An accurate database of useful information for all young people and parents is kept and maintained.
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila and those living in the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed at Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick at Miletus. Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus sends you greetings, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters. (2 Timothy 4:19-21)
If you’ve ever set out to read the Bible from cover to cover it won’t be long until you come across long lists of names. Some are recorded as members of a family tree while others are listed as mere contacts or acquaintances of key characters. While some play key roles in Bible stories, many are obscure and are mentioned by name only.
For example, toward the end of many of his letters, Paul makes mention of people who were either co-workers with him on his missionary journeys or members of churches he was in contact with. It is tempting to skip over the names of these people who were helping to spread the gospel and hurry on into the next book.
Yet these names remind us that Paul was not simply concerned with a task. He cared about people – a lot of them. In fact, he mentions over sixty in his letters and the book of Acts lists many more. Paul remembered these people and knew where they were and what they were doing. He was at pains not to forget them and regularly offered prayers for them (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 1:2; Philippians 1:3)
Similarly, we too as leaders need to focus on the individual and must make every effort to remain in contact with those we lead, either personally or through our youth leadership team.
Compiling databases and contact lists with addresses, email addresses, phone numbers etc., may not seem like the most spiritual of pursuits but effective youth ministries understand how important it is.
They know, firstly, that effectively communicating with young people and their parents is an important part of both letting them know what is happening and also giving a sense of inclusion.
Imagine being a young person who turns up to a youth event only to find out that the venue or time had been changed and no one had told you. It’s hard not to get the message that “you don’t matter” from an experience like that!
Contact lists not only help us to easily contact individuals. They also enable us to set up mailing lists and send out mass emails, texts or instant messages.
Having a database containing the names of all the young people also helps us keep track of attendance. Every week when the young people went home I would take a few minutes to quickly record attendance on a spreadsheet. It proved to be a helpful tool in identifying who was attending regularly and more importantly, who was absent. It alerted me to any young people whom I might otherwise have not noticed had missed a few weeks.
Contact lists are also indispensable when the day comes to hand over leadership to someone else. Having a list of everyone’s name along with their contact details and even attendance patterns is a huge help to a new youth leader who is trying to get to know everyone.
In one church in which I served as youth pastor, I was surprised to find out how well the senior pastor knew the young people in the youth ministry. He was able to reel off a whole list of names and give me valuable insights into where many of them were in their faith journey.
What made his input even more valuable was the fact that the contact database left for me by the youth pastor was less than up to date. I resolved to not leave my successor with a similar problem, which he, five years later, greatly appreciated.
Another useful reason for maintaining a database of young people’s names is that it can double as a prayer list. As a youth pastor, I would regularly pray for our young people using our database. When someone new started coming I would add them to the list and begin praying for them. Even if you are not sure what to pray, you can still bring them before the Lord in prayer by name asking God to work in their life.
Finally, having an up to date contact list is invaluable when you need to contact parents when there is an emergency or illness they need to be advised of.
Understanding the importance of comprehensive contact lists is the first step. The next step is to decide on what information to gather. Requirements may differ between youth groups, but essential information will include their name, physical address, email address, and phone number. You will also want to collect the same essential information for their parents or guardians.
Beyond that, it may be helpful to gather information that includes their birthday, age/year at school, school attended, interests, social media accounts, and medical information.
While you will probably not ask for the following information directly, you may want to note the following in a secure database: family situation (parents, stepparents, siblings etc.), baptism date, and other important but non-confidential pastoral information.
Before you can record and keep any information you need to give thought as to how you will collect it. In collecting and storing information we need to be conscious of privacy laws. We cannot collect and hold information on people against their will or without them or their parents knowing. Design a consent form for parents to sign that outline what information you’d like to keep and why.
A good way to handle this is to have a contact card which you invite young people to fill in – one that requests the information you want to keep. You can give this to them when they first start coming but in doing so you’ll need to explain to them why you are collecting and keeping the information. Explanations such as, “We want to keep in touch with you about programme content and changes” and “We need to keep your parents’/guardians’ contact information on file so we can contact them in an emergency”, are examples of letting people know why you want to collect information.
Even with this explanation, young people may decline your request to fill it in and they have a right to do so. Often their reticence is due to the fact they are new and don’t know you well. Once they start coming regularly and consider themselves part of the youth group, try again.
Having collected information and stored it in a database and on mailing lists, we need to work at keeping it up to date. It’s a good idea to check that the information you hold is correct every six months or so.
CHECKLIST: TEN CHARACTERISTICS OF A YOUTH MINISTRY WITH AN EFFECTIVE DATABASE
- There exists an up to date contact database of young people who are connected with the youth ministry.
- The contact database includes essential information: name, address, email address and phone numbers.
- Parental consent is sought before keeping contact information for those under 18 yrs of age.
- The contact database is used as a means of monitoring attendance.
- There exists a database of parents and guardians contact details including phone numbers to be used in case of an emergency.
- The contact database is used by leaders as a prayer list for praying individually for all the young people.
- There is a clearly defined procedure for gathering young people’s contact information when they start attending the youth programme.
- Young people and parents are told why information is being collected.
- When newcomers are reluctant to give out information when they first start coming their wishes are respected without pressure, but they are also asked a second time once they have been attending regularly.
- The ministry regularly checks that the contact information held is up to date.
CCCNZ Youth offers a coaching programme for key youth leaders and youth pastors who would like help in implementing these principles as well as learning leadership skills. Contact us if you are interested.