8 Measures of a Healthy Family Ministry


I read a great post over on Tony Morgan’s blog last week about focusing on health instead of growth. I completely agree with that line of thinking and one of the big questions that comes up when it comes to church health is – How do you measure that?

I think the ultimate measure of health is stories. But, stories aren’t the only measure and it’s hard to see trends, patterns or shifts with stories alone. My approach is to measure everything we can measure and let Metrics + Stories be our health gauge.

8 Family Ministry Metrics/Measures

Here are 8 metrics or measures in family ministry that I believe give a good window into the health of your ministry. Again, you want to listen for stories regularly and pay attention to what you hear and how often you hear it. But, keeping these metrics and watching them regularly is helpful as well.

Volunteer Ratios

Every church should know exactly how many volunteers it has, meaning people who have a specific role on a ministry team. Tony would encourage you to look at your total # of volunteers as a fraction of your average worship attendance (click here for details). But, in family ministry, I like to watch the ratio of the # of volunteers to the average attendance. For instance, you might have 200 children’s volunteers and 600 children attending on average, so the ratio is 1:3 (1 volunteer for every 3 kids). You can read my thoughts about what is healthy in this post. Don’t use my guide as the goal. Figure out what yours are and watch it over time. You’ll know if it’s not healthy.

# of Students Serving

We care a lot about students serving. I personally think serving in ministry may be the thing that grows a student’s faith the most during that season of their life. We want them to be invested in the church and know it’s their church. For this metric, take the number of students serving and divide it into your average student attendance (at your main student environments). So, 100 students serving and you have 300 on average in your student environments means 100/300 = 33%. I want to see 50%+ in our church and we’re getting close.

Children’s Ministry %

This will be largely driven by the demographic you reach, but take the average kids attendance and divide it into your average total attendance. For instance, 300 kids / 1200 total = 25%. So, 25% of your attendance is kids. Tony’s metrics show the average church has 21%. If you primarily reach families I like to see that number around 23-25%.

Student Ministry %

Same concept here as you try to see students as a percentage of your overall attendance. This is more nuanced as your student gathering may happen during services, on a different night, only in small groups, etc. Take your average student attendance and divide into total average attendance. So, 100 students / 1000 total = 10%. Tony’s metrics show the average church has 10%. That’s a pretty good number to aim for. Keep in mind your demographics matter.

Family Ministry Staff

I think it’s important to know where your staffing is as a church overall, and Tony’s post here is a good guide. But, I like to watch the number of full-time equivalent staff specific to family ministries as well. You can see what churches have by completing the ratio survey and getting the results. Over 600 churches participated in the survey and you can see the results broken down by church size and other filters. Click here to get it.

Baptisms / Salvations

Depending on whether baptisms or salvations is what you primarily track (or both), I would track it over time and see what seems to be a healthy guide. The average church baptizes about 6% of its average attendance in a year. So, a church of 1000 might see 60 baptisms. I can’t translate that into guides for children and student ministry, but my point is just that you should track it and learn from what you see over time.

Frequency of Attendance

I talked about frequency a bit in this post as recent trends show church attenders attending less. Here you look at how many times kids or students attend in a month. For us, the average kid attends about half the time. I’d love to see that increase and finding ways to cross-reference that with small group health would be telling.

Leaders of Volunteers / Ratio to Volunteers

A healthy ministry can’t grow without sufficient leadership. In the bible we see Moses delegate to more leaders (Exodus 18) and the apostles do the same (Acts 6) and ministry expanded. It’s simply impossible for one leader to care for too many people. In our leadership pipeline, someone who leads a group of leaders is called a Coach. I like to know how many Coaches we have and what percent of our overall volunteer teams they are. So, if we had 20 coaches and 200 leaders, that’s 1 coach for every 10 volunteers. That’s sustainable. 1:30, not so much.

What do you measure?

I’d love to hear what you measure as well. Most of these are lag or output indicators, meaning they measure what is already done. If you can it’s good to have input or lead indicators as well, measuring what you’re doing that leads to those lag/output numbers. For instance, you always watch the number of Leaders apprenticing to be Coaches so you know how many Coaches are on the way.

Any questions, thoughts or suggestions? Please share in the comments.

5 Family Ministry Implications From The 2015 LeadNet Church Report


Last month I read the Recent Shifts in America’s Largest Protestant Churches report from Leadership Network. If you haven’t read it yet, I would encourage you to follow that link and fill out the form to download it. The report compares findings to a similar study they did 5 years ago (and beyond), so we can see any trends.

5 Family Ministry Implications

As I read through the report I thought about implications of the findings on the church where I serve, but also on family ministry in general. Here are 5 things I see in the report that should matter to those of us leading in family ministry.

Multisite Is Growing

The multisite movement (having one church in multiple locations) is continuing to grow. The number of churches that are multisite increased from 46% in 2010 to 62% now, and the average number of sites per church went from 2.5 to 3.5.

