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About 6 years ago our high school program attracted 9 teenagers a week. It was a great group of teens. They were faithful to the church and interested in getting to know Christ. But, what made them great was that they were not deterred by the fact that they were the only teenagers there. They were more mature than than I was at the time. At the end of each night I would feel disappointed because I felt the numbers reflected my failure.
Today our attendance is exponentially bigger. We grew as a ministry because of an awesome ministry team and some better publicity. I was also able to learn patience and overcome pride. If the ministry was meant to grow I had to allow God to lead me to grow the right numbers.
There is a lot of sensitivity when it comes to numbers in the world of youth ministry. Some people embrace the fact that overall attendance doesn’t matter, while others believe it’s everything. Large church or small church numbers do matter; however, it might not be the ones you think. When it comes to what you count, here is what you need to focus on:
- THE RATIOS: Small or large, the ratio of adult to teens needs to be healthy. I recommend making your goal a 1:6 adult to teen ratio. The reason is because there are only so many teenagers one adult can focus on at the same time. If you want to grow and go deep, you need to make sure you have enough ministers to help you. That’s why one of your most important tasks is recruiting adults to lead teenagers.
- CONSISTENCY: It’s not necessarily how many; but, how often the same teenagers show over and over again. If your program is consistently bringing back the same teens then you are offering them something that is helping them grow. A ministry founded on entertainment will grow old and stale, one that is built on relationships and truth will always be fresh.
- NEW PEOPLE: While you want consistency with your regulars, you also want them to bring their friends and classmates. The number of visitors that come to your church will tell you how effective you are at publicizing, evangelizing and welcoming. A healthy ministry is one that is reaching outsiders. If no one new is showing up, you are creating consumers and not contributors.
- INVOLVEMENT: Teens are showing up; however, how else are they plugging into your local church? Are they just showing up to be entertained or are they getting involved in small groups, ministry and mission? We were all called by Christ to go and make disciples and that’s what your ministry is supposed to do. You need to constantly be asking yourself, “What’s their next step.”
If you focus on these areas your ministry will grow. A large youth ministry can only grow on a healthy foundation. When it comes to overall numbers we do have to be careful comparing ourselves to the other churches because location, demographics and culture all matter. A small church doesn’t have to have a larger youth ministry than the big church down the street. An effective youth minister doesn’t have to have 100 teens to make an impact in the lives of 1.
If you want the church to grow it’s about the investment and involvement you make in assuring they come back, they tell their friends and they take that next step in their faith.
How do you feel about numbers? Would you add any areas? Or do you disagree completely with what I’ve said? Leave your comments.