Are You Really Making a Difference?


Sometimes I wonder if I’m making a difference for my clients. Then there are days like yesterday.

Recently I connected with a pastor I had done some strategic work several years ago. I remember our first meeting and how much work I knew it would take for his church to become an outwardly-focused, evangelistic congregation. This was not just cosmetic changes, but a fundamental shift in the way he did ministry. It was going to be costly, in terms of losing core people who liked the circle-up-the-wagons approach to ministry they had,  and costly in the terms of all the dollars that would walk out of the door along with those people.

make a difference

As we reconnected and he shared what God has done in his congregation since those days, I was blown away. I was right. It was a painful transition, and they did lose a lot of people, but I’m thankful that the story doesn’t end there.

Since my work with the lead team, the church has grown by an average of a 1,000 people every year! And most of the growth is not from disgruntled members from other congregations. It has come from reaching those outside the faith.

As my friend shared his last five-year journey with me, I was moved to tears. I was humbled to have been a small part, a catalyst  of sorts, who help them take a good church and turn it into a great one.

I’m so thankful for our meeting. I needed it. Sometimes we work hard and wonder if what we do is truly making a difference. I know my clients who lead not-for-profits, universities, churches and ministries wrestle with that question almost on a daily basis. Yesterday was a reminder that what I do matters.

Think about your life: your family, friends, clients. How often have you asked yourself, “Am I getting through at all?” I know I ask that about most exchanges with my teenage boys. And while there might not be immediate signs of life, I know that those seeds need to be planted, even when I think it’s going to fall on infertile soil.

Let me encourage you to continue to grow and do what you do with passion and excellence. It’s easy to give up when you cannot see immediate results.

Do you ever feel like I felt and questioned your contribution to those around you? How do you deal with that feeling?

  • I wrestle with that question all the time, especially about the college students I work with. At most, I get them for 4 years. Typically, it’s about 2-3, so I don’t always see the fruit of that work. Sometimes it isn’t until years later and I find out the impact I made. 

    I deal with it by reminding myself that I only play a small part in the story God is writing with their lives. 4 years really isn’t that long. But if all I was able to do was cause them to begin thinking about God, or help them grow just a bit deeper with him, it was worth it.

    • Jason, sometimes a conversation has a way to impact people in ways we could never comprehend. Don’t underestimate what God can do through a few minutes with someone. 

  • Barry Whitlow

    Thanks MA – great post. I see churches all the time that are not ‘becoming’ an outwardly focused church. The results are so many things… including decline and not reaching the 70% in our communities that ‘choose’ not to attend any church on Sunday.

  • I’ve had situations like this happen. You feel so discouraged, but then someone writes an encouraging note to you. It’s also a good reminder about the power of encouraging others and letting them know the positive things they’re doing in your life. In your example, you could see definitive change in the life of the church you worked with. They could see numerical growth. But in so much else that we do, it’s hard to really nail down quantitatively. That’s why it’s so important to share with others when they’re benefiting us.

    • So true. For everyone who takes the time to share, there are so many that never do.

  • This is one of the toughest things working in an industry (web / media) where you don’t see the fruits of your labor. Its humbling. Its tough. It makes you question if you chose the right profession / job / other life choices. Moments like the ones you’ve described add gasoline to a dwindling flame and keep me working hard and striving towards the greatness that Christ calls us to.

  • Maurilio,  As a ‘consultant’, I often question my contribution.  However, when I feel like I am not, I often go back to my “why” folder.  I keep a folder of affirming messages sent to me by others who I have made a difference in their lives.  Often, I was not even aware of it. 

    Also, I am generally harder on myself than my clients, so I have to manage the expecation often…Not to the point of being satisfied, but to the point of being aware of the impact I can have.

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