with your leaders, and personal sharpening. Excellence in these areas can become very fruitful.