Monday, June 11, 2007

To Grow, or not to Grow...

How do you evaluate the success of a ministry? Is group size really the way to make that sort of judgment? During my years as a youth ministry volunteer, I’ve heard every argument.

“Don’t compare your group to others. Comparing can only result in pride or jealousy.”

“The more the better… if they don’t come in the door, we can’t reach them.”

“True discipleship is only possible in a small group setting.”

“A growing group is proof of God’s blessing.”

“If we hook them with flash, they’ll stop coming when it’s no longer flashy enough.”


And most recently, “Healthy things grow.”

When it comes to evaluating ministry, the whole concept of paying attention to numbers is a bit of a thorn in my side. I believe it comes in part from my own personal backlash to the American concept that ‘bigger is better’. We like big houses, big cars, and upsized meals, but in reality size does not indicate quality (or, as I liked to throw around in college, ‘correlation is not causality’).

I’ve been considering that last statement, “Healthy things grow”, which at first sounds quite catchy. But upon reflection, I must concede that healthy things also stop growing once they reach their proper size.

For example, what is cancer? A cell that divides with unregulated growth, which eventually destroys the entire being. Not healthy growth.

Or, a person who continues to grow will become extremely tall, develop abnormal features and eventually succumb to an early death. You may be familiar with the story of Andre the Giant, the famous wrestler.

At 7'4" and 500 pounds, Andre the Giant could have been famous for his size alone. His drive, talent and ambition, however, proved to be as big as Andre himself, and the wrestler became legendary for his achievements in and out of the ring.

Andre was born Andre Rene Roussimoff in Grenoble, France on May 19, 1946. His parents, Boris and Marian Roussimoff, and four siblings were of average size. Andre, however, suffered from acromegaly, a disease that results in an over abundance of growth hormones. Also known as Giantism, this disease caused Andre's body to continue growing his whole life, and by the time he was 17 he stood 6'7".

Sadly, over the years the effects of acromegaly had continued to wear down his body. Eventually his immense size was just too much for his heart, and Andre the Giant died in Paris, France in his hotel room on January 27, 1993.

Information taken from: http://www.andrethegiant.com/bio.html
I am not trying to argue that growth is always bad or destructive, but that it is not the end all and be all of ministry. I think the best way to evaluate a ministry is to look at its spiritual health, no matter what the size. Is it bearing fruit? A group can be growing not larger in numbers, but deeper in spiritual maturity. Are the members growing more Christlike? Are they loving one another? Are they displaying the fruits of the spirit described in Galatians 5?

If we can focus on these things, I believe we will honor Christ, appreciate every individual, and be less likely to get caught up in things that don’t matter.

That sounds pretty healthy to me.

3 comments:

Bethany said...

Good thoughts. I know a few people who get frustrated when people no longer participate in a group or ministry. I can understand that if someone has fallen away from their walk with the Lord that they would be concerned. But if the reason that they have moved on is because the Holy Spirit is calling them elsewhere, we should rejoice and love them, not make them feel bad. Spiritually Healthy, letting God drive.

Bluestocking said...

Amen to your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Oh so true! My mom and I have been discussing that topic for months now, but I think you said it better than we have been able to so far. Thanks for your insight!!
Liz