Measuring Church Health: How many students should attend?


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Last week I launched a series of articles on measuring church health. We began by looking at average children’s ministry attendance. This week, we’ll focus on students. The graphic below summarizes our data:


For the churches we’ve worked with through the years, the average number of students is 10% of the overall church attendance. In other words, for every 9 adults and kids in attendance, there’s typically one student between sixth and twelfth grade.

Again, the factors driving student engagement are similar to those I noted with children’s ministry. Though the capacity of your youth pastor may certainly impact the health of your student ministry, there are a number of other factors to consider. Those include the demographics of your region, the church’s overall commitment and vision for student ministry and the programming in your worship services.

Now here are some anecdotal learnings:

  • Sunday Morning — It’s very difficult for churches to reach students if the programming in their Sunday worship services (teaching, music, media, etc.) doesn’t engage teenagers…and their parents.
  • Serving & Leading — Similar to adults, students will eventually checkout if all you expect them to do is attend “youth group.” Students will stick if they have opportunities to serve and lead.
  • Mimicking Services — On that note, it’s more challenging for some student ministries today. The teaching and music in many churches is strong on Sunday mornings. In those churches, you can’t just try to mimic the Sunday service on Wednesday night and expect students to show up…because they’ll probably get better teaching and music on Sunday morning. (Back when I was in student ministry, the better teaching and music was at youth group.)
  • Midweek Gatherings — Though you wouldn’t expect this because of competing school and sports activities, we continue to find that midweek gatherings are typically stronger than Sunday evening gatherings for student ministries.
  • Activities — More activities and events don’t necessarily equal more students. In fact, from our experiences, the opposite is usually the case. We can’t forget that students are busy too.

If your church is seeing numbers higher than our averages for students or kids, I’d love to hear what you perceive are some of the factors driving those trends. If your numbers are below these averages, again, consider all the factors I’ve highlighted.

If you are looking for resources and coaching for family ministries, I recommend you connect with my friends at Orange.

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