Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does Ministry Architects measure success in your consultations with churches?

Q: How long has Ministry Architects been involved in the working with churches?

Q: How many churches has Ministry Architects worked with?

Q: How many staff people has Ministry Architects helped place?

Q: Why do some churches sign on for additional support and not others?

Q: What are the demographics of those churches?

Q: What follow up feedback do you have from churches Ministry Architects has served to gauge effectiveness?

Q: Is there a book like Sustainable Youth Ministry for the whole church?

Q: In the book you talk about the $1000 per youth ratio. How did you get that?

Q: Our church is steeped in traditions and refuses to change. I have a hard time getting our volunteers who've been on board for many years to understand that ministry is more than an hour on Wednesday and an hour on Sunday. I am beginning to lose momentum and energy. Is there any advice you can give me?

Q: What are some ways we can interest our teens in God's word?

Q: It is my desire to instill a love for God in the whole family, not simply the teens, but I am having very little success. My teens go through times of real passion for Christ, but soon give up because they see no examples of that same passion at home. I have tried to get my pastor to help me in discipling the adults, but he only reaches out to them if he is asked....and frankly, I can count on one hand the times I have been asked to disciple.

Q: What is Family-Based Youth Ministry anyway?

Q: We are having a Family-Based meeting with our youth and their parents. Do you have any guidelines or suggestions as we gather, adults and youth together? I know adults can easily dominate and I want to ensure the youth have a voice in the conversation.

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Q: How does Ministry Architects measure success in your consultations with churches?

A: Success for us is measured in a few different ways:

#1 - We like to help a ministry move toward sustainability. For us that means that the right systems, people, and resources are in place to undergird and bolster the ministry during times of transition. Our assessment and the implementation timeline, when followed, lead to the building of these systems, the alignment of these resources, and the recruiting of the right people.

Mark DeVries has a test called the "kidney stone test." Let's pretend that your group is gathering in the parking lot for a big ski retreat. All of a sudden the youth director is slammed with a kidney stone attack. He/she will not be able to attend the retreat. What would happen to the retreat? Would it fall apart? Or, would the other adults just tighten the circle and head off without the youth director. i.e. Are the right systems and volunteer leaders in place to keep the ministry moving forward?

#2 - We like to help a ministry move toward greater visibility. This includes ministry integration with the greater church, improved communication, and more consistent marketing (story telling). Are people in your church aware of what's happening in the youth or children's ministry? Are they excited to support these ministries?

For some reason in churches, we observe one of two things: In some churches there are no youth or children and everyone is talking about these ministry areas. In other churches there are lots of kids and for some reason no one is talking about the youth ministry or the children's ministry. We build your numbers and at the same time we work hard to increase your visibility.

#3 - We like to get lots of people involved in the youth and children's ministries. We believe that every adult and every parent has something to give to these ministry areas. We teach our youth and children's directors to share ministry, build teams, and develop volunteers. When we've effectively worked the timeline and recruiting strategies the volunteer base supporting the target ministry will have grown to 4-5 times its former size. We teach staff leaders how to build a system of middle-management volunteers. Our staff leaders need to be pouring into 6-10 adults who themselves are leading other teams of adult volunteers.

We believe that numerical growth in a ministry is somewhat organic and unpredictable. God moves in the hearts of parents, youth and volunteers to become more involved in the youth and children's ministry. A vine in the vineyard grows in the same organic way. Soil, sunlight, pests, and climate impact the vines. However, the vineyard does provide a supportive, dependable trellis for the grapes to grow on. A growing ministry needs the same supportive systems to grow in a predictable trajectory.

#4 - Therefore - we also like to see a heightened focus on intentionality. Curriculum should not be chosen 6 weeks at a time. Vision should not change every time we change staff directors. New ministry goals should not come from reading a new book or attending a new training event. Recruiting does not happen effectively through bulletin announcements. Volunteers aren't supposed to "figure it out" on the fly. Parents need more than 8 weeks to prepare for major events. Community is not an accidental by-product of meeting together. Youth and children's directors don't just find the time to do long term planning. Ministry is organic but its sustainability is predictable.

