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Youth Ministry: “Outcomes”

posted by Scot McKnight

This post is from Jen Bradbury, and I read this on her blog through a “tweet”. This is one of the very few posts or reviews that have talked at all about the outcome-based education I talked about in The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
, but more importantly, Jen takes it to the next level by asking what those outcomes might look like for her youth group.

Youth ministers: What are your outcomes? What are your top five? Do you have any assessment tools that measure whether or not you are meeting your outcomes?

During the past month, I’ve been inching my way through Scot McKnight’s “The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible,” a book which I definitely recommend.

One of the things that Scot talks about in this book is outcome based education, about which he says, “Outcome-based education means we ask this question as we prepare & teach: ‘What do we want our students to be & to be able to do at the end of this course, this major, & this degree?'”

Though I certainly don’t teach in an academic setting, I do have the privilege of teaching the youth in my ministry & so this week, I’ve been thinking about how this idea applies to my ministry setting. On any given week, as I prepare to teach – whether in a small group discussion setting, through a service event & the processing that follows, or through a talk I give or a teaching experience I design, I honestly spend a fair amount of time thinking about what I want my youth to gain from that experience, about what my desired outcome for them is. Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to expose my teens to Scripture. At other times, I want them to leave with a question about a specific story or idea that will cause them to continue wrestling with it throughout the week. At other times, I actually want them to leave knowing something concrete about Jesus, God’s character, or theology.  


While all of that’s good, it seems somewhat short-sighted to me. So as I’ve been toying with this idea this week, I’ve also begun thinking about what my desired long-term outcomes are for those teens in my ministry.

By the end of four years in my ministry, I want my youth

- To have a relationship with Christ.

- To “own” their faith. I want for their faith to be theirs, and not mine, or that of their parents, or even that of our church. I want my youth to leave confident in their faith so that they can withstand the hurdles that other people will intentionally and unintentionally throw at it.

- To be unafraid of questions and doubts.

- To understand “imago dei” theology & treat others with the dignity & respect that comes from knowing they’re created in God’s image.

- To appreciate other Christian denominations, viewing them not as our competition or enemies but rather as our brothers & sisters in Christ. I want my youth to understand that we can learn from the different beliefs, worship styles, and traditions that exist in Christian denominations.

- To understand their role in the Body of Christ and to know that even as youth and young adults, they’re not just the future of the church, they ARE the church.

- To understand the importance of intergenerational community within the Body of Christ and to know, have relationships with, and value the Saints in our faith community.

- To be connected to a faith-based community that loves, supports, and guides them in their faith.

- To be committed to the local church and to know how to be a part of it – not just by attending it, but by serving it.

- To be connected to a non-parental, caring adult who has mentored them in their faith.

- To have discovered their gifts and understand how to use them to glorify & honor God.

- To be committed to living out their faith by serving others – not just during a week long summer mission trip, but wherever they are throughout their daily lives and in their own communities.

- To know how to advocate on behalf of the least of these.

- To know how to listen to others.

- To be Biblically literate and to have an understanding of the Bible as a story, not just as a rule book, science book, or encyclopedia.

- To understand the basic theology of their faith.

- To appreciate creation and know how to be a good steward of it.

- To be a critic of the culture around them and yet to be unafraid of that culture and willing to contribute to it by creating their own art.

- To understand how their faith influences their perception of current events & vice versa.

- To understand that their faith is a journey, not a destination and that as such, it will always be evolving and growing.

These desired outcomes are very different than those I would have listed when I began ministry 7 years ago, something that also makes me wonder how they’ll continue to evolve as I change, as my faith grows and expands, and as the youth around me change. I also realize that the vast majority of these desired outcomes are difficult to measure and even more difficult to program – at least the way most of us currently do youth ministry. Yet, I think it’s worth experimenting with new, creative, experiential, intergenerational approaches to youth ministry in order to achieve these things.

After all, they represent not just the desired outcomes I have for my youth, but also those that I have for my own faith experience.



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Brian in NZ

posted September 21, 2009 at 3:08 pm


Just imagine what the whole church would be like if this was the normal world view and practice of every Christian. Well done Jen.



