How Do You Define Success?

I’ve recently spent a day away with the board from Centerville United Methodist Church (where I pastor). During this day, we revisited how God used the church in 2015, and then we refocused what we were called to do in 2016.

It was an amazing day, and we had tremendous discussion and laser focus on outcomes that will surely launch our church to the next season of ministry. As I reflect on that day, there is one thing that really stood out to me: Success in 2016 looks completely different from what it did in 2015.

In 2015 with me as a new pastor, we had yet to determine the true calling of our community. Honestly, success in 2015 was more like, “Just don’t wreck the place!” A year later, after having some decent success, the expectations have drastically changed. When I went to the board to ask them what they see in the next several years, it went from a place of maintenance to a place of growth. The ideas they had for implementing the vision of the church were a complete 180 from the year before.

When I thought about this I wondered what changed: Had I changed? Had the board changed? While both of those answers were “yes,” the other (more prominent) truth was that success had changed.

In the past year we (the board and I) began to see what a new future could look like for the church. As that picture was revealed the definition of success had changed. As leaders, one of the most difficult tasks we will have is defining success. It is difficult because we all have the ability to see the finish line differently. Is growing the church success? Or, do we have to grow the church by a certain number? Is the number of baptisms the true measure of success? Or is it the number serving in our community?

No matter how one person defines it, success will only happen when we get everyone on the same page about what it looks like. This is where most of us fail; we decided what success was, and then we forgot to tell the people around us. This is true with boards, business partners, and marriages. When we forget to communicate what success is then there is no one to help us get there, no one to help us evaluate when we fall short, and no one to celebrate with us when we succeed.

The question we must all wrestle with is: How am I defining success, and would the people around me say the same thing?