The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry

On my home bookshelf I have posted one of my favourite quotes: “Books to the ceiling, books to the sky, my pile of books is a mile high.  How I love them!  How I need them!  I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them” (Arnold Lobel).  Yes, I admit to being a book freak.  I buy them regularly and at least try to read most of those I buy.  But every so often a book comes out that I am GENUINELY excited about … this is one of those.

In 2002 I was privileged to attend a meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota which proved the genesis of a major study into what makes for exemplary youth ministry congregations.  The Exemplary Youth Ministry Study commenced in 2003, under the leadership of Professor Roland Martinson of Luther Seminary.  It cost over a million dollars, took in seven mainline denominations (from Catholic to Assemblies of God), researched hundreds of congregations, and produced some very significant research findings.  In essence, the study identified 44 Faith Assets that are associated with vibrant congregations producing mature young disciples who genuinely know and follow Christ.  The more Assets a congregation has, the more likely it is to be carrying out effective ministry with young people and their families.  At some point along the continuum of Assets, there is a “tipping point” which sees a congregation move from being “good” to “exemplary”.

One signficant finding of the study is the culture of the congregation as a whole is vitally important for effective youth ministry.  Half of the 44 Faith Assets pertain to congregational leadership, qualities and practices.  The health and vitality of the wider system of congregational life underpins what takes place in ministries that are specifically designed for and directed towards young people and their families.  You can read more here.

Why my “book” excitement?  Well, after 3-4 years of patient waiting, the results of the study will be laid out in a book entitled “The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry“.  I am advised that the book (authored by Roland Martinson, Wes Black and John Roberto – a Lutheran, a Catholic and a Southern Baptist) will be out on 15 September with a large launching event to be held at Luther Seminary on 18 October.

I wish I could be there  … I’ll just have to wait for the book!

P.S.  There is a blogsite which discusses the findings and practical ministry implications of the EYM study – see this recent post by Nancy Going.

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