The other day I was meeting with a local youth pastor and he directly asked me: How do you evaluate your youth ministry?
It is tough measuring such an abstract thing such as youth ministry. I wish we could put our YM in a test tube, run the scientific method, and get our results. We simply cannot pin it down. Evaluating our YM is like trying to pin down mercury. We just cannot do it.
In this post I attempt to dispel some YM evaluation myths, provide tangible YM evaluation methods, and present possible assessment and evaluative categories.
Myth #1: Taking our YM to the next level.
Unfortunately, leading a youth group is NOT like playing a video game. The youth pastor doesn’t do A, B, and C and expect to automatically advance to D. YM are always in transition.
Myth #2: Kids verbally sharing their faith is NOT the ultimate sign you have a healthy YM.
Yes this is a great thing, but because a kid can evangelize his/her friends isn’t a major sign your YM is legit. Why? There are too many direct and indirect variables that may be driving that kid to share his/her faith, namely personality and youth pastor is making him. There is an illusion that if a kid can share his/her faith, then this kid is spiritually growing. Evangelism is one of the many upon many things that determine the spiritual health of a student. Simply because a kid can throw a football well, doesn’t imply he/she will be a quarterback.
Myth #3: Gambling with the Numbers Game
Yes, we all have heard it over and over. It isn’t about numbers. Well guess what it is about numbers. Think about it….if people are showing up, then their is a buzz and student enjoy coming to your program. What do we tell people when they ask how the YM is doing? Generally it starts with the number of kids we are serving. I am really great at the numbers game, because I know exactly what events to do so I can automatically grow my group by 15% in one night. So when someone asks me: So Jeremy how many are attending your YM? I will use the number from the cool “outreach” event to convince Joe that I have a huge youth ministry. I dare myself that every time someone asks me how many students are coming I intentionally quote a low number, but clearly describe how deep those few students are growing with the Lord.
Myth #4: Your Big youth room doesn’t determine the quality of your YM
For some reason, we invest a lot of time, energy, and money into our youth rooms. We think if the youth room looks great, surely our YM is doing great. Wrong.
Possible YM Evaluation Methods:
#1: Establishing Effective Communication Lines Within your YM
I am not talking about your preaching/teaching. I am talking about how is your communication with other YM and church staff members, your adult volunteers, parents, and with the students. Do messages easily get relayed to the receiver. Are there effective lines of communication in your ministry? Do your messages move quickly amongst your people?
#2: Health of Adult Volunteers and Parents
What percentage of the parents are pleased with you? Are your adult volunteers excited about being with students? Are some of your adult volunteers jaded by the leadership? I highly encourage you talk to the people who don’t like you. Hear what they have to say. Go after the problems. Typically, youth pastors like to dodge anytime of problems and we sweep it under the rug. I am suggesting you go after the problems and resolve them. The indirect people (volunteer and parents) are the ones who can fairly assess how the YM is doing; and it may be painful to hear the realities.
#3: Is there a genuine DESIRE to serve God in our YM?
Desire is such a unique word. Are we facilitating environments that encourage students to desire God? The beauty about desire is that it isn’t manipulative. Desire is much like passion. Marko said it best in YM 3.0: Passion seduces us; being driven guilts us and passion is full of emotions and driven is cold and calculating (113-114).
#4: Are students befriending and hanging around other Christian students?
This is huge. Why? Well if a students wants to immerse him/herself with God, then he/she needs to surround him/herself with positive and Godly influence. Remember friends are the top influences in a teenagers life. If a student is choosing to hang around other Christians, then there is an agreement that they want to pursue and live out the teachings of Jesus. Plus, there is even more accountability.
#5: Develop some type of goals, mission, or strategic plan so your YM is focused and knows where it is going and why.
Steps to do this:
1. Answer the question of why does your youth ministry exist? Typically first ask yourself what is disturbing you about the students in your youth group? What is bothering you? Take what is disturbing you and make that a focus. Make sure whatever that is disturbing you has a solid theological case.
2. Identify and clarify your goals and the actual results. Define what the results will be from the goal.
3. Clearly write out a massive action plan with specific dates. Break your action plan into steps with particular due dates.
4. Celebrate your win with each step you accomplish.
An example on how to develop a YM focus:
Goal 1: Establish better parent communication
Result: Parents will be in the loop and will have an easier time understand what is going on in YM
Action Plan: 1) Quarterly newsletter 2) Parent interactive website 3) Weekly Parent E-mail
I would argue that you assess and evaluate your youth ministry every 6 months. In this assessment be honest.
Possible Assessment and Evaluative Categories:
3. Student’s spiritual health
4. Adult Leaders/Staff
7. Church assimulation