Is your Youth Ministry limited to 10% of Sunday attendance?

Whilst it has been popular over the past 20 years to say “it is not about the numbers”, many of us still measure our success in terms of attendance.   In a previous post I wrote about the difference between attendance and commitment so I know that attendance can be deceptive.  However many of us are judged by others based on how many people we get to our events, so let’s take a deeper look at attendance numbers.

What attendance number are you aiming at in your youth ministry?  How big would your ministry have to be to think it is successful?  Pick a number:

  1. A youth ministry will only grow to about 10% of your Sunday congregation (see Mark DeVries below).  Does the number in your head now look small, achievable or unrealistic?  A church with an average weekend attendance of 500 people should have a youth ministry of up to 50 young people.  But if your weekend church attendance is only 150 then perhaps you should be aiming to reach 15 young people.   So when you compare the size of your ministry to the youth ministry in another church, we all do this, you should compare the two groups as a percentage of the Sunday attendance.
  2. Successful youth ministries come from successful churches.  On the flip side there aren’t many weak churches that have strong youth ministries.  Perhaps your ministry is growing or not growing because of issues in the Sunday congregation.  If you find it hard to grow your youth ministry this may not be because of the issues in your youth ministry.  Check the health of your Sunday congregation to see if this is effecting the health of your youth ministry.  For example if your Sunday congregations don’t volunteer, then that may explain why you find it hard to recruit volunteers.
  3. In the post Christian era, young people are the first group to leave a struggling church and the last group to return to a growing church.  Often when the teenagers stop coming to church because it is “boring”, the parents stop coming as well.  Perhaps the reason that you are not growing is that the young people have sensed that the church is going nowhere.  Many churches that struggle for some time lose all their young people.  It can be difficult for these churches to win back the teenagers and they can’t grow a youth ministry until the children in the kids ministry grow into the youth ministry.

Mark DeVries in his book Sustainable Youth Ministry outlines five key “normal” indicators that he has discovered from his Youth Ministry consultancy with hundreds of churches in the US:

  1. A youth ministry will settle at 10% of the worshiping congregation
  2. The Youth Ministry budget should be $1000-$1500 per young person
  3. There should be one full time staff person for every fifty youth
  4. There should be one adult volunteer leader for every five youth
  5. Even with significant investment a youth ministry has a ceiling of 20% of the congregation

What is a realistic attendance target?

Whilst it is hard to translate these “normal” indicators into what is achievable in Australia, we do know that many of the bigger youth ministries come from bigger churches.  I think the most realistic target for you to aim at in your church is:

  1. Start with at least one male and one female leader then add another male and female volunteer leader for every 10 young people.
  2. Aim for 10% of your Sunday congregation, when your church grows so will your youth ministry.

Hopefully our youth ministries can lead the growth of our churches, but don’t be disappointed if you reach a 10% ceiling, you are doing well.

Please leave a comment about what indicators are normal in your setting.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald


5 thoughts on “Is your Youth Ministry limited to 10% of Sunday attendance?

  1. Billy Hestand says:

    What would you suggest for a youth ministry that is have the reverse problem. I am running a youth ministry that is currently at 30% of Sunday attendance. Sounds better then it is I promise. I know this is unsustainable but not sure how to get the church to catch up. Seems ridiculous to try to lower attendance until they catch up.

    • Mark McDonald says:

      There always seems to be seasons in the life of a church. Currently my church has a bubble in the young adults age group, but we are struggling to attract more youth.
      Firstly minister to the people that you have, steward the people God sends you.
      Secondly keep the pipeline open by asking your youth to invite friends younger than them. This way the bubble can flatten out over time.
      Good luck with the ministry.

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