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Numbers Really Do Matter

Numbers Really Do Matter

The “Numbers” game has always been a hot topic of discussion in the Student Ministry world. Seminar after seminar, conference after conference, and blog after blog talk about it. I've even talked about it on my blog before.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, when we focus on just numbers, it can be detrimental to our student ministry. In the same light, if we don't look at numbers in some way, we are doing a disservice to the Church that hired us.

Can you image if any of these scenarios happened?

  • A Basketball coach said, “Numbers don't matter” when explaining to the owner, fans, and media why he didn't bench a player after the player went 0-15 from court and the team lost by 2 points?
  • A CFO told the CEO that “Numbers don't matter” when explaining to him why he allowed someone to purchase something when the company is over budget?
  • What if the President said, “Numbers don't matter” when explaining why he allowed minimum wage to be lowered by $3 an hour?

Now, these are all fictional scenarios, but do you think the “numbers don't matter“ response would be an acceptable one for any of those people? I hope not. The reality is that ”numbers“ matter because there has to be accountability. You are in a position of responsibility and need to be held accountable for what you are doing and how you are doing it.

The problem is that counting “numbers” in student ministry is so hard to quantify.

After all, how do you count all those late night texts or phone calls from students struggling with life or parents wondering how to best love their kids? How do you keep track of all those coffee meet ups you have or those times you go to the school for lunch or show up at a student's sporting event?

But, if you aren't tracking numbers, how can you know how effective you are being in your ministry? How can you decide where you need to put more emphasis on if you are not tracking how many people you are reaching?

Numbers can also be an indicator if your event or group is being effective or not. For instance, if you prepare for a great outreach event, but only 25% of the people you anticipated coming came and you had no conversations that focused on conversion, that needs to be looked at.

So what's the solution? If numbers really do matter, how can you keep track of the numbers that matter? Here is what I began to do.

I took the key vision of my Church (Discover, Develop and Deploy at New Life) and started tracking my numbers according to them. For example,

  • Discover are events/activities that we do that help students Discover God. They are more outreach focused
  • Develop are events/activities that we do that help students Develop their faith. These are more Small Groups and Home Groups.
  • Deploy are events/activities that we do to help students Deploy and serve. They can be Sunday morning Chruch help or other activities throughout the week that we do together as a group.

When I track my Student Ministry numbers, I compile a list of all that we are doing in an excel chart and add it up for the week. That way, when I report what our ministry numbers are, it is more detailed. So, instead of reporting that we had just 30 kids on Sunday night Youth Group (which is what most churches just track for student ministry numbers), I can report that we had 100 at Friday Night Hangout, 30 at Sunday Night Youth Group, 50 in Home Groups and 26 Deploying in their faith.

This style of reporting is much more detailed and representative of your ministry impact than just reporting Sunday night numbers.

Am I making sense? I hope so because too often Student Ministries get held to standards that don't reflect true impact. And, honestly, that is why the argument of “do numbers really matter” in student ministry exists.  

The reality is, numbers do matter. However, when you report them, make sure that you are accurately reporting ALL that your ministry is doing so that you can best evaluate what needs to change, be added or removed.

Thoughts?  I'd love to hear what you have to say in regards to this subject. Agree?  Disagree? Share your thoughts below.

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