Principles of Successful Ministry
By Mark Conner
What are the keys to having a high- impact, long- lasting successful ministry? Of course, success
is not being better than, or having a bigger ministry than someone else. It means reaching and
maximising your God-given potential. Also, success means doing the basics well. Everyone likes
to learn something new or fancy, but it is consistently doing the basics extremely well that leads
to success. Here are seven principles of successful ministry.
Principle 1: Value Your Ministry (Perspective)
Successful people in ministry think highly of their ministry and see themselves as on a mission
from God. They believe that serving God is the highest and most important calling on earth (1
The way you see yourself and your ministry dramatically affects everything you do. What you
believe about God, yourself and your present situation either hinders or enhances your
The church you’re working to build is of vital importance. It is precious to God. It is at the very
centre of His purposes (Eph.3:10-11). So, working for God's kingdom makes you an important
person. Your role may not be prominent, but it is very significant.
Two men were moving bricks on a building site. When asked what they were doing, one man
said, “We’re just moving bricks from here to there.” The other man said, “We’re building a
cathedral.” Same job, but different perspective!
How do you feel about yourself and your ministry calling?
Principle 2: Live Your Ministry (Example)
Effective ministry is more about who your are than what you do. Great leaders lead by example.
The apostle Paul told people to follow Him, to imitate his life and to be like him (1 Cor.11:1).
Think of a person you admire. What is the one thing about them that causes you to admire them?
Usually, it is a character quality or attitude, rather than outward appearance, talent or skill. In the
same way, the things about you that will have the greatest influence on others are more likely to
be character qualities. Character is the foundation for all effective ministry. Ultimately, the
people you influence will be a reflection of you, for better or worse.
Paul told the leaders of the church at Ephesus to give careful attention to their own lives and then
to the church (Acts 20:28). We must beware of getting so caught up in the activity of ministry
that we neglect our own personal lives.
Successful leaders walk in integrity (Prov.10:9) and they keep a clear conscience in all matters,
whether they be ethical, financial or sexual. They understand that failure is more often a slide,
than a sudden fall and so they keep alert.
Be an example. Who you are speaks louder than what you say.
Principle 3: Love Your Ministry (Attitude)
Successful ministers develop and maintain a positive attitude in all situations. They love the
church and God's people. They enjoy their work and they are enthusiastic about it.
Attitude is a choice we have every day. You can't control what happens to you but you can
control what happens in you. You are responsible for your attitude and your attitude definitely
Some important attitudes to develop are joy (Ps.100:1), gratefulness (1 Thess.5:18), enthusiasm
(Rom.12:11) and a positive outlook (Phil.2:14).
A good attitude won’t stop you from having negative feelings, but it can prevent negative
feelings from stopping you. Negative emotions can be extremely destructive and need to be dealt
with quickly (Eph.4:29-32. Phil.5:6).
Do a quick attitude check: What do you think about the church, the people you serve and the
work you are doing?
Principle 4: Grow Your Ministry (Excellence)
Successful ministries are committed to continual growth and the pursuit of excellence. They
believe that God's church is called to be glorious and therefore, they do their very best for God
Excellence means being above average, going the second mile, refusing to be ordinary, learning
from failure and a commitment to continual growth or improvement. Pat Riley, an outstanding
basketball coach, says, “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” We
often see the end product of people’s ministry development and think we could never do what
they do. However, we don’t see the process of their ministry development along the way. We
can achieve excellence through the same process of living, learning and growing.
Paul challenged Timothy to spiritual progress (1 Tim.4:12-16). He told him to devote himself to
personal growth and the development of his God-given gifts and abilities. The result would be
that his progress would be seen by all and his ministry would be more effective.
Are you declining, maintaining or progressing?
Principle 5: Focus Your Ministry (Priority)
Successful people know their priorities and focus all of their ener gy on them. They put first
things first. They know what's important and they do it (Mt. 6:33).
As leaders, it is essential that we use our time wisely in order to accomplish what God has called
us to. We need to ensure that urgent things don't keep us from doing what is really important.
What’s your priority? It'll be a busy year and you'll fill up a lot of time, but what with? Activity
does not always equal accomplishment.
Paul tells us that the difference between the wise and the foolish person is the ir understanding of
God’s will and their wise investment of time into daily opportunities (Eph.5:15-17).
Our major priority is to help people. Church work must have a people focus. We are in the
people business. Develop good people skills. Walk slowly through the crowd. Smile, say hello,
introduce yourself, ask questions, call people by name, be friendly and helpful, be sincerely
interested in their life, be generous with praise and cautious with criticism.
Principle 6: Share Your Ministry (Teamwork)
Successful ministries don’t go it alone. They build and develop a team around them. They are
committed to helping others get involved in ministry. They continually gather, motivate, train
and mobilise people.
To be a good team player, you need to first learn to be a good follower of those to whom you are
accountable. Then you need to be able to partner effectively with those who are your peers.
Finally, you need to give good leadership to those for whom you are responsible.
Good teamwork requires a commitment to quality relationships, strong unity, continual
encouragement, undivided loyalty, open communication and genuine love.
Principle 7: Fuel Your Ministry (Prayer)
Successful ministries continually fuel their lives with prayer. Prayer helps them develop a vital
and personal relationship with God, which then provides the power and energy to get the job
The bottom line when it comes to prayer is dependence. When I don’t pray, I’m saying to God,
“I can do this”. When I do pray, I’m saying to God, “Lord, I need you.” The truth is that we need
Him all the time and without Him we can do nothing of lasting value.
We all know that ministry can be hazardous to our lives. Therefore, a living, dynamic
relationship with God is essential to prevent us from burning out or dropping out of the race and
to keep us enjoying the journey.
I hate stopping to fill up my car with petrol because it slows me down, makes me stop and worst
of all, allows all those cars I’ve just passed, to get ahead of me again. Yet, it is o nly through
stopping that I can refuel and gain the resources to keeping going on my journey. The challenge
in ministry is that we often get so busy working for God, like Martha, that we neglect taking time
to stop and sit at His feet, like Mary did (Lk.10:38-42).
The best habit I’ve developed over the last eighteen months is the practise of taking a Retreat
Day every month. During this day, I take time to refuel – to pray, to evaluate my life and
ministry, to review the previous month to see if I’m on co urse and to plan the coming month.
When I first started this habit it was so hard, because I was thinking of all the work I wasn’t
getting done. Now it’s an absolute priority, because I see it as an investment of my time that
produces a greater freshness and effectiveness in my daily life and ministry.
The Race is on!
The Christian life is not a hundred- metre sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s not just about how fast you
run, but how long you last. Let’s be ministers who run with all our might, but most of all, let’s
finish well (2 Tim.4:7).
A final thought. Knowledge doesn’t change the world, action does. It’s what you do about what
you’ve just read that determines whether it will help you or not. How about rating yourself from
1 – 10 on the seven principles listed above (1 being “poor” and 10 being “outstanding”). Which
principle had the lowest score? Think about what you could do about improving this area in the
next week. Finally, just do it!
The above material is summarised fro m Mark Conner’s book Successful Christian Ministry, which is available in
Australia fro m City Life Church Bookshop (Phone 61 3 9871 8339 or online shop at www.citylifechurch.com).