Outcome-based education

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 cultural 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.


Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

Now Available!

A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Now Available!

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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