Our youth group at the church is experiencing an "Explosion". I have been through some before. This is a great thing, but reminds me of the truth of youth ministry I have discovered. For a few years we were standing about 3 youth (2001-2004). In 2004 we had another family come into the church, bringing another 5 youth. From there we were able to grow a little more and stand around 12-14. This past fall we had another family come and join the congregation, with another three youth. This promptly put us over 15 youth.
Last night we had 30, and last week we had 33. This kind of thing can only be of God. The really cool part is just watching the group dynamics. We have a group full of evangelists (people who want to share this experience they are having with their friends). Many of them bring their friends to youth and that is fantastic, and their social nature definitely shapes the growth and nature of our youth group. The downside is that the youth are social and want to use the entire youth group time as social time, which makes it very tough to lead the program...gotta reshape how we do things.
But, back to the premise of growth. A few observations from about 10 years in youth ministry. The first critical mass is 3. With three youth you can actively have a youth group. Without that number it is very hard to get one or two to make the commitment to such a program. I will say it helps tremendously to have them be from at least two families. The second critical mass is 8. With 8 the group now feels like it can do some "programs" with games and activities and such that are in all the great resource books in publication. The group of 8 youth is also now looking at how to get more youth there, and less than that they are harping on how they can't get more people to come. The third critical mass is 15. From 15 the group doesn't really feel the loss of any one person on a week to week basis. When that happens then the group seeks to grow even more and feels more comfortable bringing friends because they are less likely to be put "on the spot".
Which leads me to the last critical mass, but needs its own paragraph because it is less about growth and more about shrinking. The last critical mass number is about 75. When the youth group hits this number it loses much of the intimacy that brought folks in the first place, and now they begun to walk away because they came to form some intimate relationships.
Some of you may recall a series I did on churches and how big they can become and when it might become "too big". I think the reason for the difference in numbers from adulthood to youth has to do with self-esteem development, and the general socialization process that happens in the young adult years.
Just a few observations I call "truths" because of their lived experience.