7 Youth Ministry Numbers You Really Should Know

This article was originally published October 4, 2011.

One of my favorite pastors had always noted, we need to be ministering to who we are accountable for, and that isn’t always who is on our rolls. Rolls are a terrible statistical number.
In the business world a good “ROI” or return on investment in a project is considered pretty successful if it reaches the 5% mark (sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the endeavor). That doesn’t transfer very well to the church world, where every person counts and everyone has to be involved. This is the reality we live with as youth workers.
Years ago my friend Mark DeVries suggested me to a church in my area that was looking for a youth leader. His Youth Ministry Architects had done consultant work with that church and in their report (which Mark gave to me & was made available on the church website) gave me some new understandings to “numbers” in ministry and what is feasible. I have carried much of those numbers with me in keeping some idea on the growth and health of the ministries I have been a part of.
Some numbers have been around for years, and you will probably hear similar in some youth ministry workshop that you go to in the future. Some of these Mark has written more extensively in his bookSustainable Youth Ministry.
1. 10% of the worship congregation makes up a healthy reflection of numbers in the youth ministry. 200 people in church on Sunday then you can range around 20 teenagers. Sure you can be healthy and be higher or lower for varied reasons, but that’s a good measure. It is important to distinguish the worshiping congregation over the church rolls. An unhealthy congregation cannot expect to have a thriving youth ministry that exceeds its own metrics. If it does it may not be sustainable. Churches that look for youth to be the magic pill saving their church are going to be disappointed. Rolls then become your new outreach focus, not group.
2. 7 the amount of Friends a teen needs to have in the youth group. (This I believe picked up from on of the myriad of Chap Clark writings) You know the question every teen asks when signing up for an event or deciding on signing up, “Who is going to be there?” They need to know that there will be a collection of friends there to talk to and hang with. This number ensures that someone will be there that they know. Small groups, and small youth groups, help to fill this need. The hospitality of a group helps with this. Cliques are killers to this. Notice who isn’t there, list out their friends from the group, are those friends coming? Can you list seven teens? If that sounds silly just think about where you go that doesn’t have some friendships involved. It is a number that is important.
3. 4-6 is the amount of teenagers that an adult can know intimately in a spiritual mentor type role. This makes a great case for the need for many youth leaders in your ministry. Jesus, though he had 12 disciples, is known to have kept just a few of the fellas closer to him and invested in them more than the whole group. This is fluid, a teen you are tight with this month you might have fallen away from the next because you have started to invest in another teen. That’s natural progression and perfectly okay in my book, but you want other leaders in place to fit that spot. So if you have a ministry of 25 youth, then you need 5 adults who are fully invested in the lives of the teenagers, that is if they are equally spread out. Best to have 6 or 7 so that everyone is known.
4. $1,000 per kid per year. The folks at Youth Ministry Architects through their work over the years have given a range of 1,000 per kid per year spent on youth ministries in the budget & staff salary for the youth ministries. In the case of my small church, we have 32 youth on rolls, 3 that are irregular attenders (family dynamics), so for the 29 I feel we are accountable that would be $29,000 a year for the budget. We do not quite meet that, but we certainly know it and we work to fill gaps as we can. We also know that we are not going to have bust out growth years without some financial investment.
5. 50 the general ceiling of teenagers that a paid staff person can keep up with on an effective basis. Do you see business managers who manage 50 people on their own? No, businesses know it’s a stretch and ineffective so they’ll throw structures/positions in place to help. Youth ministries are generally without that. The solo youth pastor at a 200 youth church (active) might be the manager of 50-60 adults throughout the year. Not to mention the programming and administrative tasks. If this is you, you need to be asking for some help. If help is not available in paid help then search out ways to fill in some gaps with parents gifts and talents. But again, that becomes more people in the equation.

6. 20% ceiling for youth ministry is where numbers can begin to become unpredictable. At this point the numbers associated with investment do not always work directly with growth.

