Youth leaders column from Dave Fenton: Registering numbers

It’s often the first question we ask. How many were there?

You’ve created an event and, one of the measures of success is often how many people turned up. I have heard this idea resisted on the grounds that our youth ministry is about the quality and maturity of the young who leave our groups. But Acts 2.47 reminds us that ‘the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved’. The context of the churches receiving Paul’s epistles reveals the problems in those local fellowships. But the problems were sometimes caused by those who were being ‘added to their number’ — growth brings problems.

I would never rely totally on a weekly head count as a measure of growing maturity or that I am a very poor youth minister. But I would ask the question about numbers if the group is growing — what is causing the growth — where are these people coming from and why have they started to come? Who’s bringing them and why — what has motivated them? If numbers are in decline you need to, at least, ask the question why? Are there things going on that are causing people not to turn up? An odd blip is not significant, but a steady decline, if left without analysis, may see the decline continue.

It may be my early mathematics training, but I kept a register of young people attending the group. Most people talk about how many people attend the group — there were 20 this week and last week we had 18. But a register reveals much more. Which 20 was it who came to the meeting? Did all the 18 who came last week turn up this week and were part of the 20. A register enables you to look at frequency. Your group of 20 included one person who hadn’t been there for six months and you didn’t spot them or welcome them because your only concern was the total number. Did you register the fact and one of your group hasn’t been around for a month and nobody has followed it up?

Pastoral contact
An accurate register helps maintain good pastoral contact with people. In larger groups it is horribly possible for people to slip through the net — you just don’t notice they’re missing. Larger groups can be split up between leaders so every leader has a responsibility for, say, six young people and to check each week if their six were there. Record-keeping will enable you to measure who are regular attenders and who are occasional. And don’t fool yourself. It’s easy to think that Jane and David were at the group — in fact they haven’t been there for two weeks and no one spotted it.

Without a register your ability to care for members of the group can be a bit haphazard. If you’re not sure if they were there, any contact will be rather vague. When we contact them we can say the wrong thing. Not exactly encouraging to say ‘missed you last two weeks’ if they were in fact there. That information never stuck in your memory and they think you didn’t even notice them. If we are going to send encouraging texts or emails to our young people, we must know about them. What we say to them must convince that we both know and care about them.

Gift of administration
However you do it, do it accurately. Make it a role of one of your team — there are some with the gift of administration and this is a great use of their spiritual gift. Precision tends to create growth because it creates a culture of love and care for the young people we serve.

Dave Fenton – associate minister at Christ Church Winchester and Training Director of Root 66 which runs training courses for youth ministers across the UK. 


This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057