A Dashboard for Young Life Leaders

Posted on November 19, 2013 by


Dashboard 1

(Disclaimer: although most of L42day’s posts can be read with profit whether you are a part of the Young Life mission or not, today’s post is aimed specifically at those who are leading or supervising Young Life clubs.)

Young Life leaders: Do the numbers at the left mean anything to you?  Can you make any sense of what they might mean?  As a Young Life leader, I always have had numbers in my head.  I can remember being a volunteer team leader in college, and being asked by our area administrator how many spots I wanted for camp that summer.  I don’t remember my answer, but I do remember her asking a second question: “Ok, Glenn how many spots do you really want for camp this summer?” Apparently, the number I had given her wasn’t very realistic given the fact that we had taken 3 kids to camp the summer before.  I believed God could do anything, and I wanted my camp spot request to reflect that.  (I knew nothing at the time about the financial penalties involved if I filled only 10% of my camp spots.)

The numbers above represent a very simple concept, so simple in fact, that for years I never felt the need to verbalize it with my leaders or anyone else.  I call it “The Dashboard” and its built on my belief that the relative health of  a Young Life club can be measured in part by looking at some key numbers in relation to one another. *  Lets add some labels to this dashboard:

Dashboard 1AWhat is most important in this concept is not the raw numbers, but the way the numbers relate to one another.   The dashboard at the right represents a healthy set of numbers for a Young Life club in our area.  The numbers fit what I would expect to see if things are going fairly well in a club ministry.   Change one number in either direction enough, and the dashboard starts to read “trouble”.  What if all the numbers stayed the same, but the average attendance at Campaigners was 35 instead of 15?  Who wouldn’t say that more kids at Campaigners is a good thing?  However my expectation is that that in time, the average attendance at club and camps should also go up, or there is a problem.  I have seen clubs die because their ratios were off for too long and the underlying reasons behind the bad numbers killed the club.  I have also seen problems on the dashboard, and worked with leaders to change the unhealthy dynamics that the numbers pointed to.

Of course, the numbers don’t tell you what the problems are, and good numbers may even hide unhealthy dynamics if you aren’t paying attention.  I learned early on: numbers don’t tell us everything, but they tell us something, and we should try to figure out what that is.  If you want to test yourself, play around with the numbers on this dashboard.  Change one number and see try to figure out what that might tell you about that club.

Now take out a piece of paper and draw up your dashboard.   For this illustration,  I included only five “dials”, but school size and number of kids known at the school are also good dashboard readings to get.  

  • What other dials would you add for your club?  
  • What are your numbers?  
  • Do they match your expectations of what a healthy club ought to look like?  
  • What is out of whack, and why?
  • If you don’t like what you see, what are you going to do about it?

*My numbers and ratios are built on my experiences leading suburban Young Life clubs in the Northeastern U.S.  The underlying assumptions behind these numbers may be different for you, depending on your ministry context.