How Many You Got?

It’s the question that 98% of youth pastors hate to get asked:

“How many kids you got coming?”

Why? Because most of us don’t have huge youth groups.

My guess is that most groups have about 15 students coming each week, and that’s probably a combined crowd of Junior High and High School students.

My attendance was in a constant state of flux for years. I became the Golden Boy one year when I hosted an event with over a thousand teenagers in attendance. My title didn’t last long.

We had about 200 kids coming for a while in my Junior High Ministry. Then I transitioned to High School where we’d peak around 160 but then valley in the 60’s at times.

Nothing had changed but the attendance. I was doing the same thing year in and year out. I was working hard. I was committed. I was even putting together “evangelistic” events and teaching through topics that we intended to draw crowds. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Today I’m the same guy, doing the same thing (sort of), teaching through the same bible… but this year our attendance is way up.

I can’t take the credit because I’m doing the exact same thing I was doing when I got fired for my low attendance just 2 years ago!

Jesus would probably get fired by most churches if he was the youth pastor. He’d spend way too much time with kids and not enough time planning huge events. He’d be horrible using technology. I’m guessing he wouldn’t shop at Buckle. And come on Jesus… 12 students doesn’t really cut it if you’re church is MEGA.

Attendance isn’t everything, faithfulness is.

Hey youth pastors will small youth groups: you’re in pretty good company!

I worked my heart out for years and had 60 kids coming. I’m doing the same thing now and the numbers are up.

I think God is involved. God may have wanted me to have a smaller group for some reason. He might choose to cut my current group in half next year. He’s got the right to do whatever he wants. Or he may double it. Who knows!?

If your success as a youth pastor is based on your attendance, I’d like to introduce you to my friends at Church Staffing. Quit now, and go find a church that wouldn’t fire Jesus. Feel free to send me your resume’.

Don’t give up or give in.

10 thoughts on “How Many You Got?”

  1. Because I can share them with people I know who are looking. Plus I’m pretty good at editing. See below:

    “Why are you looking for resumés? Do we need to talk?”

  2. I’m Ryan, 6’3″, 70 in YG…

    I think you nailed it that there are so many factors that determine numbers. A small part of the numbers puzzle is the YP… but probably a larger determinant is the overall health of the church/congregation. In terms of success depending on numbers, head pastors/staff relations teams would do well to evaluate the overall growth of the church/congregation before they evaluate a ministry director on numbers growth. If your church ain’t growing, your youth min probably ain’t going to grow either.

  3. Ryan,

    This is awesome. I’m so glad you posted this, bro. I know that God’s work in your life is completely evident, and it truly, truly does not matter what the number is! I want you never to forget how blessed I was to have you as a youth pastor for the two years and three quarters years that I did. I know those kids at Mission have got it made.

    Keep movin’ with the Holy Spirit, and not with the numbers, dude!

  4. Ryan D, I agree with you about it having tons to do with the congregation’s health. It makes all the difference. I’ve seen some youth ministries flourish even in churches that weren’t growing at all though- the kids that come just aren’t coming with their families. They’re being directly invited by their peers.

    Joey, thanks so much dude! I loved having you for those few years. You’ve got as much potential as any student I’ve ever had. And you’re already such a solid dude! Thanks for the encouragement bud.

  5. What always frustrated me during my tenure as a part-time youth pastor was seeing another youth pastor who did next to nothing (zero planning, very little creativity) have huge turnouts to activities and see only a couple come out to something a team of volunteers and some of the youth had spent months organizing.

    One of the frustrating things about youth ministry or any ministry for that matter is that so much is out of your control. While it’s not about the numbers, it’s also often not about how well you plan or how much you time and effort you put in.

  6. Matt, I agree with you. We do play a huge part, and our part often has plenty to do with how much effort and creativity we put into it. There’s a sociological dynamic here, not just a spiritual one. There are plenty of minor factors that play into church attendance, but I’ve had plenty of experiences that have made me realize that I can’t control all of that. There are plenty of branches in this conversation.

  7. I thought this was a great post bro. BTW I like the honesty. I got fired from a youth pastor job once… but my wife would never let me say it in a blog post. Thanks for the post.

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