How do you measure success in your youth ministry?
It’s a tough question, because measuring your wins can look different, depending on your context and circumstances. It can look different for each student, each volunteer, and even yourself as the youth pastor.
Regardless of how we define success, it’s something we all strive for—and it’s achievable. We just need to open our eyes to it see it, and then be intentional to measure it—and celebrate it—when we find it.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall prey to the enemy and focus more on our failures than notice successes. The remedy? Remember that no matter how things seem, any given “failure” moment isn’t the end of the story.
Here are two recent examples of this from my own youth ministry (called LIFT):
1. Not long ago, one of our students (Michelle) was at youth group for the last time before moving to Florida. In the midst of the busyness that evening, I failed to acknowledge it or say goodbye to her. I left that night brokenhearted.
Later that week, however, I got a text from Michelle saying the move date had been pushed back. I got to take her and a group of students out to Subway, where we reflected on her time in LIFT. She shared some of her favorite memories, which included her full understanding of the Gospel, increased confidence in sharing it, growth in her relationship with Jesus—and, of course, the time she rode on the top of my car as it was going who knows how fast. Success!
2. Most of our youth group gatherings include a “Pause for the Cause” time, where I ask students to share stories from the past week of how they cared for or shared the Gospel with someone. During a recent Pause for the Cause, there was dead silence. I just stood up front, staring at my students and thinking: “Come on, now—not one person did something to care like Jesus or share the Gospel this week? Is no one living out our bold vision and mission?”
After a while, I put the awkward silence out of its misery, and we split into small groups. One by one, students started sharing in the smaller groups, and before long the care and share stories were bubbling up all over. Once again, God was showing His faithfulness at work in our students’ lives. Success!
In both of these situations, it took the help of others and God’s intervention for me to see that He was working in mighty ways. I just was momentarily blinded. If we aren’t careful, the enemy will take every opportunity to blind us to what God is doing. But when we stop to look—and when we continually press ahead to do what’s right—we often see success right in front of us.
You can always find momentary success when you look for it, but how do you measure it over the course of a year?
To start, you can add up all the little moments as described above. But more importantly, I think there are two primary questions every ministry can ask to help track long-term success and to ensure that the things you’re measuring are biblically relevant.
- Did people (kids, youth, or adults) come to accept Jesus as their Savior as a direct result of students and leaders in your ministry? Furthermore, are they now being discipled by them?
- Did you and your ministry disciple students in such a way that their own relationship with Christ is showing the marks of a true follower? Are they bearing fruit?
At LIFT, we like to use big visual displays to track our goals and measure our success. Here a few examples of how that has looked over the years:
1. Individual crosses
- Each person received a colorful cross to place on the Gospel wall.
- Each person wrote one main goal (what success would look like for them in their faith) and three checkpoints to meet along the way.
- Every four months, we had a checkpoint night to gauge how we were doing on our goals, celebrate our success, and encourage us to keep going.
2. Seed, water droplet, and flower paper cutouts
- For every Gospel conversation a member of our group had, we put a seed on the Gospel wall with the name of the person they talked to.
- Each time they had a follow-up conversation, we added a water droplet to that seed.
- If that person came to accept Christ, we added a flower to the seed.
- Finally, we added water droplets to the flower to indicate discipleship.
3. Puzzle pieces
- For each Gospel conversation a member of our group had, we added a puzzle piece to a disciple-themed puzzle.
- For each salvation, we added 10 pieces to the puzzle.
4. Cutout symbols
- We used various symbols to indicate instances of praying, caring, and sharing: prayer hands for people we were praying for, hearts for people we cared for, trumpets for Gospel conversations, crosses for salvations, and fruit for discipleship meetings outside of youth group.
By the end of the year, our Gospel wall is always full and beautiful, and we can tangibly see how God is working in and through our group. Success!
It’s true that success will look different depending on your context and circumstances, but Christ calls us into mission with Him, and it’s always rewarding to see the success He produces when you let Him!
Click here for even more ideas for visual displays to keep track of your group’s Gospel conversations and other biblical outcomes.