Are we normal?
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 youth 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 Youth
If you look at your attendance data, you may see that you have 20 youth on an average Sunday attending Sunday school, and then 35 attend youth group, 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 youth group 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 youth group. Any youth 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with the same norms for the past several years, and recently, raised the question, “Are the norms we are working with outdated?”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:
Youth Ministry Norms
In youth ministry, we have been working with four different norms: numbers, budget, staff ratio, and volunteer ratios. As we updated our numbers, just one of these norms have changed in the past couple of years.
Percentage of Youth in a Worshipping Congregation
It is typical to see youth, middle school through high school, make up about 10% of a worshipping congregation. This number is a combination of youth who participate in Sunday school, youth group, worship, or participate in the life of the church in some other program.
Staff to Youth Ratio
Churches typically hire the equivalent of one full-time staff person for every 50 youth involved in the church in some way. Staffing configurations can take on different forms, but we count the average number of staff hours the church is investing in youth ministry.
This number has increased slightly over the past few years. We are seeing churches invest, on average, $1,500 per youth per year. This includes staff salaries and benefits as well as the yearly program budget. As noted before, cost of living in a particular area may cause this number to vary from church to church. The $1,500 per youth budget is an average of diverse congregations across the country.
Volunteers to Youth Ratio
This norm has stood the test of time. Over the years, we have consistently seen an average of one adult volunteer for every five youth involved in the church in some way.
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]