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

Measuring Success

Written by: on May 30, 2019

I had a friend who had been in ministry for several good years but whose advisor and counselor suggested he return to the home building trade where he would be able to recognize the results of his work. The thinking was that he was experiencing unnecessary stress due to the intangible nature of discipling others. Success was much more clearly measured in permanent structures than individual lives.

Emma Percy in her book “What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing”, highlights some of the challenges of Christian ministry that often lacks many of the tangible results of other work. In Christian ministry, whether church based or otherwise most often “structures are not shaped by employment, pay, contracts and productivity.”[1] There are other measures that can be used in attempts to quantify success but as my friend experienced these can leave one wondering about the time and energy spent in ministry to others. While mothering may not be the metaphor of choice for many who have been called to Christian work, there are many parallels that help clarify the work of ministry both for those in it and those impacted by it. And ultimately (and I would say fortunately), it too, fails to fit neatly into any standard measure of productivity.

There are dangers in becoming too focused on targets and tangible results, as valuable as these can be at times. As Percy points out in relation to the nursing profession; “We see in current debates around the role of nurses how an overemphasis on measurable targets can come at the expense of humane care.”[2] At the same time there is a need for structure and some means of measure even in those careers that are designated as one of the ‘helping professions’ of which clergy/Christian ministry is a part.

The advice received by my friend was an attempt by his counselor to alter the thinking that led to his questioning his calling. However, if one is called to express the love God has for people then attempting other means of finding fulfillment is unlikely to suffice. No doubt “it can be tempting to find projects that have tangible outcomes and neat timescales, which reduce the time spent in the less easily quantifiable caring activities.[3] But, those administrative and more readily quantifiable tasks are more likely to produce burnout than joy.

Percy, building on the work of pediatrician Dr. Donald Winnecott, highlights the idea of being ‘good enough’.[4] This does not mean lazy or incompetent but full of sufficient wisdom and discernment to encourage the give and take necessary in healthy relationships. This thought of being ‘good enough’ is powerful because it reminds that all success does not solely rest with the minister (or the mother) and provides enough motivation to encourage growing maturity in those under one’s care and at the same time sufficient freedom to recognize that one does not have to do it all or be universally available.

As with many of the texts that Dr. Clarke has assigned over the course of this program it is unlikely that I would have picked this one up on my own. It is also one that I wish I had been given earlier in ministry. Many of the personal challenges that have come about over the past several years are a result of too much effort attempting to appear productive and insufficient recognition that I was not capable of doing it all. Good enough is good enough and more than likely all that we are called to be in that regard.

This struggle is not limited to those placed in traditional church ministry. In addition to clergy these are attitudes and questions for anyone called to Christian ministry, counselors, youth workers and CE directors, those in domestic and international missions. Further, all those in the body of Christ would do well to recognize one another as a gift from God even when that gift brings periods of challenge and growth. “This seeing others as gifts to this place and its ministry is not just an attitude for clergy but one that needs to be modelled and taught so that all develop the capacity to value their Christian brothers and sisters.”[5]

Though I still have no clear direction of what is next in terms of work for me I am fairly certain it will not be in new home construction. I think the potential homebuyers will be grateful for that as well. Perhaps, after a bit of a rest and some intense writing, God will place me somewhere that I can practice being ‘good enough’.

[1]Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing (p. 10). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

[2]Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing (p. 15). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

[3]Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing (p. 19). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

[4]Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing (p. 4). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

[5]Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially when it looks like nothing (pp. 43-44). SPCK. Kindle Edition.


About the Author

Dan Kreiss

Former director of the Youth Ministry program at King University in Bristol, TN and Dean of the School of Missions. I have worked in youth ministry my entire life most of that time in New Zealand before becoming faculty at King. I love helping people recognize themselves as children of God and helping them engage with the world in all its diversity. I am particularly passionate about encouraging the church to reflect the diversity found in their surrounding community in regard to age, gender, ethnicity, education, economic status, etc. I am a husband, father of 4, graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, an avid cyclist and fly-fisherman still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

7 responses to “Measuring Success”

  1. Mike says:

    How did your friend do? After returning to the construction vocation? Spiritual fruit or dry bones? God calls people into all kinds of vocations, including the ministry.
    In my opinion and experience, nothing goes to waste in God’s economy. He uses “all things” to shape our character to become more like the image of Christ.
    Being good enough has many contextual applications I think. I remember going to the mission field, thinking I had the mission thing all figured out, until I went to meet an African tribal Chief and his elders at a remote village “kgotla”. It was a wonderfully humbling experience to meet, greet, and sit with a tribal chief and his elders. It only took a couple of hours to realize that my missionary paradigm needed some adjustments in order to serve the people where God sent me. In this tribal context I did not see any collaborative power sharing.
    Nevertheless, I have seen situations where it can and does work effectively in ministry, despite the ever-present harassment by principalities and powers.
    Dan, I think you would make a great carpenter. It seems we have a good role model to follow.
    Stand firm,
    Mike w

  2. Jay Forseth says:


    Love your comments, especially about power sharing, measuring success, and “good enough”.

    I must admit, being good enough would have bothered my parents, but I believe I can understand what Emma Percy is saying, and I am thankful she said it.

    We get to meet her, right? Looking forward to London. You still on to go?

  3. Great post, Dan!

    You state, “There are dangers in becoming too focused on targets and tangible results, as valuable as these can be at times.” I completely concur! There is a danger in being consumed by consumerism. People become numbers and the push for conversion replaces true community. Percy reveals, “Churches should be growing communities with new people coming in and changing things by their presence” (Percy, 31). Do you think that the church is failing to retain Millennials and Generation Z because they’re not willing to be changed by their presence?

  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    Man I too wish I had read that being good enough is good enough earlier in my ministry calling. I burnt myself out time and again trying to over and out work the others in my church and it came at a cost. I know God will open the door for you when it is time, for now, rest in him and write a great dissertation.


  5. Dan,

    Thanks for your post today.

    It is impossible to measure success in pastoral ministry just as it is also impossible to measure success in motherhood/fatherhood. We all just do our best which we hope is “good enough”.

    I appreciated Percy saying “good enough” is good enough.

    Her mothering metaphor hearkens back to a simpler style of pastoring where one would do visitations and attend to the chatter as a part of the call. I miss seeing that model in operation.

    I found a show on Netflix and wonder if you have it on US Netflix. It’s called ‘Father Brown’, and it’s a delightful British show where the parish priest solves murders in every episode. But his style of pastoring is much like the mothering of Percy.

  6. Greg says:


    Boy I resonated with the story of a friend stressed about results. I know we are all products of our culture and for Westerners that often means suceess=results…faithfullness=fruitfulness (heard this said recently)….tangible and seen by all. As you know in kingdom work that is hard to live and sometimes not seen at all. One aspect I enjoy of coming to the States to share is that it forces me to look back at what God is doing in and around the people I get to work with. There are many days that I wonder what is going on….the ordinary times of life seem to equal no tangible results :-). I know this is where my culture and the reality of serving God collides from time to time. I know even as a parents we hope that all the time and conversations with our children will lay foundation to be used for God’s glory…sometimes we get to see good results…sometimes not. I have found we often find direction as we are serving…that may be do-er in me.

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