As youth pastors we don’t like to talk about numbers, but they matter and people are definitely looking at them.
Try as we might to help leadership see the student ministry discipleship process as more than a headcount, it remains as one of the universally-accepted currencies of “health” in youth ministry to the outside observer. Here are a few numbers that I keep an eye on- would love for you to add other numbers you think are important in the comments:
Youth group attendance – we use a simple headcount to track this metric. It matters, especially to see trends in the year, trends by series/topics, and shifts in big picture participation. This measurement is often weighted too much in many church cultures (ours included), but it can still be a helpful number to watch because people do vote with their feet. A growing number reflects a strong ideal entry-point for our student ministry, students are entering the ministry through the top of the funnel. To some degree, this also reflects the health of friendship evangelism in HSM.
Small group signups – we use ChurchTeams.com to track this number, the system is also great as it allows us to stay in touch easily with our leaders. We understand that the additional level of commitment to join a small group causes participation to decrease, so we expect this number to be less than the youth group number. Knowing how many students are signed up and/or actually attending can be helpful to make sure students are entering and flourishing at the next step in the discipleship process. This number should grow in proportion to the weekend number.
Salvations/baptisms – we try weekly to share about the life-changing message of Christ, and once a month we have baptisms offered after all of the 4 weekend student services. It is continually important and recharging to see how God is changing lives. We celebrate any student that accepts Christ and gets baptized because it is such an important step across the line of faith. This number is usually compiled from respose cards collected on the weekend.
Text Database – Texting is our primary method of communication with students, and we use Duffled to keep track of all of the students we can contact about our ministry. We have all types of students in this database, but seeing this number grow is a reflection of the lives we are touching. Students can simply use their phone or be added/removed with a checkbox on the response card.
Blog/social media traffic/friends – This one is still emerging, but it would be nice to see what kind of “buzz” is out there in the wild about your youth ministry. Using Google Analytics, YouTube Insight, Twitter Search and other analytical tools you can see who is viewing your videos, visiting your blog, how many people are checking you out and see what people are saying about your services and their church experience.
There are other numbers that certainly matter (students in ministry, offering totals, distribution of spiritual growth tools, etc) – what matters most to you? What matters most to your senior pastor? What’s missing here?