Unfortunately, one of the ministry lessons that has been drilled into my head over the years is that numbers matter. Specifically large numbers.
I was rarely asked by my supervisors how an event went, or what stories I could tell about the ministry. It always seemed to be about metrics…things that can be measured in numbers. And I get the need for metrics in ministry, (accountability, direction, etc.), but when did that dictate everything we do?
Usually the question was, “How many people showed up?”
Though I don’t believe numbers to be a great marker of life transformation, it’s hard to move beyond intellectually knowing that. So I would find myself questioning things that didn’t attract a significant number of people.
Now that I’m a practicing therapist I never get questions about numbers.
First, therapy isn’t measured by numbers, but by change.
Second, there is the assumption in therapy that one person can change and have great affect on an entire system. One partner in a marriage can transform the marriage. One kid in a family can transform the family.
I’m being taught the transforming value of one person upon a system.
I wonder what ministry would look like if we approached the people we serve in the same way? That one person can transform a ministry. One person can transform a city. One person can transform the world.
Instead, I think too often in ministry we are taught the value of numbers at the cost of missing out on opportunities to minister to and disciple that one person.