The Numbers Game in Ministry

How many people are here? I count them and the numbers mean something. A decline means failure and a rise means success. The amount of people at this event reflects how the ministry is going, I look around and see a decline and my heart becomes disheartened and the questions start.

Why are the numbers down?

What am I doing wrong?

Is this a reflection on me?

Am I in the wrong job?

I bet someone else could do better.

Yeh they are pretty self-centered. Naturally I believe that my ministry revolves around me and my ability to draw people to an event or to make people commit to things. It’s all down to me right? Those numbers reflect how the ministry is going, they reflect how good I am at this job, they reflect how faithful I am to God!

Wait a second.

When did I ever have this secret wielding power to make people come to events and commit to things? Erm, never. And how could  numbers or the measure of success that I or others place be a marker of my faithfulness or relationship with God? Well it doesn’t.

But I play this game. I set a marker of what success is or I pick up what the mark of success is from those “higher up” in the organisation and place that pressure on myself and when it isn’t achieved then it must mean I am rubbish or I wasn’t faithful enough. What twaddle. And yet we all play this game. I was chatting with my lifegroup leader this week and he mentioned that numbers were never an issue for him until one particular time where he started to feel the pressure until he realised how stupid it was. I found myself agreeing and I realised how much I put my identity in those numbers or those commitments from people. I feel like this is what happens when we are in ministry (and possibly in your work place), we start off with all passion and vision to win hearts for Christ and after a while it begins to buckle under the weight of the measure of success. This happens in church as well – the numbers we have in church or at a church event or outreach.  That isn’t to say we don’t want growth, because we do. But my identity or your identity isn’t wrapped up in it.

I was chatting with an IFES worker in Europe the other week and he told me that they rejoice over 1 or 2 people a year becoming a Christian in the different countries. That would seem like a failure wouldn’t it? But it isn’t and it doesn’t mean that those workers out there are doing something wrong or being unfaithful. It’s just hard. And sometimes ministry is hard and sometimes there are no results. But it doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t working. And it doesn’t mean you are a failure.

So how do we get that passion back? Go to the source. Stop counting numbers and instead look to Christ. When numbers are down remind yourself the truth that they don’t reflect who you are in Christ. Because you are a child of God adopted, loved, cherished, cleansed and united to Christ and that isn’t dependant on how well this event goes, but its dependant on the blood of Christ. That is good news indeed. Stop playing the game, but rejoice in the good things that are happening. Remind and encourage those around you of what Christ has done. Pray and lift up the struggles to our Father and know that he hears and loves you. The Fathers measure of success is not in us or what we do, but it’s always in His Son and so we rest in Him.

If you are in ministry and feeling weary, overwhelmed, downcast, burdened – then come to Jesus, our champion, our comfort, our faithful one, our healer, our redeemer, our Joy, our Hope and our everlasting saviour.


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