For years, many in youth ministry talked about the one to-five ratio of adults-to-students as the optimal goal for everything from retreats to small groups. Leaders worked hard to build a volunteer youth ministry team that reflected the 1 to 5 ratio.
Today, the world has changed. There are new cultural realities, students experience more brokenness, and many Millennials have unresolved doubts or questions concerning the faith of their parents.
Several years ago Chap Clark, author of Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, suggested a different approach to address these changes. He went on to say that “We need to change the definition of youth ministry from just helping kids to grow in their faith to helping them become fully developed believers in Christ in the community of the Church.” Clark, along with other leaders in youth and parent ministry, like Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, essentially turn the 1:5 ratio on its head.
“What if we flipped that ratio upside down? What if we said we need five adults pouring into one kid?” Kara Powell, author of Sticky Faith.
According to Clark, “Every kid needs five adult fans. Any young person who shows any interest in Christ needs a minimum of five people of various ages who will say, ‘I’m going to love that kid until they are fully walking as an adult member of this congregation.’”
Now the obvious reaction of leaders is going to be, “I’m having a hard enough time recruiting one small group leader for five kids, and now you want me to round up five leaders for every single kid?” Kara Powell, author of Sticky Faith. But the good news is these adults are not all youth leaders.
Relationship is the key element. Among twentysomethings who remain active in their faith beyond high school 59% report having a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church, according to a Barna study. Furthermore, 28% of Millennials who stayed active had an adult mentor at church, other than their pastor.
Churches can really get creative in this 5:1 approach, including the involvement of a variety of adult mentors: youth leader, small group leader, career mentors, mentors in their hobby, recent college grads, married couples, senior citizens, and prayer partners. This approach has the potential to bless the young adults, mentors and the congregation as a whole.