3 Important Responses to the Barna State of Youth Ministry Report

What do you do with the Barna report?

As I read it 3 responses jump out at me. Here is some of the data and a few important ways to act on the stats.A typical youth ministry today includes 12 adult volunteers, 60 teens, and 1.4 paid youth ministry staff.

Do you make the national average or are you way understaffed? One way to use this data is to approach your board to see if you can get some help. You may consider a part time person who is great with admin or some other area that you are weak at so that you can go full out in the areas of your strengths.

1. Change the Ratio

The other thing to consider is the ratio. This is about a 5 to 1 ratio but what Mark DeVries and others are arguing for is a 1 to 5 ratio! How can you get more concerned adults involved in the lives of your students. One way to start is mapping it out. Who is involved in the life of your students? How can this involvement move them along the discipleship path? Which students have almost no positive role models in their lives? How can this situation be improved?

see Youth Specialties Article

One quarter of youth pastors believe “getting parents involved with spiritual formation” is a priority of youth ministry.

2. Think Orange

If you aren’t part of this 25% please think about it for a moment. God calls parents to disciple their kids in Deut. 6. It isn’t just up to you. All kind of research shows that when parents up their game when it comes to nurturing faith in their sons and daughters they grow faster and stronger. Not only that, the changes last. If you need more convincing, check out the info from the Orange movement.

Youth Specialties adds:  “And one in six senior pastors agree with this priority. While this is a top goal, most church leaders don’t place high priority on reaching out to parents – instead, they hope parents will reach into the ministry.”

Start the Conversation

You will annoy people but if no one talks about this Elephant in the Church no one will pay attention to the fact that you can’t do the parents’ job! Everyone benefits when parents take responsibility for their kids’ spiritual formation!

74% of youth pastors agree that teens’ busyness is the biggest challenge to the effectiveness of their program.

3. Way Too Busy For God?

But… parents don’t always get it. This is how Youth Specialties reads it: “only one out of nine parents say that their child is “way too busy” and six out of 10 say the balance of activities “is good.” This could be explained by some parents concern about college admissions, which influences their evaluation of their child’s activity level.” A similar study in Canada found that teens top concern was busyness and pressure to do well in school.

see Youth Specialties Article

Parents need to get this.  

Us parents mean well but what have we gained if our kids achieve but they have no relationship with God? The falling away stats at university and college may have to do with parents emphasizing studies without emphasizing Christ. They have no foundation when they head out from home.

 Can we go Where they Are?

When students are so busy how can we be part of their world. How about increasing face to face encounters at their schools, and coffee shops? Some churches offer tutoring. I helped student prep for finals. Some churches reach out to students who have English as a second language. Wherever ministry can connect with the face paced life of teens positive things happen!

Another tack on this is create space for teens to relax and avoid competing with school. I know one Young Life worker who maximizes hang out time when exams are done. He sets up a movie marathon but the movie serves more like background noise as they hang out. Students love the chance to completely relax.More

And There’s More…

There’s a lot more in the Barna report. I encourage you to get your hands on it. In the meantime see how you can prioritize these three areas.

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com


  1. Hal Hoffmansays:

    Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said once. ” The less Holy Spirit you have in your church, the more coffee and cake you need to keep it going. “

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