Youth Ministry Assessment Report

Building Sustainable Ministries . . . One Church at a Time

 First Congregational Church of Western Springs, IL.


May 20, 2018


By Erin Griggs, Lead Consultant and Dennis Steeger, Staff Consultant                              




First Congregational Church (FCC) is an active and vibrant congregation located in Western Spring, Illinois, a suburb of western Chicago. FCC’s rich tradition of serving the people of Western Springs began in 1887, and it continues now through its simple and powerfully inclusive mission to “welcome all people, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey – you are welcome to join us as we love and serve the God who welcomes us all.” 


One staff member of FCC described the church as open and friendly. The welcoming, supportive atmosphere has created a vibrant ministry to youth in the community. Other members say that FCC is giving and charitable, and that “our church would literally help anyone.”


Though the congregation has been a part of Western Springs for over 125 years, FCC continues its diligent work of impacting the community. Rich Kirchherr, began his ministry as senior minister of FCC in 1998, after serving as the associate minister for 11 years. FCC hired current Director of Youth Ministries, Mike Tilden in August of 2008 to oversee the church’s ministry to 6th through 12th graders. Tilden has been described as a great leader, fun, influential  and demanding, engaging, welcoming and supportive. One  member lovingly described him a “second father to me”.


The membership of the church is approximately 1,390, and on an average week, 338 people attend one of the church’s two worship services at 9:00 AM or the 10:30 AM.


Youth ministry at FCC includes students from 6th grade through 12th grade. Currently, there are approximately 408 6th through 12th graders on the rolls of the church. During a typical week, about 107 of them participate in either Sunday school, worship, Confirmation or one of the major youth programs: JRneys for the 6th through 8th graders, which meets on Wednesday evenings from 7:00 PM – 8:15 PM and Plymouth Fellowship (PF) for the 9th through 12th graders which meets on Sunday evenings from 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM. The youth ministry is consistently described by many students and parents as “friendly and caring,” “welcoming,” and a “safe place” to be oneself.  Nearly everyone who participated in the listening groups mentioned the primacy of the serving component of the youth ministry.


For 2018, the church has a budget of $1,300,000. The youth ministry portion of the budget is in the neighborhood of $78,000, which includes both the program budget and the salaries/benefits for the youth ministry staff.


There are approximately 8-16 adult volunteers involved each week in either JRneys or PF. Others help out at special events like the canoe trip, the “Work Tour,” Confirmation, retreats and Sunday School.


The youth ministry is led by Youth Director Mike Tilden, affectionately known as Tilden, who after volunteering and directing the ministry on an interim basis, was hired to be the full-time youth director in August 2008. Beyond FCC’s staff, which is tasked with overseeing the overall operations and finance of the church, there is no other committee or elder that has direct responsibility for FCC’s youth ministry.


Aware of the success and scope of the youth ministry, the FCC staff invited Ministry Architects to do an initial assessment of FCC’s youth ministry to make recommendations about how it might move strategically forward. Ministry Architects met with 77 individuals in 12 focus groups or one-on-one meetings. What follows are the findings gleaned from those conversations, along with recommendations and a proposed timeline for the future. 



One lens Ministry Architects likes to use for understanding youth ministry is the idea of the “three rents.” Youth ministries that “pay these rents” tend to have much greater freedom to be creative, take risks, and experiment with innovative ideas. Those youth ministries that fail to pay these rents often find themselves mired in distrust, second-guessing, and discouragement. 

It has been Ministry Architects’ experience that though these three rents, in and of themselves, do not ensure an effective or faithful ministry, they are often the most immediate evaluation tools used by youth, parents, staff, and the congregation at large. 

Rent #1: NUMBERS—A significant percentage of youth need to be participating visibly in some aspect of the church’s ministry. It is important for this target number to be clearly agreed on by the church leaders and the staff. Ironically, when target numbers are not established, the youth ministry is typically more likely to be judged by numbers than if the target numbers are clearly established.

The consensus is that this rent is being paid, given the investment of over 100 students that participate in ministry within a given week.  

Rent #2: PROGRAMS—In order to “earn the right” to experiment with changes, the youth leadership needs to provide the church with a few visible, effective youth programs that give both youth and parents “something to talk about.” 

With the consistent offerings of programs like PF, JRneys and Confirmation the rent is being paid.

Rent #3: ENTHUSIASM—The joyful enthusiasm and positive attitude of the youth staff, volunteers, and the youth themselves are essential to building trust with the leadership of the church and with the parents.

After meeting with middle school and high school students, who are engaged, excited and passionate, it is easy to see that this rent is being paid on time.

As the leadership of the youth ministry develops its long-range vision, it will need, at the same time, to be attentive to these “three rents.” In this sense, the youth ministry faces parallel challenges.

Ministry Architects pictures the parallel challenge this way:


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Laying the Foundation: Building a foundation and infrastructure that will ensure the youth ministry’s future effectiveness, and at the same time,

Continuing to Do Ministry: Maintaining the current youth ministry in a way that builds the enthusiasm of youth, their families, the staff and the church at large.




