Church Leadership
The Main Reason Pastors Count People Is Not as Noble (or Sinister) as You Think
Pastoral ministry has plenty of challenges with very few immediate rewards. But seeking affirmation through numbers is a dangerous game.

Why We Count

This is one of the main reasons pastors can become obsessed with numbers.

In the absence of verifiable feedback, pastors find affirmation in the easiest place we can. We count butts in the seats and bucks in the offering.

In the absence of verifiable feedback, pastors find affirmation in the easiest place we can. We count butts in the seats and bucks in the offering.

Again, keeping track of those numbers isn't wrong. It’s good stewardship.

But when we get obsessed with those numbers – when we live and die every Monday according to those numbers – we become inflated when they're up and devastated when they're down. Then we get tempted to do things we shouldn’t do in order to get or keep those numbers up.

Ministry is not about numbers. They are at best, a tool, not a goal. Never a goal.

And they should never be used to feed or undercut our self-worth.

How to Stay Motivated In Ministry

So, how do we stay motivated in ministry when the immediate rewards are so few and the challenges are so big?

Over my three-plus decades of pastoral ministry, I’ve discovered three principles that work for me. When I remember to do them.

1. Realize that the Ministry Is Its Own Reward

Pastors don’t do what we do for the money. (Yes, I can hear your laughter from here.) Or for any other kind of praise. We do ministry because, as I described recently in So Many Wrong Reasons to Become a Pastor, “Despite how hard it is to be a pastor, it’s harder for you not to be a pastor.”

2. Direct All the Glory to Jesus

We forget this too easily. It's very dangerous, for us and the church, when we keep the glory that only Jesus deserves.

3. Think Long-Term (Really Long-Term)

Employees get paid bi-weekly, salespeople get commissions monthly, students get grades quarterly, executives get bonuses annually.

Pastors need to wait even longer than that. Our rewards are eternal.

We’ll never know the true impact of most of what we do, this side of heaven.

“Well done, good and faithful servant” may be a long way off, but hearing Jesus say that will be worth it all.

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