CER Youth Resources for Models of Youth Programs

There are as many ways to structure youth ministry as there are congregations. A congregation’s size and history has an impact. Many congregations think of the emblematic youth ministry as “youth group”: a one-sized fits all weekly youth run program. Challenges of this model include the fact that not all youth want the same thing and a tendency to segregate youth from the rest of the congregation.

Best Practices

  • Have multiple pathways to youth congregational engagement
  • Include youth voices in planning so programs serve your youth’s interests
  • Youth-adult partnership should be part of every component, knowing the balance of youth and adult leadership is different in different context.
  • Look for ways to create multiple kinds of youth leadership opportunities
  • Include ways for youth to be mentored and to mentor
  • Use the Six Pillars of Balanced Youth Ministry (PDF) as a guide for a balance of activities
  • Use the Web of Youth Ministry (PDF) to look at all the ways you are supporting youth

Ideas for program components

  • The core of “youth group” has been forming deep relationships like small group ministry. Small group ministry provides a resource to continue this strength.
  • Community building among your youth is important. Use The Five Stages of Community Building as a framework in planning effective community building social time. And games are a great way to bond, open up, and lay a foundation for deeper community!
  • Intentionally include worship, both youth centered worship and worship with the community
  • Include spiritual practices
  • Including youth in adult faith formation classes
  • Look beyond your congregation--working together as a cluster can mean more ideas, more youth, and more volunteers.
  • Look outside UU ism--many cities are forming interfaith youth ministries to help youth build deeper relationships across faith difference.

The best way to explore models of youth ministry is to look for stories about how other congregations are doing youth ministry. This webinar contains several stories. This example from the UU Congregation of Asheville is a great example of multiple pathways.

Local Activities

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About the Authors

Evin Carvill Ziemer

Evin serves as the Developmental Lead for the New England Region. Evin holds a Masters of Divinity from Earlham School of Religion and Bachelor of Arts from Carleton College.

Shannon Harper

Shannon Harper joined the Lifespan Faith Engagement Office as Co-Director in the summer of 2022. Previously, Shannon worked with the Central East Region since the Fall of 2016.

For more information contact .

Evin Carvill Ziemer and Shannon Harper

Resources Curated by Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer (left), CER Program Manager for Youth Ministry and Shannon Harper (right), CER Youth and Young Adult Coordinator


Models of Youth Ministry Webinar