How does one measure success in ministry? I wrestle with this question each time I write an annual report. To be sure, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church had its share of successes in 2013. Our average worship attendance remained strong compared to other area Lutheran congregations. We reached our financial goals. Our many programs, activities and missions continued. We voted to proceed with a long-planned parish hall expansion project and authorized a capital stewardship drive to fund it. New members were added to our rolls and hundreds of prayers, volunteer hours and acts of kindness were extended. We can be proud of these accomplishments. In a time of financial uncertainty and societal change, we remain a strong congregation; a community of faith which seeks to be faithful to God, intentional in witness, spiritually centered and hospitable to all.
This is not to suggest, however, that the congregation was challenge free in 2013. Given the size of the church, our worship attendance should have been much higher than it was and in fact has declined in recent years. Our financial stewardship has kept up with our needs, yet far too many of our congregants give only on a “pay as you go” basis. Although a large number of children enroll in our Sunday school classes each fall, average weekly attendance is increasingly sporadic. Our confirmation classes remain large and our high school ministry grew, yet so many of our youth continue to distance themselves from their faith community as soon as their confirmation obligations are completed. Adjustments to our membership rolls remind us of the number of individuals and families who have lapsed into inactivity or moved to other places.
So how does one measure success in ministry? An honest assessment reminds us that God’s work is always a mixture of successes and challenges, strengths and weakness, hopes and disappointments. As the people of God who are Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, we seek to be a congregation that is faithful to our calling, accountable for our work and hopeful for our future. The meaning of our ministry is found in the work of ministry itself -- in the witness we offer, the service we extend, and, in the words of the Apostle Paul, in the practice of things true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable.