Exemplary Youth Ministry Wants You….

Because you are already doing it.

Many of you already know the findings of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study.  You know about the 44 Faith Assets that were developed to share those findings.  Some of you have been using the assets to help assess your ministry.  You know that you’ve already got assets.  You are figuring out how to build on them, and develop more.

We started this blog not just to throw the EYM findings in front of you every day, but to give voice to you.  The practitioner.  The congregation.  This blog is the platform for the person who works with young people, and wants to aim youth ministry at a different target– characteristics of mature Christian faith in students.  This blog allows the church to learn from you.

This week begins the opportunity for your voice to share the EYM story.  We want the youth ministry world to hear from you about what you’ve discovered about moving to an integrated youth ministry.  We want to hear about how youth ministry has become “who we are.”   We want to hear the joys and the struggles of YOUR exemplary youth ministry journey.

Email us at eym@luthersem.edu and I’ll get you lined up to be one of bloggers.  You can do it just once, or keep putting your ideas and experiences out there over time.

Show us your exemplary colors.


A Culture of the Spirit

The EYM research discovered that it is the pervasive sense of the living, active presence of God at work among the people of the whole congregation, at work in its youth ministry, at work through the ministries of the congregation in the world, and at work with a passion that all peoples will have life and salvation that characterize these churches. It is the exemplary congregations’ communal celebration and practice of the Spirit of God that permeates all the values, relationships and practices that gives rise to an “atmosphere,” a “culture of the spirit” focused on mission and the transformation of life.

Can it be that the prime issues in exemplary youth ministry are as much theological and strategic as they are matters of practice?  EYM findings point in this direction. It seems that the commitments and practices regarding the nature and activity of God and the nature and activity of the church as she participates in the life of God, the body of Christ and the world that make the critical difference in these ministries with youth of vital faith.

The genius of these churches seems best described as something systemic, something almost mysterious. A “culture of the Spirit” emerges with its pervasive and distinct dynamics and atmosphere that is more powerful than its component parts. It’s the unique combination of the theology, core values, people, relationships, expectations, mores, activities etc. that seems to generate this a dynamic and atmosphere, thus pointing to a “culture of the Spirit” as a uniquely helpful image in understanding these exemplary ministries with youth.

–Dr Roland Martinson

In addition to his chair in Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, Rollie was the team leader of the Exemplary Youth Ministry study.  He currently serves as Luther’s Academic Dean.

It’s About Spheres Not Ears

You’ve been hearing about this for years now….from a whole variety of Youth Ministry sources.  –That the way we think about youth ministry in the church is just too narrow.  You know, the whole Micky Mouse ear thing.

That is what is so great about the EYM study. Instead of talking about what youth ministry shouldn’t be, it helps us all focus on what ministry with young people can and should be.

So as the Exemplary Youth Ministry study looked churches where youth ministry was effective, it found youth ministry that had oozed out of the youth room and was integrated into the whole of the churches’ life.  The activities, the culture, and yes, even the students.

As we share the results of the study with people we talk about that all the time. The study found that exemplary youth ministry actually encompasses four different spheres: leadership, home, congregation and age specific ministry. And those spheres  all overlap –more on that later.

And get this—22 of the 44 Faith Assets that the team developed to share the results of the study are about the congregation.  There are more congregational assets than youth ministry assets.

It is all about spheres, so we can finally let go of those ears.

Think about it. How does this change your approach to ministry?

Dr. Nancy Going is a 20 some year veteran of congregational youth ministry.  She coordinates the Distributed (distance) youth ministry students at Luther Seminary.  She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from the Exemplar congregations.

WHAT? There Are Committed Christian Youth?

The focus of the EYM study was the on the real faith of young people. That makes it essential to look at the nature of the faith reported by youth in the congregations in this study.

They were asked to tell their thoughts about God; what a committed Christian faith is; and what the nature of their faith is.

There are answers to these questions in the self-reports of the 2252 youth surveyed in these exemplary congregations. They describe important aspects of their faith in Jesus Christ.

There are 12 differing aspects of faith that the youth in the EYM study associate with being a committed Christian. They are:

  • A Personal Christianity
  • Moral Integrity
  • Moral Responsibility
  • Defends and Supports Friends
  • Reaches out to Others
  • God Consciousness
  • Seeks Spiritual Growth
  • Lives a Life of Service
  • Speaks Publicly About Ones Faith
  • Private Religious Study
  • Exploring a religious vocation

Most impressively, in their surveys, the parents, adult youth workers and pastors and youth ministers all report seeing the evidences of these same aspects of faith in the youth of their church.

Historical assessments of youth on the first five of these aspects were available for youth. The EYM scores were significantly higher than in the historical studies.

So there it is.  Straight from the mouths of youth.  And that kind of faith can be seen in the students of your church too.  What evidence do you see?  Is that what you’ve been looking for?

–from the EYM study documentswww.exemplarym.com

Exemplary Youth Ministry Markers

It’s still the standard question. “How many students do we have involved in our youth group?”

Churches ALL want to be doing quality, (yes, even exemplary) ministry with young people.

So let’s consider what the “markers” of successful youth ministry have been. When you think about how people define youth ministry success, what are your congregation’s pictures of youth ministry success?  Not your pictures….the people in your pews.

For many churches, the marker for success is still the number of students we have attending our youth group.

As if youth group=committed faith.

As if faith grows by group.

AND, concerned about our youth ministries, we go to conferences and read books to find new ways to meet THAT goal:  more students in our youth programs. We are constantly on the lookout to find NEW ways to meet the same old goals.

We’d like to assert here, that one of the most significant things about the Exemplary Youth Ministry study is that it began with a very specific and different set of markers.

It set out to find churches where young people scored higher on a measures of faith maturity.

You can find the measure among the documents at www.exemplarym.com

Some of the churches they found when following these success markers didn’t even have a youth room.  Several had volunteer leaders only.

But they were all focused on the faith of youth people.  That’s a different goal than youth group.

What could that look like at your church?  What does that look like at your church?

Dr. Nancy Going is a 20-some year veteran of congregational youth ministry.  She coordinates the Distributed (distance) Children Youth and Family Ministry Program at Luther Seminary.  She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from several of the Exemplar congregations.

Welcome to the EXEMPLARY YOUTH MINISTRY Conversation

From 2002-2004 leaders from seven different denominations gathered to find out what they could learn about EFFECTIVE youth ministry. So they found churches whose young people scored higher on measures of Christian Maturity. It was called the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study, and was funded by the Lily Foundation.
They surveyed youth, adults, parents, and leaders in 131 congregations.
They complied the results from over 7500 surveys
They chose 21 of those churches–small, medium and large churches from across the country for site visits.
They wrote up and wondered at what they saw and heard.
They developed 44 Faith Assets based on their results.
You already innately know some of their findings. Things like effective youth ministries are grown in effective churches.
And some of their findings have recently become hot topics in youth ministry conversation across the church…like the realization that congregations who integrate youth into the life of the larger congregation instead of isolating teens tend to develop more committed Christian youth.
Some of the findings are crying to be explored and applied further. That’s the purpose of this blog and facebook page.
Critical for this conversation is that their findings weren’t just about specific churches at a specific time who are exemplary while we’re not.
The EYM findings allow churches of all sizes, shapes and stripes to claim their committed and not-yet-so committed youth as the focus of their own EXEMPLARY Youth Ministry. We invite you to explore what those findings look like in YOUR ministry.
Welcome to the conversation.
Dr. Nancy Going is a 20 some year veteran of congregational youth ministry. She coordinates the Distributed (distance) Children Youth and Family Masters Degree Program at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from some of the Exemplar congregations.