As the youth ministry leadership steps into this parallel process, five rules of thumb –“youth ministry norms” – will be helpful to keep in mind. These are not necessarily targets for success; they are simply what an average church typically experiences:

1) 10% of the Worshiping Congregation—In a typical church, the size of the youth ministry tends to settle at a number that is around 10% of the worshiping congregation. A church with an average worship attendance of 338 could expect an average weekly attendance of around 34 youth per week. The current weekly attendance of 107 youth is over and above what a church of this size could normally expect to see.

2) 20% Ceiling—Ministry Architects has also discovered that in many churches, the youth ministry has difficulty growing beyond a level that equals 20% of the weekly worshiping congregation.

Very few youth ministries seem to be able to break beyond this 20% level. FCC might keep in mind, then, that the expected ceiling for this youth ministry is around 68 youth.

3) $1,500 per Youth—With a budget of approximately $78,000 (including program budge and staff salaries) dedicated to the youth ministry, FCC has the capacity to effectively reach and maintain a weekly participation level of somewhere in the neighborhood of 52 youth in some aspect of the church’s life.

Based on Western Springs’s adjusted cost of living and comparing the church with similar churches nationally, a good target number would be to spend around $1500 per active youth. Right now, FCC is spending in the range between $730 and $750 per youth. Though there may be a shift in which students the church engages, it is unlikely that the youth ministry will be able to do much more than it is doing (either in breadth or depth) with its current resources.

4) 1 Full-Time Staff Person for Every 50 Youth—Considering all the positions giving time to the youth ministry, including the Director of Youth Ministry and a few hours of weekly administrative support, FCC has the equivalent of 1 full time staff person. According to this rule of thumb, FCC has the capacity to sustain the engagement of about 50 youth on a weekly basis. The current staff configuration seems inadequate to sustain the needs of the ministry. Ordinarily, in over-capacity youth ministries, the youth staff is set up to be unable to fulfill all the expectations placed on them. The natural result is a climate of criticism and burn out.

5) 1 Adult for Every 5 Youth— Ministry Architects likes to think in terms of “spans of care,” recognizing that, realistically, most volunteers cannot effectively oversee the church’s Christian nurture of more than about five youth on an ongoing basis. With  8-16 weekly volunteers, FCC is currently at a ratio of 1 adult leader to every 10 youth – counting only the leaders who show up weekly to one of the major programs. In other words, the team is too small to attend to the relational needs of the 107 youth who currently attend.  The volunteer pool will need to expand if the church wants to sustain its impact with youth.



When a ministry is based solely on the giftedness of a single staff person, instability is a predictable result. Ministry Architects has found that the most stable approach to staffing a ministry, particularly in the early stages of a rebuild, is to build a staff of three different kinds of people:

  The Architect: A person or organization that designs the building plan and ensures that building is done in compliance with the agreed-upon plan.

  The General Contractor: A person or team who manages the flow and sequencing of work, manages the building process according to the agreed-upon blueprint, and ensures that the appropriate number of “laborers” is in place for each stage of the project.

  The Laborers: Those people charged with specific gifts and responsibilities for particular aspects of the work. In youth ministry, a laborer might have particular skills in relating to youth, in planning and managing events, or in teaching.

Each of these roles is important as First Congregational Church pursues a more sustainable model of youth ministry. As the church moves forward, the following observations will be helpful to keep in mind:

      In many churches, there is no person or group playing the role of the architect. The ministry simply moves from one event to the next without a clear vision or stated outcomes.

      Sometimes paid staff are not given the time or training to do their important work as the “general contractor” of a complex ministry.

      The staff is often expected to serve in all three of these roles. This is a recipe for congregational dissatisfaction and staff burnout.

      Some churches hire a laborer who is skilled at leading singing, playing games or teaching a Bible lesson.  These laborers often mature into an architect or a general contractor, but only if they are given permission, time, and training.


Strengths to protect in the current youth ministry

Rich Heritage

Many young people at FCC experience the benefits of faith formation in a gracious, loving and non-judgmental environment. Some students even shared that their time in youth ministry was the incubator for faith formation where the light went on for them. Whether it was through the transformative and legendary “Work Tours” or becoming the devotional director officer of PF, students experienced the light of faith being ignited. 


The impact of the youth ministry continues to be felt after students graduate from PF and transition to college. Several students mentioned how they became more comfortable in social situations, learned to become less judgmental, and how they use skills from PF to reach out to others in their current environments. Others mentioned that it was through PF where they discovered the deeper meaning of serving others. “Getting out of the Western Springs bubble was so helpful in exposing and preparing me for the different kinds of people I would encounter in college and beyond” shared one college student. 


The youth ministry’s presence in the community is mostly displayed through PF, the high school ministry. 50% of PF attenders come from families not connected to First Congo.  One participant said that PF gave him “a place to belong and place to be accepted.” Students from the community mentioned the “non-threatening atmosphere” that was most attractional to them.