7. 1 Family is what you have so don’t sacrifice them. If you are like me then had some ceremony that was before God where you took some vows to another person and thus created a family. You probably didn’t have anything in the vows to uphold, protect, and nurture a youth ministry. If you are single with/without a child/ren similar applies. There is a responsibility to that relationship first no matter what the church says. That isn’t to say that your family cannot do that for a youth ministry, just remember where your priorities and commitments stand first and foremost. Way too often I am seeing youth leaders get caught up with the youth culture and being the ‘everything’ for the teenagers that they are leaving nothing for their family, and sometimes leaving all together. Keeping up with numbers, growth, friendships, and other metrics are great, but the most important number is your family.
As with any statistic you can claim it means something different, but these are pretty observable if you go through writing down who you know really well right now. It probably isn’t that many if you are honest about it. If there are kids who come infrequently then write down who their friends are in the group, it probably doesn’t come to 7. Numbers can fluctuate depending on contexts of environment. Areas that have a single set school system (one junior high and high school) could bring in higher numbers than those who have a spread set of school systems.
So have fun playing with some #’s.
Shalom
-Gavin
Gavin Richardson is Digital Community Builder for YouthWorker Movement and the Short One at YouthWorker Circuit.  He has been in youth work for almost two decades now, has been a writer and consultant on numerous internet and published projects for the church. He’s often a speaker around the country on church communications and community building. His current projects are working on developing online Youth Disciple Groups and finishing a new book “Sticky Sheep.” He is the part time youth guy at Good Shepherd UMC in Hendersonville, TN.  If you ask, he will say that he is a “misfit” of the church. He lives in Nashville with his wife Erin, son Brooks and dog Crimson. You can connect with Gavin (and he’s totally cool with that) through http://about.me/gavoweb.

part 3: 15 faith-based predictions for 2012 – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs

15. We are seeing the divide between younger generation evangelicals and older generation (baby boom and older) get wider every year both theologically and culturally (lifestyle). 2012 promises to widen the gap even more with Gen X and younger evangelicals having trouble understanding why the traditional lines make sense and/or just outright rejecting those lines.

–Mark Tauber, publisher at HarperOne

via 15 faith-based predictions for 2012 – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

 

My third and final examination of this article.

What can we do about this gap as…

-the younger generation

-church workers

-the older generation?

 

This is a SERIOUS issue that has to be addressed.

Part 2: 15 faith-based predictions for 2012 – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs

11. More churches will lose the moat dragon mentality, lower the drawbridge and dispatch members beyond the church service to church SERVICE, applying their faith in the community through volunteerism and outreach.

–A. Larry Ross, Christian communications executive representing clients like Billy Graham and Rick Warren

via 15 faith-based predictions for 2012 – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

 

Yes, another reblogged quote from the same article, but i found it fascinating.

The above is something I truly hope will happen this year, but the bigger, more challenging, more alarming question is why has it not happened already?  Why do so many churches and people who claim Christianity have a “moat dragon” mentality.  Being “in the world but not of it” does not mean build a moat and further exacerbate the us-them mentality.

Service was one of Jesus’ greatest commands and yet we built a moat of comfortable, clean, content-ness, essentially destroying this simple command…

What do you think?

15 faith-based predictions for 2012 – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs

7. Significant numbers of millennials (young people born in the 1980s and 1990s) will continue to walk away from socially conservative religious traditions. Bringing them back will be tough, especially for religious organizations deeply invested in brick-and-mortar and bureaucracy. Millennials who are facing the erosion of access to affordable, quality education and meaningful employment and who stand to inherit from their elders a great deal of debt and environmental destruction want to know why and how faith matters.

via 15 faith-based predictions for 2012 – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

 

What do you think?  I thought about writing a long, thought out, overly wordy blog about this, but I think the above pretty much sums it up.

My generation feels abandoned by the church.

My generation feels that a mess has been made by those who told us how important our faith was, and is now left to clean it up and reap the “benefits” of it, and is confused.

What do you think?

I realize that may sound harsh, but I believe it’s reality….

Steve Jobs: 20 Life Lessons

Steve Jobs: 20 Life Lessons.

Don’t Wait

When the young Steve Jobs wanted to build something and needed a piece of equipment, he went straight to the source.

“He began by recalling that he had wanted to build a frequency counter when he was twelve, and he was able to look up Bill Hewlett, the founder of HP, in the phone book and call him to get parts.”

Make Your Own Reality

Steve Jobs learned early that when you don’t like how things are in your life or in your world, change them, either through action or sheer force of will.

“As Hoffman later lamented, “The reality distortion field can serve as a spur, but then reality itself hits.” – Joanna Hoffman, part of Apple’s early Macintosh team.

“I didn’t want to be a father, so I wasn’t,” Jobs later said, with only a touch of remorse in his voice.

Control Everything You Can

Steve Jobs was, to a certain degree, a hippie. However, unlike most free spirits of the 1960s-to-1970s love-in era, Jobs was a detail-oriented control freak.

“He wants to control his environment, and he sees the product as an extension of himself.”

Own Your Mistakes

Jobs could be harsh and even thoughtless. Perhaps nowhere was that more in evidence than with his first daughter. Still, as Jobs grew older and began to face mortality, he more readily admitted his mistakes.

“I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, such as getting my girlfriend pregnant when I was twenty-three and the way I handled that,” Jobs said.”

