number obsession

like king david counting the troops (which, if we’re reading the bible correctly, sure didn’t have a happy response from god), youth workers and other church leaders tend to be obsessed with counting. i do not believe that numbers are useless. they are an indicator of something. we just have to be very, very careful not to quickly assume what that something is.

it kills me when i hear a youth worker (especially a young youth worker) say something like, “we have about 37 kids right now.” that kind of accuracy is usually a reflection of number obsession. when pushed on this, some will respond with, “yeah, but each of those numbers represents a real kid. numbers are a reflection of people. i really care about people.” no. you are wrong. people are not numbers. numbers quantify people, dehumanizing them. numbers are not a reflection of people; they’re a reflection of our own need to justify our youth ministry jobs and feel good about ourselves. dang, i wish i could wave a magic wand and deprogram this youth worker self-image building block.

often, the question of numbers is one of comparison. as in, “i have more kids that that church, so i must be amazing.” or, “i have less kids that that church, so they must be amazing.” or, “i have less kids than that church, so something must be wrong with me.” we wrongly do this math: quantity = significance.

again, i am not saying that numbers have no place. if your youth group suddently swells from 4 kids to 72, you should probably ask some questions about what’s going on. it could be that the spirit is moving. or, it could be that something is significantly wrong, like they’re only coming because you got a couple sweet new nintendo wii’s for the youth group room. if your numbers steadily drop over a few years, it’s probably a reflection of something. but it could be that god is winnowing the group down to a size that makes sense for your gifting and calling. or, it could be that your group is inbred and exclusive, and that there’s no place for outsiders.

i’m thinking about this today, because i read a wonderful — really, fantastic — response on len evans’s blog. he was sitting at a youth ministry roundtable event the other day, at a table of 8 youth workers. during a discussion time, this discussion ocurred:

I did get asked the numbers question by somone. “How many students do you run?”

I said, “Somewhere between 2 and 1,000. I’m not sure, I’m still new”.

way to go, len. i love it.

34 thoughts on “number obsession”

  1. i used to count the bumps in the highway as well. you know… thudunk……..thudunk……thudunk. oh i would drive myself bonkers, but i just couldn’t stop myself. UHHH, it frustrates me even now to think about that. but i still did it. same thing??

  2. i’m not sure if you’re serious or joking in your question, joe. but, no, totally not the same thing. ministry number obsession is not OCD.

  3. Thank you for posting this Marko. Right now my HS youth group is struggling. At times we have 4 that show up and other times 8…..there is much potential for growth, but these kids need to be evangelized forst before growth can happen. They need to meet Jesus in their hearts….that is the goal right now. We may be small, but we’re sure as heck mighty

  4. It always comes back to balance for me. Of course we should not be chasing after numbers for numbers sake but it seems that we should be celebrating the numbers when they are there for the right reasons. The book of Acts seems to…

  5. I’m like Len, I have fun with the numbers question… I certainly get it every time I talk to another youth worker or church-like person. It is annoying for sure.

    One thing that I’ve come to realize about people mentioning numbers is that they assume that “good numbers” mean we have a shot at keeping our jobs. Of course, it’s not true… but I think that is one reason why so many people do it.

  6. I’ve heard the comment about how many kids you have in your youth group before. And I totally agree with your thoughts about numbers not being the important part.

    There is one time when number comparison is useful I think though. I heard a youthworker who did a really cool trip with his group. He explained what they did and I thought “I want to do this trip.” I asked him how many he had – only so I could compare it to my group size, and what it would take logistically to make it happened.

  7. I’ve heard both sides of the argument and I get fairly irritated at those who will not (or cannot count). I have left youth work for teaching where it’s blindingly obvious that you have to count the kids, so you don’t lose any. I used to keep an accurate register of the kids at church (when I say accurate I mean absolutely perfect every week). This meant I knew who was starting to fade away and I could do something about it, who was new and to welcome them, who hadn’t been in a while to catch up with them. It also meant we could book enough space in the church, get enough leaders and resources and it kept the parents and PCC on side. (Not because our numbers were ‘good’ but because we were taking it seriously. I can’t imagine how we could operate without a register and an accurate tally. Yes, I could have become focussed on “bigger is better” and gone around bragging but equally I can accuse those who don’t count of carelessness and losing children. Surely when you take children on a trip you count them out and back? Do you ever count your kids? Where’s Liesl? Where’s Max? OK they’re both fine? Why should youth work be any different?