Strong Traditions: Service! Confirmation, Relationships

Serving others is central to the heartbeat of FCC Congo and the youth ministry. The project most often mentioned by students, leaders and parents was the work tours. The work trips have been a wonderful combination of serving others, connecting fellow students and leaders, and personal transformation that has taken place during the projects. One student said, “This trip is what made my faith come alive!” Nearly every student mentioned the desire to impact their community through their offerings of service. This attitude was carried with them beyond PF and into college.


One person remarked about Mike “Your model is one of 'doing', of deeds, of mission, of helping others, of learning to walk the path of Christ by doing those things that Christ taught us to do.  



Many of the parents commented on the role that confirmation has played in the faith formation of their child’s development. They expressed appreciation of the staff’s involvement specifically recalling the impact “Kirch, Katherine and Meredith had when they came and shared their testimony with the kids.” There is high engagement from the church congregation and staff in this area, which directly contributes to its success. 



Connection is central to the student experience at PF. Former students fondly recalled their experience in community building and friendship-forming opportunities at PF. Students expressed gratitude and appreciation for the role PF played in helping them discover their social abilities, get out of their comfort zone and overcome their fears. One middle school student shared, “JRneys helped me meet new people and helped me interact with people.” Another said, “JRneys helped me get out my shell


Youth Leadership:  Training, Developing Student Leaders.

Student leadership is not just a lofty platitude at First Congo, it is the engine on which the youth ministry runs. The youth ministry is doing the difficult work of training student leaders and giving them load bearing responsibilities in the youth ministry. PF Officers are given the opportunity to lead and influence the entirety of the youth ministry. Under the current leadership, students plan discussion nights, devotionals, activities, and the work tours.


The youth at FCC are ready, willing, and eager to serve in leadership capacities. Many expressed that not only do they want to go deeper in their own faith, they want to make “connections.” These are not youth who are waiting around for the next big thing; these are youth who have a heart for servant leadership and are actively looking for ways to express themselves through service and connection to others.

He’s Got Change in His Pocket

The participants in the focus groups clearly trust Mike and the current leadership team of the youth ministry. Many expressed similar sounding sentiments:


      “Mike is a great leader – I hope he knows that.”

      “Mike is the guy who respects us, he doesn’t treat us like stupid teenagers.”

      “Mike isn’t like family, he is family. 

      “I love Mike, I don’t know what I’d do without him.” 

      One leader remarked that “Mike saved my life…twice”.


This all speaks to a congregation of students and a core group of stakeholders who have a high degree of confidence in Mike’s ability to lead the youth ministry forward, and they are ready to see positive changes made in the direction of the ministry.


Stellar Staff

It is obvious that the staff of FCC truly respects one another and enjoys one another’s company. They speak well of each other and understand FCC as a congregation that has an intentional care for its youth. Many listening group members expressed their trust and love for the FCC pastoral staff. One participant shared, “We have incredible leadership at Congo. They are strong, real and a model for Christ-like leadership.”  


Youth Ministry Attendance

The youth ministry attendance can be described in one word: Remarkable! Mike and the students have done an incredible job drawing kids from the community into PF. With a ministry that is north of 30% of total church attendance, this is noteworthy. While numbers aren’t the only measure of success it is certainly an important one.



Obstacles to moving the youth ministry strategically forward

Fuzzy Vision

When asked about the purpose and vision of the youth ministry, listening groups shared a wide range of hopes, including a vast array of goals:

       “I would like to see our students exposed to and contribute to corporate worship; we have a lot to learn from them and they have things to learn from us too.”

       “Building solid friendships and developing a community of support is the goal!”

       “As our student’s transition to college, I want them to seek out a church wherever they end up and know how to invest, worship, pray and connect with God and others.”

       “I love that we have a theologically diverse group of students who want different things as they grow and learn. This is something that we should encourage and protect.

       “My hope is that our children understand the scope of God’s love and that this is the fuel for why we do what we do – serve, reach out, include and get out of our comfort zone.  

Listening group participants were in agreement that while there are some incredibly valuable and wildly popular work tours and events happening, a vision for why we are doing what we are doing has not been clearly articulated to the larger congregation and the parents. Without a collective vision, there is little objective standard by which to evaluate the programs or assess the felt needs of the youth and their families.


Rocky Transitions

One PF Officer shared, “I told my younger sister, you’ve got to gut out freshman year in PF and then, once you go on the freshmen work trip, you’ll connect with others. Thankfully she did and now she loves PF.” This was a sentiment echoed by many students, who didn’t feel comfortable at first but are now enthusiastic about their experiences in PF. There are many students, however, who shared that they felt too overwhelmed or overlooked to stay connected with the group during their freshmen year. One former PF student shared, “I wonder if we could offer a few freshman only activities throughout the summer, fall and winter in order to build connections between the students, so it doesn’t feel so big and they don’t have to wait a year to feel known.” Without intentional opportunities for the freshman and a game plan for the transition from Confirmation to 9th grade, FCC will miss out on opportunities to welcome new students to the ministry. 