Know Yourself

While not always aware of how those around him were reacting to his appearance or demeanor, Jobs had no illusions about his own formidable intellectual skills.

“Then a more disconcerting discovery began to dawn on him: He was smarter than his parents.”

Leave the Door Open for the Fantastic

Jobs was a seeker, pursuing spiritual enlightenment and body purification throughout his life. He wasn’t a particularly religious person, but did not dismiss the existence or something beyond our earth-bound realm.

“I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.” — Steve Jobs

Don’t Hold Back

Apple’s founder was famous for his outbursts and sometimes over-emotional responses. In product development, things were often amazing or sh_t.

“He was an enlightened being who was cruel,” she recalled. “That’s a strange combination.”– former girlfriend and mother of Jobs’ first daughter, Chrisann Brennan

Surround Yourself with Brilliance

Whether he was willing to admit it or not, Steve Jobs could not do everything. Yes, he could have a huge impact on every product and marketing campaign, but he also knew that there were others in the world with skills he did not possess. Jobs’ early partnership with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak perfectly illustrated this fact. His early success with Wozniak provided the template for future collaborations.

“After a couple of months he was ready to test it. ‘I typed a few keys on the keyboard and I was shocked! The letters were displayed on the screen.’ It was Sunday, June 29, 1975, a milestone for the personal computer. “It was the first time in history,” Wozniak later said, “anyone had typed a character on a keyboard and seen it show up on their own computer’s screen right in front of them.”

Build a Team of A Players

Far too often, companies and managers settle for average employees. Steve Jobs recognized talent and decided that any conflict that might arise from a company full of “A”-level players would be counterbalanced by awesome output. He may have been right.

“For most things in life, the range between best and average is 30% or so. The best airplane flight, the best meal, they may be 30% better than your average one. What I saw with Woz was somebody who was fifty times better than the average engineer. He could have meetings in his head. The Mac team was an attempt to build a whole team like that, A players. People said they wouldn’t get along, they’d hate working with each other. But I realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn’t like working with C players.”– Steve Jobs

“I’ve learned over the years that when you have really good people you don’t have to baby them,” Jobs later explained. “By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.”

Be Yourself

Steve Jobs was often so busy being himself that he had no idea how people saw him, especially in his early, dirty-hippie days.

“At meetings we had to look at his dirty feet.” Sometimes, to relieve stress, he would soak his feet in the toilet, a practice that was not as soothing for his colleagues.”—Mike Markkula, Apple’s first chairman.

Be Persuasive

While it’s true that early Steve Jobs was a somewhat smelly and unpleasant person to be around, this same Steve Jobs also trained himself to stare without blinking for long periods of time and found that he could persuade people to do the seemingly impossible.

“If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?” he asked. Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if there were five million people using the Mac, and it took ten seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to three hundred million or so hours per year that people would save, which was the equivalent of at least one hundred lifetimes saved per year.”

Show Others the Way

Jobs wasn’t truly a programmer or technologist, certainly not in the way that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is, yet he had an intuitive understanding for technology and design that ended up altering the world’s expectations for computers and, more importantly, consumer electronics.

“To be honest, we didn’t know what it meant for a computer to be ‘friendly’ until Steve told us.” — Terry Oyama, part of the early Macintosh design team.

Trust Your Instincts

I have, in my own career, navigated by gut on more than one occasion. Steve Jobs, though, had a deep and abiding belief in his own tastes and believed with utter certainty that if he liked something, the public would as well. He was almost invariably right.

“Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?” — Steve Jobs

Take Risks

Throughout his career, Steve Jobs took chances, first with the launch of Apple, then in walking away from it and then returning in 1997. In an era when most companies were figuring out ways to diversify, Apple — under Job’s leadership — shed businesses and products, and focused on relatively few areas. He was also willing to steer the entire Apple ship (or at least some aspects of it) in a single direction if he thought it would generate future success.

“One of Jobs’ management philosophies was that it is crucial, every now and then, to roll the dice and ‘bet the company’ on some new idea or technology.”

“I had this crazy idea that we could sell just as many Macs by advertising the iPod. In addition, the iPod would position Apple as evoking innovation and youth. So I moved $75 million of advertising money to the iPod, even though the category didn’t justify one hundredth of that. That meant that we completely dominated the market for music players. We outspent everybody by a factor of about a hundred.” — Steve Jobs.

Follow Great with Great

In everything from products to movies (under Pixar), Steve Jobs sought to create great follow-ups. He wasn’t so successful in the early part of his career (see Lisa), but his third acts to Pixar and Apple proved he had the sequel touch.

“There’s a classic thing in business, which is the second-product syndrome,” Jobs later said. It comes from not understanding what made your first product so successful. “I lived through that at Apple. My feeling was, if we got through our second film, we’d make it.”