  8. daniel — c’mon, did you even READ my post? i said two times (2!) that i’m NOT saying that numbers don’t matter at all!

  9. yes numbers are obviously important in terms of health n safety, generally not losing young people when on a trip. they’re also helpful in terms of monitoring trends etc.

    but where does the ‘obsession’ with size of a youth group come from? most of the time in my current job, working for a church in the uk, my vicar and management have not put pressure on my in terms of being obsessed by numbers, yet i still feel this pressure. where does it come from? sometimes i think its just human instinct to look at the church up the road and compare.

    if it is human instinct, then maybe rather than worrying about the fact that i’m worrying about numbers, i should just learn to be content with who God has made me to be, how God has created me to work, and how God is using me in this time at this place.

  10. marko,

    no. i was joking. i guess it could be ocd for some. it is a tough balance. sure, it’s not about numbers, but at the same time it is a part of the whole picture. are we reaching those God has called us to reach?
    it is a wrong measure of health. we need to see people as people and not a checkmark in the attendance book. health is seeing people discipled and walking out their faith. if you can do that with 100, GREAT. if you can do it with 5, GREAT.
    That’s a whole lot of blathering just to say that “counting kids” is just one of many ways to measure “growth” and “success”.

  11. Acts doesn’t celebrate numbers . . . Luke was just a bit of stickler for the stats. And when the Church was going from zlich to 3000 (not counting the women and children) there must have been a fair bit of what the heck are we gonna do? The questions as some have said is one of balance – if we ask ourselves two questions, “How many do we have in our program?” and “Are lives being transformed by Christ?” – the litmus test for balance is which one we ask most often. I would add another reason to Marko’s for why numbers might drop – not just to do with gifting of the leader or team, or whether it is a clique – you could be challenging young people to count the cost and step up – Jesus did that and some left Him . . .

  12. At my first church, behind closed doors the senior pastor would tell me, “numbers are key. Spiritual growth will come later.” I believe the opposite … spiritual growth is key, numbers will come later. Might explain why we didn’t get along too well …

  13. Marko,
    I’m so sick of high and mighty nationally know youth workers across the nation trying to justify shrinking youth groups and ineffective youth programs across the country with “don’t be obsessed with numbers”. It’s just a cop out. As youth workers we are called to bring the gospel to the masses – making disciples of all nations. Where in the Bible does it say get a small group of students together and grow deeper with God – don’t worry about all the lost in your community that are dying and going to hell? I do however recall that the Bible records lots of numbers “and they added to the church daily”. There’s even a book of the Bible called “numbers”. Wow! Who would have thought?
    Youth workers, now more than ever need to hold themselves accountable to an excellent program of reaching the lost and making them disciples – so that they can then go reach the lost and then make the disciples – and the cycle continues. Seeing students walk out their faith is seeing them bring their lost friends to Christ – that’s the ultimate “deep level” of discipleship – bringing others to Christ. There are way too many youth programs out there that are not reaching more students because the youth minister or leadership of the church is not willing to sacrifice and do the things necessary to reach the lost. There are way too many of these churches out their who need to hear the message of – stop being lazy, accept change and youth culture, and get out there and reach some lost kids – NOT “it’s ok that you’ve only added 2 to your ministry in a year – maybe you’re just growing deeper with God”. No, your youth program is ineffective. Marko, do the world of youth ministry a favor and vent about something that is actually going to help reach teenagers – not something that is going to give youth workers and church leadership just one more excuse to not fulfill their calling to reach students with the gospel. You have way too much influence – use it in a productive way – or just don’t say anything at all.
    And by the way, since September of 2006 in our youth group, there have been 161 students that have given their lives to Christ or followed through with baptism after a previous decision that was not followed up with. I’m proud to know that number and I’m not ashamed of the life change that is taking place here at our church. And you can rest assured that each of these students will be counted and tracked to assure that they get plugged into a Bible study so they can “go deep” with God as some of you like to dwell on so much.

  14. Hey Michelle, No doubt you are a sister in Christ. Please don’t miss the point. Re-read this blog. You’ll notice in Mark’s first paragraph, “i do not believe that numbers are useless. they are an indicator of something. we just have to be very, very careful not to quickly assume what that something is” Why the confrontation? Voice your opinion; but know what your confronting.

  15. Kenny: Even though Marko did state twice that numbers are not useless, the overall tone and message and TITLE of this blog is a message of “numbers don’t matter.” That is what I was confronting.

    Marko: My apologies for the high and mighty remark. It was misplaced and inappropraite. My anger and flesh came out before the conviction came. Good call.
    It does, however, seem that you have placed a prejudgement on anyone that keeps track of numbers so accurately – as if you know our hearts. When you post comments like “it kills me when i hear a youth worker (especially a young youth worker) say something like, “we have about 37 kids right now.” that kind of accuracy is usually a reflection of number obsession. when pushed on this, some will respond with, “yeah, but each of those numbers represents a real kid. numbers are a reflection of people. i really care about people.” no. you are wrong.” – You place a generalized statement judging the hearts of those who happen to be gifted with administration and an eye for detail. And the thing is – I really really do believe in my heart of hearts and with a strong passion that every number represents a soul, a teenager who desperately needs someone to write down their name and give them the love of Christ. The more teenagers I get to share the gospel with and disciple the more passionate I get about reaching more of them. I am a very driven person and I believe that I should never stop growing the youth ministry here. If growth stops, I evaluate and make changes. And when I say growth I do mean both numerically and spiritually. The thing is, I belive that you can have numerical growth and spiritaul growth – I guess I believe it because we are experiencing it here.
    When you write in your blog that I am wrong for being so passionate about that – expect a response. And yes, in the quote from your blog I pasted above, it does seem like you think you know the hearts behind people who make statements like “behind every number is a soul”. That’s where the high and mighty comment came from – although it was very wrong of me to post it – please accept my apology.
    But more importantly, please, please, use your powerful voice in youth ministry to talk about things that will move us forward and challenge us to spread the gospel – not things that criticize what some churches are experiencing: growth in numbers and life change.

  16. Wow, I wish I was as good of a youth pastor as Michelle.

    This past weekend when we volunteered to paint the community room at the nursing home, I only had 12 students show up and give their weekend to seeing that elderly people who cannot make it to a church can have service right where they live.

    During our lunch break, we even did a devotion. How dumb was that? Yeah, where in the bible does it say to get a small group of students together and grow deeper? I am sure Jesus never sat around over a meal and studied with his 12.

    In 6 years, this was fruit I really wanted to be proud of. But, this is what ineffective ministry gets you.

    We are going to start an in depth study of Numbers tonight. I am sick of this 12 students who want to help and serve those around them. What a freaking loser I have been. I hope there is room for my 12 (I am not counting those uncommitted ones who had sports on Sat.) in heaven after Michelle’s legions show up.

  17. justin: dude, the sarcasm isn’t helpful here.

    michelle: i hear what you’re saying about negative/positive. i would like to think that the overall message of things i blog about (pertaining to youth ministry) have a good mix of both. i blog about stuff i love in youth ministry, including examples of great stuff i see. but i also consider it (and maybe this is where you and i would disagree) that it is part of calling/responsibility of the platform i’ve been given to caution all of us about our collective blind-spots. i write as a fellow youth worker, as someone who has frequently “missed the point” in youth ministry, or, at the very least, been distracted by things (measuring sticks, values, etc) that are not helpful. i firmly believe that the best path in moving forward and growing is a combination of unearthing our misconceptions as well as suggesting paths forward.

    for the record, one more time, i do not believe that counting is wrong or bad. the title of my post was “number obsession.” the obsession part is what i’m referring to. i have always kept a record of how many kids were attending, because i do believe, as i said, that it’s an indication of something, and is one of the many indicators we should be keeping a humble eye on. when it becomes the ONLY indicator/measuring stick (or even the primary one), i think we have been sadly seduced into the wrong set of values.

