An old real estate adage has it that the three most important things in selling a property are, in order, "Location, location, location." And what is true for real estate is true for ministry as well. It is all about "location, location, location."
During a synod CPM/COM training event this week, I set in on a presentation by a couple of directors of Ministry Development Centers on the personal factors that indicate healthy and effective ministers. They stated that there are not many sociologically rigorous studies that had looked at the issues of pastoral effectiveness. There was one, however, that not only met the quality standards but also had a very interesting finding.
The study was conducted as a "peer-referral" study. The researchers asked ministers to give them the names of pastoral colleagues whom they considered effective ministers. When these referred pastors were studied and interviewed, the researchers discovered two important things. First, there were indeed indicators that these pastors were effective in their current calls. Second, these pastors themselves reported that they had not been so effective in previous calls.
In short, the study found that pastoral effectiveness is not just a matter of the minister's personal gifts and developed skills. It is also profoundly influenced by the context of ministry. Effective ministry happens when the right person is in the right place at the right time. It is just as important to realize that putting people into a new ministry context because they are effective where they are now does not guarantee success. Ministry gifts need to be meshed with ministry needs.
Effective ministry happens when a person with the right gifts and ministry skills is located in a place where those particular gifts and skills fit with the people located there either because they fulfill certain needs or because they enhance those people's own ministries in the community around them. Combine those with being in synch with the Spirit--think of it as "time-location"--all the things necessary for effective ministry are present: "location" of the gifted and called person, "location" of the ministry context in which she fits, in synch/"location" in time with God.