Category Archives: Discipleship

Alongside Time

RS Blog 20Qs.00520 Along-sider Questions

You’ve heard the phrase before: “More than a sage on the stage, people need a guide on the side.” Anyone who is concerned about developing a disciplemaking culture knows this is true.

How do you know what sort of encouragement and support to bring once you get some “along-sider” time? Below are 20 questions that can help you identify what sort of coaching your adult and student leaders need right now. Read the rest of this entry

Count What Counts: Faithfulness [Part 3]

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How do we measure disciplemaking effectiveness in student ministry?  This is an important question that in recent days has gotten little attention. As I wrote in part one of this blog series there are several common reasons we avoid this question. But the issue isn’t with counting. It’s with counting what really counts.

Determining what to measure in the church is far more about direction than perfection. In “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t” Jim Collins says, “All indicators are flawed. What matters is not finding the perfect indicator, but setting upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results.”

As I wrote about in the post titled Benefits Healthy Metrics Provide there are several benefits that assessing consistently will bring to your leadership and ministry.

When I think of metrics in youth ministry I often approach it from two different angles – faithfulness and fruitfulness. Faithfulness describes our efforts. It is what we are intentionally doing. This is the aspect of disciplemaking that God has given us control over. We can measure our intentionality.

The flip side of the coin is fruitfulness – this is God’s work. Fruitfulness is the divine outcomes. Just because it is God’s work does not mean we should not examine it. If we’re not seeing the fruit we are working and praying for, we may want to go back and examine our efforts. It could be that we haven’t aligned ourselves well with God’s will and way. Or, it may be that we do not understand our cultural context well and need to make some adjustments.

Faithfulness: Measuring our Efforts

Measuring your efforts should be driven by your definition of a disciple, your context, and your church’s values. Therefore, I can’t tell you what specifically you should measure but here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • How many volunteer staff are needed to provide adequate relational connection to all the students that are “ours” (a common suggestion is a 1:5 ratio)?
  • On how many occasions/settings have parents been intentionally encouraged and equipped in the disciplemaking efforts of their children over the last year?
  • How many believing adults are connected to each student (Fuller Youth Institute’s “Sticky Faith” study suggest a 5:1 ratio—five adults that know a student by name and the student has some level of relationship)?
  • How many intergenerational opportunities did we provide this year? (i.e. mission trip, service project, Sunday school class, etc.)?
  • How many times has a student been contacted by an adult or student staff outside of programmed time in the last three months?
  • On how many occasions/settings (appointments, small groups, large groups) were students given opportunities to engage and dialogue part of God’s story from the Scriptures in community with others?
  • On how many occasions/settings (appointments, small groups, large groups) was the gospel — story of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our salvation — shared?
  • How many targeted, student-led outreaches did we offer this year?
  • On how many occasions/settings (small groups, large group, etc.) have intentional times of corporate prayer been offered? How many of these focused specifically on praying for friends far from God?
  • How many people receive communication that facilitates their promise to pray for specific needs of this ministry–at least three times a week, weekly, or monthly?
  • How many times in the last month did adult or student staff pray with a student?
  • How many occasions or settings were students given opportunities to care for those inside the body of Christ?
  • How many opportunities/occasions were given for students to cross cultural dividing lines (race, class, etc.) and engage others?
  • How many times were students given opportunities to explore and use their gifts in service to others?
  • How many training and equipping opportunities were offered to help volunteer and student staff grow in ministry and evangelism skills?
  • How many intentional local ministry partnerships do we currently have (i.e. school, social services, etc.) in our community? How many globally?

I’m in no way suggesting that anyone measure all of these things, but it is important to consistently measure your team’s efforts. Remember Lyle Schaller’s quote: “We count whatever we believe to be important and what we count becomes important.”

With your team, identify five to seven disciplemaking efforts that are within your control. Then, determine how you’ll consistently track your efforts. We will look at the mechanism for measurement in an upcoming blog titled, “How to Track Ministry Effectiveness.”