Limited On-Ramps

While the youth ministry has a host of students engaged, some participants shared a desire to find their place in this community. But they have struggled because it felt overwhelming, intimidating or cliquey. One student shared, “I tried PF a few times, but I just didn’t feel welcomed or comfortable. I am more introverted and I like a smaller group, so I didn’t know what to do. I think this is one of those times where PF adults could have stepped in to help.” Other participants indicated that it’s difficult to join PF if you haven’t attended McClure or LT because they feel like they are outside the flow of friendships in the group. For youth who attend JRny and PF and feel like he or she doesn’t fit in, there are few other options (apart from Sunday School and worship) for building faith-based friendships with peers and adults in the church.


Deep or Wide?

Diversity among students in personality, experience, and spiritual depth is common in most churches and FCC is no exception. In listening groups, there was a collective desire to continue to meet the myriad of spiritual interests and needs of the students.
As one student shared, “PF does a good job of allowing you to dip your toe in the spiritual waters without making you jump in.” Other listening group members shared a desire for there to be a more explicit sharing of faith, “not in a way that makes students believe what the leader believes, but in a way that invites students learn from what others’ experiences.” Many wondered, can we intentionally make space for all of these different needs?


Systems and Structure

There is no question that the youth ministry hosts a multitude of trips, events and programs, and that this work requires a large measure of preparation and organization. Training of multiple work tour teams, reservation-making, long lists of administrative tasks, not to mention financial arrangements and team-bonding activities. In large part, the administrative tasks land on Mike’s desk. And this often does not leave time for the development and shepherding of a formalized system of training and follow-up for students and volunteers, safety training expectations, major event notebooks that include the details of each trip, and up-to-date attendance tracking for PF, Confirmation and JRneys. Without the strengthening of these systems, the ministry is vulnerable to transition and misunderstanding, while also missing opportunities to follow up with students who need helping plugging into a ministry at FCC.       


Volunteer Training

One leader shared, “We have informal training before we go on a trip. But we don’t all sit down and really go through what are best practices in specific situations or what to say when we encounter a surprise. But it’s common knowledge.” Although there are many gifted and committed PF adult leaders, who have themselves been through PF as a student, there is a need for a more beefy and formalized training for PF Adults who might encounter crisis situations, mental health issues and challenging group dynamics. One leader shared, “I know we are busy. But I would make an effort to attend something that was well organized and informational.”


Bridging the Great Divide

When asked what you would like to see more of in youth ministry, some participants shared their desire to see more teens involved in corporate worship. A former PF student commented, “As I look back on my time at PF, I wish we were more connected to the larger congregation. Maybe instead of participating in worship 2 times a year, we could share monthly about what is going on in the youth ministry and how we are growing. I think I would have liked this, especially as a junior or a senior.” Another participant shared, “We are separated by a lot of factors; age, stage, life experience but to think that we wouldn’t have anything in common or anything to learn from each other would be a missed opportunity.” There is a desire to find some intentional, shared experiences that youth and older adults can participate in together.


Rocky Transitions

One PF Officer shared, “I told my younger sister, you’ve got to gut out freshman year in PF and then, once you go on the freshmen work trip, you’ll connect with others. Thankfully she did and now she loves PF.” This was a sentiment echoed by many students, who didn’t feel comfortable at first but are now enthusiastic about their experiences in PF. There are many students, however, who shared that they felt too overwhelmed or overlooked to stay connected with the group during their freshmen year. One former PF student shared, “I wonder if we could offer a few freshman only activities throughout the summer, fall and winter in order to build connections between the students, so it doesn’t feel so big and they don’t have to wait a year to feel known.” Without intentional opportunities for the freshman and a game plan for the transition from Confirmation to 9th grade, FCC will miss out on opportunities to welcome new students to the ministry. 


Crisis of Capacity

There is no shortage of tasks that go with assuming the role of Director of Youth Ministry. Not only is Mike charged with oversight of programs, student officer training, volunteer recruitment and training, communication of the vision, and the dissemination of pertinent information to parents, students, staff and the stakeholders of the church, but he also logs time with students on trips, events and weekly programs. In light of this, Mike has little margin for the time it takes to train leaders, create organizational systems for leadership training and track and follow up with students who are not connected with the church. All of these tasks of ministry take in planning, organization and prioritization. Additional support in the form of volunteers or staff would further strengthen the youth ministry and give Mike bandwidth for a more sustainable ministry. 


Expanding the Volunteer Pool

Listening group participants expressed gratitude for PF Adults, who serve as volunteer leaders and participate in the trips, retreats and events. While there is volunteer investment in the youth ministry, there is a room for many more adult volunteers to partner with the youth ministry in big and little ways. Healthy ministry includes a breadth of ministry experiences and a diversity of leaders, who bring a range of expertise, personality and perspective to the ministry table. With a range of leaders, the team is then able to divide and conquer, going after students who are a diverse as the leadership is. 


