Are Students Thriving?

Youth Specialties
April 21st, 2016

As you near the end of the school year, it’s a good time to evaluate the effectiveness of your ministry. After a year of being in your programs, are your students thriving? How are they doing in the areas of spiritual depth, personal development, and leadership?

The late Dr. Peter Benson, a pioneer in the field of positive youth development and director of the Search Institute, extensively researched and created ways to help youth thrive. After surveying more than three million youth, the institute introduced 40 Developmental Assets. These assets are a lens through which youth programming can be evaluated.

The Developmental Assets are divided into two main categories: external assets and internal assets.

External assets focus on relationships and opportunities youth experience in their families, schools, and communities.

Internal assets focus on competencies and values youth develop to guide their choices, behaviors, and confidence.

The external assets are

  • support from adults who appreciate and accept youth;
  • empowerment through youth feeling safe, valued, and respected;
  • boundaries and expectations from clear rules, consistent consequences for breaking rules, and encouragement for youth to do their best; and
  • constructive use of time through opportunities to develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults.

The internal assets are

  • commitment to learning in which youth realize the lasting importance of learning, and they believe in their own abilities;
  • positive values for making healthy life choices;
  • social competencies for effective interactions, coping with new situations, and making difficult decisions; and
  • positive identity from youth believing in their own self-worth.

Access to caring, trusted adults provides the building blocks youth need to reach their goals and thrive. Connecting and building relationships with them is key.

Youth involved in faith communities tend to have higher numbers of developmental assets and are more likely to say faith is important to them. They also get involved in fewer risky behaviors and are more likely to exhibit positive values such as leadership and success in school. The secret is you!


barb higginsBarb Higgins draws from more than 45 years of experience in teen ministry with a Master’s Degree in secondary education. After retiring from thirty four years of teaching in Rockford Public Schools, Barb began a second career in The Salvation Army as the Territorial Director of Youth Ministries for the Central Territory. This ministry has allowed her to work with students from the ages of 12-18, serving eleven of the central states by training leaders in the area of youth ministry and teen discipleship.


Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.