Wanting vs Needing Your Church To Be Successful


Most pastors want their church to be successful, and some pastors need their church to be successful. Wanting and needing are two different things. It’s important to recognize the difference between these two desires (wanting vs. needing) and, along with that, to discover a definition of ‘success’ that is both healthy and realistic.

A definition of success that focuses solely on numbers (attendance, offerings) is unhealthy (for the pastor) and unrealistic. My experience in working with pastors and the churches they lead has shown time after time that a church can be healthy and not grow. I’ve also come to realize that a church can be unhealthy and grow. Strange as that may sound, it is true.

I don’t think it’s necessary, or wise, to ignore attendance and offerings, but what is necessary is to find a definition of success that has very little to do with numbers. A great question for a pastor to ask his/her leadership team would be, “How might we define success for our church if we could not refer to attendance and offerings?”

Having said this, let’s now return to the issue of wanting vs. needing.

Many pastors ‘need’ their church to grow. They need their church to be successful to feel good about themselves. They need their church to be successful in order to receive recognition, applause, and respect from fellow pastors. (Keep in mind that this ‘need’ is usually below the surface and oftentimes unknown to the pastor.) When your self-worth is wrapped up in the success of your church, you’re headed for heartbreak and burnout.

Now, of course, one could ‘want’ their church to be successful for all the wrong reasons, but for me, somehow ‘wanting’ seems more natural and healthy than ‘needing.”

Do you want your church to be successful or do you need your church to be successful? How wrapped up in numbers is your definition of success? Are you depressed and discouraged because you feel your church is not successful? If so, what’s the real issue behind these feelings?

Here’s something to chew on…

The closer one moves towards God in personal intimacy, the less one needs their church to be successful. Once you reach this place, you will be free.


  1. Bob Mowdy’s avatar

    Let’s not forget those of us who want their church to be successful because it needs to be successful to survive in a dry and barren place.

  2. Marty Boller’s avatar

    Excellent, Dave. I was reminded recently when I was singing an old worship chorus…”You are all I need”. I was singing along and suddenly I heard the Spirit whisper to me….”Marty, are you really sure you want to sing that song?” So here’s the gut-honest, down & dirty confession. Getting me to the point where ALL I really need is Jesus…means laying down a whole lot of good ‘wants’.

  3. Dave Jacobs’s avatar

    God is trying to get me also to the place where all I really need is Jesus. It’s a hard, slow process. Sounds like everyone is enjoying the national conference. I can’t wait to hear more from you.

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