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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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How's it going?

Take time to assess your ministry

“How’s it going?” As we move through life we constantly ask this question. It has even become one of our most common casual greetings. Beyond such constant informal inquiries to one another, we frequently engage in more formal stock-taking. We go to medical professionals for physical examinations. Employees undergo annual performance reviews with a supervisor. Evaluation, “finding the value,” is all around us.

While post-worship assessment of the Sunday service (with particular focus on the preacher’s sermon) probably dates back to the time of the apostles, over the past several decades increased attention has been given to more formal ministry review. In some cases, unfortunately, ill-advised and poorly planned efforts to evaluate the pastor do more harm than good.

On the other hand, when asked about their recipe for remaining alive and vibrant in mission, many congregations and rostered leaders point to regular ministry assessments as an essential ingredient: “We prayerfully make plans together and then ask periodically, ‘How are we doing?’ ”

Effectiveness in ministry is often elusive. There is truth in the adages: “Numbers never tell the whole story” and “We’re called to be faithful, not successful.” Indeed, some of the finest clergy we know are pastors in parishes that are on downward trends in declining communities.


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September issue

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