Make Tough Decisions

Good managers and leaders are willing to do hard work and, often, make unpopular decisions. Jobs apparently had little concern about being liked and therefore was well-equipped to make tough choices.

“The most visible decision he made was to kill, once and for all, the Newton, the personal digital assistant with the almost-good handwriting-recognition system.”

Presentation Can Make a World of Difference

The Apple founder hated PowerPoint presentations, but perhaps somewhat uncharacteristically, believed elegant product presentation was critical.

“Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.” — Jony Ive, Apple designer.

Find a Way to Balance Your Intensity

It’s unclear if Steve Jobs ever truly mellowed, but he did learn that a buffer between him and the rest of Apple could be useful.

“In a company that was led by a CEO prone to tantrums and withering blasts, Cook commanded situations with a calm demeanor, a soothing Alabama accent, and silent stares.”

Live for Today

Even as Steve Jobs struggled with cancer, he rarely slowed down. If anything, the disease helped him focus his efforts and pursue some of his grandest dreams.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” — Steve Jobs

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” — Steve Jobs

Share Your Wisdom

Steve Jobs was not a philanthropic soul. He had a passion for products and success, but it wasn’t until he became quite ill that he started reaching out and offering his wisdom to others in the tech community.

“I will continue to do that with people like Mark Zuckerberg too. That’s how I’m going to spend part of the time I have left. I can help the next generation remember the lineage of great companies here and how to continue the tradition. The Valley has been very supportive of me. I should do my best to repay.” — Steve Jobs

the undeniable influence of Charlie Louvin

I found this article about my grandfather on the Saving Country Music Blog.

http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/the-undeniable-influence-of-charlie-louvin

On February 22, 1956, Elvis Presley played a concert at the City Auditorium in Waycross, GA. Opening for Elvis that night were two brothers, Charlie and Ira, a gospel duo called The Louvin Brothers. In the crowd was a 9-year-old boy, a native of Georgia, born and raised in Waycross. How that boy felt about Elvis that night is uncertain, but The Louvin Brothers left an indelible mark on him that he would carry for the rest of his life.

That 9-year-old boy had a somewhat troubled youth and ended up in a boarding school, but eventually he got straightened out enough to attend Harvard University. Years later on the back of a hotel message pad dated March 8, 1969, he wrote to an old boarding school buddy who had requested of him an essential list of music, “Any Louvin Brothers record will do.”

After Harvard that same boy ended up on the West Coast, eventually hooking up with a traditionally psychedelic band as a salaried keyboard player. Once in the band, he began asserting his Southern influence and taste, eventually compelling them to completely change their direction and sound to a country feel, to record their next album in Nashville instead of LA, include a Louvin Brothers song on that album, and even play the Grand Ole Opry.

Even though that kid from Waycross, GA never became a huge superstar, his influence on music could still be felt on a national level, and it crossed genres. He became good friends with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, and heavily influenced the sound on albums like Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers. Now with a little money in his pocket, its said he paid people to scour the record stores of LA, looking for rare, out-of-print Louvin records. He also discovered a Country Music Hall of Famer by the name of Emmylou Harris.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, that boy from Waycross, GA was Gram Parsons, possibly the greatest ambassador for country music that has ever lived.

With The Byrds, Gram recorded The Louvin Brothers composition “The Christian Life.” He also recorded the Louvin song “Cash on the Barrelhead” on his solo project Grievous Angel.  Louvin music was essential to selling Emmylou Harris on the “simple beauty” of country.

“I want to play you something,” said Gram to Emmylou. Emmylou sits down and listens. “Who is that girl singing the high part?” Emmylou asks. Gram replies, “that’s not a girl, that’s Ira Louvin.”

Emmylou’s first #1 hit was “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” written by The Louvin Brothers.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It might be easier to list the country music legends who have NOT covered Louvin songs than the ones who have. I’ve always tried in my musical journey to find the source of good music. For example when you hear those great 70′s Rolling Stones records, you can trace them back to Gram, and then back to Charlie: like mining the true generation of the song to get at the heart of it. And when you do this, you find so much music originated from so few people, and one of those people is Charlie Louvin.

As part of the grass roots support for the mounting medical bills from Charlie Louvin’s cancer treatment, Judd Films is making a DVD of his recent show at Foobar Too in Nashville. In conjunction, Keith Neltner has released a limited edition of prints, with all the proceeds going back toward the DVD project. The prints can be purchased at Neltner Creative, 14 of which are singed and hand embellished by Keith himself.

And if you want to explore the relationship between Gram Parson and Charlie Louvin more, look into the album Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross, GA.