Our family of five has a small raft (dubbed K-5 Shark) that we use to explore mountain lakes. It’s a fun pastime and a serious upper-body workout, so much so that often we have to take extended breaks in the middle of the lake because our muscles are beat. Usually after a few minutes of relaxing in the boat—soaking up the sunshine and fresh air—we look up to realize we’ve drifted way off course. We then have to assess our position and strategize about how to get back on track.
In the same way, it’s easy to let our ministries drift. We often go with the flow—simply filling out the calendar or planning the next lesson—not taking the time to step back and examine where the ministry is at, what fruit it’s producing, and where it’s headed. In doing so, we can miss opportunities and let bad habits creep in.
For scriptural inspiration to make assessment a priority, we can take cues from the Apostle Paul. Throughout the New Testament, Paul shows himself to be a master at reviewing his ministry and recalibrating as needed. Drawn from Paul’s life, the following four tips can help you evaluate your ministry wisely and stay on track with what it’s all about: making disciples who make disciples.
1) Keep your eyes on the prize.
Paul ran all his ministry decisions—where to go, what to share, whom to share with—through a grid that kept him focused on what God had called him to. In Romans 15:14-22, he outlines these guiding principles: being a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles; fully proclaiming the Gospel of Christ so the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God; speaking only of what Christ had accomplished through him; and preaching the Gospel where Christ was not known, so he wouldn’t be building on someone else’s foundation. That was Paul’s calling—what’s yours?
Other questions to consider as you take stock of your ministry:
Quick tip: First examine your overall strategy and desired outcomes. Then evaluate and tweak individual programs and events to meet those goals.
2) Measure the right things.
When it comes to ministry assessment, numbers usually get a bad rap. But numbers themselves aren’t the problem. They’re helpful if we use them to measure spiritual growth and Gospel advancement—markers that Paul used to gauge his ministry. He was concerned with factors such as how many people heard the Gospel (Romans 15:20-23), the maturity of the believers under his care (2 Corinthians 3:2-3), and whether those believers partnered with him in spreading the Gospel (Philippians 1:3-11).
Healthy ministries strive not for higher head counts or more events, but for biblical outcomes, such as:
- Number of salvations? Baptisms?
- How many students can articulate the Gospel?
- How many are sharing it regularly?
- How often are students praying for and caring for their friends who don’t know Christ?
- How often are students spending time with Christ to grow in their relationship with Him?
- How many students are in godly mentoring relationships?
Is your ministry laser-focused on advancing the Gospel and creating disciples who do the same? Use our 7 Values Survey to discover where you’re nailing it—and where you could grow.
3) Don’t go it alone.
By all accounts, Paul was a dynamo—one of the strongest personalities in the Scriptures. But that doesn’t mean he was a lone wolf. Quite the contrary—nearly any time Paul is mentioned in Scripture, especially in a ministry context, he’s partnering with others (Silas, John Mark, Barnabas, Timothy, Luke, the 34 other people named in Romans 16, and many more) in sharing the Gospel.
When evaluating your ministry, solicit feedback from your partners in spreading the Gospel—volunteer leaders, student leaders, church leadership, parents, other youth leaders, and the like. Each can bring a valuable perspective for you to weigh.
4) Have your scalpel at the ready.
The New Testament abounds with stories of Paul making tough decisions—switching gears, changing plans, eliminating old strategies—whatever he needed to do to maximize his Gospel reach.
In Ephesus, Paul taught for three months in the synagogue before concluding it had become a dead end and heading to a local lecture hall for daily discussions. He continued that for two years, until the Gospel had spread through the entire province (Acts 19:8-10).
With the Corinthian believers, Paul prayed and agonized before he decided it was in their best interest for him to postpone his plans to visit them (2 Corinthians 1:12–2:4).
Making Gospel advancement the cornerstone of your ministry may require painful pruning of certain events, programs, or ways of doing things. You might get pushback, but don’t let it derail you. When you keep in mind the overarching goal of spreading the Good News and raising up godly students who do the same, it can give you the courage to strategically reshape your ministry into one that relentlessly advances the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.