Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Calculating Success

Written by: on September 8, 2016

What I like most about Good to Great and Good to Great and the Social Sectors is the call for a new way to evaluate churches and schools. It is a breath of fresh air to have someone as respected as Jim Collins essentially say that measuring churches is not about Sunday attendance and budgets. Instead, Collins states that greatness means answering the question, “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?” (Monograph 5). This is fantastic to me because evaluating success in the two worlds that I work in, church and school, is really difficult. In fact, measuring education and disciple-making can feel so out of reach that Collins says that those who say we can’t measure schools and churches the same way we measure businesses are simply being lazy. I don’t want to be lazy. Last year in my research with this program, I discovered that most churches in America still function under what is known as the Church Growth Model. This is a model, not of Good to Great, but a system where the most important things are the number of Sunday attenders and the size of the budget. Unfortunately, this has created a lot of churches in the States that are good at attracting a crowd, but not so many who are good at growing disciples. One reason why this is true is what Collins teaches us, that measuring success and greatness is not about creating the perfect indicator, but “settling upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results, and then tracking your trajectory with rigor” (Monograph 8).

In this widely popular book and adjoining monograph, Collins approaches businesses as social sectors with the belief that humans can become great. What is missing is what I call, the grace or blessing factor. What makes this book wonderful, and slightly non-Christian, is the assumption that humans can do certain things to achieve greatness without God’s help. However, one could argue that following the principals in this book will put a pastor and teacher in the best position to receive God’s grace, much in the same way Richard Foster talks about the function of the spiritual disciplines in his famous work, Celebration of Discipline. It is with that spirit that I choose to learn from this book.

Focussing on the pastoral take-aways from this book and not the teaching ones, here is a plan to apply the Good to Great process to the Hub, A Vineyard Church.

1. Level 5 Leadership 

Personally humble, possessing a professional will filled with workhorse diligence and ambition for the Hub is who I want to be. I love that Collins says I don’t have to be a celebrity. In this day and age of social media pastoral stardom, I feel a weight come off my neck knowing that I don’t need to have the perfect Tweet, or Instagram graphic to make the Hub a great church. Humility can be a tricky thing though because to be humble, a person must be humiliated. No one I know, including myself enjoys going through humiliation. Instead of letting hard and sometimes really embarrassing times get me down, I will set my mind to learn the lesson God is teaching me and move forward.

2. Who First, What Second

This year I read some books on vision and vision casting for churches. Collins turns most of what I read up-side-down by demanding that I first focus on who is in the Hub bus and then determine where the bus is going to go. This is the most difficult principal in the book. As a church planter I recruited some great people, no, I recruited the right people to plant the Hub. Now as we turn 13 years old this month, I need to get the right people on board (and on the executive and elder boards) who will take this church to the next level. What is the most difficult task for me personally? It is inviting the wrong people off the Hub bus.

3. Facts & Faith

One difficult task for pastors is to hold reality and faith in tension together. For me, this is hard because facts are facts and mostly indisputable. However, who can really define what faith actually is? There is a fine line between faith and stupidity. As I move forward I want to lead conversations with questions, create a culture where truth can be spoken safely, and I want to quit trying to motivate (I really mean manipulate here) people so much.

4. Hedging my Bets on Hedgehogs

After 13 years of pastoring I am learning that I cannot make people feel the passion that I feel. I have learned that the Hub cannot be great at everything. I have learned that it is difficult to raise funds when ministering in a middle-lower-class-blue-collar town. Consequently, I am going to lead discussions with Hub members and determine as a group 1)what we can be the best at in Sunland, 2)what we are most passionate about, and 3)let’s create an economic engine to resource our dreams. I think it’s time for the Hub to go back to the basics and simplify who we are and what we do; and then be really consistent.

5. Discipline

Once the Hub has our three circles I will lead the Hub into the new territory of saying “No.” Saying No to things is a foreign concept to many people in Southern California. It’s not part of our native tongue. Many of us never learned this simple yet powerful two-lettered word. However, if it’s not part of our passion, who we are at our best, or helping us resource our dreams, then we will politely pass, thank you.

