Research Projects, Present and Past



Training  Students to Teach and Speak  (stay tuned!)




Student Leadership in Youth Ministry Education and Youth Ministry Praxis

Len Kageler  Celeste Gonzalez, Samantha Aupperlee,Marko Requena


This paper is explores the contours of student leadership pedagogical content in the youth ministry education classroom.   It also explores the contours of student leadership praxis in two protestant denominations.  Here we are seeking the “what is” of student leadership, not the “what ought.”  Data was collected from members of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators as well as youth pastors of two Protestant denominations.   Included in our study of youth pastors is what they found difficult or frustrating about student leadership within the context of their own church based youth ministry.

The importance of student leadership in youth ministry rests (albeit unknowingly by perhaps of the majority of practitioners) on hundreds of peer review social science studies related to youth empowerment.   These studies are generally in the realm of “at risk” youth as well as the context of youth educational engagement.  All these studies affirm the notion that giving youth agency has multiple positive outcomes for the student





Embryonic  Gene Editing , The Future Has Arrived…Implications for Youth Ministry and Youth Ministry Education


            With the mapping of the human genome (in 2001)  and the resultant identification of specific diseases and debilitating human conditions with specific gene mutations,  scientists and the medical community have dreamed of the day when these gene mutations could be eliminated in the womb.   “Gene editing” for this purpose was approved by the British Parliament in 2015, the first UK clinic for gene editing received its license in 2016, and the first babies will be born in 2017. The European Union granted patent approval for gene editing technology in March, 2017.  Embryonic gene editing has not yet been approved in the US.    

            The question now has arisen, if gene editing can reduce the negative, can it also be used to increase the positive?  It is now feasible to modify a living embryo in such a way that the resultant child will be (choose one or more) stronger, smarter, more artistic, more beautiful, or have a specific personality type (leadership oriented for example).  Regardless of ethics or even legality, some expect that parents will jump at the chance to give their offspring any advantage in a society and culture built on meritocracy.  The cost of gene editing has seen a spectacular drop in the last 12 months.   

            After a historical recap of the gene editing quest and viewing this in the context of social change, this paper explores possible implications for youth ministry programs (and youth ministry education).   What happens when these “enhanced” young people are old enough to enter church based youth ministry programs?   In what respect do current youth ministry programs offer options that are “ability based?”  To partially answer that question we have surveyed and interviewed 12 US mega churches youth ministry leaders.  Based on our understanding of the literature and reflection on the interviews, we posit four potential implications for youth work and youth work education.  We see implications for (1) youth ministry organization & programing, (2) identity formation, (3) parents, and (4) faith formation.     How might “ability based” programs need to be augmented in a brave new world where genetically modified youths are commonplace?

Len Kageler, Ph.D. Professor of Youth & Family Studies, Nyack College, Nyack, NY USA

Faith Argeroplos,   Nyack College YFS Graduate, GVS Program Staff, Youthscape, Luton, UK

Celeste Gonzalez, 3rd year student, Nyack College.




Human Error in Christian Youth Work:  A Cross-National Study of Youth Worker Mistakes

Len Kageler, Amy Jacober, Evan Usher

  This paper looks at human error as it applies to church based youth ministry.  Over 500 youth workers in ten countries filled out our survey instrument, in which respondents were asked to name three mistakes they themselves have made.  They were also asked to place each mistakes into one of five categories, and reflect on what it was that caused them to see it as a mistake.    Here we explore the quantitative outcomes of the survey, as well as the qualitative themes stemming from the narrative responses.  We also explorer any differences emerging from cross-national comparisons.  For example, do Finnish youth workers name errors proportionately similar as those in the Philippines or Nigeria?   Do they use similar cognitive framing in understanding their own mistakes?

                The heuristic value of our research especially for youth ministry educators is that if we can have a research based understanding of human error in youth work we can, in our curriculum and pedagogy, both preemptively and redemptively  address key issues in the classroom.   Who wouldn’t want to see his or her graduates make fewer errors as they engage in the high calling of Christian youth ministry? 


