Defining Ministry

How do you define “ministry”?

As the church, we are ministers.  We run ministries.  We say we minister to people.  (And we do lots of ad-“ministration”)  But I am becoming more convinced that we are just creating a lot of activity and busyness, with very little ministry.

So seriously, how do you define “ministry”?  (Take a few minutes and try to write out a definition)

Here is the definition a pastor shared with me a few years back:

Ministry is “meeting people where they are at and guiding them to where God wants them to be.”


1)      Meeting people where they are at.  That is the opposite of getting people to be where you are at.  One of the first marks of ministry is the willingness to “go”.  To meet people where they are at- in their neighborhoods, in their sin, in their doubt.  To meet people just as they are.

I fear that too many Christians do not know how to meet people where they are at.  To “go” and meet people where they are at means we need to get past ourselves.  To realize ministry is not about us, but about our neighbor.

2)      And guiding them.  I believe ministry is a skill.  I would not want to be lead into a forest by an unskilled hiking guide.  One who did not know his way.  The danger and beauty of the land.  But a skilled guide can share with me the wonders he knows well.  He can warn me of the dangers along the way.  He can teach me the lay of the land, so that I might know it myself

A guide needs to know when to encourage and rebuke.  To rest and to push forward.  To challenge and to comfort.  No situation is ever the same.  Every person is different.  This is not a bus tour.  A skilled guide must know the intricacies of the spiritual life and human soul like the back of his hand.

Jesus is our example of this.  One minute showing radical grace.  The next minute a harsh rebuke.  At times, walking at a leisurely pace- unhurried.  At times, setting his face like flint towards Jerusalem- purposeful and direct.  Jesus is our guide indeed.


3)      To where God wants them to be. That is a loaded statement.  At the heart of ministry is the assumption that we know God and his intentions.  That we can see the heart of God, for others.  That we can pray, and guide, and teach, and live in such a way that we pull people into a new reality, a new life.  The life of Christ.

If we do not have this vision, we cannot minister.  We are just “the blind leading the blind.”

To date, I have not discovered a better definition of ministry.  And it has helped me navigate all sorts of situations and decisions.  And I have discovered that a lot of what occupies our time is not actually ministry.

What do you think of this definition?  Do you have a better one?

1 Comment

  1. Gail October 11, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I totally agree! I have a ministry in a little community in the mountains of Colorado. The children there are eager to learn about God. Yet, their parents, are not. If they see something as viable, they will participate. We had an Easter Egg Hunt in the little park near the church and nearly all of the 28 families in the town came. So, it was culturally relevant for them. We just did some outreach, with an apparel and bake sale at the town’s annual Man of the Cliff event (lumberjack sorts of contests, i.e…log splitting, two-man sawing, keg toss, etc. Our booth was next to the whiskey sponsor. Talk about meeting people where they are! Yet, I am often discouraged about my efforts. I think you put it in perspective when you say, what is God’s plan for them and their community. This helps so much! God’s Blessings, Gail Britt, Minister, Red Cliff Community Church

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.