DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Good Enough Ministry

Written by: on May 31, 2019

Doctor and Nurse

Something must be lost in the translation. In the book, What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, by Emma Percy, she describes “Good Enough Mothering” and uses it as a metaphor for “Good Enough Parish Priests” (Percy 2014, 38). Being good enough is not a compliment, and in today’s culture of leadership excellence, it can actually be considered an insult. In fact, AT&T has a series of commercials that came to mind when reading about “Good Enough ministry”, called “Just Ok”.  In this series of commercials, the viewer is convinced that being “just ok” is really very bad. In one instance, a doctor comes in the room after a patient asks a nurse how she likes working for the doctor in question, and she states he is “ok”.  Confused, the patient and his wife want to know the reason for her response of “just ok”. Shortly thereafter, the doctor walks in and announces that he just got reinstated. At the end of the commercial, the announcer says, “Just ok is not ok”.

Percy’s idea of “Good Enough” is not settling for mediocrity, but acknowledging the internal conflict that comes from caring for and about people in all of the complexities of their competing needs (Percy 2014, 42). Knowing that the parish priest is not perfect allows the minister to focus on developing virtues rather than just following rules (Percy 2014, 42). Percy explains that by virtues she is describing the development of practical wisdom (Percy 2014, 42) which is gained by the process of trial and error of helping the members of the parish grow.

As a Children and Youth minister, this concept is very evident in the faith development of children. The need to nurture children is more obvious since they display their dissatisfaction with problems in the ministry openly. It seems given Percy’s metaphor of mothering as ministering, that more women that are mothers or have a mothering spirit would be a natural fit for ministry and in particular, ministry to children.

Youth workers often focus on getting the lesson perfect, making sure children memorize Scripture, and say their parts perfectly, missing this idea of mothering and being good enough. Percy’s metaphor emphasizes the need to develop relationships with our charges or those we care for. Perhaps the mothering idea of being “Good Enough” should be adopted in our rules-based ministry practices here in the United States, which tends to be performance-based instead of relationship based as demonstrated by a loving mother. Most would agree that our own “Good Enough” mothers were the most excellent mothers anyway, no matter how imperfect they may have actually been.

Reference

Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing. London: SPCK, 2014.

About the Author

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Mary Mims

I am a licensed and ordained Baptist minister and have worked with the children and youth for the last seven years. I have resided in the Washington, DC area for the last 30 years, but I am originally from Michigan. I am also bi-vocational and work at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the Scientific Library.

11 responses to “Good Enough Ministry”

  1. Mario Hood says:

    Mary, you made some “good” correlations in the reading and your ministry problem you are working on. I agree we need a “good” does of mothering-relationship in the church and not rules. I once heard it said, rules without relationship lead to rebellion. Maybe this is why so many young people walked away from the church. Thanks again.

  2. In this day and age, when church volunteer workers are difficult to find, “good enough” is certainly better than not doing anything at all.

    Sometimes we wait to act until we can figure out a way to do a task perfectly. If we’re in that mindset, nothing actually gets done. Like Percy mentioned, perfection is unobtainable. We must adjust our expectations to what is real. What’s “real” today is that young people need role models and people who they can trust.

    I appreciate your ministry Mary. Keep up the good work.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      This is such a good point, Harry. Often times, we wait until perfection, which in the end, becomes unattainable. That desire for perfection stops us from even trying. I like what you stated here Mary, that being perfect should never stop us from trying, because often times, despite our mistakes, we do great work. Thanks for your perspective Mary!

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mary,
    Thanks so much for your unique perspective. Your comparison of AT&T’s commercial campaign personifies our American culture’s delusion with higher performance and the cost of relationship. Perfection is contextually very difficult to measure but we all know good relational connection when we experience it. How many of us would love to have health care providers and service providers (including AT&T) that cared for us and valued us as family members? I loved your application of Percy’s “good enough” to your children and youth ministry context. I know we have both been around the church long enough to observe the difference between a child or youth reciting content they learned versus living out values that were modeled to them. How will you be able to incorporate Percy’s work into your research? Many blessings on your research and the important ministry you are called to, H

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Harry, I think this can be useful because it shows what is really needed in children’s ministry is love for the children. They may not remember what they learned in church but they should remember a loving feeling they had when they went to church. This is why the mothering is important.

  4. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you, Mary. I agree that women are a natural fit for children’s ministry and I believe there needs to be more women in the pastor/priest roles as well. My reasoning is that the nurturing of souls has not been an emphasis in the last four decades or so in the U.S. Instead, a model of bigger, better, success orientation has become platformed. Maybe if more women are pastoring the pendulum can swing back the other way some.

  5. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I appreciate how you point to the need to shift back our focus to relationships. It’s interesting because I have often wondered about the damage done by the illusion of ‘perfect’ relationships. How many marriages have been destroyed by one or both partners assuming that they ‘deserve’ better? There is an unhealthy narrative (nurtured by rom-coms) that if you are with the right person it will be ‘perfect’ and if it isn’t perfect it is because you are with the ‘wrong’ person. This applies to many of the relationships in our lives. How might the idea of ‘good enough’ create freedom to work at our relationships? What might the role of grace be in this idea of good enough? Is there something we could learn from children about ‘good enough’ and how does that differ from mediocrity? Thanks for your thoughts and ministry Mary!

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Jenn, once I was at a grocery store buying ingredients for cookies, and as the price was growing, I wondered out loud if it was a good idea to make the cookies. The young cashier guy encouraged me to make the cookies and not just buy a bag. He remembered a woman at his church making cookies for him with great joy. He felt it showed she really loved him. I never forgot that lesson the young man taught me; it’s what you do for people that count.

  6. Andrea Lathrop says:

    I’m so glad you wrote on this, Mary, because the ‘good enough’ material from Percy really struck me. The conflict that brings to an excellence culture! I almost laughed out loud thinking about offering that in some settings but I believe it has a great deal of merit. And I thought of those commercials too! Thank you for giving me more to chew on on being “good enough”.

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Andrea, I still do not like the terminology of “good enough”, but I get what Percy means by it. But, yeah, it does not convey anything good in my opinion.

  7. Thank you Mary for sharing about your ministry to children and youth and how Percy’s use of the mothering metaphor and just being good enough resonates with your experience. I must agree with this especially because our culture is relationship based as opposed to being task oriented. I now appreciate our relationship based culture which naturally helps us as clergy to build nurturing relationships. I’ll however tell you that I have desired that we would adopt excellence into our culture because it would add value to our society as long as we do not loose the relationship aspect.

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