Occasionally, after churches bring us in for an assessment, they make the decision to move forward without any coaching or ongoing support. We like to stay connected through phone coaching, document support, and even return visits to churches. As the church is setting the budget for next year, we would recommend we stay connected during the renovation process. Plan on keeping us around. The chances for success are much greater.

Q: How long has Ministry Architects been involved in the working with churches?

A: Mark DeVries, our President, has been consulting with churches since his first book came out in 1994. Ministry Architects has been around since 2002. We've adapted and grown during that time. But, the principles of sustainability have been a constant staple of our ministry.

Q: How many churches has Ministry Architects worked with?

A: To date (Dec 2015) we have worked with over 650 churches from 23 different denominations.

We are currently in long-term contract relationships with over 115 churches. These are churches that we are currently supporting as they work through the timeline that we created during the assessment.

We have completed long-term contracts with another 330 churches. These are churches that utilized our coaching services and our contract with them has already concluded.

Q: How many staff people has Ministry Architects helped place?

A: To date (Dec 2015) we have assisted with 120 searches.

Q: Why do some churches sign on for additional support and not others?

A: The youth and children's ministry directors generally see us as a great resource. Pastors, too. The decision to move forward with our assistance is typically based on finances. Some of our churches have a very large staff and they decide that they'll handle the implementation on their own. Personally, we would rather our ministry directors focus on relationships than on infrastructure. Time is money and we work quickly and efficiently since we have created these systems and resources for many, many churches. We can usually hammer things out in a couple of hours. These same projects might require research, several meetings, and 6-8 hours on the ministry director.

On very rare occasions, we have seen youth and children's ministry directors who unilaterally decide to ignore the recommendations and timeline from a Ministry Architects assessment.  In these cases, a church's leadership, in seeking to empower and honor their youth director, provides no accountability for working a plan.  When the post-assessment process does not end well, this dynamic is almost always in play.

Q: What are the demographics of those churches?

A: Our demographics are all over the map. We work with churches of 5000 to 6000 members or larger. We have also conducted assessments, coaching and searches for churches of less than 150 members. The churches that decide to move on without our help are usually very large or very small. The large churches feel like they have all the resources that they need. The smaller churches often have limited financial means to move forward.

Q:What follow up feedback do you have from churches Ministry Architects has served to gauge effectiveness?

A: Our Senior Consultants routinely make calls to alumni churches to gauge our effectiveness and improve our ministry.

Most of our feedback comes in the form of referrals from previous churches. We are determined to turn our churches into "raving fans" and we work with that goal in mind. Our follow-through and timely support during the extended contracts have enabled us to return to many of our churches to work with the children's ministry. We love those phone calls. "Please come back and do the same thing with our Children's ministry."

One of our favorite recent quotes from an “alumni church” is
"YMA, our interim youth director is leaving and for the first time I am not worried. Thank you for bringing us to this place of stability." Travis Collins - Pastor of Bon Air Baptist Church - Richmond.

Some things are hard to measure. Visibility, stability, communication, etc. The referrals are really the best measure.

Q: Is there a book like Sustainable Youth Ministry for the whole church?

A: This is a question we're getting quite a lot and in fact we now have a church wide consulting division.  We're also doing more and more seminars for pastors on just this topic. We're guessing there are such books, but we haven't found them yet. Some churches are choosing simply to adapt the principles in Sustainble to the whole church.

Q: In the book you talk about the $1000 per youth ratio. How did you get that?

A: After having done over 100 assessments with all kinds and sizes of different churches, we settled on this number as what seemed to be "normal." Though some churches spend more per kid and some spent less, we've found this number to be a pretty faithful representation of what "normal capacity" looks like.

Q: Our church is steeped in traditions and refuses to change. I have a hard time getting our volunteers who've been on board for many years to understand that ministry is more than an hour on Wednesday and an hour on Sunday. I am beginning to lose momentum and energy. Is there any advice you can give me?

