Are Your Children & Youth Ministry Staff/Volunteer Ratios Healthy?

How Many Children's & Youth Ministry Staff

An important question that comes up often in children and youth ministry conversations is:

Do we have enough staff to lead this ministry well?

Another closely related question is:

Do we have enough volunteers? 

Now, many of us would simply assume we don’t have enough of either because we’re busy and there are holes to fill. However, I think it’s really helpful to know what a healthy ratio is for staff and volunteers and there aren’t a lot of guides out there for children’s and youth ministry. Ministry Architects does have some helpful guides and this podcast features Anthony Prince as he and I talk about those benchmarks.

Children & Youth Ministry Staff/Volunteer Survey

In order to help us all have some context and benchmarks to look at when asking these questions, I’m asking you to fill out a survey to indicate the staffing and volunteer ratios at your church. The goal is for hundreds of leaders to take the survey so we have a large enough sample size to make the results reliable and helpful.

Win Free Stuff!

Yes, I’m going to bribe you with prizes! Awesome ones, too. All told, there are 26 prizes worth $2,711.00.

The Survey Is Now Closed – Check back for results

Mission | Vision | Strategy | Values – Values Create Culture

Values as Guardrails

Have you ever been confused by the terms mission, vision, strategy, and values?

Join the club.

In the first post in this series, I introduced this topic and wrote about Mission.
In the second post, I wrote about Vision and the role it plays.
In the third post, I wrote about Strategy as the plan to accomplish our mission.

In the last post in this series, we’ll talk about Values. Values seemed like a throwaway component years ago and now they’re popular again because of their connection with Culture. I’ve heard it said that culture is “how we do things here”. I would agree. You have probably heard the popular, oft misquoted, hard-to-attribute statement:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Usually, it’s attributed to Peter Drucker in a speech he gave. I agree with the statement, but you do need all the other components as well. Culture is just the easiest one for people to experience. Therefore, it’s more important simply because they’ll catch that first.


Values can be the greatest tool we have in creating culture. Ultimately, people create the culture. It’s similar to how you think about another country, nation or tribe of people. When you describe the culture, you’re mostly describing the people – their communication, their behaviors, their practices, their customs, etc.

If people create the culture, values are a great way to help people understand the culture you want to create. It gives you language to use as you steer everyone in the same direction. Again, the language in another country goes a long way toward creating the culture you experience there. You may have heard the phrase “words create worlds”.

What question does strategy answer?

Values answer the question – Who do we want to be? 

Mission defines our purpose, as in why we exist. Vision describes where we are headed. Strategy lays out the plan for how we’ll get there. Values describe who we want to be as we pursue everything else.

In the road trip analogy, values are guardrails

Our mission tells us why we’re on the journey in the first place. Our vision points to a destination on the map. Strategy plots the route from where we are to where we want to be. Values define the guardrails for us. The determine the boundaries of where we’ll go on our way to our destination.

They clearly divide the path we want to be on and the places we don’t want to go. Just like driving over a guardrail causes big problems, violating our own values can do the same.

What should values look like?

Values should describe who you want to be. Don’t feel obligated to include things every church should value (the Bible, prayer, etc.) Some churches have 5 values, others have 12. I used to think 12 was too many, and still lean that way, but I’ve seen it work well in a couple churches linked below. Here are some values from four churches I think did a good job creating them:

How does this relate to Family Ministry?

Similar to everything else I’ve said, I think a family ministry could lean on the church-wide values or create a set of their own. The key, in my mind, is having a good plan for communicating them regularly. Those churches that have 12 do a good job of communicating one a month everywhere they can.

Action Step

Read The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni.

Read this post by Tony Morgan about Church Values vs Team Values.

Get this free PDF from Tony to discuss and evaluate your values.

Come up with a plan for how you’ll communicate your finalized values regularly.

What questions do you have about values?

Mission | Vision | Strategy | Values – How is Vision unique?

Mission Vision Strategy Values

Have you ever been confused by the terms mission, vision, strategy, and values?

