At Ministry Architects, we’ve worked with over 900 churches, and inevitably, this is the most frequently asked question. Over the years, we’ve developed some norms, as we like to call them, for children’s ministries. Really, these numbers are just a way to compare some numbers from your ministry with the same numbers in other churches.
Here are a few important things that you will want to keep in mind as you look at the new norms and compare your numbers with those.
- These numbers are an average of the churches we have worked with across the country. Some of these are small churches, some are large, some are urban, suburban, and others are rural.
- These numbers are not a clear indicator of health or sustainability in your ministry. It is likely that you may fall far outside of the norms, and still have a thriving ministry. However, if you do fall outside these norms, we would suggest that there are variables that will allow for a healthy ministry outside these norms.
- As you look at these numbers, especially the budget numbers, remember that cost of living varies widely across the country. For example, if you are in New York City, you may not be able to run a ministry on the same budget that a church in Bryan, Texas can, but by looking at these norms and comparing them to your own church’s numbers, you can learn how you compare to the national average, and that enables you to have more conversations about your unique needs and circumstances, and make adjustments accordingly.
How We Count Children
If you look at your attendance data, you may see that you have 20 children on an average Sunday attending Sunday school, and then 35 attend children’s choir, but 15 come to worship and don’t participate in either program. At Ministry Architects, we like to count unique faces. That means, if Abby goes to Sunday school and children’s choir every week, we only count her once, but we also want to count Jackson who attends worship, but hasn’t yet attended Sunday school or children’s choir. Any child who participates in the life of the church in some way is included in this number, but we only count them once, no matter how many times they are at the church in a given week.
We have been working with the same norms for the past several years, and recently, raised the question, “Are the norms we are working with outdated?” So, we went to work crunching numbers with more recent data. Here’s what we found:
Children’s Ministry Norms
In children’s ministry, we have been working with four different norms: numbers, budget, staff ratio, and volunteer ratios. As we updated our numbers, two of those norms have changed in the past couple of years.
Percentage of Children in a Worshipping Congregation:
Historically, we have seen an average of 15% of a worshipping congregation. As we looked at current numbers in recent clients’ churches, this number is still accurate. We have seen percentages as low as 7% and as high as 35%, but the average still settles around 15%.
Staff to Children Ratio:
Until recently, we have reported that children’s ministries around the country are typically hiring the equivalent of one full-time staff person for every 75 children. That number has recently changed to show that churches are investing more in their children’s ministry staff. We are seeing the equivalent of one full-time staff member for every 70 children across the country.
Budget numbers have increased by about 10% as well. Currently, churches are reporting, on average, that they are investing $1,100 per child per year. That’s an increase of $100 per child per year. This number doesn’t include paid nursery workers or babysitters, but it does include staff salaries and benefits as well as the entire program budget for the year.
Volunteers to Children Ratio:
While we know that every responsible children’s ministry has ratio targets that are different for each age group, we found that the best way for us to name a national norm is to look at the overall volunteer ratio for children from birth through elementary grades. Because churches use different rotation models, we standardized this by looking at the average number of volunteers serving during any given week. That means that whether volunteers are serving once a month or once a week didn’t impact this number. We were simply looking at volunteer attendance numbers and children’s attendance numbers. On average, churches are seeing one volunteer for every five children attending each week.
As you look at these numbers and compare them to your church’s numbers, remember that these numbers are an average of dozens of churches across the country, so many factors will influence why you are close to these or why your numbers vary. Some of the most common variables are cost of living, complexity of programming, number of programs, number of monthly and yearly events, and church culture. If you would like to talk with Ministry Architects about your numbers, shoot us an email at [email protected].