What makes ministry worthwhile?
In a society that is constantly rushing, how can we best use the limited time we have available for God’s kingdom.
“We pay people to clean our house and walk our dogs, so we have a way of thinking that says we pay ministry staff to do ministry,” says the Rev Archie Poulos.
“When life is busy, this is our default. We need to overcome this.”
Poulos has noticed a trend in our churches that concerns him. The mandate that all who follow Christ are equipped to minister and serve one another disappears as people try to juggle full calendars, their lives overflowing with events.
As we work longer hours, commute further distances, try and keep up with everyone and do all things, we need to give careful consideration to our commitments. When time is tight, are we using it in the best way possible, whether in everyday life or in our ministries?
Time is Short
Speaking of efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to serving the Lord can make some feel nervous but we live in the last days. We know time is short and the task is urgent. How can we be sure that we are using our time best for the kingdom of God? Are we involved in worthwhile ministries and using our time effectively for evangelism and edification?
Poulos, who lectures in ministry and mission at Moore College, says that in the busyness of life people need to avoid the “church hall cupboard syndrome” and be sure that what they’re committing their time to is the best kingdom work.
“Churches have a history of doing things like the church hall cupboard, where everything that has been made or purchased gets stored and no-one knows why it’s there,” he says.
“We need to always ask questions. All ministries take resources, so ask things like, ‘Should this ministry continue?’ It’s worthwhile thinking about particular ministries and where they fit into the wider church organisation.”
What makes a ministry worthwhile?
The director of the Centre for Christian Living and co-author of The Trellis and the Vine, the Rev Tony Payne, agrees that a healthy assessment of life and ministry is vital when we’re balancing so much. He says the key to assessing if a ministry is worthwhile is considering what makes any ministry worthwhile.
“It goes back to convictions about what ministry is,” he says. He defines ministry as speaking God’s word in a way that helps people become more like Christ.
Freedom to decide
So, when it comes to using our time, Payne says we have the freedom in Christ to make assessments about where we can serve and make the most impact for the Lord.
“We might make a judgement that some ministries are more valuable and effective for us to be in,” he says. “It’s a good criteria for thinking about what I can contribute to see the speaking of God’s word in the various circles I’m in – such as in my family, in work, in church, in the different opportunities that are available to me.
“I have limited time. I’ll try and put it where it does the most good, with the most potential for being fruitful. A ministry’s significance should come from how well it nourishes the people of God.”
How should you evaluate?
It’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of our ministries, because without regular evaluation we can find ourselves serving in ways that don’t contribute to the growth and maturing of God’s people. However, relying on efficiency as a measure for ministry worthiness can also be misleading.
Says Mr Payne: “The parable of the sheep is that the Saviour leaves the 99 and chases after the one. Sometimes the thing you end up doing may not appear efficient, but is still the thing that God has put in front of you. Part of the evaluation is to take a really good look in the mirror and ask: ‘Why am I doing this ministry?’”
So, what can it look like to make considered and careful decisions about where and how to serve?