Numbers That Count

I have had many conversations about numbers this month… most of them are talks with leaders who are bummed about declining attendance numbers, some are talks with leaders who are excited about record high attendance numbers. I have to be honest, I like numbers. I am kind of a geek when it comes to studying them. I appreciate attendance records. I pay attention to statistics and really enjoy tracking how and why numbers go up or down… But, really, without the stories behind those numbers, they are, after all, just numbers.

Leaders use numbers to define their success or failure in ministry. I get it. But I wonder if the attendance numbers we focus on really help us evaluate success. Here are 10 numbers I think we should be paying attention to:

1) Number of conversations you and other Christ-like adults from your church have had with youth this week.

2) Number of students who can articulate their faith.

3) Number of parents that can count on you and youth ministry volunteers as advocates and resources for their family.

4) Number of students who understand they can share their faith with people at school (or anywhere else!) – and do it!

5) Number of times you talk about Jesus during your youth gatherings.

6) Number of times you and your senior pastor have met this month to talk about a shared vision for youth ministry.

7) Number of youth your church reaches out to in the community (these youth may never come to your church!)

8) Number of members in your congregation that invest in youth on a weekly basis.

9) Number of youth participating in or leading local and global mission and service opportunities.

10)  Number of students who are engaged in the whole life of the church – not just youth group!

In my fifteen years of youth ministry, there have been times when I have focused too hard on getting hundreds of youth in the door, without carefully planning how our church would effectively love and walk with each person as they grew in their faith. Sadly, some of the teens who attended the events I spent countless hours planning are probably no more connected to Christ than before they walked in the door.  I feel a tremendous burden when I think of all the times the attendance numbers distracted me from the most important numbers.

If you’re letting attendance numbers keep you up at night, I encourage you to pray about the more important numbers listed above. I am fully convinced that when we prioritize those numbers, we will lead much healthier student ministries, where people are connected to Jesus and each other, lives are changed… and we will grow in number every week!

Thanks for all you do for students! You are making a difference!



  1. Well-said, Helene.
    Thank you!

  2. Youth Ministry 101. Thanks for the encouraging reminders.

  3. Thank you for the grounding moment… WOW I can’t wait to share this insight with those who keep pressing for numbers without understanding why or how they can be measured or can be interpreted for growth in ministry. It will help our conversations move forward.


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