Back in high school I had to borrow my neighbors car to run a few errands.  As I picked up the car I asked him, “Is there anything I need to know?” He replied, “Keep your eye on the flow of traffic because the speedometer is broken.”  Being a new driver I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was until I was heading down the road passing what felt like a million cops with no clue whether or not I was speeding.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that you need every gauge on your car’s dashboard to head down the road safely.  Without it you don’t know how far and fast you are going.  You need it to track the health of the cars and when you need a tune up.

In youth ministry you need a dashboard for similar reasons, because you need to know:

What Are You Tracking?

This might be a question that makes you nervous because it brings up the numbers game; however, it’s more than that.  Knowing what you are tracking means you are keeping track of the health of your ministry.  Therefore, you need to be tracking:

Who Is Coming: Attendance is more than just a blank number, it can help us determine if we are tracking more boys than girls or more churched than unchurched.  Tracking attendance isn’t just counting bodies; it allows you to understand how you are growing.  Knowing who is coming will also shape the identity of your ministry.

Spiritual Deepening: It’s very difficult to judge a man’s heart (unless you are God); however, by tracking spiritual deepening you are looking at the ratios of teens that are showing up versus how many are going deeper.  Knowing the ratios means knowing that teens might struggle to plug into a ministry versus a small group.  This helps you understand the path you’ve laid out for them in your ministry.

Why Teens Are Coming: Tracking this question may lead to answers as simple as, “My friend brought me.” Or “My mom made me.” however, it will also show you your influence and impact in the community.  Do people know about you?  How are they learning about you?  Are you more present in certain schools, clubs or teams? Know this and you can make your impact greater.

Adult Influence: Tracking ministers might not be a difficult task because you work at a small church or there aren’t a lot of adults serving in the student ministry.  However, if you don’t track who is serving, how long they are staying, why they are leaving and how they got into ministry then you are never going to learn how to grow the number of men and women serving in your ministry.

Budget: If you want to protect or increase your budget you need to know where the money is going and even where it’s coming from.  Finances are definitely not the most appealing area of student ministry; however, it’s important.  Without God honoring stewardship it’s going to be hard to fund the movement you are trying to lead.

Whether you use certain software or a basic spreadsheet you need to be tracking the progress, growth and movement of your ministry.  With no dashboard you are essentially putting your ministry at risk of crashing and spinning out of control.  Talk to your leaders and take the time to answer the question, “What should I be tracking?”

What other aspects of ministry should we be tracking?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more about his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Really enjoyed this post over on Nick Farr’s Everything Pastor blog – this week he talks about numbers in youth ministry and I though it was right on. Here’s a clip of the post:

Myth #1: Numbers don’t matter.

The truth is–numbers DO matter. The Bible talks about numbers a lot. (Read the book of Numbers for an example.) God wants us to have healthy ministries and we cannot know what healthy ministry looks like unless we create specific goals and measure them. Measuring goals is the key. You can have all of the goals in the world for changing your church, youth ministry, community, etc., but if you can’t measure your progress you’ve failed.

Don’t be ashamed–count.

A word of caution: Don’t allow numbers to become everything. Put them into perspective of God’s plan. Just like money can be the root of all kinds of evil, so can numbers. However, money/numbers aren’t sinful within themselves.

The second myth that youth pastors buy into is that they know what’s going on in their ministry and have a good grasp of everything.

Great rest of the article – head there now to finish reading


6 Worries of a Youth Worker

 —  September 14, 2011 — 3 Comments

Doug Franklin, LeaderTreks student leadership guru, wrote an amazing article about the 6 Worries of a Youth Worker. Here are the first three – head there for the rest. I resonated with them ALL (if not now in some point in my youth ministry career)! How about you?

6. Worried about numbers
The number one question youth workers answer most is, “How many students were at youth group this week?” If that is the questions it’s no wonder youth workers are worried about numbers.

5. Worried about pay
Youth workers don’t often make enough money and they are worried that they might have to change jobs or leave the ministry due to lack of funds. The money issues put pressure on their marriage. It also causes them to distrust church leaders and leads to conflict between them and the pastor.

4. Worried about fraud
I talk with youth workers all the time that have no idea on how to do their jobs. They didn’t get any training before they started and no one is mentoring them now. They are scared to death that the parents and the pastors are going to figure they don’t have any idea on how to help students in their faith. They were hired because students like them, not because they knew how to lead students, volunteers, parents and the church in youth ministry.


Don’t be shocked when your small groups start to really fall off at the end of the year – unfortunately in my experience and conversations with other youth workers it is completely normal. I think there are a few ways to fight it (that would make a good post in the future) but here’s the reality of our small group attendance each year:

October – 95%
This is the kickoff season of the year but even them we can never quite get 100% of everyone that signed up actually in attendance. There is a great launch momentum piggybacking on the back to school season that helps bring everyone out to group. We also charge $30 for small groups, and that investment helps everyone value that while the cost is still on their mind.

