Infographic: Why Youth Ministry Must Decentralize

Infographic: Paid youth worker ratio to American 10-19 year olds

Click here to view or download full-sized version

Source: U.S. Census Data


You cannot reach 427 10-19 year olds with 1 paid youth worker. We have 40 years of data which tells us this is impossible. The way we currently do things is part of the solution but we must think differently to engage more of our societies 10-19 year olds.

We must decentralize our role, invite more adults who minister to teenagers already to the table, and multiply our effectiveness.

The cause of Christ is too important to continue on with another 40 years like this.

My invitation to you is simple: Join us. Help us innovate contextual means for decentralizing our role and impacting more 10-19 year olds. I am not alone, there are thousands who think like me. Together we can write a new story of youth ministry.

Ready to dream about your ministry, again? (Instead of just surviving.) Join us next week at The Summit.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.


  1. Actually, some might look at just the pictures and think that youth work that way might be possible… until you come to understand that each character on the right side REPRESENTS ten young people… Then… well, good luck!

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  3. I agree that YM must change, and decentralization is needed. However, is this not the case for church in general? Are not the same stats posted in this graphic applicable to the number of paid pastor vs. congregants/potential congregants? Seems to me that this would be indicative of the situation for church operations in general today. I believe both need to change, just trying to figure out how.

    1. @facebook-584950371:disqus I would certainly argue this. This was merely the first point in a much larger discussion. I don’t think vocational ministry needs to go away. But I think that those in vocational ministry need to understand that they can be both the problem and the solution.

  4. Thought… What would happen if a church took a youth pastors salary and put it into the investment of volunteers? Could churches survive without a paid person? I am the paid person, so hesitate to ask this question… Wondered what your thoughts would be?

    1. Phil, I’ve had this thought too. I think if a church would invest what they might pay a vocational youth worker into training and resources for the “unpaid” youth workers in their church, they might be able to not just survive without a paid person but thrive. It’s a scary thought for we who are paid, but I think it could actually benefit us in the long term as we become the “lead equippers” of healthier youth worker teams.

    2. “Only the presence of a full-time youth minister in the congregation, compared to no designated youth minister at all, significantly increases these teens’ [those who attend without their parents] attendance. Congregations with only volunteer and part-time youth ministers are not significantly different than those with no designated youth minister in increasing the attendance of teens who do not attend with their parents.” -Christian Smith, Associate Chair of Sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill, from “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers”, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp 113-114

  5. What a crazy challenge…and wonderful opportunity!
    Charlie Hopper hit the nail on the head, I think. For too long most youth pastors have hoarded leadership, mentoring, creating, etc to themselves because that’s the stuff most of our churches expect us to do. Of course, scripture points to our role of equipping others for good works as a, if not, the, primary role.

    If decentralized means moving away from the local church, then I’m not totally on board as I still really, really believe in it.

    But if decentralized means moving away from one person in the local church trying to do it all and be the “hero”, then let’s get busy!

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