He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-30
What is the first thing you think of when you read “John the Baptist?” Probably camel hair, locusts, and honey right? Most of us think of John as this rather odd guy in the wilderness, and we fail to grasp his importance. The last prophet before John was Malachi—400 years earlier! After 400 years of silence, John was quite a celebrity. Sure he had his quirks, but he was actually quite popular.
And then Jesus showed up and that all changed. Jesus immediately drew a following—many people turning from John to follow Him.
John’s loyal disciples struggled with this. They too were used to the attention and now it was gone. But how did John take it?
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John got it. He understood that God had given him a following for one reason—to point those people to Jesus.
John is a great example of humility, especially in times of success. John didn’t let his following go to his head, he remained humble and held his following with an open hand.
Can we be honest? Sometimes it is hard to stay humble in ministry. Sometimes we can let it all go to our heads and we can start celebrating ourselves instead of pointing people to Jesus. Sometimes, if we are honest, we live as if we must increase and He must decrease.
We don’t want that, of course. It can just happen that way at times. So what can we do to prevent that? Here are five tips for handling success in ministry.
- Celebrate wins with your team. Being humble doesn’t mean ignoring wins in your ministry. When God gives your ministry a win, celebrate it with your team! God deserves the credit and your team deserves to celebrate what God did through them.
- Make your leaders the heros. Kids ministry is certainly a team effort! Be sure to always focus on your team when celebrating wins. Make it a habit to always point to your team when someone praises something you did or something that happened in ministry. Keeping the focus on them is good for them and good for your heart.
- Point people to God’s goodness. While it is important to point people to your team, it is more important to point them to God. Anything good that happens in your ministry is out of God’s kindness and goodness. Anything not so good that happens is under God’s sovereign control. No matter what happens, take people to God.
- Don’t put a cap on your ministry’s potential. There is always a balance when it comes to looking at wins. A mistake in one direction is to be too critical and not celebrate wins. A mistake in the opposite direction is to think you have arrived. A healthy, humble ministry perspective is in between. Celebrate the wins, but never be content with what God has done or limit what He can do. Evaluate to find out what could have been even better and where your kids ministry goes from here.
- Keep realistic expectations. While you always want to be pushing to see God work even more in your ministry, and while God is infinite, we have to be careful not to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our teams. Just because God blew your doors off at this summer’s VBS doesn’t mean He necessarily will do it next summer. Pray for it, plan for it, but set realistic, yet challenging, goals.
Next time — David: How do leaders handle their failings?
Brian Dembowczyk is the managing editor for The Gospel Project. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to Lifeway. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.