Someone in the back just screamed, “AMEN!”

Now I will be honest, I really do enjoy the big number. I love when they are up. But I have been in ministry long enough to realize that when gage success based on butts in seats during your program your emotions and mental health will go up and down with the attendance.

I could remember one night in particular where attendance was way lower than usual and I was sitting in the back of the stage during the response song after my message pouting and I felt the Lord say to me, “Go watch worship.” So reluctantly I got up and went out there and I saw 3 students praying with leaders giving their life to the Lord. Then I felt Him say, “You’re focused on the wrong thing.”

Now I don’t want to over be spiritualized but I know I felt the like God was trying to show me something big for me. It changed things.

That’s why we don’t measure our success in attendance anymore. Do we track it? Of course, we do, we are not animals. But our team has shifted our focus of success to other measurements. We seem to ask about our OKR’s.

What should be our OKR’s for this year?

At our church, we use OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results) to help us set goals in our ministries (check out We had OKR’s that we set last year and we hit them so we now have to relook at our ministry and determine where we want to go next by setting new OKR’s so we can continue to see God move in our ministry. If you don’t have measurable goals how do you know if you are successful? To give you an example, here were our OKR’s this last year:

  • #1: Increase our volunteer team to 90 adults.
  • #2: Have 65% of our midweek attendance in small groups.
  • #3: Have 200 of our students serving somewhere regularly.

Do you notice something about these goals or measures of success? Butts in seats is not one of them.

I believe when we shift our focus to other measurements we won’t ride the wave of emotions based on who is there but we will play the long game in success for the spiritual growth for students.

  • Putting a focus on leaders for us is a recognition that students will come for the program but they will stick around for relationships made with caring adults and their peers.
  • Putting a focus on small group attendance forces us to look at how many of our students are taking that next step and are growing in community and Bible study.
  • Putting a focus on knowing who is serving will help us see again the progression of growth in our students of stepping outside of themselves to serve others.

If we focus on nailing these areas the natural by-product of it will be attendance growth.

So shift your focus. Don’t ride the attendance emotional roller coaster. We are called to more than that. Your value as a leader is not dependent on that. Now if we can only get our higher-ups to believe that right? HA!


If you want to check out some of our Youth Ministry Hacks Podcasts on this subject, here are some good episodes that go into detail:

Episode 16: Hacks On How to Turn Vision Into A Movement with Terry Parkman of River Valley Church

Episode 25: Hacks on Having A Strategic Youth Ministry w/Jonathan Meyer

Episode 40: Hacks On Ministry Growth With Rich Birch of UnSeminary

Episode 46: Hacks in Creating & Adjusting Ministry Values

Episode 50: Hacks On Setting Ministry Goals & OKR’s For The Year