  18. Michelle: I\’m stoked about your passion and drive in ministry! I Praise God for your love of young people and for the growth of your ministry. May God be the source, may He be the center.
    However, there are several things I\’d like to bring to your attention.
    I agree with you that Christ told his disciples to \”Go and make disciples of all nations.\” He did not mean that the responsibility was upon any ONE of them to accomplish that mission on their own. The command was given to a collective group of men. 11 men to be exact because one of Christ\’s followers had recently betrayed him and killed himself. Was that Christ\’s fault? Was Christ ineffective? Christ said himself, \”I have chosen you twelve, and one of you will turn me over to my enemies.\”
    What about when all of Christ’s followers left because they became disgruntled? He turned to his twelve and said, “Will you leave me also?” Peter said rightly, “Lord, where else would we go. You alone have the words of eternal life.” Was Christ ineffective when he lost all of those disciples? No, because they weren’t TRUE disciples. Several times people came to Jesus and said they wanted to be his disciples, they turned around when Christ asked them questions that penetrated their hearts and exposed them for who they really were. Was Christ unjust, unloving, ineffective for not running straight back to them and begging them to follow him? No, Christ told the woman at the well that her people did not know whom they worshipped but God is searching for those who will worship him in Spirit and in Truth. High numbers are great but they tend to hold a high percentage of lukewarm people ready to run when things get tough.

    The Bible, especially the 4 gospels, gives ample illustrations of Christ leading his 12 disciples to a place of quiet where he could teach them alone. In fact it was during these special times when his disciples actually \”LEARNED\” the truths Christ was teaching to the masses. Don\’t get me wrong Christ always reached out in compassion when the masses came running towards him…but He loved the times spent with his 12. The problem with the masses is that they are \”massive\”. When things are hip, cool, and entertaining, the masses are there. When things are tough, when things require personal sacrifice, when God asks us to give up our personal rights, the masses dwindle. Masses enjoy being catered too, pampered.
    We have to be careful not to compromise the hearts of those few who ARE committed for those who are just joining the masses. I\’m not saying numbers are evil or insignificant. I’m just saying that we should be very careful when considering numbers. Praise God, Michelle, when the numbers are up and keep track of them!! Christ said, he would go after the one sheep who strayed away and leave the 99 behind! HE does care about the numbers! But we mustn\’t forget he cares about ALL the numbers, whether they be 1 or 161!

    Another thing to consider is God\’s anger at King David for counting his armies and Kingdom. Why? Because David had forgotten who gave him the armies, who gave him the kingdom. He had forgotten where he came from! David was a lowly shepherd boy! And that is what we are too! In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul says that we have received \”our\” ministries by the mercy of God. Further, in verse 7 Paul states that we have a treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us!
    My prayer is that you would not be \”sick of high and mighty\” people nor post cutting comments but that you would be grateful for the ministry you have received by God\’s mercy. If God gives you high numbers then serve them as best you can. But remember that even Moses, one of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time could not handle the masses himself! He needed help. So do we. We would do well do follow in Christ’s example. Select a few a men or women and disciple them so they in turn can do the same. I won’t do all the math but consider this. Say I have 10 kids in my youth ministry. If I take those 10 6th graders and disciple them for a year and then they each lead a friend to Christ and disciple them for a year we’ll have 20, right? Follow that for 25 years with each individual leading just 1 person to the Lord and discipling them for a year in 25 years we’ll have reached 315,544,320 people. And that’s just one youth group. Imagine if EVERY youth group would focus on discipling the young people they have for an entire year!! We would have a world wide revival. Jesus knew this formula and that is what he did. He loved the crowds! He preached and taught the masses and always welcomed them! But he gave the majority of his time to the twelve.

