Ministries and churches, at times, have misaligned measurements of success. Whether it is striving for a particular size or popularity, even religious organizations can really miss the mark when it comes to creating a community that is aimed at being loving and caring for one another. This goes to show that ministries must have measurements of success that focus on their culture rather than image.

Sometimes church leaders can let the outside world influence the aspirations that we have for our groups. Whether it’s our size or budget, there are indicators that we cling to in order to assess whether our group is doing well or struggling to stay afloat. If this is a measurement, or value, then we will take any step to move in that direction rather than emphasizing relationships and family.

Recently, Christian communities have been moving in a more positive direction. Instead of the main goal being to fill up as many seats or dash people with the waters of baptism, it has been to make people feel included in communities. Rather than preaching hell, fire, and brimstone we have made people feel safe to belong before we put any ethical constraints on them.

In our ministry, we put a lot of time and effort in evaluating our mission and affirming that with our leaders. Our mission statement comes from 1 John 3:16 which says “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (ESV). By this, we encourage our ministry staff and students to live a life that is Intentional. Within this, we have what are called “plumb lines” (a term drawn from Sticky Teams) which are avenues of how to make this mission possible. For us, this is making our group inclusive and communal.

On the last night of every youth retreat, we spend a couple of hours together writing encouragement notes to each other. We give the students a couple of guidelines: 1. Keep the noise down or we will have to wrap it up; and 2. Write notes to everyone, not just the people you are closest to. This may sound super corny, but it is a tangible act that our students get behind to make this success real. They are part and parcel to the mission of the group and bringing it into reality.

During our last retreat, I found one of my latest tangible “plumb lines.” A student who had been holding up the walls in the youth room for the past couple of years came to me at the end and handed me a note. Her words read, “This group has made me feel safe and part of a family.” If that isn’t a measure of success, I don’t know what is.

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