30 Questions to ask teenagers about your youth ministry (+ FREE ministry assessment download)

Brad M. Griffin Image Brad M. Griffin | Apr 24, 2024

How’s your youth ministry doing?

How do you know?

Who gets to weigh in on that question?

I’ll admit, I’m pretty wary about assessing, evaluating, or otherwise determining “success” in youth ministry. It’s complicated.

For example, is an event successful if a lot of students showed up but some students felt left out of the group games you played? Is a year successful if freshmen and sophomores really engaged but juniors and seniors disappeared? Is intergenerational mentoring successful if one pair seems to flourish while the others wither? The answers to these questions aren’t straightforward.

And if they knew we were trying to answer questions like this, our students might feel kind of gross or even like they’re being used to prop up our success.


I’m convinced that the majority of fruit from youth ministry grows slowly—often much more slowly than we might like. And yet, the sooner we can settle into the reality that most discipleship is not that flashy, the sooner we might notice other ways to take stock of how we’re doing.

At the Fuller Youth Institute, we often talk about needing a better report card to evaluate youth ministry, or how we might redefine success in ministry beyond metrics like attendance and giving. Our team’s work leading up to Faith Beyond Youth Group yielded a research-based five-point compass you can use to orient your ministry. But without a map, you may not know where to start or how to orient your discipleship efforts with that compass.

Download the full Faith Beyond Youth Group
30-question ministry assessment

The thing is, we can’t just give you that map. That’s because your ministry is YOUR ministry. Not ours.

We know young people, but you know your young people. All ministry happens in a context, and you know your context best. You need a plan that works for your setting and your students.

Measure your ministry’s progress using the Faith Beyond Youth Group Compass

A good plan starts with knowing where you are.

As researchers and leaders, we’ve noticed that what matters most in assessing youth ministry success isn’t what we as adults think, but what our teenagers think. So before creating your map, measure your ministry’s progress through the lens of your students.

You can score your ministry by yourself—but this evaluation will be much more useful if you ask some teenagers, youth group graduates, parents, and youth ministry volunteers for their input. Consider asking a diverse cross-section of your students to answer these questions so you can unearth any gaps between your perceptions and their actual experiences.

Here are some questions from our Faith Beyond Youth Group ministry assessment you can ask teenagers in your ministry.

Cultivate Trust

As leaders, relationships can build faith beyond youth group when they’re permeated with trust and punctuated with empathy and authenticity. Cultivating trust asks how youth ministries can best leverage the relational strengths they already possess to develop character-forming identity, belonging, and purpose. Ask your students these questions to gauge how well you’re cultivating trust:

  • When we share significant feelings and experiences in youth group, can we trust the adults to act in our best interest?
  • Do we feel relationally close to others in our youth ministry?
  • Do adults in our ministry empathize with what we’re experiencing (meaning they notice and care)?
  • Do adults in our ministry show us who they authentically are—instead of trying to be somebody they aren’t?

Model Growth

Modeling is showing others who we are every day. Teenagers are watching for what our everyday actions reveal. When we live consistently, we let them know they can trust us with the parts of themselves they might be hesitant to bring to church—including their doubts, questions, mistakes, and hurts. Here are a few helpful questions to discern how you’re modeling growth:

  • Are we around adults whose character inspires us to imitate them?
  • Do adults in our ministry model spiritual growth?
  • Are we regularly encouraged to model our lives after Jesus’ example?
  • Is it natural in our ministry to talk about changing and growing over time?

Teach for Transformation

Teaching is imperative to faith and character formation. Teaching for transformation demands that we go beyond giving a talk and encourages us to think creatively and experientially, guiding young people to discover answers to their questions. Use these questions to assess how you’re teaching for transformation:

  • What rituals and practices are used in both our youth ministry and larger faith community?
  • Do adults and teens regularly share our stories with each other in our youth ministry?
  • Do adults in our youth ministry know what topics and issues we care about most?
  • Do leaders regularly use our questions to teach?

Practice Together

As we practice together, we walk with young people through a cycle of action and reflection, helping them try on service, leadership, hospitality, and holistic practices that move faith out of their heads and into their hands and feet. Here are some questions about practicing together:

  • Does our youth ministry give us regular opportunities to practice loving each other and our world?
  • Does our ministry help us not just think about character with our minds but actually give us opportunities to feel and act lovingly?
  • Do we use current events as springboards to cultivate character?
  • Do we have opportunities to lead and use our gifts to cultivate character in ourselves and others?

Make Meaning

When we make meaning, we tap into the power of naming experiences, evaluating our actions, and connecting to the larger biblical narrative before we go out and try again. It’s about helping young people integrate their faith into what they’re seeing and experiencing in the world around them. Here are some questions that indicate how well you’re making meaning:

  • Does our ministry intentionally give time and space to process and make meaning from experiences?
  • Do adults in our ministry ask good questions to help us find meaning from significant events in our lives?
  • Do we use symbols, stories, and everyday objects to make spiritual meaning and explore faith in our ministry?
  • Does our ministry make spiritual meaning in the midst of tragedy and loss?


Get the full 30-question Faith Beyond Youth Group ministry assessment
and start asking great questions to evaluate your ministry.

Choose the best starting point to achieve your youth ministry goals

Given your students’ responses, which one or two compass points do you want to focus on first?

You may want to select the areas where your students, leaders, or families had the least to say. Or you may want to choose the one or two points that most resonated with you or your team.

Then consider:

  • What can your ministry do in the next three days to make progress in this area of Faith Beyond Youth Group?
  • How about the next three weeks?
  • What about the next three months?
  • Who else needs to be involved in these next steps?

We don’t have to be afraid of assessing our ministries.

When we start with the right questions, we can learn new insights and gain motivation and courage to make the changes our students need for the sake of their own faith journeys. And if students start living out faith beyond youth group, that’s worth the work.

Tweet this: A good plan starts with knowing where you are. Download a free assessment of 30 questions to ask teenagers about your youth ministry.

Portions of this post are adapted with permission from Faith Beyond Youth Group: 5 Ways to Form Character and Cultivate Lifelong Discipleship, by Kara Powell, Jen Bradbury, and Brad M. Griffin. Published by Baker Books, 2023.

If you're tired of youth ministry that fails to change lives, it's time to change youth ministry


Building on two decades of the Fuller Youth Institute's work and incorporating extensive new research and interviews, Faith Beyond Youth Group identifies the reasons it feels like you’re working so hard but having so little impact, and offers five ways adult youth leaders can cultivate character for a lifetime of growing closer to Jesus rather than drifting away. With practical insight and tips, you’ll find out how to cultivate trust, model growth, teach for transformation, practice together, and make meaning so that teenagers can become adults who hold fast to Jesus and boldly live out a robust faith in the world around them.

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Brad M. Griffin Image
Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content & Research for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based resources for youth ministry leaders & families. A speaker, writer, and volunteer pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over fifteen books, including Faith Beyond Youth Group, 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager & 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future, Growing Young, and Sticky Faith. Brad and his wife, Missy, live in Southern California and share life with their three teenage and young adult kids.

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