A: One of our mottos is "evolution, not revolution." If you can joyfully sustain a direction for the youth or children's ministry, people will eventually come on board. You probably have already discovered that selling a "new model" of ministry is nearly impossible with the folks you've got on board.  We prefer to help people move one step, one person at a time. Likely there is one volunteer who would be willing to do things just a little differently, pursuing kids a little more intentionally. This is a one on one transformation process.  Your volunteers need to sense that you are responsive to their input. The key at this point is to get everyone embracing the same vision...seeing kids grow toward maturity in Christ, living as lifelong disciples. The model is secondary...purpose driven, family-based, whatever...these are secondary to having everyone sharing the same vision and then sharing with you in praying through what God would have your church do next.
They key is to help the church discern their vision for the ministry, rather than selling your vision to them.

Q: What are some ways we can interest our teens in God's word?

A: We've got lots of ideas on this one, but the most effective one that we have seen is to keep our kids around people who take Jesus and the Bible seriously and who also love our children extravagantly. With one of our children particularly, we struggled with helping her become serious about her faith. When she started spending time with a youth leader at our church, she picked up on that other adult's example, and began taking God much more seriously on her own.  The older our kids get, the more they need adults outside the family who can help them learn to love God in ways that we might not be able to.  You might also take a look at the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family. Those guys do a lot of work trying to answer this very question.

Q: It is my desire to instill a love for God in the whole family, not simply the teens, but I am having very little success. My teens go through times of real passion for Christ, but soon give up because they see no examples of that same passion at home. I have tried to get my pastor to help me in discipling the adults, but he only reaches out to them if he is asked....and frankly, I can count on one hand the times I have been asked to disciple.

A: We've got some good news for you:  Your current pastor's style will not keep you from discipling kids. In fact, your effectiveness at discipling kids may have an impact on the entire church culture.  You will feel increasingly powerless when you focus on what your pastor is or isn't doing. That is really not something you can handle. I have had 9 bosses as senior pastors, so I can tell you that where your pastor is is very normal. I'd relax about what he's not doing and focus your energy on building relationships with students and leading them toward maturity in Christ.  This is long, slow, frustrating work (otherwise there would be lots of us out there doing it!). Practice the "long obedience in the same direction." After you have been able to shift the culture of the youth ministry, then your boss might begin to take notice of your recommendations. But until then, focusing on his failures will just be a distraction from what God has called you to do.

Q: What is Family-Based Youth Ministry anyway?

A: Family-Based Youth Ministry is about accessing the God-designed structures of the nuclear family and the extended family of the church to help young people grow toward mature Christian adulthood. Today, FBYM is one of the most successful models for youth ministry in America. Rather than trying to find the perfect youth leader, FBYM helps churches implement a youth ministry and structure that any youth leader can learn. In this way, the ministry stays on course, regardless of how many different youth leaders pass through your church's doors. Mark DeVries named and defined this model over 15 years ago in his book by the same title and the book was just revised, updated and re-released in 2004. You can read more about the book, Family-Based Youth Ministry published by InterVarsity Press through this web link.

Q: We are having a Family-Based meeting with our youth and their parents. Do you have any guidelines or suggestions as we gather, adults and youth together? I know adults can easily dominate and I want to ensure the youth have a voice in the conversation.

A: Thanks for letting us in on the fun of the family-based initiatives you are launching. I've got a few ideas for you as far as giving the kids a voice:  If you've got a copy of the revised version of the book, Family-Based Youth Ministry, there is an exercise in the back called the wagon wheel that you can apply to the topic you're working on - adults on the inside circle, kids on the outside. One group rotates with each question, and everyone is given 30 seconds(ish) to talk, moderated by you. Another idea is the "go-around question"...everyone in the group answers the question as it goes around the circle. If you really want to hear from the kids, you can have a "panel of experts," made up only of the kids. Hope that helps!