6. Techies 

Using technology to accelerate our move toward greatness as I lead a local church is a bit of a mystery to me still. Some very practical steps we’ve done with technology is buy a new sound board to improve the quality of our music and install flat screens and Apple TV platforms in our children’s rooms. I believe it is time for the Hub to create a usable website.

7. Baby Steps 

There is no killer app for churches! I confess I have fallen prey to the “doom loop” pattern of seeking that grand church campaign to somehow miraculously transform the Hub into the best church in town. I’m over that now. I embrace baby-steps. It takes a lot of confidence to slow down and patiently proactively pursue sustainable transformation by following the predictable patterns of buildup and breakthrough. I will develop the steps to build momentum.

Good to Great and the accompanying monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors provides me with hope and strategy toward fulfilling my purpose with this doctoral program of becoming a better teacher and pastor. Thank you Jim Collins!

About the Author

Aaron Peterson

I am a working priest which means that I am a husband(to Lisa), dad(to four wonderful children), senior pastor and church planter(The Hub Vineyard Church), and high school social studies teacher(Verdugo Hills High School LAUSD). I am currently working towards a DMIN in Leadership & Global Perspectives @George Fox Seminary.

8 responses to “Calculating Success”

  1. Aaron Cole says:


    I really enjoyed your blog, great insights. I really resonated with pressure of social media with in church leadership circles. However, I thought your statement: “Humility can be a tricky thing though because to be humble, a person must be humiliated.” would be a killer tweet! You may have answered this question, if so pardon me, but if not attendance numbers (which I completely agree with you are limited and weak at idicating church health or mission completion) what quanifiable measurement or measurements are you looking at for The Hub?

    Look forward to seeing you in London,

  2. Marc Andresen says:


    It strikes me that John Wimber was a Level 5 leader with the two key characteristics of humility and will. Do you agree? Do you have any observations of Level 5 leadership in Wimber?

    Also, we pastors tend to be more tender hearted than iron willed, when it comes to dealing with people. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and that affects whether or not I invite them off the bus. Do you have any secrets for how to pastorally invite people off?

    • Marc that is a big struggle for me as well. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings so I shy away from inviting off the bus. One goal I have is to pursue keeping a tender heart but developing thicker skin. It’s tricky because ministry tends to hardened hearts and soften skin. Understand what I mean?
      Yes, I would say Wimber was a level 5 leader. He definitely came across in his speaking as a humble guy.

  3. Kevin Norwood says:


    Thanks for such insightful writing. I really resonated with the issue of how do we really evaluate what we do? It is not easy to figure out if we are being successful.
    If you go with the statistical side of things I would only have to run 10% of our congregations attendance to be considered successful. Fortunately, Xtreme is usually well over the 20% mark on any given night or Sunday. The problem is as you have approached is that success? I view success more as the fact of do I have any disciples at the end of the day that are making disciples?

    The issue of lazy is such an interesting thought process. Is caring for people lazy? If it doesn’t produce growth, should I just check out on checking on people?

    Really great evaluation of what you are going to do to make baby steps. What makes you feel successful or according to Collins “great?”

    God Bless

    Looking forward to London.


    • Hi Kevin. I am not sure what you mean by 10% and 20% of attendance. Please explain.
      In terms of how I define success, I am in the process of figuring that out. I do know that I need something written down or I just fall back on attendance and financials. I want to resist that because I am not in this ministry to make a financial profit. It’s tricky for me.

  4. Phil Goldsberry says:


    Great post. Collins seemed to light you up, in a good way. Now that Collins has “ignited” you what are your next steps? Right people on the bus? Or getting the “who” in place before the “what”?

    See you in a few!


  5. Hi Phil. Yes, Collins lit my fire. I think the next step for me is to clearly define success for the Hub which will help me define success personally as a leader.
    I am praying for the right people to get on the Hub bus.

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