Written by Dave Lenehan
“It seemed like it was all about the numbers.” That’s what a pastor friend of mine told me a few years ago after returning from a pastors’ conference. He said that too often, when he chatted with other pastors during a break, the main question or at least the lead question, he was asked was, “How big is your congregation?” “How many kids are in your children’s program? In your youth ministry?” He said that he found that few of the pastors wanted to first talk about what God was doing in their various churches, about the stories of people’s lives changed mightily by the impact of the Gospel. They were focused on the numbers, not on the condition of people’s hearts.
You and I both know that numbers are important. They were one of my main focuses every year as I planned annual YFC conferences in upstate New York. If the attendance numbers were low, that impacted our budget and what we could bring to the weekend program. As I read through Dr. Elmer Town’s autobiography,Walking with Giants a couple of years ago, I found that he researched and wrote A LOT about Sunday School and church attendance – the numbers. So, yes, they are important.
But when we get down to it, I doubt God is interested very much in the numbers or even in what we do in ministry. He is interested in us, who He is calling us to be. After each YFC conference, my first thought was not to tell our donors how many attended. I couldn’t wait to share the stories of kids who encountered Jesus in a way that radically shifted their lives. It didn’t matter if there were 5 kids or 500 kids who attended the events. What God did to transform individual lives was most important.
Bill Swaringim, Creative Arts Director at The Crossing multi-site church in St. Louis, wrote this in an issue of Church Production magazine:
“…it’s easy to lose sight of the person God’s called you to be when you focus on what you’re called to do. We’re not human doings; we’re human beings. Being in ministry is often mistaken for making church ‘happen,’ and we tend to lose ourselves in the tasks instead of His story.”
As we near the end of another academic year, I encourage you to protect your heart. Keep consistent with reading your Bible and finding time to be quiet. Find stories of how God is working in the community you serve. Seek out where God is already at work and become part of that if you’re not already. Learn the stories of how God is moving within your church, within your student ministry. Just as we hear from Pastor David the stories of students who are baptized after Campus Community or who come to faith in Christ in a community group, our focus should be on people.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7, NIV)
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17, NIV).
You are an important part of the Kingdom. How you serve God and why your serve Him starts with having the right heart to serve. As church techs, technical artists, or technical leaders—whatever title we wear—God needs our hearts in the right place.
Our hearts. That’s the bottom line for God.