Missing Opportunities for Faith Formation

One student shared, “I am more interested in learning about the bible and I know I wont get there with PF, so I have chosen to attend the worship service.” Other students shared their desire to learn more about the bible with other students and leaders, in order to connect and grow in faith. There is no question that PF is meeting a need for many students, but there are still others who experience community through bible study, worship, teaching children and much, much more. With intentional planning and communication, there can be a host of experiences and activities that are offered for middle school and high school student that would enrich their spiritual formation, regardless of where they are on the journey. 


Communication with Key Stakeholders

The fears and frustrations of parents increase with every transition their child experiences. One 5th grade parent expressed their concerns by saying, ”I know there is something going on for my child, I just have no idea what it is.” Communication with parents, students, leaders and staff is incredibly time consuming, but it is necessary to ease the frustrations that can build up over a few weeks or months. 

Š       Systematic contact with the parents is vital for them to have confidence in the youth ministry.

Š       Planning regular email updates about upcoming events, activities and service projects and why they are doing what they are doing, is important.

Š       Periodic meetings with parents and the larger congregation to cast vision, discuss important events, projects, and talk about wins in the ministry is crucial.

Š       Open door policy for parents to discuss concerns, ideas and encouragements.  



  1. Reframe the next 18 months as a time of strengthening and building long-term infrastructure for the youth ministry. Understanding that significant and immediate momentum will be built throughout the process, we will target October 2019 as the date when the youth ministry design will be complete.
  2. Establish a Prayer Team to undergird this design process.
  3. Present this report to the Church Council requesting that they endorse an 18-month design process for the youth ministry.
  4. Establish a Youth Ministry Design Team, made up of at least four to five non-anxious, goal-oriented volunteers and Mike Tilden, who will work closely with Ministry Architects to ensure that the outcomes of this assessment are achieved. These recommendations include two overarching responsibilities:

                         I.         Addressing the immediate pressure points facing the ministry as it transitions toward a thriving, sustainable youth ministry (e.g., keeping the trains running on time)

                        II.         Implementing the strategic, long-term recommendations of this report (e.g., building a new railway system)

  1. Partner with Ministry Architects to take responsibility for

                         I.         Managing the renovation process, working with the staff and volunteers to ensure the achievement of the outcomes outlined in this report’s timeline

                        II.         Assisting the youth ministry in overcoming the obstacles that are certain to arise in the process of renovating the youth ministry.


  1. Address the current pressure points facing the youth ministry:


Pressure Point #1: Administrative Support – In partnership with the staff and the church council, assess the administrative needs of the youth director and determine the appropriate support necessary to facilitate the continued support and growth of the youth ministry.  

Pressure Point #2: Visioning- Invite students, parents and leaders to participate in a multi-session, on-campus  process of visioning a new future for the youth ministry with Ministry Architects, resulting in the following documents which will direct the ministry:

o      A youth ministry mission statement: Why do we do what we do?

o      A statement of values: How we go about our work?

o      A set of three-year revolving goals and one-year benchmarks: What are we are trying to accomplish?

o      Questions like: Who is our target audience? Why are we doing what we are doing? And, how can we reach both deep and wide?

o      If needed, an organizational structure for the ministry will be drafted.

Pressure Point #3: Build a Transition Team for 8th grade to 9th grade –This team will strategize and build key onramps for 8th grade students who are transitioning into high school.    

o   Creation and execution of high bonding events and activities that intentionally pair upperclassmen with new freshman. 

o   Offering 9th grade only events that foster connection in the summer, fall and winter of their freshman year.

o   Intentionally connecting incoming freshman with appropriate leaders so that the work of connection doesn’t begin and end with Mike. 

o   Higher engagement with parents in the form of emails and meetings to help manage expectations and address challenges their children may encounter.

Pressure Point #4:  Assemble a Team to Identify Intentional On-ramps for fellowship, faith and community building for students with differing gifts, abilities and personalities. Possibilities may include:

o   On/Off campus Bible study offerings

o   On/Off- campus small groups

o   Teaching Sunday school/helping with childcare

o   Participation in Sunday worship and the music team

o   Service opportunities outside of PF

o   Adult & Student prayer partners

o   Consistent publicizing and communication of a menu of opportunities for involvement in PF and the larger community of FFC (May of every year).

7. Build the long-term infrastructure required for a long-term, sustainable youth ministry.

o      Host a “Quick Start” Summit: Invite the Design Team, key volunteers, and youth staff to participate in a Quick Start Summit in which the design process is launched and the pressure points outlined in the Assessment Report are addressed. This half day retreat tackles the items that need to be done first, identifies staff roles/volunteer roles, the communication process and builds momentum for the youth ministry design process.

o      Faith Formation Summit:  Gather a team for a Faith Formation Summit to discuss the learning objectives of each age level and how these might be accomplished utilizing curriculum, milestones and special programming.

       Develop a long-range scope and sequence as well as a set of core competencies for the youth ministry programming.

       Develop a clear plan for milestones and special events to shape the faith formation through the ages and stages.

