THE NUMBERS GAME: WHAT MATTERS TO US IN MINISTRY?

Coronavirus created what many are calling the greatest interruption to daily life that perhaps my generation will ever experience. After what seemed like the start of a normal year chalked full of potential, every organization across the world, big and small, was affected by the pandemic by mid-2020, as COVID-19 completely rocked everything we knew as normal. The church has not been immune from any of this.

As the dust is settling and the world seems to be easing into the new reality that is living with COVID-19, I have begun to wonder aloud if we have been wrong about COVID-19 in terms of how it is affecting the daily activity of the church. What if this not simply an interruption of regularly scheduled events, but a complete disruption of the system we had so beautifully and comfortably built around us? What if we need to reevaluate, reframe, and reform some of our ministry habits and rhythms?

In the church world we give value to the things that we track. For example, success has often been measured in metrics such as the amount of people in our pews and the amount of money being given to the budget. Thus, these are some of the things we tend to pay special attention to with great scrutiny and oftentimes tremendous angst. These things are not bad themselves, but have we misplaced our value in things that, over time, don’t really matter? Furthermore, were the trenches of traditional counting dug so deep that even if we wanted to adjust our metrics the prospects of pulling it off were grim?

Enter the aforementioned disruption that is COVID-19. In a world that has been rocked by a pandemic, it is time for student pastors in particular to strongly consider what we give value to in our ministries and how we measure success. Show me what numbers you track and I’ll tell you what matters most to you.

Three years ago, I read a book by Brock Morgan called Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call. This hopeful and helpful read gives direct insights to a new way of thinking about student ministry, as well as specific metrics to consider when measuring success in a post-Christian, and I would now say a post-COVID culture. For our student ministry, I have taken the ideas presented in the last chapter of his book and turned them into a spread sheet tracking the things that I believe we need to be tracking. For a deeper read on all of this, check out Brock’s book, but here are the six key metrics we aim to track and give value to in the current state of student ministry:

  • Individual Care — Does each student in our church have caring adults assigned to them?
  • Touchpoints — How many times have we reached out to students this month?
  • Integration with the Congregation — How integrated are our students with the rest of the congregation?
  • Parental Reach — How many times have we reached out to parents this month?
  • Prayer — How often are we praying specifically for students, parents, and leaders?
  • Stories of Transformation — How are we creating opportunities to share stories of transformation?

In the coming weeks I will be writing more extensively about how we track each of these metrics, as well as give the why behind each. My prayer is that many student pastors will begin to exert incredible amounts of mental energy to getting creative and intentional on what is valued, how that is tracked, and become confident in communicating why we do so in the first place.


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