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?



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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

Needed: A Vision for the Future

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As I’ve worked with young people over the last 18 years, one of my joys is helping them identify what their unique Ephesians 2:10 purpose is in God’s eternal story. I remember a specific leadership development experience we did with junior and seniors. One of the final days of the week-long experience was to spend two hours alone with God with three questions:   Read the rest of this entry

Why Mountaintop Moments Matter

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Are retreats, conferences, camps and mission trips really worth all the work? Are we just creating mountaintop moments that have little lasting effect on students?

While on sabbatical this past summer I had the opportunity to do some hiking in Colorado. It took us a few hours to ascend to 13,500 feet. The view was absolutely breathtaking. We lingered at the top for about an hour but eventually had to make the long descent back into the valley.

As we entered below the tree line one of the guides pulled me aside and read me this powerful quote:

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know” –Rene Daumal

Daumal’s words encouraged me about one of the important roles that camps, retreat conferences and mission trips play in the spiritual journey of students. They give a taste of what life with Jesus and his people can be like. Ascending above the trees of everyday life often makes it easier to get a breathtaking glimpse of the greatness and graciousness of God.

True, we can’t stay at the top, but what students experience on the mountaintop can inform how they live in the valley. This is what we’re seeing come out of the Challenge Conference.  Take a moment to be moved by Grace’s story.

Do you hear how a mountaintop moment has affected real missional momentum back down in the valley of everyday life?

Join us in Kansas City for Challenge 2014.

What is one of your ministries favorite “mountaintop” environments and how do you see it transforming a way of life back in the valley?

Youth Ministry Planting

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Two of the growing obstacles in reaching students in our culture are time and perception. Students have more options and are involved in more activities than ever.  This makes getting to your programs more challenging – especially on a regular basis.

The church also has a perception problem among youth. We hear this often in the discussion about reaching 20-somethings (see You Lost Me by David Kinnaman), but I think this is often true for young ages as well – especially high school students. Many have already created a very opinionated perception of the church in their minds. This too makes it a challenge for your students to get their peers to come to your mid-week meeting or event.

So what do we do?

Read the rest of this entry

Who are You Pointing To?

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Greg Breazeale’s post entitled Who is the Hero of Your Sermon? is a good word for any of us who teach.

As one who teaches students, we would be wise to ask ourselves who does this lesson, talk, or sermon point to?

You can point to you!
It is easy to point to yourself as the standard, but it is Christ who is our standard. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” (2 Cor. 4:5)

You can point to your listeners!
It is also easy to simply call your listeners to be more, work harder, and behave better.

You can point to your ministry.
In our desire to generate movement in our ministry we can cast vision to our ministry programs as being the answer for our soul’s or the world’s greatest need (i.e. small groups, service project, mission trip, recovery group, etc.)

Check out Greg’s post. Consider creating a dialogue around it with anyone who is regularly opening God’s word with students.

Pray Like a Multiplier

Blog Pray Multiplier.006Most of us would say we want to make disciples that make disciples. But our prayers often say something different. Often we are focused on praying for our children, students, and friends right in front of us. We only have the second generation in mind.

Multipliers have the third generation in mind even while they are working and ministering with the second generation. One of the places this shows up is in their prayer lives.

Take a look at Jesus
In Luke 10:1-2, when Jesus is sending out the 72 he gives them one different instruction than he gave to the 12 back in Luke 9. He tells them to pray that the Lord would rise up more workers for the harvest. 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


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