Remember, faithfulness is only one side of the coin. The next blog post will address the other side—fruitfulness.

What are a few key “efforts of faithfulness” you consistently track or would add to the list above?


Benefits Healthy Metrics Provide [Part 2]

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I was sitting with a group of youth pastors recently and the topic of measuring disciplemaking effectiveness in youth ministry came up. I asked the group why measuring matters. Here are five reasons we came up with for why measuring our effectiveness is consistently beneficial to our ministries:

1. Identify patterns and trends.
When you consistently track, it allows you to begin to see patterns and trends. For instance, one of the things I always measured in our youth ministry was the number of times a month our volunteers contacted students outside of programmed time. When tracked over time, I made a discovery. The volunteers with a more manageable number of students in their small group (1 adult for every 5 students) tended to be more motivated to contact their students outside of programmed time. Adults who were responsible for 10-12 students often felt overwhelmed. They knew they couldn’t possibly hit the bar, so they didn’t even try. This discovery caused me to realize that an adult to student ratio of 1:5 increased our relational influence in students’ lives. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Not About Numbers…and three other silly reasons why we resist metrics [Part 1]

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I often hear resistance to the idea of measuring disciplemaking effectiveness. I believe there are four main reasons why metrics are frowned upon in youth ministry – and potentially in overall church ministry:

1. It just encourages the comparison game!

I think we avoid metrics because they have a tendency to create an attitude of comparison to other ministries. No doubt we’ve all been at a conference with ministry peers and eventually someone asks, “How many ya runnin’?” Just by the sound of the question you’d think you were at a cattle ranchers conference. The significance of our ministry and our value as ministers is narrowed down to mere attendance numbers. We avoid metrics because they’ve all too often been used as a way to compare ourselves to others.

But this is a total misuse of metrics. We should use our metrics to compare but not to others – to ourselves! The whole point of metrics is to provide clear data by which to compare ourselves. It helps us see patterns and trends in our own ministry context. I’ll address this in a future post titled 5 Healthy Benefits Metrics Provide.   Read the rest of this entry

Think Like a Multiplier

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Assuming you don’t want to make disciples, but want to make disciples who make disciples, you need to think like a multiplier. When I see a good multiplier I often ask them how they think. How do they view their role? Over and over again, this is what I hear. Read the rest of this entry

Be an Alongsider

blog pic alongsider.032Young people don’t need more information; they need someone to come alongside and show how to weave Truth into life. Read more about this at

Mosaics and the Bible


The Barna Group has done a helpful study on what Americans think about the Bible. Below is an infographic that summarizes the results. It is interesting to see that Mosaics (18-28) are more likely to see the Bible as an important source of “wisdom” in many life areas.

This is especially noteworthy for those ministering to collegians and teens. I often call the ages 12-22 the “Ten Year Critical Window” as so many life-shaping decisions are made during this brief point of person’s life while at the same time are walking through major developmental changes.  Read the rest of this entry

Every Family Needs One of These

Is it really a right?

Have you seen the Sprint commercial below for the iphone5 which at the ends states:

“I need to upload all of me. I need, no, I have the right to be unlimited.”

Marketers spend a lot of time and money researching their target audience’ values in order to sell their product.  I find it interesting that they chose to describe uploading as a “need” and being unlimited as a “right”. Is uploading really a need?  Are unlimited data plans really a human right? Read the rest of this entry

Disciplemaking is Imitation

blog pic imitation.008Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.  1 Corinthians 4:16-17

Disciplemaking is not just about a body of teaching. Disicplemaking is about a way of life.

You can’t pass a way of life onto a crowd. Therefore, preaching and teaching alone will never make disciples.

Our disciplemaking deficiency in the American church is not a problem of lack of information. It is a lack of imitation.  Read the rest of this entry

A Leader’s Voice [Quote]



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