       Determine key content that will be discussed with students as they move from 6th to 12th grade.


o      Control Document Development: Complete and publish an 18-month calendar, create major event notebooks to help event planners succeed, and generate a preventative maintenance calendar that schedules behind-the-scenes activities for each month (like “September: nail down the date for next year’s high school mission trip”).

o      Compliance Documents: Ensure that an application and screening process for every volunteer is in place, and all adults working with any youth affirm a sexual abuse/child protection policy and follow mandatory reporting procedures. Ensure that copyright licensing for music and videos has been obtained.

o      Database: Numbers matter because people matter. Create a database of all of the young people who are connected to your congregation. This database will be an important tool as you communicate and as you determine who is active. We recommend using categories that help you target your communication to students with various levels of involvement in your ministry. (For example, “active,” “inactive,” or “visitor”.)


o      Attendance: Track attendance for all youth activities and develop an attendance system that allows for easy access to weekly participation numbers.

o      Communication: Establish normative processes for effective and timely communication with parents, youth, and leaders utilizing as many forms of communication as possible including updating the youth page of the church’s website, Facebook, mass texting, mail, e-mail, etc.

o      Marketing: Establish clear internal marketing processes that allow parents, youth, leaders, and the broader church to be exposed to the successes and good news surrounding the youth ministry.

o      Youth Ministry Manual: Develop a Youth Ministry Manual, including the most recent youth directory, a 12-18-Month calendar, results-based job descriptions for staff and volunteers, compliance documents, budgets, game plans, a preventative maintenance calendar, and notes for every major youth ministry event.

o      Fall Kick-Off Event/Parent Orientation: Develop an intentional, family-based, incredibly fun Fall Kickoff event to launch the youth ministry. Use that event to cast the vision, share information, and build enthusiasm about the year ahead.

o      Enlist an Experienced, Professional Coach: Invite Ministry Architects to play the “coach” role during this renovation period. Ministry Architects would offer experienced direction for the building of an infrastructure for the youth ministry and provide ongoing coaching for the youth ministry staff as well as the Design Team.


o      Strategic Staffing: Propose a clear, appropriate long-term staffing plan, including the professional and volunteer components, for the youth ministry that will provide the church with significant capacity to sustain a thriving ministry to its targeted number of youth.

o      Staff Development: Provide mechanisms for on-going education and coaching for the youth ministry staff including coaching, reading and seminars.

o      Sustainable Pace: Help each youth ministry staff member develop a “rhythmic week” including a Sabbath and “balcony” time (that is, time to look at the big picture and make strategic plans).

o      Leadership Development: Complete results-based, written job descriptions for all paid and volunteer positions in the youth ministry and create a structure for the ongoing training of all volunteers at least quarterly.

o      Volunteer Recruitment: Build a fortified volunteer leadership team, some of who will do relational ministry with youth while others work behind the scenes. Create a clear and complete list of the volunteer needs. Create a “fishing pond” list of at least 50 possible volunteers to call on for weekly volunteer positions.

o      Leadership Launch: Schedule and implement an inspiring leadership-training event for all volunteer youth workers at the beginning of each school year.


o      Welcome Squad: Recruit, train, and deploy 5-10 youth at each program with the task of creating a welcoming environment for new youth. Teach them how to meet new youth and to guide new youth into the program. Use this as an opportunity to help the welcome squad follow-up with new youth who come to programming and provide a relational engagement into the ministry.

o      Integration: Develop a strategic plan for helping the youth become an integral part of the whole church, weaving the youth ministry into the fabric of the entire church.

o      First-Timer Process: Develop a process for welcoming new families, youth, and guests to the church so that they feel warmly welcomed. Document a timely follow up plan to ensure their return to the church.



The following provides FCC with a timeline that can serve as a blueprint for the strategic launch of sustainable, long-term youth ministry.

Many churches choose to use the services of Ministry Architects to provide coaching and experienced troubleshooting through this infrastructure-building process. If FCC would like Ministry Architects to provide more specialized consulting in certain areas, particularly for the 18-month transition, we are available to help.

May 2018

Focus: Starting Right and Work Begins


      This report has been presented to the Executive Council for the strategic renovation of the youth ministry and the Executive Council has given support of this plan.

      The Design Team for youth has been recruited and the first meeting has been scheduled to take place during the Quick Start Summit.

      A one day Quick Start Summit has been scheduled for June.

      A prayer team has been recruited and charged with praying for the youth ministry. They have received a copy of the assessment report and timeline.

      A thank you event for all volunteers has been planned and scheduled to happen by the end of June. This event has also been communicated to all volunteers.

      Mechanisms for on-going education and coaching for the youth ministry director and key volunteers have been provided by Ministry Architects.




June 2018

Focus: Calendars, Volunteers, Database, Volunteer Thank You


      Work has begun on the 2018-2019 youth ministry calendar.

      The transition team (8thą9th grade) has been identified and next steps have been determined.

      A volunteer application, an application process and a screening process for all weekly hands-on volunteers have been created and implemented.

      Work on the youth database has begun, collecting the most recent information for families and youth. All are categorized in a manner that will allow targeted communication and effective follow up on MIA families and youth.

