How can we tell if our youth ministry is doing well? People measure effectiveness in many ways: some point to the number of “unchurched” youth being reached, others to “relevance” or unique programs or big groups. What is the measure?

To evaluate our ministry’s effectiveness, I use seven basic questions.

1. Are student needs being met? We need to address both the “felt” needs (like “What about rock ‘n’ roll?”) and the “real” needs (like understanding the deity of Christ).

Focus is also important. Are we answering questions no one is asking? Adults must take care to address the needs of the teenagers rather than focusing on their own needs as adults.

We measure our effectiveness in this area by two standards: Attendance—youth are not often vocal about irrelevance; they register their opinion by their presence or absence. Feedback—we ask students, “Is this applicable to you or your world? What issues are you struggling with?” We are always filled with new ideas after these frank discussions. The key, of course, is listening well and acting on their ideas.

2. Are youth learning the “basics”? The “felt” needs alone are not enough. Students must learn to wrestle with the issues of faith so they can be established as Christians. As Jacques Ellul writes: “We must not shelter the young from the world’s dangers, but arm them so that they will be able to overcome them.” This means not only training them in Christian responses to worldly morality but also equipping them in the basics of Bible study, prayer, and other Christian disciplines.

We gear at least half our Sunday school lessons to these ...

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