Far too many times when I ask youth leaders about how their youth groups are doing they immediately start talking about attendance numbers. They usually say something like, "Oh pretty good! We are growing! We had 60 in attendance last week!" or, "Well, we are struggling right now a bit. We only had 15 in attendance last week."
But I am convinced that attendance numbers may be among the weaker measures of youth group strength. Those who gauge youth ministry size and youth ministry strength often make the wrong assumption that, just because teens are showing up, they are leading a healthy youth ministry. But people show up at car wrecks, fist fights and circuses too.
If you imagine Jesus as the ultimate youth leader (because the majority of the disciples were most likely teenagers), you can clearly see he had a different philosophy of youth ministry strength. Think of the crowds that followed Jesus as those who show up in a typical youth group meeting and think of his disciples as his student leadership team. When you begin to read the Gospels through these lenses, it becomes obvious that Jesus didn't gauge his impact by attendance at all.
As a matter of fact there are several times he seems to try to get rid of the crowds so that he could invest in his leadership team. Luke 15:25-27 is a powerful example of this, "Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'"