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

JG



Recently, I compiled a series of blog posts that have gotten my blog a lot of traffic. There’s an iPhone game, Snappers, that causes more frustration than child-proof packaging. So, I scoured Google, Yahoo Answers, and my game experience, and compiled a list of walk-throughs for the various levels. As I was laying it out, I also carefully key-worded it and SEO’d the mess out of each blog post. Now, when you Google for Snappers levels, more often than not, this website will be one of the top 3 results.

Thanks to these 5 blog posts, check out my web traffic.


Pretty crazy, right? Those are unique visitors (by IP address) per day at my website. I uploaded the first of the walk-throughs on January 21. Between then and the time of this blog post’s beginnings, I’ve had 37,796 individual people come to this site.

This kind of traffic landed me as one of the world’s most visited wordpress.com blog pages.

According to wordpress.com’s Blogs of the Day, I’m a high-influencing blogger. This page varies in it’s order, but here’s the rank (the site lists the top 100) the time of this writing…

Yep…that’s right. austinjwalker.wordpress.com right now is the #28 blog in the world (out of blogs using wordpress.com not .org or any other platform). Let’s put this in a little bit of perspective, just to help out. Scott Bourne hosts (or at least used to) a widely followed podcast called Photofocus, in which he answers emails on photography. Scott has over 166k twitter followers, one of the best blogs on wordpress.com with posts featured in the worlds top blog posts of the day on a regular basis, and a wealth of knowledge in his field I will never be able to touch. Here is where is blog was at…

I say all of this not to brag, but to set up this observation. It would be natural to think that kind of traffic would increase influence, traction, and authority. Twitter followers may jump, commenters may arise out of thin air, and the beginnings of a solid network may emerge. But here’s another interesting stat for you…

Painfully revealing. I’d love to hide these numbers. I’d love to pretend the stats aren’t real. The fact of the matter is, in the last 7 days, the unique readers of my true “content” (including my home page, about, and contact forms) are but .007758% of the traffic. .007758% is nothing.

So why am I writing about this, how does this apply to anyone reading this (the .00000005% of my future blog traffickers)? Here’s how it hits student ministry. What do your numbers truly reflect? When you’re talking with other student pastors, deacons, your pastor, or anyone you’re wanting to be looked up to by, how do your numbers come across? Does your ministry attract a LOT of people? If so, that’s awesome, and if done right, there’s a LOT of positives that can come out of that. But looking beneath the surface, is there any depth? Are you discipling students to pursue Christ and lean into His call on their life, or are you just satisfied to count their head at youth and let them chow down on pizza and warheads?

Are you making use of the numbers God has given you, or are you doing everything you can to gain accolades, with no meat beneath the surface? Is there substance to accompany all the hype?

Austin Walker is the Student Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Cabot, AR and blogs right here.