Youth Ministry Assessment Report

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A report by Youth Ministry Architects assessing our youth program and suggesting ways to strengthen it.

Text of Youth Ministry Assessment Report


    5229 Cochran Drive Nashville, TN 37220 (877) 462-5718

    Page 1

    YO U T H MI N I S T R Y

    AS S E S S M E N T RE P O R T

    Asbury First United Methodist Church Rochester, NY

    December 10, 2012 Prepared by

    Stephanie Caro, Lead Consultant Adam DeVries, Staff Consultant

    BACKGROUND Asbury First United Methodist Church is the largest United Methodist church in upstate New York. The church has a clear vision: Through worship, education, and care, we develop disciples of Jesus Christ who live and proclaim the Gospel and thereby work to transform our culture. Though its roots go even farther back to 1820, First UMC and Asbury UMC joined together to form Asbury First United Methodist of Rochester, NY in 1932. The membership of the church in 2012 is 2,300 and on an average week, 650 people attend one of the churchs three worship services, held at 8:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 11:00 a.m. The church is known for its excellent worship, and its music program plays major part in that high standard. The church is blessed to have the Reverend Susan Schafer who is serving as its first female senior pastor and was appointed in 2011. Before that, she served Asbury First as the Minister of Congregational Care for 29 years. Stephen Cady was appointed as the Associate Pastor in July of 2012. Phillip Phaneuf is the Minister for Youth and Education and came on staff in 2006 to serve the youth ministry. Ministry programs geared towards the youth, 6th-12th grades, consist of the following:

    1) Three Sunday school classes: one for 6th graders (with the 5th graders), one for the 7th and 8th graders, and one for the 9th-12th graders. 2) The High School Youth Group meets every Sunday. 3) There currently is no Middle School Youth Group. 4) Youth Hand Bells and the Youth Choir meet on Sunday afternoons. 5) Youth Theater meets on Sunday afternoons, alternating months with the youth music groups. 6) Special events, including the summer mission trip.


    5229 Cochran Drive Nashville, TN 37220 (877) 462-5718

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    The youth ministry is a busy one (especially on Sundays), with students and adults often referring to Sunday as The 12-hour Day. Words used to describe the youth ministry overall: vibrant, fun, loving, giving, outreach, doing, empowering, talented. Words used to describe the Middle School ministry: dull, boring, Sunday school, meh. Currently, there are 276 youth in 6th-12th grades on the rolls of the church. During a typical week without counting anyone twice, a total of 43 unique students participate in either Sunday school, youth musical groups, worship, youth group or Confirmation. The church has a 2012 budget of $1,600,000. The youth ministry portion of that total budget is in the neighborhood of $75,000 for salaries and program expenses. This includes the youth pastors salary as well as the youth choir, bell and theater salaries. There are many dedicated volunteers serving in some capacity throughout the ministry to Asbury Firsts students. There are 13 adults working weekly in a face-to-face capacity, plus many others who serve in a supporting role. Youth Ministry Architects was invited by the church leadership to do an initial assessment of the youth ministry and to make recommendations about how a strategic plan might move the ministry forward. YMA met with 48 people from 10 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.

    YOUTH MINISTRY IN CONTEXT One lens YMA uses for helping churches understand youth ministry is the idea of the three rents. Youth ministries that pay these rents tend to have a 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 YMAs experience that although these three rents, in and of themselves, do not insure an effective or faithful ministry, they are often the most immediate evaluation tools used by youth, parents, staff and the congregation at large.


    5229 Cochran Drive Nashville, TN 37220 (877) 462-5718

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    Rent #1: NUMBERSA significant percentage of youth need to be participating visibly in some aspect of the churchs ministry. It is important for this target number to be clearly agreed on by the Church Council, parents 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 numbers in the youth program suggest that this rent is past due. Rent #2: PROGRAMSIn 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 students and parents something to talk about. This is a rent that is paid on time. Rent #3: ENTHUSIASMThe 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. This is a rent that is past due because of conversations surrounding past transitions and the upcoming youth pastor transition, leaving adults cautious about whats next. 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:

    As the youth ministry leadership steps into this parallel process, five rules of thumb or what we call youth ministry norms will be helpful to keep in mind:

    1. Laying the Foundation: Building a foundation and infrastructure that will ensure the student ministrys future effectiveness, and at the same time,

    2. Continuing to Do Ministry:

    Maintaining the current student ministry in a way that builds the enthusiasm of students, their families, the staff, and the church at large.


    5229 Cochran Drive Nashville, TN 37220 (877) 462-5718

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    1. 10% of the Worshiping CongregationIn a typical church, the size of the youth ministry tends to settle at a number that is around 10% of the worshiping congregation. With an average worship attendance of 650, the fact that there are 43 youth (middle school and high school) present in the church weekly is significantly under the target level of 65.

    2. $1500 per YouthWith a budget of approximately $75,000 dedicated to the youth ministry and a weekly participation level of somewhere in the neighborhood of 43 students in some aspect of the churchs life, the youth ministry is slightly over-budgeted for its current performance level of student participation but under budget for the size of youth ministry this church should expect to see.

    3. 1 Full-Time Staff Person for Every 50 YouthWith a time youth pastor on staff and part-time hours for the performance-oriented staff people (appx. 38 hours total), there are enough staff hours allocated to serve 50 regular youth on a weekly basis between SS, UMYF, and choirs/drama. Again, that is large enough to manage the current flock, but insufficient to reach the average expected attendance of 65.

    4. 1 Adult for Every 5 Youth YMA likes to think in terms of spans of

    care, recognizing that, realistically, most volunteers cannot effectively oversee the churchs Christian nurture of more than about five students on an ongoing basis. With 13 adult volunteers weekly, Asbury First has the capacity to sustain 65 youth (middle school and high school) on a weekly basis (the current number is 43). According to this rule of thumb, the youth ministry is more-than-aptly volunteered and is poised for growth. Well done!

    5. 20% Ceiling YMA has also discovered that in many churches, the youth ministry has difficulty growing beyond a level that equals 20% of the weekly worshiping congregation. Only those youth ministries that are relentlessly simple seem to be able to break beyond this 20% level. Asbury First might keep in mind, then, that the expected ceiling for this youth ministry is 130 youth.


    5229 Cochran Drive Nashville, TN 37220 (877) 462-5718

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    BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE YOUTH STAFF When a ministry is based solely on the giftedness of a single staff person, instability is a predictable result. Its been found that the most stable approach to staffing a ministry, particularly in the early stages of a re-design, 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 blue prints plan. The architect is the church itself; often represented by a team of people. Initially, its the renovation team and/or the YMA consultants. The General Contractor: A person 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. Ideally, this is the staff person. 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 r