Measuring Success in Young Adult Ministry

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Have you ever wondered how to measure success in ministry? Maybe you’re in a spot where you’re newer to your role or just changed roles. It’s easy to get hung up on measuring factors that don’t truly matter. That’s why I wrote this article!

Some of the easiest ways to measure success when it comes to ministry, historically, have been:

Attendance and audience size: How many people show up and sit in the seats? Naturally, we should count those who come because souls matter. However, names matter so much more than numbers. Your success as a ministry leader is not contingent on an up or down night numerically. The one mattered to Jesus just as much as the crowds. He is the One who taught us to leave the 99 to find the one.

Affirmation, applause, and approval: What are people saying that is positive? In ministry, a dangerous thing is living for the approval of man. After all, God is the one who should be getting the glory! The more time you spend with God and serve faithfully in ministry, you’ll learn to receive positive feedback and constructive criticism equally and gracefully.

These are not inherently wrong to measure, but if they are all we measure, we are missing out on the true mission. I want to see churches and ministries begin measuring success in the way Jesus measured success.

Some ways to measure success you may not have thought about before are:

  • Availability: Will your college students or young adults give up their plans on a Friday night to be a part of your community? Are they willing to come and serve locally? Do they engage in global and local missions? I’ve often tried to build ministry around those who are the first to show up and the last to leave.

  • Activation: Many ministries defer the work of the ministry to the pastors and select leaders. Ephesians 4 is a model that stirs my soul and outlines my role as a leader. I’m biblically mandated to equip volunteers to do the work of the ministry. A good chunk of our time should be spent helping those we serve to discover their spiritual gifts, develop them over time, and deploy them regularly.

  • Alumni: Are you sending people into full-time ministry, missions overseas, or influencing the marketplace? College ministry and young adult ministry both have a natural expiration date. At times, it’s one semester, two years, maybe four years. What I love is that four years can impact the next forty!

I recently transitioned out of a role I served as the young adult pastor at a church for 5 years, and now my wife and I are planting a campus ministry. One of the things I thanked God for from my time at the church and wrote in my journal was every single name of people I knew had been called overseas with missions, or to serve in full-time ministry, as well as those I know have remained on fire with a passion to work in the marketplace!

  • Assimilation: How do you and how does your ministry do in helping new people connect to friends, small groups, and volunteering? We have all been the new kid on the block at school, work, or church. I think some of the best things we can do as pastors and leaders are to learn people’s names, remember them, and connect them to their future friends! I call it the ministry of connection.

I want to challenge you to take some time alone or with your team to re-evaluate your metrics. Here are a few thoughts you can work through: What do you need to start measuring that you haven’t been in the past? What do you need to stop measuring has been controlling your thought life in ministry? Naturally, some things we overemphasize … other things can just as easily be overlooked.