The Barna research provided six areas in which youth pastors in 2013 wanted to see improvement over the next three years. Does the list look at all familiar?

  • Getting families more involved, 42%
  • Having more students in leadership, 33%
  • Rethinking their overall strategy, 22%
  • Doing more with less, 13%
  • Managing growth, 19%
  • Implementing major alterations to programs, 8%

The degree to which these were successfully achieved certainly varies. Sometimes the expectations were on target, other times not. For example, 46% expected their budget to increase. By 2016 38% of them did have a larger budget; not too far off target. But 79% of the youth pastors expected an increase in attendance, and only 52% actually did; while at the same time 26% experienced a decrease in attendance, over three times the expectation.

OK, enough statistics. What I would like to emphasis are the bullet points above. Is getting more families involved on your radar screen? Do you see one of your roles to be mentoring students into leadership? Have you given your strategy for youth ministry a thorough evaluation, or like most of us, are you doing what’s always been done? What about doing more with less? Can that be done successfully in your setting, or is the “less” already below what’s reasonable?

What I see as helpful from this information is not the percentages, but rather the concepts behind the goals. Family involvement is essential, because youth ministry is always family ministry. Tapping into the leadership gifts of the students is a natural aspect of helping the young mature in faith. Program evaluation? We might not like it, but we really can’t live without it.

One final thought for Part 3 of my review. According to this research, the average youth ministry consists of number of 60 teens, with 12 volunteers of whom 5 are parents, led by 1.4 paid staff. Ok, that probably doesn’t describe your group. Nevertheless, the points above STILL APPLY! Family, leadership, and strategy are valid no matter the size of your group.

What’s next for Part 4? We will look at service projects and how important they are for youth ministry.

If you would like to get your own copy of the research, you can do so here:

Dr. John Oberdeck was a parish pastor in Southern Illinois for ten years, and served on the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in the Practical Department for thirteen years before coming to Concordia University Wisconsin in 2002, most recently serving as the Director of Lay Ministry. He retired in June 2017. He and his wife, Ginny, live in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, and have three grown children and seven growing grandchildren.

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