40 Developmental Assets®

There is a difference in secular youth development organizations and your children’s ministry. The dissonance ranges from church to church, but by far the largest difference is the presence of the gospel intentionally woven into lessons and activities. Beyond this difference I think children’s ministries have a lot to learn from secular youth development practices. One of the biggest take aways from my time studying youth development at Texas A&M University was the accountability system in youth organizations created by the Search Institute called the 40 Developmental Assets®.

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Through the link you can find many different Models for the different age cohorts. Each list is broken down into two main sections, which are external and internal assets. The external assets include family support, other adult relationships, high expectations, child programs, religious community and others. The internal assets can be reading for pleasure, integrity, interpersonal competence, resistance skills, self esteem and others.

Some assets I found particularly valuable to consider were:

  1. Other adult relationships: child receives support from adults other than her or his parent(s).  This is you in your children’s ministry. You make a difference by showing these kids support. I absolutely remember non-parental role models who shaped my life as a youth, so I am inspired to have similar relationships now with kids with whom I have influence.
  2. Community values youth: child feels valued and appreciate by adults in the community. This one confused me at first. What does a community valuing youth have to do with their development? However, I remember the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child”. The more connected a child feels to their community the more receptive they will be to their support and love.
  3. Cultural Competence: child knows and is comfortable with people of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds and with her or his own cultural identity. This one is very mission minded. I want to instill in kids that there is a world beyond themselves. By instilling this asset we can help our kids learn how to engage people who are different.

The more assets a youth owns the more likely they are to become fully functional adults in the future. The combination of internal and external assets are instrumental in the development of a child. It could be advantagous for you to put this list against what you are doing in your children’s ministry. How are you developing a sense of purpose in your kids, how are you letting the community see the value in their youth,  what ways can you help kids develop planning and decision making skills within your ministry?

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