Why 1 to 7 Teacher/Student Ratios Are Killing the Church

My church has one, and odds are yours does too.  Most churches have a set ratio of the number of teachers/leaders/volunteers they require in a classroom for every certain number of kids.  In my church the ratio is 1 teacher for every 7 kids (except in the nursery where it is 1 nursery worker for every 4 infants).

Churches recruit for their ministries based on ratio’s like these.  “Parents, we could really use some help in kid’s church.  We have 30 kids coming, but just two people helping out…so we are reeeeaaaaally short staffed.  We need at 2 or 3 more people.  Can you help out?”  The trouble is using a 1-to-7 ratio is far too low, at least if you want the kids in the church to be lifelong followers of Christ.  According to Lifeway Research:

Teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives….were more likely to keep attending church.  More of those who stayed in church – by a margin of 46 percent to 28 percent – said five or more adults at church had invested time with them personally and spiritually.

Did you catch that?  The more people who invest in a kid from church, the more likely that kid is to stick with their faith.  We live in a day and age where countless teens are walking away from their faith after high school.  Could one reason be because we (the church & parents) have left our kids spiritual formation entirely to one person in a classroom, who is already distracted by 6 other kids, and only given them 75 minutes a week to speak into our children’s lives?

What would happen if we changed the ratio?  What if rather than trying to get one teacher in every room for every 7 kids, we made it a point to try to help parents find 5 mentors for every one of their kids?  What if every kid got more than a teacher for a single Sunday morning service, but beyond that had multiple people who were investing in “them personally and spiritually” throughout the week, the month and their life?

Don’t get me wrong, I think 1 to 7 ratios are important and needed.  They provide structure and safety for classes and ministries.  I also think that every single Sunday school teacher, kid’s worker, youth staff member plays a pivotal part in a kids’ spiritual growth.  I also think they by themselves they are insufficient.  I think that a childrens or youth worker can, and should, be an important voice in the life a kid, but it should only be one of the voices that that child hears.  The reality is though, many kids are only hearing one voice, and so many are walking away from the faith.  To put it another way, 1-to-7 ratios are killing the next generation of the church.

The Wrong Goal

“He [Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.  To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”  – Paul in Colossians 1:28-29.

Photo courtesy of © flickr.com/photos/bpc009/3286015968/

Many churches are short-sighted.  Many focus entirely on the number of people they can get out to church, and not on the spiritual growth of the people sitting in the pews.  Don’t get me wrong, it is important to count how many people are coming out to church.  As the old axiom goes, you should “Count people, because people count.”  Every person is an eternal soul, and if the number of people coming out the church is not growing, or worse is getting smaller, then there is a problem.  A large Sunday morning attendance though, is only a small part of the picture.

I don’t think Christ had a large group of uncommitted undiscipled believers in mind when he pictured His church.  In fact, Christ always seemed to be running the uncommitted crowd away.  Yet, many churches seem content with filled pews.  They seem to think God is happy with a full church, yet Paul in Colossians 1 says that ultimately that is not what we are working towards.

“So that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”  That is the ultimate goal.   Mature believers, that is what churches should be counting in addition to Sunday attendance.  Not just how many people fill a pew, but also how many people are involved in ministry, how many people attend a small group, how many people are involved in personal evangelism, how many people are parenting their kids in a godly way, how many people are applying Biblical ethics in their marriage and their work, how many mature believers there are as a result of the church’s ministry.

It was to this end that Paul strenuously contended, and it should be the end that we work towards as well.

Why I Love My Job

I love my job.  Not everyone can say that, but I can.  I mean I really love my job.  I love getting up and going to work.  And if I didn’t have an amazing family at home, I might just be tempted to make my office my home.

But again, not everyone loves their job as much as I do.  It’s tough for them to get motivated in the morning and head out the door to work.  Recently I came across a study in the book Linchpin which talked about why some people get motivated for work, and some don’t, which got me thinking about why I love working at the church so much.

Trying to find out what motivates people at work, Richard Florida did an experiment on 20,000 business professionals.  He asked these professionals to choose what motivates them the most.  From their responses he determined the top 10 factors that motivate people at work.  What is amazing is that my job has all 10 of these….

1. Challenge & Responsibility – Everyday presents new challenges.  One of the things I love most about my job is working with people, but it is also one of the more challenging aspects of working at the church as well.  I am challenged to find new ways to help people grow in their relationship with God, with others, and in their personal lives.

2. Flexibility – There are quite a few things that fall under my job description.  But for everything I am asked to do I am given quite a bit of latitude in how I go about it.  I have never been required to teach a certain curriculum in kid’s church or do things a certain way.  Flexibility allows me to do what I am asked to do, and still be authentically me.

3. A Stable Work Environment – What can I say…I work at a rockin’ church, with an awesome church family, and everyday I go to work with a great team.  Things are good, and growing.

4. Money – Money is not why I chose my career path, but it is nice to be at a church that values the staff and takes care of them.  Even more than for myself, I appreicate it for my family.

5. Professional Development – Every year I get to go to at least one conference.  The church is also good about making sure  have access to new ideas through publications, and other leadership materials.  I never feel like I am under-resourced.

6. Peer Recognition – Again, it is great to be a part of a team.  We all have each others backs and cheer each other on.  We realize that when one of us wins, we all win.   There is never competition to the point where we hope our teammates fail, so that we look good.  I want to see my team succeed, and I know they want to see me succeed as well.

7. Stimulating Colleagues and Bosses – Everyday these guys press me to be better than I already am.

8. Exciting Job Content – It doesn’t get better than seeing people coming to Christ.  Then seeing people turn their lives around.  Then seeing them stay sober, their marriage restored, their relationship with their kids renewed, accomplish things they never thought they could before.

9. Organizational Structure – Calvary has a great leadership team, awesome ministry leaders, clear direction an values, and an unalterable desire to worship God and love people.

10. Location and Community – I love where I am at on the North Shore of Boston (although it is a long way from family and home).  But more than the physical  neighbored community, what I love the most is the church community.

Are you a boss or a leader?  If so, does your team environment get people motivated…or make it hard for them to get out of bed?

More Than Just a Man

The set is going up, and lines are being rehearsed for this years Easter drama production.  This is the final year we will be doing More Than Just a Man, so this will be your last chance to see it.  There are six performances this Spring.  March 27th & 28th and then April 2, 3 & 4.    All the performances are at 6:30 pm, with a special matinee performance at 2:00 pm, on Saturday, April 3rd.  Don’t miss it!  Click here to see this years promo video, and be sure to forward the link on to others and invite some friends!