By Kyle Bueermann
We’re just over 20 days away from when baseball pitchers and catchers report for spring training. It’s a welcome development since it’s been just over 80 days since the Washington Nationals won the World Series in dramatic fashion.
When I think back to the latter, I remember the plastic covering the lockers and the championship hats and shirts donned by a team who felt on the top of the world. The excitement was palpable.
It’s Important to Celebrate Wins.
In ministry—particularly in the work of church revitalization or replanting—it can be easy to get bogged down by the tyranny of the urgent (and sometimes, the trivial).
There are phone calls to make, marriage counseling sessions to host, sermons to write, and church members to visit in the hospital.
It’s also easy to focus on the negative with comments like:
- “Pastor, it feels like your preaching has been struggling as of late.”
- “Why didn’t you make it to the hospital to see me?” (No one told you he was there.)
- “It was too hot in the sanctuary today.” or “It was too cold.” (You often get these complaints on the same Sunday.)
- “The music was too loud/not loud enough.”
- “Your sermon was too long.”
- “You used too much/not enough Scripture.
The list goes on and on, week by week.
If we only focus on the urgent needs and complaints of the congregation, ministry can become life-sucking. Pastor, that’s why you must focus on wins in your ministry.
God’s always at work in His church. Ultimately, the success of your ministry isn’t about how great you are at turning a phrase in your sermon. Your success is based upon your faithfulness to the Word of God and your commitment to follow Him.
Here are some wins you can focus on to remind yourself—and the people you serve—that God is still at work in and through your church.
1. Celebrate baptisms.
In my experience in church replanting, I’ve noticed churches that are on the brink of closing their doors typically aren’t baptizing many people. In some cases, it may have been years since a congregation has seen the baptismal waters stirred.
So, when you finally do get to baptize someone, make a big deal out of it!
We give small cards to our baptism candidates and encourage them to fill in the date of when they’ll be baptized and then use the cards to invite family and friends to be a part of the occasion.
I have some pastor friends who host a ‘Baptism Sunday’ several times throughout the year, complete with a potluck lunch afterward. I know others who give new Bibles to the people they baptize.
The point is this: when someone follows Christ in believer’s baptism, it’s a big deal. We should celebrate.
2. Celebrate births.
Most dying or declining churches aren’t flooded with babies and young children. So when you begin seeing young couples attend your church and children running around in the halls, be sure to celebrate.
Few things will boost the spirit of a church like a baby dedication when there hasn’t been one in a while.
3. Celebrate service.
You most likely have several people who have been serving in positions for a long time. This is especially true in churches that’ve seen a decline over several years.
Often, as church attendance declines, people will feel pressured to stay in their volunteer roles for fear that no one else will take the reins. Others will often step into a role that needs to be filled whether they have the gifting for that role or not.
There’ll come a day when those individuals are no longer able to serve in those roles for whatever reasons. When they do, celebrate them. They’ve sacrificed much to serve the church.
You may also consider doing what another pastor friend of mine does. Each fifth Sunday, his church recognizes a “volunteer of the quarter.” During this recognition, the pastor presents the volunteer with a gift and shares how God has used them in seen or unseen ways in their church.
Whether a volunteer is your biggest supporter or your harshest critic doesn’t matter. As you celebrate their service, you just might see others step up to begin serving as well.
4. Celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness.
I’ve listed this one last, but it’s, of course, the most important. Even through the darkest days of a church’s decline, the Lord is faithful. He hasn’t abandoned His people. And, if a remnant remains in the church, it’s because the Lord isn’t finished with that church.
So much of church revitalization is about awakening the people in the pews to recognize the is Lord faithful and the gospel is good news. If you’re serving in a difficult place, you might need to be reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness as well.
The Lord is great and is highly praised;
His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation will declare your works to the next
And will proclaim your mighty acts.
I will speak of your splendor and glorious majesty
And your wondrous works.”
Pastor, keep in mind that celebration communicates value. In other words, we celebrate things that are valuable to us. And what’s celebrated often gets replicated.
So, pastor, celebrate the wins in your ministry.
KYLE BUEERMANN (@kylebueermann) co-authored Replanting Rural Churches and is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Alamogordo, New Mexico, director of replanter development for the North American Mission Board, and co-host of Not Another Baptist Podcast.