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Do You Measure Success By The Numbers?

Is ministry all about numbers?

I guess it depends on whom you ask!

Most youth ministry leaders (whom I talk with or write me) feel the “numbers’ pressure” connected to their performance as a leader.

Last week Terrace Crawford wrote a post with an intriguing title, “New Scorecard for Measuring Success.” I quickly clicked on the link hoping to find something new. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a new scorecard, but his post got me thinking.

He wrote:
“I get sick of hearing from youth workers all over the nation who get treated so poorly by their leadership (and even fired) because they aren’t producing enough numbers.”

I hear those same frustrations from my youth ministry friends.

As an alternative idea to get the discussion going, Terrace offered an excerpt from a job description from Granger Community Church (which is a great church–find his entire post here):

“Many youth pastors measure their success on what they can do. The person [new hire] in this role will measure success by what they equip others to do.”

While this is a nice way to communicate the bigger leadership picture of expectations, my strong assumption is that this great job opportunity will still will result in numbers.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the leadership principle they communicate! It’s a valid expectation–leaders will be help accountable to develop and empower other leaders. They’re essentially stating that we’re not hiring a person to come in and do everything him/herself. Ministry happens through others. I agree 100% and wrote extensively about it in Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry.

But, at the end of the day, this new, lead youth ministry hire will be evaluated by the number of teenagers who are being reached and disciple by the “others.” He/She will ultimately be “successful” in helping others reach/disciple teenagers. It still comes down to numbers and attendance.

Numbers are how most youth workers are evaluated.

Why? Because numbers are important to most churches!

Proof? All you need to do is track a few pastors on Twitter and go back their Easter tweets and you’d see an unusual amount of humble/brag tweets connected to their attendance? It’s so ingrained into our church culture—numbers, numbers, numbers–bigger is better.

I’ve heard ALL the arguments for/against numbers… passionately represented from both sides. And honestly, I can find some agreement with both sides, maybe because I’ve “resided” on both sides.

For 29 years I received a church paycheck and I always felt the spoken (and/or unspoken) attendance/numbers’ pressure. I hated it then… and, I hate it now (as the sole evaluator of one’s effectiveness).

For the last 2.5 years I’ve been a volunteer youth worker and currently feel freed of the numbers’ game/pressure. While I love the idea of more teens coming to Jesus and engaging with other followers and being an active part of the Kingdom, I don’t feel the personal pressure (that I once did) for more numbers.

My point for this post isn’t to illicit more arguments for OR against the numbers’ issue. My desire to find out if anyone out there (in “church world”) has developed a different type of scorecard for evaluating effectiveness that doesn’t ultimately end back with attendance. Is it even possible?

Bottom line: I don’t know any leader or church who uses a metric that isn’t heavily influence on numbers. Do you? If so, I’d love to know what it is. Please share it here.

Question: Besides numbers, how else might youth workers be evaluated? Add your thoughts to this looming discussion.