Surviving Discouragement: Numbers

As I talk to student pastors about the discouragements they face, the issue of numbers seems to rise to the top for many—specifically, the pressure related to ministry attendance or some other number related mark. I’ve seen numbers related pressure wreck people. I’ve seen it become the excuse for some to walk away from the ministry altogether. I’ve even seen it stretch to the home and wreak havoc in a family. This issue is worth talking about because the majority of student pastors deal with it at some point in time. Here are three things to remember about numbers and their relationship to your ministry:

NUMBERS DON’T ALWAYS EQUATE TO HEALTH.

While some might say that healthy things grow, and I agree in principle, I would amend that common phrase to “healthy things grow in God’s timing.” Growth, real growth, in conversions and disciple-making is the result of God’s work. Discouragement sets in when we believe that we play more of a role than we do. This is not an excuse to be lazy. There is still a personal stewardship issue that we must keep in mind here. If you are called, set apart by God, for the ministry of the gospel then it will be something that you work extremely hard for regardless of the numbers. There should be a pressure in that, but it should be a pressure related to the weight of gospel responsibility and not a number.

NUMBERS DON’T DEFINE WHO YOU ARE.

One of the main sources of discouragement comes from equating numbers to your identity as a student pastor. Sometimes this view comes from ourselves through internal expectations while other times it is placed upon us externally. Either way, it is unhealthy. The size of your ministry doesn’t define who you are. This is a mindset that can only be eradicated through prayer and the constant anchoring of your identity in Jesus. Often we preach to students the importance of Jesus defining who they are. Realize He defines you as well.

DON’T RUN FROM MEASURES.

The dangerous thing about this issue is that an over-correction often leads to a lack of measures in a ministry. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals. In fact, it’s healthy to have measures in place that you can use for evaluating ministry effectiveness. It shouldn’t be the only measure, but it should be part. Prayerfully consider number related goals. They can be a useful tool in measuring effectiveness and helping you track what’s working or if you need to adjust direction.

I know the pressure that an unhealthy view of numbers can bring to a ministry. I also know that many in student ministry struggle deeply because of this issue. Whether an internal pressure or one brought on externally, you must eradicate the idea that numbers define who you are. Jesus defines you. Ultimately it is Him that you work for, which means that you should work incredibly hard for His glory and pray incredibly hard for Him to work in the lives of people.

This article was originally published as part of a series by Ben Trueblood, Director of Student Ministry at LifeWay. To read more from Ben, visit his blog HERE.

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