Outcomes Based Youth Ministry

In the past few years, there has been a lot of buzz in the youth ministry world about outcomes based ministry. Much of this talk has resulted from the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study conducted in 2003. Conversations. Workshops. Books. Lists. The results of that study EYM have produced more literature and ideas than could possibly be broken down in a few short blog posts (let alone one). As we’ve been working through the vision for programming and youth ministry here at Epiphany, though, my brain has been occupied once again by a flurry of objectives, goals, skills, and outcomes that are out there, speaking direction into the world of youth ministry.

What are the characteristics of a mature Christian that we hope our young people have when we launch them into young adulthood at the end of their time in a “traditional” youth ministry program?

What are the characteristics of a congregation that is successful at empowering young people to live out a holistic Christian faith?

There are lots of different voices weighing in on the matter, and lists range anywhere from five basic skills to 40+ skills. All telling us what we “ought” to look like as the church and what we “ought” to be teaching our young people.

Reggie Joiner, and the reThink Group have established a list of five basic things that young people “need to be able to do so they can own their faith and make it personal” (Think Orange, 194):

  • Navigate The Bible [survey, locate]: To learn where they can go to find verses that will help them with specific questions
  • Personalize Scripture [memorize, apply]: To remember Scripture when they need it most and apply it in everyday situations
  • Dialogue with God [public, private]: To encourage them to practice talking with God
  • Articulate your Faith [share, defend]: To be able to discuss and wrestle with what they believe so children and teenagers can make their faith their own.
  • Worship With Your Life [serve, invest]: To know how to give back to God and to serve Him in the way they live their everyday lives.
This list seems pretty complete, but to me it still seems pretty generalized. Maybe it’s the former education major in me, but it almost seems like this needs to serve as a springboard for more specific and measurable objectives.
The Exemplary YM Study gives a much more comprehensive list of 34 Characteristics of a Mature Christian Youth. Their list is broken down into seven categories:
  • Seek Spiritual Growth, Both Alone and With Others
  • Believe God is Present in the World
  • Act Out a Commitment of Faith
  • Be Active with God’s People
  • Possess a Positive, Hopeful Spirit
  • Live Out a Life of Service
  • Live a Christian Moral Life
If you are a parent, church leader, volunteer… or really anyone else who is passionate about the Christian faith and passing it along to the next generation, what do you believe are the really important outcomes of a healthy youth ministry program, a healthy upbringing in a Christian family, and a healthy partnership between church and home?
In the next few weeks, I’ll share some thoughts on what a congregation looks like and does in order to disciple youth in these important skills and outcomes of the faith.
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