Does 100 = 500 in College Ministry numbers sounds like a question on a math test. I was never good in Math classes. My mom had great fears about me spending my life in eighth grade math....for good reason. But, I am on record as one who counts at Collegiate meetings for which I am responsible. I keep charts that compare the same week to previous years. But, I believe in honest numbers (yes; some lie about their numbers.)AND I believe in interpreting numbers.
Recently, someone who is responsible for several campus based College Ministries said that they were being criticized for only having about a hundred at some of their large group meetings. I think in many of these situations that is an unfair criticism.
Four Reasons I Think it is Unfair:
1. College Ministry Groups Turn Over Quickly.
I attend a church with normal attendance of 500 to 600. Not many College Ministries have that size attendance at their weekly meetings. However, we have people who have attended our church for 30 and 40 years. When new people come into our church, they join those of us who have been there a long time. So, we grow in our number. Students leave not just after four or five years, but they transfer, etc. A College Ministry group changes totally in six years at the most. A College Ministry with average attendance of 100 will touch way more than that over a five or six year period. Maybe, 100 does equal 500.
2. Students Availability Changes often.
Some of the finest students and leaders I have had in College Ministry were Physical Therapy majors. As they advance in the program, they are assigned different rotations to gain practical experience and insight. These rotations are often in other cities away from the campus. No matter how committed they are to the campus ministry, they just are not available during one of those rotations. This is increasingly true of more and more fields of
study. A new development is "Accelerated Degrees". One Arkansas campus recently announced a new medical related
degree that could be completed in three years in order to meet a growing need. The campus where I served just announced as a part of their new Med School, students can be accepted into the Med School and begin in lieu of their senior year. What ever happened to good old, mature fifth and sixth year seniors? By the way, don't even begin to argue that a med student's availability is the same as an undergrad.
3. People often Compare Grapes and Grapefruits!
It sounds the same....what's the difference? A while back I was visiting with an acquaintance who leads a large
College Ministry with 400-500 at their weekly meetings. His ministry is held up as a model, as it should be. I
asked how many staff he had. The answer was twenty-five (25). Some want to compare a ministry with one or two staffers to his and ask what's wrong with the smaller one? If you divide the attendance by the number of staffers, you may see there is no difference.....OR, the smaller ministry is actually being more effective.
I have another friend who leads a large ministry. It is a model in many ways. He has a strong alumni base who give generously. This ministry receives gifts up to six figures. Most ministries should not be compared against one that receives that kind of financial support. Money alone does not make a ministry, but the budget has a direct result to what can and cannot be done.
4. Campus Based College Ministries never have everyone together at once.
If there is Freshmen Night one night, International Student Conversation Club/Bible Study at another time,
Wednesday Lunch Program, Weekly Worship, Greek Bible Study, etc, etc., there is never one time all these students are together. And, in many instances it would not work for them to be all together. A more accurate number is how many different students were touched in one week.
If you are one responsible for reporting numbers, find a way to have a reasonably
accurate number of how many students are being touched in one week. That tells a more
accurate picture of what you are doing.
Like it or not, fair or not, people compare and look at numbers. Let's just make sure that we are comparing apples to apples. Let's also make sure we are helping our stakeholders have an accurate picture of how many students we are touching.....not just the number that shows up at one meeting.