Some pregnancy care center leaders think of success in terms that may or may not reflect the center's purpose or biblical values, such as the following:
Our center has money in the bank.
We have an ultrasound program.
We have great events.
We are helping many clients by meeting many of their needs.
We have a nice building and our rent is low.
You might think of other markers for success; but one way or another, every leader wants his or her ministry to be successful.
SUCCESS: ROUTINELY ACHIEVING OUTCOMES RELATED TO THE MINISTRY'S MISSION AND VISION.
I often ask myself whether Life Matters Worldwide is successful. What is success? What does it look like? Will I recognize it when I see it? What are the characteristics of success? How do I know if I've succeeded? These are good questions for PCC board and staff teams to ask.
I'd like to propose this definition for success: Routinely achieving outcomes related to the ministry's mission and vision. Accepting this definition presumes a few things:
The ministry has clear and up-to-date mission and vision statements that are in sync with the whole of Scripture.
The ministry team has engaged in strategic planning.
The ministry has a yearly plan for its programs and operations that is coupled with measurements that indicate success or failure.
In the broad scheme of things, however, it's true that a ministry is only as good as its leadership team. With that in mind, I want to suggest the following elements or characteristics that leaders must exhibit, individually and corporately, if a ministry is to earn the label "successful."
Where do godly leaders go in times of trouble? To the Lord in prayer. Hezekiah is an example of one who cried out to the Lord for help and sought wise counsel (of the Prophet Isaiah in 2 Kings 18). Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to trust the Lord rather than our own understanding. James tells us to ask God for wisdom — in faith, without being double minded (James 1:5-6). Success looks like prayer.
Joshua was urged to be strong and very courageous and not turn aside from God's law (to the right or the left) but to meditate on it and be careful to do according to all that is written in it. In so doing, Joshua was promised that his way would be prosperous and he would have good success (Joshua 1:7). Success looks like obedience to the written Word.
The Apostle Peter told believers in 1 Peter 5 to walk in humility, allowing the mighty hand of God to exalt them at the proper time. We're told in Acts 20 that Paul, the great apostle and early church leader, served the Lord with all humility. King Solomon's prayer, recorded in 2 Chronicles 1, reflects a man humbly bowing before God, requesting wisdom and knowledge to lead the people. Success looks like humility.
Jesus, our ultimate example of leadership, came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28). In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul detailed Christ's humility and urged us all to pattern our lives after Him. PCC leaders will consider each other and the staff better than themselves and consider the needs of the community where they serve. Success looks like servanthood.
If God owns our lives and our ministry, He has a plan for us. We're successful only if we allow the Holy Spirit to lead in the affairs of the ministry. Furthermore, if we understand that God is the provider of all that the center needs, then He ordains its establishment, the extent of its outreach, and — perhaps — its closing point. We must stay in tune with the mind and will of God. Success looks like stewardship.
Godly Christian leaders regularly challenge themselves and their team members to strive for excellence in carrying out the mission and vision. They continually evaluate whether the ministry is on course and following through on the strategic plan. They strive to avoid mission drift and are bold and honest enough to adjust the mission and vision when there is a change in constituents' needs or the ministry's resources. Success looks like accountability.
Godly Christian leaders are willing to work alongside other like-minded agencies or ministries in their communities. They demonstrate to their world that Christians can and do work together for good, to the glory of God and the betterment of those they serve. Success looks like partnership.
The prophet Jeremiah was commissioned to minister to a people who would never respond to the message God had for them. Was he successful? Certainly not by the world's standards! Success looks like faithfulness.
No matter the size, a ministry needs leaders who have a passion for service and will work in harmony to speak the Truth, spread the Gospel, and provide compassionate care to needy people in their communities. Having done all that, we can then pray with the Psalmist, "O LORD, we pray, give us success" (Psalm 118:25). And by that we mean His kind of success!
Tom Lothamer is president of Life Matters Worldwide. He can be reached by phone: 1-800-968-6086, (616) 257-6800.