    Michelle, I sense your enthusiasm and love for what you do. That is commendable, but I encourage you to never sacrifice the bond of unity for the sake of an opinion. Opinions are great, but they are just opinions. Fact is we all do love teenagers whether we have 1 or 161. Small numbers may indicate laziness and ineffective programs but not necessarily. Large numbers may indicate pride or shallow Christians. But not necessarily! We should be careful about making blanket statements and harsh comments. Remember that you are responsible for 161. That’s a major responsibility! God will give to those only what they are capable of handling. If I can only handle 50 he will not trust 150 to my care. We should be discerning and willing to let go when our time gets so consumed that we can not minister effectively to anyone. And remember that family comes first! If you are ministering to 161 and have a family, wow, that would be awfully hard!! Doing the work of the ministry should NEVER replace being the person God wants each of us to be.

  19. I have to admit that I agree with Michelle’s general idea. The reality is that there is a funnel to reach youth. The wide end is the “get into their world” end, the contacting of new people.

    Later, they get into groups, studies and the like. Later still, one on one discipleship. As the funnel narrows, so does the number of interested kids, and yet deeper ministry flows.

    The problem is that rarely do I see a church wisely do ALL of that. Usually you see the following pattern: A church tries a big outreach style of ministry. This drives away the more serious kids they used to have, and the leaders get tired of people coming just to play around.

    Then the leaders switch gears, and do things to destroy the top of the funnel…ending up with a small Bible study that no unchurched teen would feel comfortable at. Leaders declare this unhealthy Christianese-speaking mini-group “ministry.” Then they declare this swing from one extreme to the other equally bad extreme “real growth” and “what I had to do to do REAL ministry”.


    You can’t pick EITHER love the lost (draw the unchurched) OR discipling the saved. You do both. (Nor can you disciple the saved without teaching THEM to love the lost!)

    You keep the wide funnel open (large groups, events, non-churchy stuff), and from there you develop relationships, and draw people to ANOTHER meeting or relational connection, one further along the process. And so on.

    A balanced ministry, not a one-trick pony.

    Unbalanced and 1-dimensional ministries are the problem, not a focus on numbers.

  20. A very \”successful\” Christian was once asked, \”How come you are so amazing at ministry?\” He answered, \”I just look to see where God is working, and join in\”. I think this is what we are called to. God is at work, He is making stuff happen in the lives of young people – and where I am, I seek to join in. What a privilage. We all have different stuff going on, we are at different places . . . it is great to see your passion Michelle – but there are two things going on here, evangelism and pastoring / discipleship. Hey, in Ephesians 4 we read, \”he gave SOME to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers . . . \”. I know a few people who appear to be called to do a bunch of these things, but only a few. Please don\’t dis those with a heart for pastoring and nurturing faith in a few . . . the measure of anything we do is not how many young people we saw saved last year – it is where they are in a decade or more, when they have families of their own, jobs, mortgages . . .

    Also, Jesus left the many who were \”in\” to go after the \”1\” who was lost. He made time for individuals in the midst of addressing the crowds – we don\’t see from scripture what the commitment of those crowds was, but we do see amazing interactions with individuals – all of that takes time. You are amazing if you can reach hundreds and build significant relationships with a few at the same time. Go for it. But please don\’t have a go at those of us who aren\’t called to that. The wonderful thing is that we are part of the Church – which is a body, now I\’m just a scabby toe nail . . .

  21. Marko – thanks for this post – sometimes I get almost depressed because I want so bad to have “MORE” kids in my youth group. One of my kids the other day told me, “I’m glad you give us so much attention, because my friend’s youth minister just wants to get more people in and never spends much time with the youth that already go to his church”. It was such an awakening thing to hear – to be reminded that sometimes if you’re focusing on who’s NOT coming, you forget about the ones who ARE. And those poor youth get neglected.

    Another thing – I think that the numbers obsession also can be a result of people over you at your church. Every Baptist church I interviewed at (I’m S.baptist but work at a Pres. church) wanted me to “get their numbers up” and hearing that over and over, I came to the church I’m now at worrying, “what if I don’t get a lot of new youth? Will I get fired?” But fortunately, when the staff is behind what you’re doing, you don’t have to worry about that. Thanks for this post because it makes me relieved to be reminded of this.