Implication for Family Ministry

I think we need to continue growing in our ability to define and document reproducible systems. We need established leadership pipelines where new people are stepping in and and experienced leaders are sent out. In children’s ministry we have to adjust to having more, smaller rooms and environments and being able to staff those well. Student ministries that have small groups as the foundation are the easiest to multiply over many campuses. We can continue thinking about how to bring campuses together once/month or once/quarter for large group events.

Small Groups & Spiritual Formation

79% of churches indicated small groups are central to their discipleship strategy. There was a direct correlation between churches that indicated small groups are a huge emphasis and churches who said their church had high spiritual vitality.

Implication for Family Ministry

We should continue to build our children’s and student ministries on the foundation of small groups and change our structures to match that foundation. I think we should resource small groups more and depend less on classes, events, and other things that might dilute small groups.

Internship Program

72% say they have an internship program. That is only a slight increase (from 69%) in 2008, but it’s a large percentage.

Implication for Family Ministry

This is in line with my multisite comment in that I believe the importance of developing leaders cannot be overstated. In family ministry we must be able to recruit, train and retain volunteers. We need a system for taking new volunteers from the onboarding process all the way through different leadership levels to the point where they’re ready to lead huge aspects of ministry on their own and be considered for staff positions as the church grows.

Attendance Frequency Declines

This isn’t news if you’re dialed in to any conversations in church world about this topic. Some of the best content and conversations can be found at Carey Nieuwhof’s blog and podcast. In this study and prior studies they looked at the attendance each church sees on a given week as a percentage of total attenders. That number has dropped from 95% in 2008 to 82% in 2015.

Implication for Family Ministry

I run frequency attendance reports to see how often children and students come in a given month to our church. I recently emailed Frank Bealer, Family Pastor at Elevation Church, about this specific thing. I know Frank has attendance frequency reports and I wanted to compare notes. Frank talked at the 2015 Orange Conference about the connection between great small groups for kids and students and a higher attendance frequency. I think we need to make the experience in small group so good that kids and students don’t want to miss. It also puts greater emphasis on the need to plan content knowing the average kid might be there half the time.

Decline In Willingness to Change

One of the sharpest changes in the report was the decline in a church’s willingness to change to meet new challenges. It was 54% in 2010 and only 37% in 2015. That could be because the senior leadership teams are getting older or it could be something else. I think of the changing music culture and how it impacts worship music. Those who ushered in a change in music style 2 decades ago may be unwilling to change style now when it means sacrificing their preference.

Implication for Family Ministry

The report said something I completely believe in, “Innovation and willingness to change are strongly correlated to growth and health.” In many ways the concept of family ministry is very new, partnering with parents is new, small groups as the foundation for kids and students is somewhat new, so it’s important that we’re open to change because we certainly don’t have it all figured out.

What stood out to you in the report?

Our 4-Part Strategy for Partnering With Parents


When our church was started as a church plant almost 10 years ago we believed the foundation of our children and student ministries needed to be a partnership with parents. We really believed, and still believe, that parents are the primary spiritual leaders for their children regardless of where parents are on their own journey. We also believe the church’s job is to come alongside parents and help them as much as possible.

How do you partner with parents?

Recognizing that parents have the primary influence and the most time with their kids, we want to make sure we’re helping them get the most out of their time. While churches have always wanted to invest in kids, students, and parents, this philosophy of ministry is still somewhat new and therefore none of us have it all figured out. We’re all experimenting and trying different things. When I talk with other ministry leaders one of the top questions they have (after how to get more volunteers) is how to partner well with parents. How do you do it?

Our 4-Part Strategy for Partnering With Parents

In looking at all we do for parents as well as all the things we have tried in the past, we noticed they all fit into one of 4 categories. Knowing that is helpful because we can talk about it as a specific strategy and evaluate how we’re doing in each of the areas regularly. We have also had conversations about how much to invest in each area and where we see the greatest return on our investment. Our 4-part strategy is:


One way we partner with parents is through communication. This is important because communication communicates that we care (click here to see what I mean). It is also important because if we want to be on the same page as parents, and if we want them to be informed about what we’re teaching their children, we must communicate well. In our current context, we must communicate through a variety of channels. At CCC we communicate with parents weekly through print pieces, email, social media, text, the program/bulletin on Sundays, and video.


Another way we partner with parents is through resources. We have used Orange curriculum from the very beginning, so we pass on the great resources they create for parents. That includes print pieces on Sunday that outline what their child learned, the Parent Cue Blog, App, and Podcast, books, and the Studio252.tv website for elementary kids.


Throughout the year we do events designed to partner with parents. We do transition and milestone events, such as Kindergarten Confidential for incoming kindergartners and the Launch Party for incoming 6th graders. We do Baby Dedication, a Dive In class for kids interested in baptism, and Coffee Talks for parents of students.

In addition to those regular events we do each year, we do 2-3 extra events designed to partner with parents as well. Events such as Father Daughter Date Night, Great Family Experience, and more. We continue to try different things to help parents become the best they can be and use their time well.

