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Core Competencies in Youth Ministry

I have never been a good “Ra-Ra-Ra Youth Minister.” You know the guy that is a mastermind at the games, the gimmicks and the goofiness. The upfront, loud, visual and booming personality guy. Think Saturday Night Live Spartan Cheerleaders. That is my personality type but I have fought years to resist it because of a quote Mike King used in Presence-Centered Youth Ministry. It goes (thinking off of memory) like this:

We need more youth workers who love Jesus, not youth ministry. Click To Tweet

That has always resonated with me and so pouring my heart into developing the souls of young people has been my passion. I am not big on theories, practices, programs or the like. I will always sacrifice game planning, graphic design for soul mending and conversation.

Thinking about the process out loud and what I have done over 11 years in youth ministry I think there are some core competencies that our students should understand when they leave the ministry. What I mean by “core competency” is a central part of their identity as a Christian who were discipled in our ministry.

[Disclaimer: It always does not work out when a teenager graduates. Commitment from parents, buy-in from the students and a million other factors sometimes get in the way of teens modeling these competencies.]

#1 – Service

  • Has a genuine desire to serve the internal community of the church and the external community of our zip code.
  • This includes serving “the least of these,” multi-generations and different sectors of people.
  • This competency is evident when they desire to serve “even if they can’t count it as community service hours for a scholarship.”

#2 – Decision-Making

  • Uses sound discernment based on scripture, prayer and life to decide on how to handle an issue.
  • Will not make many decisions that will adversely affect the church community.
  • Stays committed to the decisions they made.

#3 – Community

  • They genuinely want to do life with folks in their church community.
  • Their commitment level extends into college as they plug into various church communities in their area.

#4 – Spiritually Disciplined

  • Develops practices that foster communion with the Divine.
  • These practices are, but are not limited to, prayer, scripture reading, fasting, solitude, pilgrimage, singing, etc.
  • They do not view the practices as ends in and of themselves, but are part of the process of how they meet God.

#5 – Independent

  • They do not need the youth ministry of their upbringing in order to have a walk with God.
  • They desire to work and worship in places other than their home church (not required but always a plus).
  • Difficult times form their spiritual journey instead of crush it.

#6 – Pro Church

  • They understand that there is no perfect church and desire to help the church and not hurt it.
  • They have a penchant love for the local church and will do their best to help it grow.
  • They are not easily swayed by church haters and hoppers who can’t seem to plug into a church because of __________________________ (they fill in the blank).

#7 – Missional

  • Seek to be and share the gospel wherever they go.
  • They are concerned about inward functions of the church but only so much as it helps the outward reach to the unchurched.
  • They practice incarnational ministry. Just as Jesus came into the flesh to preach and be the gospel so is this group.

#8 – Biblically Literate

  • They know the story of Scripture from Creation to Consummation.
  • They understand how the individual parts of the story contribute to the overall narrative of THE story (They are not Pauline in knowledge but they know the whole story).
  • The stories in Scripture serve as the atmosphere of which they live and breathe.

#9 – Trinitarian

  • Their way of life is modeled through the Father, Son and The Holy Spirit.
  • It models a full relational component to ethics based on the way the Trinity interacts with each other.
  • They are obedient to the Father, bought with the blood of Jesus and sealed by the Spirit.

There you go…thinking out loud. What would you add?


  1. Luke says:

    This is a great list!

    Maybe a good follow-up post (or series) would be to describe the steps you take to help your students develop these competencies before they graduate from your youth ministry? Some specific related questions:
    –Are your students aware of this list of characteristics and that this is something that your youth ministry seeks to develop in them, or is it something that comes as a natural by-product of their involvement?
    –Do you plan specific events and activities to instill these characteristics, or are they brought about more through teaching?
    –Do you have a method of evaluating your students to see to what degree they are developing the core competencies that you are wanting them to develop?

    I understand and agree that people can go overboard with “theories, practices, programs or the like”, but with such an extensive list (and again, I think it is a great list!), there has to be some methodology to bring these characteristics about, right?

    • Robbie says:

      Luke, those are great questions. I am going to email you a longer response but in short, there does need to be evaluation on these competencies otherwise we are throwing things against a wall hoping it sticks.

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