An essential ingredient to doing good youth ministry is knowing which students are being reached relationally and the quality of that relationship. Often, youth fall through the cracks because even with a robust team of volunteers, the same core students are being targeted by multiple leaders leaving the core relationally spoiled and the “fringe” students underinvested, leaving them disenfranchised with the ministry which can lead to resistance to education and other growth opportunities.
How can this be solved?
Relationship Mapping: A group of youth can be looked at and grouped according to which leader is reaching out to them. This can be done in a speadsheet but can become confusing. It is probably better to map the relationships visually for each leader using concentric circles to denote the influence of each leader in terms of quality to each student.
For example, your leader Jolene connects with John, Jane, Jim, an Sally. She also Connects peripherally to another twelve or so, and on top I that about 25-30 kids depend on her to greet them with a smile, a word, hug, or
handshake during the course of the week or during a program.
John, Jane, Jim, and Sally would be Jolene’s first circle. They are dependant on her for extra-family wisdom and guidance as well as encouragement and confidence. Then the next group of 12 are the second circle. They also depend on Jolene but not as consistently. They may have large, strong families or not at all and so they may disappear from time to time due to an inconsistent lifestyle. Either way, they still find some amount of nourishment through Jolene. The
last and largest group are the last circle. This circle is more likely to overlap other leader’s circles and some of them probably are the core kids of another leader or are in need of being brought into closer relationship.
(A) You have each of your leaders map their relationships as best they can at a meet-up, and overlay them upon each other. Note if the same names keep ending up in many leaders core groups and have a conversation about who feels most connected to those students making decisions to ensure that the most kids possible are getting the highest quality relationship. The goal isn’t to compete for the best kids, but rather, to challenge ourselves as individuals to step out of our comfort zones, and also for clarity for the team as a whole.
(B) Next take the role for the entire youth group, and begin to look at what names are not in any if your leader’s relationship maps. These are most likely the students who are “Falling through the Cracks”. Their parents are probably complaining at Parent Meetings or you’re receiving phone calls about the spiritual health of their student (and probably the effectiveness of your ministry as a whole!). Many parents are probably apathetic about the issue, and sometimes silence on this issue can be worse than a few complaints.
Whatever is happening, the great thing about relationship mapping is that you now have a visual, made by your volunteers, to show them how the team can be more effective and reach more students with more quality relationships. You also can now implement a plan that can be communicated both audibly and visually to parents (some of whom will still not get it-don’t be discouraged).
Now, begin implementing the plan. Have your leaders discuss which students they can take on comfortably and they feel can be connected with naturally. Talk about it before and during meetings. Ex: “Have you had time to connect with Jeremy?” The goal is to always be aware as as a team of who is being connected, and to keep up the expansion
of possible quality relationships. Though it may not be perfectly implemented, there will be an ideal standard or goal to attain. Any team without clear vision and goals will eventually begin to stagnate.
Large companies and corporations spend huge amounts of money tracking how many customers they have served and keep massive records of surveys and statistics so that they know whether to remain connected, to improve their service, or whether they should reach out and bring in a new client. As a youth group, you have an even better advantage. The ground level relationship with a student is powerful and can help a student choose whether they serve the world or Christ. Your
team has a passion to proclaim, model, serve, and disciple the students in congregation and community. Let them see their reach and be challenged to be a more effective team!