Two More Strategies for Reaching Critical Mass | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
September 2016

Two More Strategies for Reaching Critical Mass

By Stephanie Caro

Because of the awesome feedback from last week, I am back with two more strategies for hitting critical mass in small church youth ministry!

To recap, critical mass is the amount of participation needed to sustain and grow.

Strategies covered last week: Quarterly Events & Multi-Generational Moments

Here are two more strategies I’ve found work well in any setting:

  1. Mentorship Ministry
  2. Front Door/Back Door Strategies

Mentorship Ministry

Nothing new here in this idea but I don’t think enough small churches try it and they should. When a church has less than a handful of youth and can’t always pull off a youth group, partnering each student with an adult in the church is a way to still make successful relational ministry happen. Don’t just make the program an “each paring does their own thing.” Give it some developmental Christian formation goals. I’ve seen successful mentoring programs based on a discipleship process, on apprenticeship within church ministries, and a prayer partners. There’s great curriculum, planning programs out there that can help. LeaderTreks, out of Carol Stream, IL, has some solid materials that can help you get started.

Front Door/Back Door Strategies

It is so important that every youth ministry, no matter the size, (but especially one trying to build up its critical mass) has a solid first-time guest experience plan with productive follow-up. I bet you’re thinking, “We don’t ever have any new kids come.” Well, when you do, are you ready? Because if you aren’t, you won’t get many chances at any other first-timers. Here’s a list to consider:

  • Train your students to know what to do when someone new comes
  • Train your students to know what to do when they bring someone new
  • Look at your entire youth experience through the eyes of a newcomer:
    • Is it easy to find the door to come in?
    • Is there someone at the door checking people in (another way to get up-to-date contact info) greeting everyone?
    • Are there signs leading to the youth area?
    • Is there someone that will show the new person where the bathrooms are, the group’s traditions, make introductions?
  • Have several people lined up to let the first-timer know their visit was appreciated. This should include the youth leader, the pastor, and 1-2 youth from the group.

Equally important, if you don’t want to lose what precious number of students you have, make sure you’re keeping track of who is and who isn’t coming. Tracking should include youth group, Sunday school, worship, Confirmation, and any other regular program where students are present. Set a determined number of weeks a student turns up MIA, and then have a default plan kick into place. At minimum, it’s a phone call from the leaders. At best, there are multiple people checking on the absent student. If you discover there’s a need to be met or a problem to solve, then you do it and quickly. Anything after three weeks is too long to go without checking up on someone. More than that and the student in question will have created other habits and attending church isn’t one of them.

Let’s close with a few more critical numbers:

  • There are 168 hours in a week.
  • The average church kid spends about 45 minutes a week at church stuff.
  • That 1 hour you watched “(insert name of lame reality TV show here)” instead of preparing your lesson matters.

An old adage: Counting numbers doesn’t matter if students don’t feel like they count.

Now let’s get out there and each one reach one.

To further explore strategies like these, check out Small(er) Church Youth Ministry by Brad Fiscus and Stephanie Caro on No Staff, No Money? No Problem!
Our guest blogger this week is Stephanie Caro.

Stephanie Caro has been involved in ministry to children, youth, and adults in the local church since…a long time. Her humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting and coaching at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects, which allows her to help churches assess, vision, and formulate their ministry game plan.

Her books, Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches and 99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker, were published by Group/Simply Youth Ministry. Her latest book, Smaller Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem, was published by Cokesbury in the fall of 2016. Her next book, Ten Solutions (to 10 Common Mistakes in Churches), comes out early 2017. Stephanie is a contributing author to several ministry resources like YouthWorker Journal in addition to her regular column “Smaller Church Youth Ministry” in Group Magazine. Check out Stephanie's blog, part of the #1 read youth ministry blog network, from Simply Youth Ministry/Group Publishing. She also blogs for, Princeton Theological Seminary, and others. Stephanie and her husband, Steve, live in Houston, TX. Their 7 children are all grown!