Join the club.

In the first post in this series, I introduced this topic and wrote about Mission. In this post, we’ll talk about Vision. Many leaders are understandably confused between mission, vision, strategy, and values. In my opinion, the term vision is where most of the confusion resides.


The word vision is used in many different contexts to mean many different things. I like Andy Stanley’s definition of vision, which says:

“A clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.” – Andy Stanley

Sometimes we make it more complex than it needs to be. Vision is simply a description of a preferred outcome. A vision for a ministry is what you hope to see it become in the future. A vision for a specific volunteer role is how you would describe that role if executed perfectly.

What question does vision answer?

Vision answers the question – Where are we headed?

Mission defines our purpose, as in why we exist. Vision describes where we are headed. Think about that desired outcome and describe it. The vision of our church was established before our church began over 10 years ago. The vision was to reach people who are not a part of any church. We picture a preferred future where a new church would exist that was reaching people who had no church affiliation.

In the road trip analogy, vision is a destination on the trip

Notice I said vision is “a” destination, not necessarily “the” destination. In the case of our church, our vision is still the same. However, we have had other visions that marked destinations on the journey. We had a vision of launching a generosity initiative and raising a specific amount of money about 5 years ago. A couple years after that, we had a vision of opening a new building to reach more people who were not a part of any church.

Those are examples of how your vision can change or adapt over time. Mission always stays the same, but your vision can change as you grow and make progress.

What should a vision statement look like?

Our vision statements should be brief just like mission statements (6-12 words). A good vision statement indicates a problem, provides a solution, and implies urgency. Here are some examples of visions that churches have:

  • Start churches unchurched people would love to attend
  • Reach 100,000 people in South Carolina for Jesus
  • Plant 20 churches by the year 2020

Andy Stanley’s book, Making Vision Stick, is a must-read to help you clarify your vision.

How does this relate to Family Ministry?

I think it’s helpful for us to have a clear vision in our family ministries. We can lean on whatever church-wide vision we have, but it’s helpful to define a vision statement for each ministry and each volunteer role. With volunteer roles, we call them wins, something else we learned from Andy Stanley and North Point.

In our family ministry this year we rolled out a vision to see a specific number of kids and students in small group. It’s about twice as many as we have now and we didn’t put a deadline on it. We’ll continue to hold that up and rally people around it until we hit the mark.

Then, we’ll cast a new vision.

Action Step

Determine whether or not your church has a clear vision for where it is headed. If it doesn’t exist or isn’t clear, start having conversations about how to clarify that. If it does exist, take steps to make sure your ministry environments and volunteer roles all have clear visions so people know what you hope to see.

What questions do you have about vision?

Mission | Vision | Strategy | Values – What’s the Difference?

Mission, Vision, Strategy, Values

Have you ever been confused by the terms mission, vision, strategy, and values?

Join the club.

I’m certainly no expert on the subject. But, in this series of posts, I’ll share my thoughts on each one along with their distinctions and how they can be used in our family ministries.

Throughout the series, I’ll use the analogy of a road trip to help us relate to each term and see how they work together. I’ll also include some common handles and discuss how it all relates to family ministry.

Part 1 – Mission
Part 2 – Vision
Part 3 – Strategy
Part 4 – Values


What question does our mission answer?

Mission answers the question – What is our purpose?

For churches, this one should be pretty easy. It’s not decided by us. God gave the Church (all Christians) our mission when Jesus declared we should “go and make disciples” (The Great Commission).

In the road trip analogy, mission is the reason for the trip

Sometimes people take road trips for no reason other than to spend time exploring. Most trips, however, have some specific purpose. The purpose of your trip might be to get to Disney World. More than that, though, the ultimate purpose is probably to create some lasting memories as a family. It’s the reason you’re on the journey in the first place. Our journey as the Church is different in that we never arrive as we carry out our mission.

What should a mission statement look like?