      A Quick Start Summit has taken place in which the renovation process was launched and pressure points outlined in the Assessment Report have been addressed. The Summit tackled the items that needed to be done first to initiate the youth ministry renovation process.

      A thank you event for all youth ministry volunteers has taken place.

      A Visioning Summit has been scheduled for August and a “save the date” email/postcard has been sent to all families.

      A fishing pond of 50 potential volunteers in the youth ministry has been created.


July 2018

Focus: Calendars, Database, Communications, Visioning Promotion, Fall Kick-off, Curriculum


      Promotion of the Visioning Summit has begun.

      A database of all youth and their families has been compiled and each person is “tagged” with a category that will allow for targeted communication.

      Communication norms are a focus of conversation. Best practices are being discussed and possible game plans are uploaded to the Google Drive for Mike and the Design Team to access.

      The 2018-2019 youth ministry calendar has been completed.

      A Fall Kick-off for the youth ministry has been scheduled for September. A team of parents has been recruited to implement the Fall Kick-off.

      Content/Curriculum has been identified for the PF Officer’s Training in August and JRney.

      A Leadership Launch has been scheduled for September for the volunteers in the youth ministry.


August 2018

Focus: Visioning Summit, Pressure Points, Compliance, Calendar, Curriculum


      A Visioning Summit with all major stakeholders has occurred producing visioning documents for the youth ministry (mission statement, core values, goals and structure).

      One-year benchmarks have been assigned to each three-year, revolving goal developed in the visioning process.

      All programs have adhered to FCC’s current safety policy as laid out by the church.

      Background checks (or other screening methods) have been done for all weekly hands-on volunteers.

      Curriculum has been decided and distributed to all teachers/volunteers. Training has been discussed.

      The 2018-2019 youth ministry calendar has been distributed to all youth and their families. The calendar has been publicized and major event dates are on the church’s calendar.

      The youth director has created a Rhythmic Week including balcony time and has begun to live into their Rhythmic Week.

September 2018

Focus: Volunteers, Curriculum, Leadership Launch, Fall Kick-off


      All volunteer needs for the 2018-2019 school year for the youth ministry have been filled.

      All volunteers have experienced a Leadership Launch, lasting 2-4 hours that clarified their roles, inspired them to grow in their own faith and equipped them to serve. The safety policy was reviewed and adopted by all volunteers.

      A Fall Kick-off has taken place that welcomed youth and parents into a program they can get excited about, introduced parents to a format and structure they can feel confident about and provided a forum for receiving information from families. All participants felt energized and enthusiastic about the coming year’s programs.

      A group of 5-10 youth at each program have been recruited, trained, and charged with the task of creating a welcoming environment for new students at PF. They have been trained on how to meet new youth and to guide new youth into the program.


October 2018

Focus: Major Event Notebooks, Compliance, Budget


      The Design Team has completed a 6-month mid-course evaluation of the renovation process and made any adjustments necessary to improve the work being done.

      Work has begun on major event notebooks – creating a template for the notebooks and collecting information on each youth event.

      All paperwork for hands on, weekly volunteers has been updated and is in compliance with the safe church policy.

      A detailed 2019 budget for the youth ministry has been completed and submitted to the appropriate group.

      A team has been assembled to identify key on ramps for faith development and community building for high school students.


November 2018

Focus: Communication, Compliance, Attendance, Continuing Education


      Copyright licensing for music and videos has been obtained. Permission slips for each offsite event in addition to standard medical release forms for the entire year have been created.

      Communication methods currently being used to promote the youth ministry and share the successes with the congregation have been evaluated and added to if necessary.

      Continuing education opportunities have been explored and calendared for the youth ministry director.

      A process for tracking and recording attendance in all youth ministry programs has been created and implemented.

      A Faith Formation Summit has been scheduled for January. The Summit will facilitate a discussion of the learning objectives and significant milestones of each age level and how these might be accomplished.


December 2018

Focus: Summer Calendar


      Work has begun on the summer calendar for 2019.


January 2019

Focus: Marketing, Volunteer Training, Calendars


      Interested students, volunteers, and parents have gathered for a Faith Formation Summit to discuss the learning objectives of each age level and how these might be accomplished utilizing spiritual content, milestones and special programming. At the Summit, the team will:

o   Develop a long-range scope and sequence as well as a set of core competencies for the youth ministry programming.

o      Develop a plan for milestones and special events to shape the faith formation through the ages and stages.

o      Determined how the content/curriculum selected will be communicated to volunteers.

o      Decide what level of training will be required prior to full implementation.


      Clear, internal marketing processes have been established that allow all church members to be exposed to the successes and good news surrounding the youth ministry.

      A mid-year training event has taken place in which all volunteers received support and training in their specific roles. A “check-in” with each volunteer has taken place to evaluate how the volunteer has been doing in their role and addressed any concerns.

      Work has begun on the 2019-2020 youth ministry calendar.

      The 2019 summer calendar for the youth ministry has been completed and distributed.

