Profit? Retention? Salvation?
“The challenge with the ministry which we are involved in is that, according to our definition of success, we have a hard time knowing whether we are successful or not.”
One of the challenges I face as director of Big Sky is evaluating the effectiveness of what we do here. Are we successful in what we are trying to accomplish at Big Sky? I recall another Christian camp I knew about where success was measured largely by the number of salvation decisions made during the course of the summer. If salvations were “down,” then something needed to be changed to get them back “up!”
In the secular world, success is measured largely by margin of profit. Other indicators of success might be good customer service and retention. The nice thing for the secular business is that most indicators of success are measurable. The challenge with the ministry which we are involved in is that, according to our definition of success, we have a hard time knowing whether we are successful or not.
Naturally I evaluate our customer service, registration experience, etc., but the most important area of success involves the gospel of Christ. Are we effective in accurately sharing this gospel with campers? Are campers who know Christ growing and being challenged in their faith? Are campers leaving with an explicit understanding of what the gospel demands from them? These are hard questions to answer.
Success and Faithfulness
Success isn’t even really an accurate term to use for what we are referring to – it would be better be termed “faithfulness.” You see, the problem with measuring salvation decisions is that we usurp the role of the Holy Spirit. Salvations are down, so we better ramp up our presentation of the gospel or throw something in there to hit on their emotions. However, the opposite of this attitude can also bring about lethargy in ministry as well. “We did our job, now the rest is up to God!”
At Big Sky, we want to be successful financially (as I always tell those in the office – if we fail as a business, we fail as a ministry). We want everyone to have an excellent experience at Big Sky whether they are a camper or guest group. When it comes to the most important aspect of our work – the gospel, we want to be faithful. In Samuel’s farewell address in I Samuel 12, he gives this exhortation:
“…Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”1 Samuel 12:24
For Big Sky, this means choosing our speakers carefully, singing songs that are full of biblical doctrine, providing resources for campers to grow, encouraging counselor – camper discussions about the gospel, getting kids into their Bibles and being sure to present the gospel accurately while allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in hearts. Faithfulness is a tall order, but thank the Lord it is He who does the impossible part – regenerating hearts that are dead and full of sin.