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The Competencies for Ministry to/with Youth (PDF, 11 pages) are eight vital areas of development for volunteers, staff and professionals in youth ministry. Co-created by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and UUA Congregational Life staff, they embody a regional and national standard for youth ministry. There is no requirement that these tools are used for any congregation’s youth ministry. However, it provides common language with which to describe resources available in the area of youth ministry. 

We recognize we are all on a journey towards these standards. Youth ministry is relational; there is always more self-reflection and deepening we can do as our own lives unfold and we change and grow. Learn and grow together by using the competencies in your advisor/teacher development and watching the Youth Ministry Training webinar series for each competency. For a list of resources accompanying the webinar series please refer to the Competencies Resource List (PDF, 5 pages).

Enhance Leadership

The competencies can be used by individual lay leaders, teams, religious educators and ministers who are part of their congregation’s ministry to and with youth. Lay leaders may be religious education teachers, youth advisors, youth program coordinators, Our Whole Lives teachers, Coming of Age mentors, “bridging” mentors, conference sponsors, service trip leaders or other adults in youth ministry.

It is important that all religious professionals are aware of these areas of competency as they work with youth and support volunteers and staff. Ministers and religious educators can use the competencies to work together in evaluating the goals of their youth ministry program.

Ace Youth Ministry

Each competency has three categories: entry level (critical for volunteers to have on day one), basic (forms the foundation of a healthy youth ministry), and advanced (appropriate for long-term volunteers, paid staff, and other highly committed adults). A competent adult in youth ministry strives to excel in all eight areas of their category.

Intro to the Competencies

Cover of the Competencies For Ministry To/With Youth skills evaluation matrix.

Be introduced to the Competencies for Ministry To/with Youth - what they are, who they're for, and how to use them.

#1 Relationships & Leadership

Rev. Katie Kandarian-Morris high fives a youth

Learn about healthy relationships and shared leadership with youth.

#2 Creating Safe(R) Programs

several youth of varying racial identities and genders sit on a bench, some looking serious, some being silly

When we know better, we do better. Learn about current best practices for youth safety including updated policies and procedures.

#3 Pastoral Care/Intervention

a young black woman wearing glasses looks encouragingly at a person who is facing her, speaking. that person is blurry and not the focus of the picture.

In times of need, youth are most likely to turn to the adults they know best. Adults in youth ministry should also support youth learning how to listen deeply to each other.

#4 Inclusive Youth Ministry

A smiling group of youth of color.

Being truly inclusive of different identities and individuals is a key part of our Unitarian Universalist (UU) theology. It is important that adults recognize that, developmentally, adolescents care deeply about being included and seen.

#5 Effective Communication

youth group 2

Create and maintain sustainable communications systems and organizational tools; practice compassionate communication skills; become competent in social media.

#6 Major Models

Participants in conversation at the UU-UNO's Intergenerational Spring Seminar

Get familiar with the most modern models of youth programming. Learn multiple ways to do youth ministry. Ensure that youth feel like they have a home in their spiritual community that goes beyond just meeting with other youth.

#7 Developing Self-Knowledge

UUA President stands with a group of youth holding up their hands in the shape of a chalice.

Most of youth ministry, like all ministry, is not really about doing. It's about being. Are adults being authentic, caring and in real relationship? Are they knowledgeable about themselves and their UU theology?

#8 Functioning on a Team


Youth ministry is not solo ministry; it is a piece of the larger structure of the congregation. There are many reasons adults should not work solo including safety policies, the risk of burnout, and the power collaboration brings. Mentoring and being mentored makes us all stronger!

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