Let’s be honest… We don’t like to talk numbers. 

We’re afraid that if we talk about the numbers, then the numbers are the only important thing when measuring the success of a ministry. If we focus on size, then the size of the ministry will determine its value or importance. 

But we all know the stories, even in the smallest of ministries, of life change and personal growth; of students, parents, young adults, seniors experiencing the life-transforming power of Jesus. If all we measure are numbers, then do those stories not count? 

So we want to stay away from the “numbers” out of fear of focusing on the wrong thing. But how DO we measure success in a ministry? 

I’m a high school pastor, so I am going to propose eight ways we can measure success in a student ministry. Not in student ministry? I believe these ideas can be adapted to fit your specific ministry context. 


1. HOW MANY STUDENTS ARE SHOWING UP? Ok, yes, I’ll admit that this is a “number.” And it’s the first thing I’m recommending we measure. This is not because the number of people is the only thing to measure, but it is dang important. If a church of 500 sees 100 students in their student ministry, that’s important to know. If a church of 500 sees 2 students in their ministry, that’s important to know. 

So numbers are A thing, but they’re not THE thing. These questions can help you navigate the numbers you decide to measure: 

  • How many students are in each environment?
  • What percentage of the students from our church attend our environments? 
  • What percentage of our students attend bible studies? 
  • What percentage of our students attend retreats? 
  • What percentage of incoming freshman still attend at the end of each school year?


2. ARE ADULT VOLUNTEERS INVESTED IN THE LIVES OF STUDENTS? At the surface, this is also a numbers question. But it’s so much more than that. Yes, we need a certain number of adult volunteers in order to make student ministry happen. However, if all we measured was our ratio of adults to students, but every single one of our adults stood on the side of the room and never interacted with students, something would be wrong. So measure adult volunteer numbers, but also ask these questions: 

  • Do adult leaders show up predictability to our student programs? 
  • Do adult leaders show up randomly in students’ lives at games, performances, parties, and events? 
  • Do adult leaders know their students’ names? 


3. ARE OUR SMALL GROUPS SAFE? This one is tough to measure, but it needs to be measured. If our students don’t feel like our ministry or their small group is a safe place for them to bring their true selves, with all of their hopes and fears, dreams and struggles, then something needs to be fixed. Unlike the previous two measures, this one is harder to gauge, but here are a few things to consider: 

  • Do students feel safe sharing in small group?
  • Do students open up about their lives, both positive and negative? 
  • Are we hearing stories from our small group leaders about students sharing their struggles? 


4. ARE NEW STUDENTS COMING AND GETTING CONNECTED? This measures our assimilation and follow-up process for students who attend programs for the first time. If we’re not seeing any new students return for a second time, that’s something you need to know.

  • How many students come as a result of an invite from a friend?
  • Is there a process to welcome and follow up with new students? Is it being utilized? 
  • What percentage of new students come back, and what is the attrition rate? 


5. ARE STUDENTS INVOLVED IN LEADERSHIP? We believe that student ministry should be co-owned by students because when students lead, they are more likely to own the faith that we’re modeling to them. So we ask this question to make sure we’re actually letting that happen.

  • What areas of ministry are we giving to students? 
  • How many students are being released for meaningful leadership within our ministry? 
  • How many students are serving throughout our church? 
  • How many students are serving outside of our church – in schools, outreaches, mission trips, etc?


6. ARE STUDENTS UNDERSTANDING THE GOSPEL? If we’re in the business of growing disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to know if we’re doing it. This might be the farthest from a numbers question, and I’m still wrestling with how we actually measure this. Here are some questions we’ve landed on to begin to wrap our minds around measuring gospel fluency:

  • How often do we present a clear Gospel message to our students?
  • Do we see examples of students responding to the Gospel through obedience to God’s Word?
  • Do we hear stories about what God is doing in students’ lives? 


7. ARE STUDENTS MOVING OUT? The transition out of high school might be the most difficult transition out there. We’ve seen way too many students move from fully engaged in student ministry to completely disengaged with after they graduate. So these questions help us gauge how we’re moving students on to the next season of their faith:

  • How often are students invited to participate in regular all-church activities? 
  • How many students are regularly attending Sunday morning worship services? 


8. HOW MUCH OF THE BUDGET IS DIRECTED TOWARD CULTIVATING OUR MISSION AND VALUES? I feel like it’s appropriate to end on another “numbers” measurement. Just like the amount of students engaged in your program tells a story, the amount of money allocated toward a ministry also tells a story. 

  • What percentage of the church budget is allocated to the student ministry (staff dollars, ministry expenses, curriculum, etc)? 
  • Is there a plan to expand the budget as the ministry grows? 


What we measure communicates what is important to us. What is important to you and your church? How can you begin to measure those values in practical ways? 

Measuring eight things might be too much. While we have our pulse on every one of these eight, we focus on just a few. What three or four things will you measure? 

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Tim loves working with a team of leaders who enjoy deepening relationships with God's people and helping them find hope in Jesus. His interests include playing with his two kiddos, hiking in the ADK, and exploring bookstores with his wife.

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