I have recently seen a few different blog posts about numbers and youth ministry. One of them at youthmin.org and one at dougfields.com. I encourage you to read both of these posts, as they both offer some great thoughts and insights. As I read both of these I can’t help but get excited because I see more and more people asking (and writing about) the right questions. I see youth ministry taking steps in what I consider to be the right direction.
My book is making progress towards it’s debut to the world, and in it there is an entire chapter devoted to this topic. Here is a sneak peek:
Every time I get into a conversation with someone I don’t know very well, like on an airplane, or with a new neighbor, or with the random stranger you get teamed with at the golf course, eventually the question gets asked—what do you do? When I blurt out “youth pastor,” I can tell a lot about the person by their next question. If the next question is “a what?” then I know they have not ever been around church. If they have been around church, their response to my career choice is, “oh cool, how many kids are in your youth group?” Most youth workers will tell you that this question bothers them, yet we usually always give an answer—which is inflated by at least ten percent. We have heard the mantra chanted over and over that “it’s not about numbers,” yet we all know that isn’t entirely true.
Numbers are a big deal. Numbers is how our society and world track everything. If you are successful, or you are a dismal failure, the numbers will reveal it. We have all heard the phrase “the numbers don’t lie,” but they don’t always tell the whole truth either. Many things that are a part of a successful church, especially if you are challenging the paradigm, cannot be tracked by raw data. Spiritual growth is hard to chart, how much of a message actually sunk into a student’s heart isn’t measurable. However, there are two things in the world of the church that are very measurable: money and attendance. These two things are exactly what most churches track the closest. Since mentioning money is a common party foul, and teenagers don’t have a lot of their own money, our conversations as youth workers center on attendance. As important as programs are in a church and a youth ministry, the most important thing is how many people are attending those programs.
Another of the several ways the paradigm defines success is by how many teenagers show up. It tells me that the more students that are in my group, the better the youth worker I am. If this were actually true, then mega church pastors and youth workers would be perfect people; they would never have a moral failure or a ministry failure. And if this were actually true, the lead youth worker would have complete responsibility on how big or small the group is. The size of church, type of facility, what sports season it is, or the students’ own life decisions would have no bearing. We all know this simply is not true, yet we still judge our own success based on the size of our mailing list.
The truth is that most of the numbers we keep track of and that we throw around to other youth workers are based on hype. Our goal needs to be health, not hype. The numbers we should be focusing on is how many teenagers there are in our area that are not attending a church and don’t know Christ, the number of students that are falling through the cracks in our churches, and the number of students that are genuinely sharing their faith on a regular basis. Those are numbers that will reflect health. Those are the numbers that should get us jazzed up or sick to our stomach.
How much do you tend to talk about numbers? What numbers keep you up at night? What numbers do you pray about?
I also must admit that I have had virtually no experience with or knowledge about Orange, but the more I hear, see, and read about it I need to check it out. I might already be more Orange that I ever realized…
I have been working on a youth worker one day training event that is coming up in exactly one month from today. The WARM conference as a whole is for people within the church of God on the west coast to connect for a few days. My main responsibility has been the youth worker breakout, and that training is open to everyone who wants to take the time to come; any denomination, full or part time, paid or volunteer. Doug Fields is going to be teaching 3 sessions as well as eating lunch with us (the meal is included in the $50 registration fee). On Wednesday April 18th, from 11:30am – 5pm I hope you can join us at Mt. Scott Church of God for this great event.
Click Here for more details and to register.
To learn more about Doug Click Here
I am on vacation this week since my wife and boys are out of school the entire week for Thanksgiving. We drove to my in-laws house yesterday and I can honestly say I have been looking forward to this week for a while.
That is a really big statement for me to make since I normally do not enjoy going toYakima,WA. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife’s family and enjoy time with them. But my idea of “relax” usually needs to include our boat, or my golf clubs, or riding something that goes really fast, or riding a chair lift over and over; Yakima has none of these things to offer in late November and not a lot of people to do it with.
This week, I can honestly say I am thankful that no plans include any of those things. My last several weeks have been completely insane. From all the stuff involved in buying a new house, and all the stuff involved in renting the old house, and moving our stuff from one house to the other. Then add on one of the most frustrating days of my life plus all of the regular stuff that goes with having a young family and being a youth pastor I can say that I have been running on empty.
Doug Fields wrote a book a few years back titled Refuel, and in that book he describes some signs he sees in his life when he is approaching empty. When those signs start to appear it is time to take a time out, go to God, and be refueled. Here are a few of the signs in my life that show I am on empty.
1. I get frustrated easily.
My personality thrives on success. I don’t like to do things that don’t matter or don’t make a difference, and I expect to succeed quickly. If I don’t, I get frustrated and want give up. When I am near empty I reach frustration a lot more quickly. I have been frustrated a lot lately.
2. I lack motivation.
When I get exhausted, whether physically or mentally or Spiritually, I just want to be lazy. I am not normally a lazy person, I love to go and do and talk and create. The only time I want to sit around and watch TV or waste a whole day doing nothing is when I am approaching empty.
3. I get hard on my boys.
My boys are 7, 5, and 3. They are typical boys; they are loud, do annoying things, make a lot of messes, fight with each other, have fun doing most anything, and turn everything into a weapon. I love the fact that our house is the way it is. But when I am empty I find myself more annoyed at their short attention spans, how slow they do stuff, and basically start disciplining them for being kids.
4. I cheat on relationships.
I love meeting new people and involving others in my life. I love talking through life issues and discussing things from someone else’s point of view. When I am empty I tend to lose the relating side of me and walk over people that get in the way or just use people to aid in my success. This is a weakness in my personality type that I am well aware of, and if I have ever done it to you I am sorry. When I am empty I catch myself doing it more and all my relationships turn strictly business.
There are probably more that I could add to my “empty list”, but these are definitely my top four. As you can see, each one feeds the others, so when I am near empty it effects everything I do. It is really hard for me to stop, even when I know I need to.
What things are on your empty list? If you haven’t ever thought about it you need to. If you don’t know then ask your spouse or kids or coworkers, they most likely do know what yours are…!
This week I am intentionally doing things to fill myself up. My next post will be my list of things that fill me up, I like this list a lot better!