Our mission statements should be brief, as in 6-12 words. It’s a re-wording of The Great Commission shared above. Here are church mission statements from some well-known churches:

  • Leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ – North Point
  • To turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ – Willow Creek
  • To reach people far from God and teach them how to follow Jesus step by step – Newspring

How does this relate to Family Ministry?

I am of the opinion that a church should have one common mission statement and that statement should be used in every ministry of the church. I don’t think it’s wrong, however, to come up with mission statements for each ministry for example. Something else I’ve seen is where churches make a slight modification of the mission for each ministry. I think that’s okay too.

However, in my opinion, the more complex something gets, the less people remember it and the less they own it. Therefore, I lean towards having one mission statement for the church and not creating separate statements for each ministry.

Action Step

Make sure your church mission statement is clear, concise, memorable and true to The Great Commission. This is the most important of the four items we’ll discuss because without a clear mission it doesn’t really matter if we get the other things right or not.

What questions do you have about mission statements?

6 Reasons We Should Pay Children & Student Ministry Staff More


Almost anyone who works in children’s ministry or student ministry understands what it is like to be underpaid and overworked. That comes with ministry in general, but for various reasons churches often pay children and student staff even less than other roles in the church. What we pay those people says a lot about how much we value them and the ministries they lead.

Yes, I serve in Family Ministry and this post could seem self-serving. I do not lump myself in with what I write here and my impression overall of staff who serve in my role (Family Pastor / NextGen Pastor) is that pay is not as much of an issue.

6 Reasons We Should Pay More

Instead of just focusing on all the reasons we don’t pay children and student ministry staff like we should, here are 6 reasons I believe we should pay them more.

Education Isn’t The Best Predictor Of Success

Don’t get me wrong, I value education. I believe the best leaders are life-long learners. The problem is when we put too much value on candidates having specific degrees and then pay far less to children and student ministry staff when they don’t have them. Education is valuable, but it has not proven to be a great predictor of success in ministry. Paying a little more for more education is fine. Paying $10K-$20K more is not.

They’re Pastors Too

One thing I see is children and student ministry staff not being labeled as pastors and then they’re paid far less than pastoral staff. Yes, there are roles that are not pastoral in nature and I believe it’s fine to differentiate those roles. However, I do think we’ve missed it when we have directors of Preschool, Elementary or Student Ministry and they’re not considered pastors. They pastor tons of kids, parents, and volunteers and we shouldn’t value who they pastor less than who other staff are responsible for pastoring. We should expect more and pay more.

They Must Be The Best Leaders

Children and student ministry staff are responsible for leading massive teams of volunteers. In most cases, they lead the largest number of volunteers of anyone on staff. Our job as leaders in the church is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” If your children and student ministry staff are thriving, then they’re leading really well and carrying out ministry through others. In church world we’ll pay the best speakers, the best artists, the most educated, and give far less to the best leaders if they lead in family ministry. That is a mistake.

Their Ministry Impacts Well Over Half The Church

In many churches, children make up about 23% of attendance and students make up about 10%, and their parents make up another 33%. Add in the volunteers they lead who don’t have kids and you’re looking at about 70% of the church being impacted by their ministry. The main services in our church impact about the same percentage, but if you compared how well we pay staff who serve in each of those departments, unfortunately, it’s usually not even close.

Home-Grown Doesn’t Mean Less Deserving

This applies more with children’s staff than students staff, but you’ll find far more home-grown ministry staff in these ministries than you will in others. What that leads to is continuing to pay them just slightly more than the terrible pay they received to start out. Conversely, when we need a worship leader or groups pastor we’ll hire from the outside and sometimes pay twice as much. Knowing someone is rooted in our church and grew as a leader in our church does not mean they are less deserving on the pay scale.

In all honesty, I could probably have written 20 reasons, but if you’re looking for some more helpful content related to this issue, check out these posts on the Vanderbloemen Blog.

3 Reasons You’re Struggling To Find A Children’s Pastor & How To Fix Them

Why High Capacity Children’s Pastors Are So Hard To Find

Has your church done this well? Comment and tell us about it.