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.

Gifts of Grace Holiday Shop

Next Saturday our church will be hosting its second annual Gifts of Grace Holiday Shop and we are in the process of looking for donations, volunteers, clothes racks, and anything else someone feels led to give to us.  I’m writing to ask my prayer warriors to pray for this event and also for anyone to help us promote this event so that those who need it can hear of it.

This shop is truly one of my passions and I’m so excited for its second year!!  There are so many people in our small town who because of the economy and just life circumstances won’t be able to provide gifts for their children this year and I’m so glad to see the church of God stepping up to create an opportunity for them to be able to do so!    Our flyer is below, if you can promote this somewhere, put up a flyer, or know someone who knows someone, let me know.

No matter what, whether you are local to Winston or far, far away, I ask you to pray for this event and pray that we may be able to shine God’s light to our community this Christmas season

Including Teenagers in the Church: REBLOGGED

6 ways to integrate teens into your church (reblogged from: http://www.studentministry.org/ways-integrate-teens-church/)

Ideas for integrating teenagers into the church bodyI love it that more and more churches are valuing students enough to be intentional about integrating them into the larger church body, realizing that a youth ministry in isolation can have some very detrimental effects. Here’s a few ideas I have for integrating teenagers into the church body and some thoughts on each.

1. Serve in the church service

So far, this seems to be the main extent of “integration,” and it is definitely a good start, but too often we pat ourselves on the back and say, “Hey, kids are serving in the worship band, greeting at the doors, and running the sound system! They’re integrated!”

A few important questions:

  • Does this really make teenagers feel like they have an equal stake in the church along with the adults?
  • Do some teens feel like they’re mostly serving the adults in “their” space?
  • Does it make the kids who aren’t serving feel like the others are “in” but they’re still “out?” (This perception doesn’t seem to be the case as much for adults who aren’t serving. What’s the difference?)
  • Does this really lead to a comprehensive perception among all teenagers that they’re an equal part in the worship experience?

Maybe some of your churches can answer positively to some or all of these questions, and that’s great! I’d encourage you to ask some of the students themselves, too, and hear what they say. Going to the source is always a good idea.

2. Invite teenagers to youth leader meetings

Hopefully our youth ministries are moving toward “youth doing ministry” more than “us doing ministry to youth.” If that’s the case, we need to include teenagers who are serving in our trainings, decisions, and plans. The approach for getting teens involved in ministry should not be adults who determine what the ministry does and then tries to get teens to do it. Instead, invite teens into the process of shaping the ministry from the very beginning. That’s where true ownership really begins.

3. Encourage your Sr. Pastor to speak to them

Often we say, “We want to integrate teenagers into our worship experience,” but then never talk to them once they’re there. Encourage your Senior Pastor to take a moment in each of his messages to speak directly to the teenagers and other oft-overlooked demographics, like young singles and newly married.

Although it might be a bit outside your pastor’s comfort zone, he could also use illustrations and examples that connect with those age groups specifically. In fact, he could teach an entire sermons series that is directly aimed at teenagers! After all, there’s probably been enough aimed at the adults lately. Let’s even it out a bit.

To take this a bit further, have your senior pastor come engage with kids at youth group, too. It’s easy to say we want teenagers to join the adults, but let’s make an effort to “cross pollinate” both directions. The influence your senior pastor can have on your teenagers is often greatly underestimated. After all, he is their pastor, too, not just the “adults’ pastor.” If he joins them in their group and engages with them there, maybe the invitation to join the adults in “their turf” on Sundays feels a bit more genuine.

4. Invite teens to give input into the sermon

Some pastors meet with their staff every week to review the upcoming messages. They collectively give input, share creative ideas, point out gaps, and poke holes in the content so it’s a solid presentation and message when it’s delivered. It would be great to invite some teenagers into that process each week, as well.

Although it’s probably difficult to do that on another evening of the week when teens are not in school, you could at least grab some home schooled kids and ask them to be a part of the weekly brainstorming meeting during the day. They can definitely give input that will help your pastor craft the message for their demographic in ways none of us can.

And I guarantee that those kids will be listening intently when the message is delivered. They will feel like they have a huge stake in what’s being presented because their influence was heard and respected. They’ll retain a lot of what’s taught, if not all of it!

5. Include teens into small groups with adults

A friend of mine who’s a pastor at another church in my town shares a story about their intergenerational small groups. They didn’t necessarily want the small groups to be intergenerational, but because there wasn’t anything else for their children during that time and because the kids were too young to leave at home, they brought them along to their home groups and included them in the discussions.

While he thought the discussions might become a bit juvenile for the adults, he says it actually became very valuable for them. Their young kids speak up and challenge them on so many levels. They have insights and questions they never considered.

One evening they were taking about Good Samaritan and his 8 year old son said, “So, why do we just sit here? We need to go out and help people.” The parents sat there for a second, feeling a bit jarred from the comfort zone of the couches, and had to admit that he was right. So in the weeks that followed, the small group took their kids out to serve in the community in place of their normal meeting time. As a result, the families grew together spiritually and bonded in ways that never would have happened had they been split up into age appropriate groups.

6. Invite teenagers into church board meetings

I suggested this to one church and a deacon said, “No way! I would be embarrassed for my teenager to see what happens in there.” All the more reason to get your act together and have teenagers in there!

Seriously, don’t dimiss this one too quickly. I’m not saying they have to be voting members of the church board, but they can certainly give valuable input and perspectives in an advisory role. Don’t discount this aspect of church as for adults only or, “Teens wouldn’t be interested in this kind of stuff.” Some are! Find a couple solid and spiritually mature teenagers and invite them to be a part of the church’s bigger picture decisions and meetings. Teach them how a church budget works, how your church’s values play out in your decision making process, how church conflicts are resolved, and more.

The key isn’t just to integrate teens into areas that are comfortable and easy for us, but to plug them into every aspect of the church and form the church’s plans around them as much as anyone else. Give them the opportunity to have the same stake in your church that the adults have. Hold them to a higher standard and expect them to step up to it. Many of them will.

entitlement

I found the following quote on a friend’s facebook page, and wanted to gather your thoughts/opinions.  Do you think this is true?  Explain…

In America the prevailing orthodoxy is entitlement–we’re owed something. It’s a major obstacle to the spread of the Gospel

I think this is undeniably true, but I’d like to hear your thoughts?  How does this affect your life?