      Continuing education opportunities have been explored for the youth director

      The Design Team has met monthly and decided how often they will meet for the remainder of the 18 months.


February 2019

Focus: Benchmarks, Calendar, Volunteer Recruitment


      50% of the one-year benchmarks have been accomplished.

      The 2019-2020 youth ministry calendar has been completed through August 2020 including a Fall Kick-off.

      Volunteer recruiting seasons has opened.

o      Volunteer job descriptions have been reviewed and updated as needed.

o      Names of potential volunteers have been added to the fishing pond.

o      All volunteer needs have been determined for the 2019-2020 school year.

o      The volunteer needs list and the potential volunteers list has been merged.

o      Current volunteers have been asked to evaluate and possibly renew their commitment to the youth ministry.

o      Recruitment has begun for hands-on weekly volunteers, event coordinators and behind-the-scenes volunteers for 2019-2020.

o      A written strategic plan for helping the youth become an integral part of the whole congregation, weaving the youth ministry into the fabric of the entire church, has been created.




March 2019

Focus: Database, MIA, Volunteer Thank You


      A volunteer thank you event has been scheduled and promotional materials have gone out to all youth volunteers.

      MIA students have been systematically contacted.

      The collection of updated information from each youth and family has been completed and the database for youth ministry has been updated with that new information.


April 2019

Focus:  Recruitment, Fall Kick-off, Major Event Notebooks


      Volunteer recruitment has continued.

      A Fall Kick-off team has been recruited to begin planning for the start of the fall youth ministry programs.

      All major event notebooks have been updated by the event coordinators and given back to the youth staff to pass along to the next year’s coordinator.


May 2019

Focus: Volunteer Thank You, Reflection & Re-Assessment


      A review of the renovation process has been completed.

      An online diagnostic has been completed to re-assess the youth ministry.

      Current pressure points have been named 

      A volunteer thank you event has taken place.






June 2019

Focus: Manual, Directory, Volunteers


      All volunteer needs for the 2018-2019 school year for youth ministry have been filled.

      With the most recent information on youth and their families, a directory of all families and a directory of all volunteers have been created to be distributed at the Fall Kick-off.

      The Youth Ministry Manuals (both hard copy and digital) have been completed, including

o      Visioning documents

o      Directories

o      Volunteer directory

o      Volunteer training agendas and notes

o      Attendance records

o      Annual calendar

o      Results-based job descriptions

o      Game plans and new initiatives

o      Meeting agendas and minutes for Youth Ministry Committee

o      Faith Formation Plan and record of curriculum resources used for the current year

o      Budget and other financial documents

o      Recruiting template, with a record of all the volunteer needs for the year

o      Compliance documents


July 2019

Focus: Compliance, Preventative Maintenance Calendar, Curriculum


      A preventative maintenance calendar has been created for the youth ministry that will help regularly deal with on-going “behind the scenes” ministry maintenance.

      The effectiveness of this past year’s curriculum has been reviewed and decisions have been made for any necessary changes for the upcoming school year.

      All paperwork for hands on, weekly volunteers has been updated and is in compliance with the safe church policy. Background checks have been completed on each volunteer.

      All youth programs have adhered to the safe church policy.


August 2019

Focus: Major Event Notebooks, Strategic Staffing, Leadership Launch, Participation Goals, Benchmarks


      All one-year benchmarks have been achieved. Goals have been re-upped and new one-year benchmarks have been established.

      All volunteers have experienced a Leadership Launch, lasting 2-4 hours that clarified their roles, inspired them to grow in their own faith and equipped them to serve. The safety policy was reviewed and adopted by all volunteers.

      With the changes in the youth ministry, the volunteer staffing to meet the size and scope of the youth ministry has been evaluated and a game plan to meet those needs has been created if necessary.

      Major event notebooks for each major event for the youth ministry have been handed out to this year’s event coordinators.

      Reasonable participation goals have been determined for all youth ministry events and weekly programs through August 2020 and steps to accomplish those targets have begun to be implemented.


September 2019

Focus: Fall Kick-off


      Curriculum has been distributed to all teachers/volunteers and they have been trained to implement the curriculum.

      A Fall Kick-off has taken place that welcomed youth and parents into a program they can get excited about, introduced parents to a format and structure they can feel confident about and provided a forum for receiving information from families. All participants feel energized and enthusiastic about the coming year’s programs.


October 2019

Focus: Sustainability, Budget


      A timeline for the next 12 months has been created that included game plans for the current pressure points and items from the online diagnostic.

      Game plans have been put in place to sustain the processes and procedures during the renovation

      Ongoing coaching has been secured and a sustainability plan has been put in place.

      The staff and Design Team have celebrated what God has done with their 18-month investment.

      The Design Team has transitioned their role to providing support and accountability to the youth volunteers and focusing on strategic issues such as three-year goals and one-year benchmarks, curriculum selection, calendars, and volunteer recruitment.

      A detailed 2020 budget for the youth ministry has been completed and submitted to the appropriate group.