Just about anyone involved in youth ministry has had the discussion about the importance of numbers in evaluating our efforts. Like a teacher, we can claim that much of the fruit of our labors will not be visible until many years later. We can also spend time talking about how many of the results that we are striving for will take time and that some of the programs we lead may not produce immediate results, but they have their place.
The reality is that a pastor, finance council, and parish council are responsible for being good stewards of the gifts that have been given to the parish, especially the financial gifts that have been made to support its various ministries. When push comes to shove, in any business model, areas that are not producing results will be cut. This often puts youth ministry in a tough situation, especially if a youth minister (frequently paid full-time) is perceived to be working with only a small percentage of the youth in the parish in what can appear from the outside to be a social club of sorts.
The powers that be are looking for numbers, and they have a right to. The difficulty is that they are often looking at the wrong numbers, and the person in charge of youth ministry is unsure of how to communicate the right numbers. So, what numbers should we be measuring? Here are a few questions I wouldn’t hesitate to ask my youth minister if I were a pastor:
- How many adults have you helped to get involved in youth ministry this past year?
- How many youth are currently engaged in intentional discipleship with adults from the parish community?
- How many youth are engaged in deeper study of the Christian faith?
- How many youth involved in the programs and youth ministry efforts in the parish are committed to daily prayer, Sunday Mass, regular Confession, and involvement in the parish community?
- When there is a need in the parish, how often is it that the youth step up to help?
- In what ways are the youth in our parish sharing their experience of the faith with others?
- What percentage of youth that graduate from our parish remain committed to their faith after high school?
- What are some of the biggest needs of our youth today, and how are we responding to them as a parish?
These are just a few ideas. As we look ahead to the next year and set goals for 2016, I would recommend looking at some of these questions and beginning to shape your efforts in a way that will bring about improvements in these different areas.