It seems to me that the ratio of staff to students in AFES ministry is normally lower (up to 2x) than the ratio of staff to congregation members in a local church. I'm not sure if this holds true with the megafauna AFES ministries at UNSW and SU, perhaps someone can confirm that?

The ratio in AFES, is roughly 1 senior staff and 1 apprentice for every 50-70 students – does that sound about right?

Now why the lower ratio? Here are some ideas – would love your thoughts:

  1. Leading a young and transient group of people means there is not the same capacity to train up leaders from among the members of the group to high level, long-term responsibility.
  2. AFES ministry tends to run twice as many conferences as local church ministry: in the average year an AFES ministry will often run a 'kickoff conference, an MYC (for FIVE days) and then take a group to National Training Event. On top of this many groups run 2-3 other conference for faculty groups, guys/girls or leaders. By contrast most churches will run at most a church camp each year.
  3. AFES ministry tends to run twice as many events as a local church ministry: giveaways, cold contacting potential students, 2 evangelistic missions, mission trips, evangelistic courses, walk up evangelism – contrast the number of events an AFES ministry of 50 students runs, compared to an average church of 50 people.
  4. AFES ministry involves all staff in direct support raising work for their own salary and the ministry expenses of the ministry. Of course all ministry involves some kind of support raising, whether we realise it or not, but the AFES ministry is much more front-line and intensive. Very little of the income for AFES ministry comes directly from those who are attending the ministry at the time. This takes between 1-8 hours a week out of an AFES staff's week every week.
  5. Almost every person in an AFES ministry is also a 'household', whereas in most local churches a large number of households have 2-6 adults and children in them. Certain kinds of discipleship, promotion, communication and data gathering need to be done one person at a time, rather than one household (of 2-6 people).
  6. An AFES ministry requires intensive interaction with many other ministries – local churches, supporters, graduates, high school, youth groups, the university administration, the university student union, other Christian groups on campus and other religious/atheist groups on campus. Compare the size of the database of an AFES ministry with that of a local church of a simliar size and you'll see the difference.
  7. An AFES ministry has a higher turnover of staff – who leave AFES to go off to 'real' ministry in parish – and so AFES staff are recruiting new staff at a higher rate.
  8. An AFES staff is less likely to have volunteer or paid administrative staff  – hence more time licking stamps.
  9. An AFES ministry is less like to have permanent facilities for meetings and storage – hence more time spent in transport and venue hire.
  10. Many AFES ministries are functionally 1:1 discipleship networks – with a commitment to have every student in their ministry meeting 1:1 with staff or apprentices. To actually maintain this goal they would actually require a ratio of at MOST 1 staff/apprentice for every 10 students!

What are your thought? Which of these reasons are fair? Which are inaccurate? Are we doing it all wrong? What could make campus ministry more cost-effective? Or is it just the nature of the ministry?

Mikey Lynch is one of the directors of Geneva Push and regularly sharing his thoughts here on this Christian Reflections blog.

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