  22. TC – You get it!!! Finally! That’s the type of post that shows the whole picture. And that’s exactly the kind of ministry that our youth group has. We keep the large funnel open but we are also very passionate about getting them involved in Bible studies and one on one leadership and discipleship training. Balance is the key – and the whole reason I began posting, b/c this original blog about numbers obsession by Marko is NOT BALANCED. I simply pointed out the other view and man – what a response! Thank you so much for pointing out that both extremes are wrong. Just getting a lot of kids there for nothing is wrong – but not reaching the lost in your community is wrong as well. I beleive that you can do both – YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHOOSE!

    Justin – I never said I was a good youth pastor, or better than you for having a larger ministry. I simply pointed out the flaws in Marko’s blog that I believe are wrong – not everyone who has a larger ministry feels that they are better than everyone else. Take your 12 and minister to your community – it sounds like you are doing an amazing job – keep up the good work! (No sarcasm here at all, I really mean that).

    Marko – come on, do you really believe that this blog was both positive and negative? – it wasn’t balanced. Sorry for bringing up the other side of the debate and causing such a explosion. Oh yeah, last night we had 302 : ) Oh come on, I had to! I really do respect you even though we disagree. You’ve helped us out a lot over the years. Have an awesome day!

    Aaron – In response to the betrayal of Jesus, by both Judas and some of his followers – of course people will leave the church. I did not mean to imply at all that when you go out and preach the gospel that everyone will follow – I read back through my responses and could find nothing that would indicate that. Of course poeple will not follow, of course poeple will leave – that’s one of the reasons why I keep up with numbers so accurately, because when our numbers go down, it’s time for evaluation – it’s time to find out what this is indicating. In my personal experience, it has always been because I or the leadership of my church have lost focus on what God has called our particular church to do. I am not saying that this is always the case with every church. So, yes, when people turn away – it’s time to evaluate “why?” And then do something about it. You stated that “High numbers are great but they tend to hold a high percentage of lukewarm people ready to run when things get tough.” That gets me excited. I want the lukewarm and the lost in our sanctuary every Sunday and Wednesday night – it’s one more opportunity I have to get them from a place of lukewarmness (is that a word?) to being on fire! I love it when I walk into a room full of teenagers who don’t have a clue about what it means to be a Christ follower – if all I have in the sanctuary are Christians and no one who needs Jesus – man, what a shame (for me). Christ came to “heal the sick”. And in response to your pointing out that the 12 were taken to quiet places for prayer and teaching – of course we have that. We have small groups that meet together for Bible study every week. We have leadership teams that get together and grow not only spiritually but in leadership so that they can then go out into theor world and bring the gospel to it. You can’t just have large events without the small group experience – and I never stated that it was all about large groups. And about David and the armies – you got it- it’s about the heart. It’s about never forgetting that God has given us every opportunity that we have to reach students. I agree completely – the moment I believe that I have done any of this in my own power – I have become what Marko was trying (though not successfully) to point out. And in response to me being responsible for 161 and God gives responsibility to those who can handle it: I have a large group of adult volunteers that help me handle these students because no one person can handle them alone. It’s about leadership and delegation so that no one falls through the cracks – including my family.

    Mark 13:31-32

  23. michelle, you ask:
    come on, do you really believe that this blog was both positive and negative?
    this is just a misunderstanding of terms. a blog is the whole thing. a post is an individual web article, on a blog. so, no, i never thought (or said) that each post is both positive and negative. the blog overall, that’s what i was referring to.

  24. Marko, thanks so much for the post. I think I caught the heart of your message and it challenged me to evaluate my thinking, priorities, etc.

  25. Acts 9:31
    Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

    Acts 11:26
    and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch

    Acts 16:5
    So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

    Acts 2:41
    Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

    Acts 4:4
    But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

    Genesis 17:2
    I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

    Genesis 28:3
    May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.

    Genesis 35:11
    And God said to him, “I am God Almighty ; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body.”

    Deuteronomy 1:10
    The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky.

    Deuteronomy 1:11
    May the LORD, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!

    The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast
    He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” MATTHEW 16:31-32

    i guess i’m w/ michelle on this one.