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Tom LeGrand

posted September 21, 2009 at 3:10 pm


I am currently in a Doctor of Education program at Gardner-Webb University. Although this is a secular education program, I am “attacking” it from a Christian perspective. In analyzing the education ministries of our church–from youth through adults–I have discovered that there are few tools used for assessment and evaluation.
My fear is that the greatest “assessment” of youth ministry involves counting heads. If the crowd is big, then we MUST be effective in the ministry. The shallow nature of this perspective often pervades everything in church life. Simply put, I can draw a crowd of students with free beer and strippers. This does not mean they are learning anything valuable.
I really like the way that the outcomes are ordered and worded, but suspect that it takes a lot more work to figure out how to point students in that direction! I would think that it would help to simplify and narrow down the focus at the beginning; but still, the point is made about the need to look for some outcome from youth ministry.



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Rodney

posted September 21, 2009 at 4:22 pm


Great list of outcomes, but the trick is assessment. How do you know, Jen, whether these outcomes are evident? And, would any method of assessment naturally lead to legalism?



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Phil

posted September 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm


Great list Jen, very similar to mine. I’m very concerned with critical thinking and students understanding that we are sent by God into the world to be ambassador’s.
Phil



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Jeff Greathouse

posted September 21, 2009 at 9:04 pm


That is one long list



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Jonathan Sigmon

posted September 21, 2009 at 11:53 pm


Perfect. I am just about to start a job as a new youth pastor and I will be using this list to help cast vision and outcomes for myself and the church community. Thanks so much for sharing!
-Sigs



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Attie Nel

posted September 22, 2009 at 12:42 am


I agree with Jeef – long list – is their any way to summarise this list in categories or something like that to make the list shorter?



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Andrea Wenburg

posted September 22, 2009 at 1:23 am


The idea of outcomes is great, but as stated previously they are difficult to measure. John Owen described spiritual growth as growing like a tree…growth seems inperceptible at times but after a while one looks around and sees that a huge, sturdy oak tree stands where the seed was once planted. I am involved in a young women’s ministry and my overall ministry goals are very similar to Jen’s. I focus on different ones at different times. If I were to seek outcomes as I would in a linear equation, I would spend all my time with a spread sheet trying to measure growth of individuals and would therefore simplify my list a great deal to remain sane. But God moves in holistic, mysterious ways, and I’ve been learning that I can’t try to teach everything at once. It seems that if we are attentive to where the Spirit of God is moving in ourselves, other individuals and the groups we lead, we will know what next outcome or set of outcomes to pursue. That requires taking time to listen and not clinging to our pre-set plans. I think if we do this there is no need to simplify our goals and we can live in the tension of logical outcomes and mysterious growth.



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Brian Bennett

posted September 22, 2009 at 10:41 am


I have wrestled with this as well (I am a youth director at a church). Very helpful list and thoughts. As I am trying to “organize” and simply in my mind so that I can help the youth leaders, parents and students better see the vision to reach for (Christ-Centeredness…Willow Creek came out with a lot of great stuff on what it means to be Christ centered), I am wondering if I can group the standards under Mind, Heart, Will. Is that too constricting? One of the aspects that I appreciated about the author’s list was the connections to the larger body, which is always an extremely challenging aspect of youth ministry.



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Beau Davis

posted August 11, 2010 at 10:18 am


I have been working diligently on this question since I got my first job as a youth pastor in 2000. Tough is an understatement. The published curriculum has short term outcomes with no long term outcomes in mind. The best that I, and other youth ministers in the DFW area that I work with have come up with, is a progressive curriculum model covering 5 areas: History of God’s People, Christian theology, Family Life, Biblical Literacy, Story of God, Worship as Life, and Faith amid Culture, with two purposes in mind. 1st to connect teens with God through Christ Jesus, and 2nd to keep teens connected to Christ body, the Church, when they launch out own their own. 7-8th, 9th-10th, and 11th-12th each has class series that build upon the next through to graduation. All of this knowing full well that God is the one who brings about the transformed life.



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