The BEST Partnership We Have

In the next post I’ll share the fourth way, which is also the BEST way, we partner with parents. I wanted to include it here, but it deserves its own post because of all that it entails. I’m sure many of you know what it is and view it the same way we do.

Check out that post here.

How do you partner with parents?


A Church StratOp For Your Church

Most of you who read this blog lead in ministry in some capacity. If you’re like me, you feel the constant pressure of preparing for Sunday along with the desire to move the ministry forward and do the best job you can leading people to Jesus.

You may feel like things are working, but you know there is more potential that can be realized. It could be within your ministry or in your church overall. Some plans and strategies may have been helpful in the past or maybe they never really got any traction. Or, in other cases, there just hasn’t been time to work on the ministry because you’re too busy working in it.

Church StratOpTM can help. 

What is Church StratOp?

Church StratOpTM uses the Paterson Process to helps church leaders determine:

  • Where their church is now
  • Where it should go
  • How to best get there

Strat = Strategic = The art of planning for tomorrow, today.

Ops = Operations = The discipline of taking care of today, today.

It’s a proven process I will facilitate with your team to clarify your mission, vision, values and core strategies as part of creating a Strategic Operating Plan.


If you’re interested, click here to contact me and get the conversation started.

Church StratOp FAQ

The following will hopefully answer most of the questions you might have, but the best thing to do is to reach out and we can have a conversation about what StratOp is and whether or not it can help your church.

How does it work?

Church StratOpTM is implemented in 3 phases: perspective, planning and action. I walk your team through the first 2 phases during a 2-day on-site visit. The 3rd phase is installed by you over the next 2 months and I follow up with an on-site visit for one day. From there I provide monthly coaching to help you implement your plan.

What are the benefits?

The Church StratOpTM process has been used by thousands of churches guided by certified facilitators to help them gain clarity and increase effectiveness. As church leaders we want to steward the ministry God has us in as best as we can. Here are some of the many benefits of going through this process:

  • Your team gains perspective on how your church got to where it is today.
  • Regardless of tenure, all team members begin to feel like they’re on the same playing field.
  • Evaluation of your present reality helps clarify opportunities to maximize or improve.
  • Vision, mission and values are clarified.
  • Greater focus is achieved in regard to who your church hopes to serve.
  • Core strategies are developed.
  • Action plans are created with shared ownership to set your team up for success.
  • Everyone on the team is more bought in as a result of owning this process together.

Is this consulting?

I do consult with churches, but this is not consulting. I bring the StratOp process and your team brings the content (ideas, plans, strategies, etc.) I am a guide to walk your team through the process. In an ideal StratOp at least 95% of the input comes from your team with 5% or less coming from me. You know your church best!

Can we do it with one ministry and not the church overall?

You can, but I highly recommend doing a StratOp with your church overall before doing one with individual ministries or departments.

Do I know of any organizations who have done StratOp?

You probably know of multiple churches and even businesses (Business StratOp) who have done StratOp.

Willow Creek Community Church has done multiple StratOps, both for the church overall and for each department in the church.

Mark Beeson, pastor of Granger Community Church, wrote about going through StratOp on his blog.

Otterbox used the StratOp process to grow from $10 million to over $1 billion in revenue.

A New Thing I’m Doing to Help Churches Reach Their Full Potential

A decade ago when I left the “business world” to jump into full-time vocational ministry I did it for two reasons.

  1. I loved the time I spent volunteering at church more than the time I spent at work.
  2. I believed many churches had tons of unreached potential, and if they could reach it, their impact in carrying out God’s mission would be huge.

I knew I wanted to do everything possible to help churches reach their full potential and the best way to do that would be to devote my full-time energy to it. Most of my energy would go towards working for a local church while the rest would be spent helping other churches and church leaders through coaching, consulting and building networks where everyone could learn from each other.

A New Thing I’m Doing

When I get the opportunity to work with other churches and church leaders we’re usually doing the Coaching Process or a collection of Consulting Modules. In both of those we look at the 30,000 foot level and talk about vision and strategy. However, we rarely get to focus on that enough and some churches struggle to implement the plans we develop during our time together. For a few years I have been looking forward to offering a new service to help churches through a system proven to help churches grow. Enter Church StratOp.

Church StratOp (Stragetic Operations Planning)

so6stepsChurch StratOp is a 3-day guided process developed by Tom Paterson and used by hundreds of consultants to help thousands of churches and businesses by doing the following:

  1. Gives you perspective on all of the strategic, financial and operational parts of your church.
  2. Helps you know where you stand.
  3. Clarifies where you should go.
  4. Gives you a customized plan on how to get there.

StratOp Facilitators use 25 customized tools to guide teams through the 6 phases of the StratOp process: Perspective, Planning, Action, Structure, Management, Renewal

This week I’m in Chicago, IL, being trained and certified in this process. I’m excited to share this with other churches because I know it can help them reach their full potential. 

What potential does your church have that is currently not being reached?