Ministry vs. People

TopPriorityI recently came across a quote that is excellent. I am sorry, I don’t remember where it is from, so I can’t give proper credit…

“We don’t use people to get ministry done, we use ministry to get people done.”

It is so easy to get this backward. We get focused on the what, the how, the when, the details. There are a lot of details for sure.

I have been blessed to be a part of some incredible events, programs, and churches. Through those there have been so many times where the event or program would begin to become the focus. The scale, the scope, the money, the timing, all seem so critical in each moment that people begin to fade to the background of importance. That is not the way it is supposed to be.

People matter so much more. Yes, things need to get done. Yes, details must be taken care of. Yes, a lot is on the line. The key is to take care of all of that while keeping people the priority. While caring for each person involved and affected. We don’t want to get to the end and be able to point to what we got done and see a trail of hurt, ignored, forgotten, and marginalized people in the wake. Legacy is so much more about what is left IN others than what is left FOR others as we were reminded by Pastor Brent Salyers on a recent Sunday. (You can hear his message here.) Legacy is not an inheritance. It’s not a list of accomplishments. It’s not a series of monuments to self. Legacy is on-going influence, lasting impact within subsequent generations. The greatest legacies carry on long after the name of the one who planted it is forgotten.

Here’s a couple of practical ways we can get things done while keeping people the priority:

Include people in the process. Early on I made the mistake of just doing everything to get it done efficiently and it seemed easier. It takes time to train and invest in others. It requires energy to build up another person. In the moment, when the task is the focus, it can seem like the investment is not worth it.

By spending time with someone while getting something done together allows for true mentoring. It opens up opportunity for making an impact. It is worth it. There is no greater investment of time then in the life of another.

I was given the advice very early on to “never do anything alone.” The idea behind this was to include others along the way. By doing so, we are giving someone else opportunity and possibility in their own life. They may end up better at doing that project/task than we are and we have just raised up someone to free us up for other things. This idea also offers protection and accountability.

This is more than just asking someone to do something with you. This is truly involving others in the full process, every step from inception to completion.

Make the goals people centered. It’s easy to set goals centered on numbers. While we can look at a project or event and say that we want to see X number doing this or that, it is better to look at the outcomes in the people involved as greater importance than the numbers.

An example of this. There is an outreach coming up. Preparing for 1000 people to show up is good. The event won’t be successful without adequate preparation. However, the goals of the event shouldn’t focus on raw numbers. A couple of people centered goals would be:

  • Each volunteer worker of the event feel valued and useful realizing a sense of purpose in their involvement.
  • Every attender of the outreach/event sense the love of God and the hospitality of God’s people.

Achieving goals such as these would bring about a successful outreach/event that focused primarily on people.

This carries over to on-going ministries and programs within the church as well. Our goals should not be mostly about high numbers and magazine article worthy results. Our goals should be zeroed in on what is happening in the life of each individual involved.

Most pastors and ministers started out with the desire and drive to help people. Somewhere along the way, it is easy to get focused on the organization/program over the people involved. Real ministry is actually all about people.

I am not suggesting we don’t use numbers at all. In fact, numbers are a good indicator of what is happening with individuals. Chasing numbers, however, is dangerous and counter-productive to what ministry is about. We use numbers for metrics, but we do not put numbers ahead of individuals.


“We don’t use people to get ministry done, we use ministry to get people done.”

%d bloggers like this: