The Numbers For Youth Ministry Excellence

The Numbers For Youth Ministry Excellence
By Sean Kahlich

“It’s an oft-quoted truism in books on learning and productivity that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve true mastery in any skill.” It’s also an oft-expected policy that making disciples is only for pastors on staff in a church. Our theology may disagree because we all know the Great Commission, but the practice of most in the church seems to agree that “the pastors do all the disciple-making and we just try to survive our teenagers’ mood swings until the next program.” This goes against the teaching of the Bible and the mathematical logic behind it.

Let me break down the numbers for you: There are only 168 hours available in any given week-24 hours a day x 7 days in a week. Your teenager is enrolled full-time in school for approximately 7 hours a day for 5 days (M-F), so we need to subtract this.

168 available hours
– 35 school hours
133 available hours

We can work with 133 hours a week now.

But your teenager has to sleep. So a very conservative assumption is that they get their recommended 8 hours of sleep each night for all 7 days of the week. This, too, needs to be subtracted (you can’t disciple teenagers when they’re sleeping…trust me, I know).

133 available hours
– 56 hours of sleep
77 available hours

So we’re now working with 77 available hours with teenagers in any given week.

Here’s where it gets practical:

If we want teenagers to master the Christian things we expect them to, like the meta-narrative of the Bible, the importance of community, a lifestyle of evangelism, and so on, then they need 10,000 hours of exposure and teaching, right? In my current ministry, a super-dedicated student would get three hours a week of student ministry programs, teaching, and discipleship (1 @ midweek, 1 @ Sunday morning, and 1 @ small groups). If it takes 10,000 hours to lead a teenager to achieve mastery (synonymous with excellence) in discipleship, it’s a mathematical impossibility for the youth pastor to do it all. Let me show you:

10,000 hours required to master or excel
÷ 3 hours a week being involved in a youth ministry
3,333 weeks needed
÷ 52 weeks a year
64 years

If the youth pastor is expected to do all the discipling, it would take 64 years. Unless your kid is really dumb I don’t see them staying in junior high and high school all the way to retirement. Plus, I’d be 91 years old by then and nearly dead. But if parents engage their students at home and take on their biblical mandate to disciple their own children, watch this:

10,000 hours required to master or excel
÷ 74 hours a week at home
135 weeks needed
÷ 52 weeks a year
2 years, 7 months

Great math; extreme example. So this is only to illustrate the paradox. Because what this result shows is that if your teenager isn’t sleeping or going to school, you’re doing nothing but teaching the Bible to them. And let’s be honest…no one would survive that. So let’s suppose parents are diligent to spend an hour a day (throughout the day: 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there) training their child in true discipleship. Let me show you how the math breaks down when parents and pastors team up to disciple students:

10,000 hours required to master or excel
÷ 3 hours a week being involved in a youth ministry + 7 hours a week being disciple by parents
1,000 weeks needed
÷ 52 weeks a year
10 years

Ten years.

When parents and pastors team up, teenagers have an exponentially higher chance of “getting it” by the time they graduate high school. The numbers don’t lie. And the command is still the same. Youth pastors are doing their part. What can we do to help you accomplish yours?

From: web site. September 2009