Five ways to evaluate a youth ministry

A common phrase among many youth workers is, “Numbers aren’t everything.” But I like numbers. They’re unbiased. You can dice ’em, slice ’em, and staticize ’em. However, it’s true that tracking attendance alone doesn’t help us gauge how things are going in a particular church or youth ministry. So, what’s a youth pastor to do? What are some good benchmarks to determine whether we’re way off track or being faithful to what God wants us to do? Here are five possibilities:

1) Numbers. Surprised to see this so quickly? Looking at numbers alone isn’t a good way to answer the question, “How are we doing?” But as our lead pastor is fond of saying, “People matter to God. And numbers represent people.” But as you might have guessed, high attendance doesn’t always mean things are going well, and low attendance doesn’t always mean things are going terribly. But you can use numbers to look at trends or to track participation in a particular area of your church or ministry. If attendance in small groups dropped by half in just three weeks time, wouldn’t you want to know so you could follow up?

2) Set goals and evaluate results. What is your youth ministry “about”? How do you know if your stated goals are really coming through in what happens in your ministry? Discern the direction you feel God is leading you and find ways to track your progress. Even more heart-centered, abstract goals can be evaluated objectively. Want to be a more inviting group? Track new guests. Want to develop a heart for the poor and marginalized among your students? Track service hours. Want to emphasize living our faith in Jesus Monday-Saturday? Conduct a survey where youth can anonymously self-report how things are going in their lives. Want more families to discuss the Sunday sermon or lesson together during the week? Ask them to self-report.

3) Secret shoppers: find some students who can be a part of your group for a few weeks, and have them report on specific things. I’ve never done this with youth, but I’m really intrigued by the idea. I love it when a friend visits us and comes to church. I always quiz people afterwards to see what their honest first impression of our church is. Why not do the same with our youth ministries?

4) Ask a veteran youth pastor to conduct an evaluation of your ministry. Sometimes this costs money, sometimes not. But an objective, outside eye can help you see things that need to change that you never would notice otherwise. It can also help you refocus your vision and “play to your strengths.” Of course, a prerequisite is that you need to be willing to hear criticism and change what needs to be changed. Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting your time.

5) Spend lots of time in honest prayer with God. There are ways we can evaluate how things are going, but the bottom line is, “Am I being faithful as a leader with what God has given me?” The four previous was of evaluating how things are going don’t mean anything without faithfulness. Because it’s easy to fake results or pretend like things are better than they really are, but we can’t fake faithfulness in front of God. After all, he’s God. It’s also possible that things might be going terribly wrong around a leader, yet that leader is faithfully doing what God asks. I was once a part of a sinking Titanic of a church, and when I wanted to jump ship, God made it clear that I was to stay to the end and love the others who were staying, too. It was the toughest four months of my ministry career, and any objective evaluation of our ministry would have been poor. But I’m glad I didn’t run.

What are other ways to evaluate a youth ministry?

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    Five ways to evaluate a youth ministry – Benjer McVeigh

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