As youth pastors, we don’t like to talk about numbers. If we do, it’s with wailing and gnashing of teeth, as we imagine the elders shaking their heads in frustration at the job we’re doing to reach the students in the community.
Or we laugh at the image of the same elders shaking their heads with concern because the numbers are up but the students you’re reaching are causing problems—serious problems—like an occasional swear word and wearing earbuds on church property.
Here’s the truth: Numbers matter.
Try as we might to help leadership see the student ministry discipleship process as more than a head count, it remains one of the universally accepted currencies of “health” in youth ministry. Here are a few numbers to keep an eye on:
I had a chance to get away with some of our youth ministry leadership team recently to process some of the common pitfalls that youth pastors face as they navigate ministry. My mind has hovered around three particular ones that I’ve personally witnessed in my recent experience in youth ministry:
1. Overspending or misuse of church funds
2. Inappropriate relationships
3. Compromising staff/church policies
When I was 16 years old, I had my first opportunity to preach in a church service. I was nervous as could be. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
For some strange reason, my youth pastor felt it was worthwhile to put me in front of an auditorium full of people and be the main speaker for Youth Sunday. The rest, as they say, is history.
Equipping our students to become preachers of the Word not only impacts their future in ministry, but also can be a great encouragement to their peers, the youth group and the church as a whole. Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. He believed they could do the work of ministry, and so should we.
How do we go about equipping our students to do this facet of the work of ministry?
Even though school has not let out here in Maryland, we are already in summer mode. That doesn’t mean we shut things down or fill our days up with summer camps and events; we simply alter our schedule.
We tone down programming, keep things simple and maintain our pace. The goal in summer is to prepare for the fall while staying in touch with the teens.
Your summers are so important. How you approach them will determine your readiness for the fall. There is a tendency by many youth ministers to either overload their schedule or completely check out. If you are going to do youth ministry for the long haul, you need to treat the summer with the same focus and attention that you do every other season. If you take advantage of this, you’ll find yourself:
Our ministry once hosted a “Battle of the Bands” fundraiser that required a lot of work. Our team had to audition bands, price out food, order speakers and recruit volunteers. We put so much work into this event; however, we forgot one key component: to invite people.
We had sent out an email and made a few flyers; however, that was it. What was the response? Embarrassing. While a few people showed up, they were mostly friends and families of the bands. It was a disaster.
Developing a communication strategy is a must in youth ministry, and while it doesn’t seem like the most attractive responsibility, without it you can’t expect your ministry to grow. Developing a strategy for how you communicate means being intentional about what you say, how you say it and to whom. That means you should do the following:
I am in youth ministry because of one conversation.
OK, that isn’t entirely true—I’m in youth ministry because of a myriad of things: being raised well by godly parents; shaping moments throughout my childhood by amazing Christian men and women; seeing the need for leadership and love in the life of a teenager; and my own specific passion and shape.
But I do remember one specific conversation with a guy named Jerry. Jerry was the dean of men at the Bible college I went to, and one of two very influential men at that school for me (the other being the football coach and Bible teacher, Terry).