Outcome of a Successful Ministry 1.

June 4, 2013

I’ve been thinking about ministry to kids and families a lot lately.  The question I posed to myself is, “If we are successful, what will it look like?”  If you are training for a marathon you set time and completion goals.  If you are building a house the blueprint tells you what it will look like before you even start.  You know where every plug, wire, and pipe belongs.  You might even know where every nail and screw belongs.  

In ministry, it may or may not be as black and white (or blue and white) as a blueprint. But we should be able to describe expected outcomes.  We should be able to identify what success looks like.  As I have been pondering this I have come up with six things that I look for.  Your list may include more or less than six.  As the days pass and we interact, my list may expand, perhaps yours will as well.

I am not going to give you my entire list all at once, because I want to talk about outcomes one at a time.  And I want to hear your thoughts, not only on your list, but I would like it if you engaged with mine.  Tell me where I nailed it, and where I missed it.

So here’s the first item on my list:

JOY – Beyond Fun

 There has been so much written about the difference between joy and happiness, I don’t feel the need to get into that discussion here.  But I will say that when we gather kids together to talk about Jesus it has to go deeper, much, much deeper, than simply providing a fun experience.   Yes, we want it to be fun some of the time, but that should never be our main objective.   It’s important to note, when a child senses they are valued, and loved, when they sense they are part of something bigger than themselves, when they are engaged….they will say they had fun.

Asking kids to describe their experience will usually give unsatisfactory results.  Joy is a word they will rarely use to describe their emotion.

“Fun.” Yes, we will hear that.

“Cool” I’m okay with that answer.

“Great” We’ll take it every time.

“It was joyful.” I have never heard a child describe Kids Worship that way.

So we can’t assume that just because kids don’t mention joy doesn’t mean they don’t experience it.  If they felt loved, they would probably not say that either, but… I think we can all recognize joy when we see it.   Self-help specialist Dr. Jeanine Austin describes joy as “a deep connection with God.”   I like the sound of that even if I can’t tangibly get my hands around it. Behaviorist Paul Ekman describes JOY as one of seven basic emotions and he describes it simply as Impending Gain, but I would add to this a spiritual dimension that would transcend gain, happiness, even peace.  That’s why I like the phrase “a deep connection with God. “  Joy is transcendent.

We want a child’s experience within the church setting to transcend that experience.  Huh?  Let me try to explain.   The things a child experiences:  fun, relationships, learning, Truth (purposely capitalized), worship and salvation, will be the things they talk about.  It won’t be until they are older that they start to talk about the impact of their small group leader, the connection with God and with others, the change of thinking that took place, the “God Experience” that expressed itself.

Happiness, fun, adventure, music, these are all tools, feathers on our arrows.  Joy, on the other hand is a lifestyle target.  It is an outcome as well as an expectation of a faith-filled life.  I checked with several dictionaries, from Noah Webster’s first American Dictionary, published in 1828, up to the modern Dictionary.com.  A common thread in all of them was not simply experiencing good fortune, but the prospect of possessing what we desire.  I like what Noah Webster said, “Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good.”*

 * 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language

Is JOY  a desired outcome in your ministry?  Why, or why not?  

What do you do to foster joy?  Have you discovered a way to measure joy?  Do you have a joy meter?

If this post encourages or engages you, it would give me joy if you shared it?  Thank you!

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