January – 75%
Attendance is usually pretty good through the fall and the start to a new year, I’d be happy with a consistent 3 out of 4 students in groups, but as the school year wears on regular attendance becomes more challenging. We hold close to this number I would guess through Spring Break. Prom season, homecoming and sports seasons are particularly challenging and sometimes in direct competition to groups. Quick aside: just because a group isn’t meeting doesn’t mean great things aren’t happening relationally between the small group leader and their students.

May – 60%
It is hard to believe, but by the end of the school year many groups have just over half the kids they started with. There are bright spots in the groups, some are going strong and a few have all but disbanded. We do our best to keep on trucking through the end of the school year and break for summer.

What does your small group attendance look like especially this time of year?


I have a problem. Okay, maybe problem is too strong of a word.

Issue. There we go, I have an issue. Although not a detrimental one, but an issue none the less.

I constantly capitalize random letters.

I know you’re thinking to yourself right now “Oh My Word! We need to get that guy an intervention” And while it is not a problem that causes any real issue, it is really really annoying.

The sad part is, I don’t even realize that I do it. I do realize that I intentionally capitalize some words for emphasis, such as God or Youth Worker, but more often than not I find myself capitalizing random words like Outside or Yourself. This may seem like a boring topic to talk about, but I promise it will all make sense in a little bit. In terms of grammar, we are taught that we capitalize proper nouns. David, California, and Chick-fil-a. We capitalize the terms that are not run of the mill terms. We capitalize terms that are big deals.

So in essence, when I capitalize the first letter of a word it is the same as saying “Hey look! This is important! This is a big deal”

I have to be careful that I don’t unintentionally capitalize words and phrases that were never intended to be, thus making them a bigger deal than they are. As a Youth Worker, I have to be careful that I don’t do the same thing in how I lead my local Student Ministry.

There are going to be issues and problems that arise in your Student Ministry regardless of how well or how poorly that it is run. That is a fact. Write it down or tuck it away in the back of your mind, because you WILL encounter issues as a Youth Worker. You will have to make tough decisions. You will have struggles. That is just an occupational hazard.

The question you need to as yourself as you lead your Student Ministry is simply this: What will I capitalize and what will I lower-case? Or better yet “What will I make a big deal out of and what will I let go?”

  • Do you capitalize “Numerical Growth” and minimize “Spiritual Growth”?
  • Do you capitalize “Fun” and minimize “Spirituality”?
  • Do you capitalize “What I don’t have” and minimize “What I do have”?
  • Do you capitalize “What others think” and minimize “What God thinks”?
  • Do you capitalize “Lack of budget” and minimize “God will provide”?
  • Do you capitalize “My Students aren’t getting it” and minimize “It’s sinking in”?

What are you making a bigger deal out of than you should? What are you capitalizing that God is wanting to be lowercase and what are you making lowercase that He wants you to capitalize? I had this teacher in high school named Ms. Holt. I don’t remember much about her, but I do remember that she would always give me a hard time when I would accidentally capitalize words that shouldn’t be. Every time I turned in a paper, I would usually get it back with some red marks from my teacher showing where I had capitalized words that I shouldn’t have. It became almost laughable at the shear volume of red marks that would be on my paper when I got it back after being graded.

I wonder sometimes if God looks at us with a red ink pen in hand. Not to correct us or make us feel like we’re doing wrong, but so that He can look at our lives and mark the places that we allow some things to be bigger deals than they actually are. Where we capitalize things that should be lower case. The truth of the matter is that when God looks at you as a Youth Worker and at what you and your local ministry can accomplish, He sees a capital letter.

You may capitalize Doubt, Fear, Insecurity and Ignorance, but He looks at those as lowercase letters compared to what He can accomplish through you. Your mission, your vision, and the ultimate destination for your Student Ministry is a capital letter in His eyes. That thing that you have been fighting and may still be struggling with that you have capitalized is just a lowercase letter in the eyes of God.

He is able to take those things that are big problems in your local setting and make them not such big problems anymore. Those big issues that you don’t see how they can be fixed He can make smaller. Those big circumstances that you don’t quite know how to navigate, He can lead you through. So what are you facing right now in your Student Ministry that you need Jesus to lowercase? Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time to check this post and see if I randomly capitalized any words again.

Noah Watt serves as the Student Pastor at Lone Star Church in Madisonville, KY. When not hanging out with his wife Bethany, Noah can be found hanging out with the coolest group of Students on the planet, reading or writing on his blog, “The Backstage Project”, at