A Sampling of Past Research  Projects (but updates are ongoing)


Theology and Youth Ministry Praxis:  Anglicans and Baptists in Five Countries on Four Continents

Abstract:    "The International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry"  is ample evidence that church based youth work is a global reality.  When speaking with youth workers from other countries it does not take long, however, to see that theological emphases vary by church tradition, and youth ministry praxis varies as well.  This paper explores the similarities and differences among representative samples of Baptist and Anglican youth workers in South Africa, Australia, the UK, Finland, and the States of Texas and South Carolina in the USA.  What do these youth workers believe?  How do they conceptualize and operationalize youth ministry in their churches?  Data, both statistical and narrative, was collected by way of a web-based survey from Fall, 2013 through Spring 2014.
    The importance of this research is multidimensional.  For the youth ministry academician, there is value in helping our own students understand the global nature of youth ministry as well as the connection between theological foundations and very real outcomes.  For the youth ministry practitioner there is value in that much learning takes place as we “compare notes” with one another in the common cause of reaching youth.  Additionally, knowledge about church-based youth groups moves forward the sociological understanding of an important component of youth religiosity research

Foundations and Models of Muslim Youth Ministry

    This paper explorers the Qur’anic, philosophical, and socio/cultural foundations of Muslim youth work, as well as Muslim youth work praxis.   Youth ministry done by Muslims for Muslims is increasingly common  as now, depending on the country or region, up to 30% of Mosques have active youth programs.  This research rest on three categories of source material: 1) an examination of key published and unpublished source documents, 2) a comprehensive review of international and country specific Muslim websites, and 3) extensive personal interviews with key Muslim youth work trainers in the UK, Canada, and the US.  This session concludes with a discussion of the positive challenges for Christian youth ministry in the presence of a robust Muslim youth work presence.    (Published in chapter two of Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society)

Feminist Identity and the Female Religious Youth Worker: A Cross National Analysis

(With Amy Jacober)

Women, both paid and volunteer, comprise a significant portion of youth ministry workers globally.   In what respect is a woman’s experience of religious youth work mitigated by her views on women’s issues and women’s identity?     In October of 2009, an on-line “Women in Youth Ministry Survey” was launched by the authors in the US that included a modified version of the Feminist Identity Development Scale.   Over 900 women completed the survey, representing a wide array of demographic and denominational backgrounds.  The same survey was launched in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Eurozone countries in March 2010.  As of 9 June 250 women have responded.    While this is a primarily exploratory research project, some hypothesis testing was conducted as part of the data analysis.  The survey also provided ample opportunity to narrate their experiences and opionion. Many did, some at great length and with great passion.   This research has several implications for youth ministry education.


Burnout Among Religious Youth Workers:  A Cross National Analysis

The subject of burn-out has received a great deal of popular and academic attention, as the issue is a common problem and experience in both the United States and European Union context.   This paper, after a representative literature review,   presents and discusses findings about burnout among religious youth workers.   In Fall 2006 a survey on youth ministry burnout was conducted by the author in the United States, with an N of 155.     The identical survey was conducted in 2008 among youth workers in the European Union, with an eventual N of 98.    This research will be of interest not only to youth ministry practitioners, but those who teach youth workers as well.

A Cross National Analysis of Church Based Youth Ministries


With youth ministry training events and degree programs sprouting on every continent,  one can say that religious youth work (however it is defined) is a global phenomenon.   This research seeks to provide a first ever international comparison continent by continent, of what constitutes normal church based youth ministries.  Yes, we know Christian youth workers pray for their young people, hang out with them, and seek to enter the lives of youth in a cultural relevant manner.  Beyond this, however, what do youth workers actually do?  Three hundred youth workers representing 24 countries (and all continents) completed a web based survey.   Results will be discussed in terms of theology, sociology, and cultural studies.   Additionally, four hypothetical hunches are explored:  1) there is a broad similarity and the practice of youth ministry cross nationally,  2) that “traditional/family/clan based” cultures will place less emphasis on youth leadership than “western/individually based” cultures, 3) that churches which baptize infants will place less emphasis on outreach/evangelism than those that do not, and lastly, that the joys/frustrations of youth ministry will be similar world wide.  The importance of such research is multidimensional.   For the youth ministry academician, there is value in helping our own students understand the global nature of youth ministry and feel a part of a world wide Kingdom movement.   For the youth ministry practitioner there is value in that much learning takes place as we “compare notes” with one another in the common cause of reaching youth.   Additionally, knowledge about church youth groups moves forward the sociological understanding of an important component of youth religiosity.