  26. As I said, Luke loves his stats – they are stated as “fact” what Marko is making reference to is the tendancy in us to compare our effectiveness with one another based on HOW MANY we have – that is not right . . . and, because many youth workers (if you don’t know them, I do) do this, I think it is helpful having that pointed out . . . all the other scripture references are about what God is going to do – the emphasis is on His work, His power, His Kingdom . . . and the numbers aren’t all in Abrahams community (they are all over the world) and there are more who are part of the Church NOW than there have ever been in History – we should be delighting in the fact we get to live now, have a global picture (unlike generations before us), and recognise that the “numbers” that God sees are ALL OF US – not your church or my church.

  27. So yeah…I think the fact that this huge back and forth has happened in regards to a great blog/reminder by Marko…testifies to the fact that maybe we spend too much time thinking/defending our positions on numbers. Loving teens to Jesus is a lot more simple/complicated than this. :) My daughter just learned how to stand up….I’m so freakin’ excited.

  28. Michelle, I want to know what you are doing that brings them in. THIS IS NOT A JOKE OR SLAM, I REALLY WANT TO KNOW YOUR STRAGITY! Email me and I’ll give you my number so we can talk – [email protected]. I’m always looking for new ideas that work. We are not looking to build a youth ministry, we want to build a movment of students that kick satan in the (stopped saying those words 20 years ago). I’m sick of what he’s doing to this generation just like the rest of the people who’s posted here. There’s 67,000 students in my area. I want to reach them. Send me your ideas – Gregg

  29. Hey there folks….

    Like Ali, I’m looking at this from a UK perspective, which numerically is where the usa is heading in church attendance etc. I truely praise God for Michelle finding what God is doing in her community and joining in. My only slight concern, and I am sure this is in the difference is speaking english vs american, is I wasn’t sure if she is creating converts or disciples.

    Now, here in deepest darkest rural england, getting any volenteers to do youth work is difficult to say the least. I am sure it is a common call but with the current regulations we can only appoint people after legal checks and lots of folks don’t want to do that. Therefore, I am set with a dilema. I want to see numerical growth cos we are to grow the kingdom but if I do I don’t have the mature Christians to disciple these raw newbies. So I look at the numbers similar to Phil to keep an eye on those who slide to the edge, as well as to keep legal.

    We are very fortunate. Having just completed 2 years in post we have a growing number of young disciples, many who have or are plannig to year out serving God. We have had a number of church family youth come to faith and 2 non church family.

    However, like Phil I feel the pressure. I mean, to have an Acts experience would be great. Errrr, no! As a church we are not ready. We couldn’t disciple if 30 suddenly came to faith, let alone 300 or 3000.

    So, Marko, keep the debate going. We all need to loose our number measurement obsession. Perhaps what we need to debate is how we can measure effective youth ministry in a way our employers can recieve without them wanting fresh bums on seats.

    Finally, I’d like to say Marko is a well sorted bloke who, like so many of those who visit us here in Blighty, sacrifice to come and help us.


  30. Paul – I think I stated very clearly in my posts that I am passionate about both reaching teenagers (converts) and discipling them. Here are 3 examples:

    “The more teenagers I get to share the gospel with and disciple the more passionate I get about reaching more of them. I am a very driven person and I believe that I should never stop growing the youth ministry here. If growth stops, I evaluate and make changes. And when I say growth I do mean both numerically and spiritually. The thing is, I belive that you can have numerical growth and spiritaul growth – I guess I believe it because we are experiencing it here.”

    “We keep the large funnel open but we are also very passionate about getting them involved in Bible studies and one on one leadership and discipleship training. Balance is the key”

    “We have small groups that meet together for Bible study every week. We have leadership teams that get together and grow not only spiritually but in leadership so that they can then go out into theor world and bring the gospel to it. You can’t just have large events without the small group experience”

  31. Great article and I applaud you. When we reduce them to numbers we take the relationship out of it. We can become so enamored with the big event with the big attendance when the reality is that most of the time real ministry happens one on one because of the relationship that has been formed. There are exceptions, but I sure do love the one on one.

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