“If even one student raises their hand to assert Jesus, it was all worth it.” -Every youth worker at some point
We have all been asked some variation of the question, “Is your student ministry a success?” What is really being asked is a Measurement, Efficiency, and Assessment question. These are challenging, even troubling ideas in a ministry, and certainly in a ministry focused on pubescent, transitional, and formative years. At times I have received outlandish measurement expectations from church leadership. Parents, especially in professional fields, constantly challenge me in the area of efficiency. I struggle to make godly assessment of the spiritual growth of my own self! How do you know, not simply feel, that the ministry is doing well?
These realities do not give you and I reason to dismiss the importance of developing a way to answer the simple question, “Is your student ministry a success?” Our response can be more than, We have so much fun! We have so many great relationships. Twelve of our students raised their hands last year. Imagine the possibility of being able to share clear, concrete, and vital information about the life of your student ministry to church leadership, parents, and to yourself.
The first step in this direction is knowing what you hope to accomplish with each of you ministry elements. Is your Wednesday Night program focused mainly on the die-hard church crowd or the students who aren’t in relationship with Jesus? Is Bible Study functionally a clique-formation program or a place for accountable, holy relationships? What exactly does Sunday Morning need to invite in the life of a student (other than STAY AWAKE)? For now, lets pretend that Sunday Morning is a place to introduce Bible Study, moving from justifying to sanctifying grace. Bible Studies are place to invite ongoing sanctification. Wednesday is a place to introduce the Gospel basics, conviction and justification. And the Fall Festival is to meet not-yet disciples we don’t know and lean into prevenient grace.
The second step is, by knowing what you are hoping to accomplish, or what grace of God you are inviting your students to live, is to begin creating accurate goals, tools for measurement, efficiency, and assessment. (Notice, none of these are attendance based goals!) Something like this:
Fall Festival: Focused on those we don’t know and who don’t know Jesus. Are we meeting 50% of those who came for the first time? How did we invite them to Wednesday (or the next, best place)? Was it engaging for the people we wanted to attract? Did we actually start to get to know them, building a relationship? Did at least 10% of the new students we met show up at Wednesday?
Wednesday: Focused on those who may or may not know Jesus, but we know the student. How did we present the Gospel and scripture? In what ways did a student have to respond to Jesus? Where 25% of people non-Christians? Did we ask key faith questions in a way students could answer and we could record? Did we follow up to their answers from last week/month? Did we give a real, viable invite to their next best place of discipleship? Did at least 10% of these students show up at Sunday Morning or Bible Study?
Sunday Morning/Bible Study: Focused on Students who say they know Jesus and are looking for more. Are students practicing spiritual disciplines and receiving the encouragement needed? Are 50% of the students making life choices that reflect the work of the Holy Spirit in them? Is this a place Wednesday students can be integrated? Are 10% of these students moving into disciple making and leadership?
Each of these allows us to see if the student ministry is moving into fruitfulness. These ways of measurement do not limit what we are trying to do, but can actually help us in how we plan. With this, you can show how you have grown (measurement), how students have developed (efficiency), and where the students are right now (assessment). Most importantly, these and other questions, allow us with confidence to respond as a good and faithful servant that we oversaw the growth of what we had to something more.