Why your youth ministry numbers are seen as success

Youth Ministry NumbersDo you ever get tired of people always asking about numbers in your ministry?

Sometimes there seems to be a never-ending pressure to have more youth ministry numbers. If you have an event with tons of students, it is celebrated. If you see a ton of students receive Jesus and get baptized, it is celebrated.

Now I’m not saying it should not be. Numbers alone however do not tell the whole story. Numbers themselves also do not necessarily mean something is successful.

Why is it we are so driven and evaluated by youth ministry numbers? Better yet, who is behind it? The answer may surprise you.

Before we answer that question however, lets start with another.

What would you determine as success in your ministry?

Take a moment and really think through that. You may have never even really stopped to consider that. If we cannot ourselves be certain of what success looks like, we will never know when we are actually successful.

So, who is really at fault? Well, the hard truth is that the person most responsible is YOU.  Not convinced?

When someone asks you how your ministry is going, how often do you not respond with “how many” you have coming?  Or, if I were to ask you how your last even went, would you respond by telling me how many students you had attend?  You see, you ultimately define success in your ministry.

How do you change the perception of youth ministry numbers being the only measurement of success? Here are three things:

1. Know what success really is for your ministry.

Again, if you are not certain what success in your ministry really looks like, you will never know if you are actually being successful. I am convinced that we default to numbers as success because we have never taken the time to consider what else success would look like.  Since numbers are fairly easy to measure (and exaggerate)…this becomes our unintentional standard.

2. Communicate vision and faithfulness often

Once you know what success really looks like, it is important that you communicate that often.  In a post about recruiting a great team, I wrote about the importance of recruiting on vision.  This is even more important when it comes to defining success in your ministry.  When you talk about your ministry, communicate the vision, you are seeing that vision come to light, and how God is being faithful.

3. After events do not talk only about numbers (or at all)

This is so much harder than it sounds, but may be the most important.  Again, you ultimately determine how others will see success in your ministry.  When you communicate “success” to your pastor, your parents, your church, and other youth pastors, avoid talking about numbers first.  It takes time, but others will begin to see the success in your ministry in other ways as well.  A byproduct will be that you will also begin to see the less obvious things God is doing in your ministry.

How do you define success in your ministry?  I think every ministry struggles to answer this question.  We would all benefit from hearing and being challenged by others sharing.  Leave a comment and share with us!

Photo credit: Stewf / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

  • David Le Roy

    Thanks for your post. It has given me a new perspective on this very issue I’ve been dealing with. So often the first thing people ask me when they see me is about the numbers at youth. Which has started leading me to put that on myself, subconsciously. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and reminding myself of all the great things God has been doing in our students this last year, none of which involves an increase of numbers. Anyways, your article is enlightening. I need to be sure of what “success” in ministry is and communicate that regularly to myself and to those in the church.

    • Thanks David. I think we all struggle with this one for sure. Be patient with this. It takes a while, but it is worth it.