The power of a family of families

Jul 31, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by Paula.

Most of us in the youth ministry world have been familiar with Sticky Faith principles for some time now, and many of us have adjusted our ministry structures in response. We’re more aware of the need for intergenerational connectedness. We know how to better help students make the tricky transition out of high school, especially when they leave a good youth ministry.

However, Sticky Faith is about more than a church youth ministry program. It’s not just a research project that gives us information. It’s about you and me as people, not just youth workers, and the young people we know in the families and neighborhoods around us. What are WE doing to influence and nurture them?

I’ve been a part of a family group that has met every other week for the last 13 years. It’s a special collection of five families, all with children, who have become a family of families. Everyone feels related to each other. We’ve shared over a decade of life together, often like a pendulum swinging between celebration and endurance through times of pain.  

This extended faith family recently celebrated my birthday in our backyard. The daughter of one family, we’ll call her Monica, brought her boyfriend to our family group for the first time. We all sat around the campfire after playing games, the two of them sitting to my left. As she stood to get refreshments, I said to him, “You know that the girl you’re hanging around is pretty special. We think the world of her.” 

Monica stopped and looked back at me, and a big smile and wide eyes lit up her face. I didn’t notice at first, and continued, “You know when people date one of the kids in this group, they inherit a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins who care a lot about them.”

I said it all quite accidentally. I’m normally not that thoughtful, but I meant it. I could tell that it meant a lot to Monica by her reaction. Someone had honored her in front of others.

The effect of this didn’t really sink in until the next day, when I received a text from Monica’s parents. They thanked me for the evening, but mostly for that moment. They said, “You demonstrated love and care for Monica in a way that we as parents could never duplicate.”

It took me a day to get it, but then I thought of Sticky Faith and the role each of us can play in the faith development of teens around us. Not if we play a role, but what role we actually play.

Do we intentionally speak into their lives?

Do we encourage and honor their growth, or do we point out shortcomings?

Do we protect them, or do we project on them our expectations?

Do teens feel embraced or shamed by us?

Do they know we notice them … or do they know we notice them?

Maybe it’s because I just turned fifty, but I’m noticing new ways to care and teach along the way. Regardless of the research you read or the ministry structure of your church youth program, there are young people around you … around you as part of your community. You can help them develop Sticky Faith in simple ways by:

  • modeling what it means to follow Christ in ways they can see,
  • encouraging the positive faith steps you see them take,
  • supporting them no matter what, and
  • more intentionally nurturing them when appropriate. 

Our church is part of a Sticky Faith Cohort. This year we’re also beginning a new outreach initiative. As part of that, I’m making a list of the teens I know in the neighborhood and families around me, and thinking of more intentional ways I can help them develop faith in Jesus Christ that sticks.

What young people around you are you investing in? How might you become more intentional in being part of their extended faith family network of support?

Cohort Story: How does the Cohort inspire teams to make big changes with families and the church?

Jul 15, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Sign up for the 2015 Sticky Faith Cohort by August 1 and

get a 20% discount! $800 saved.


What should I do next?

  1. Have you filled out an online inquiry form?
  2. Have you discussed the Cohort with your Senior Pastor?
  3. Want to talk with someone in person? Call our Cohort Coordinator Haley Smith at 626-584-5546 or email her at

Ministry Planning

Jul 02, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by Megan Lane.

Three years ago, our church decided to assess our work by filling out a scorecard on each of our ministry areas. All the usual suspects were on the list (children’s ministry, student ministry, etc.).

We had also just finished the first year of the Sticky Faith Cohort and were trying to think well about how our church (a campus that’s part of a multi-site congregation) could become more intergenerational. We graded nine ministry areas as a team, including intergenerational ministry, according to how we collectively thought each ministry area was doing in regards to our church’s mission statement: “To be a caring family of multiplying disciples influencing our community and world for Jesus Christ.”

It was brutal. We were honest with each other about each other’s ministry areas … and to be honest, it kind of sucked.

To make it suck a little less, we decided to create a ministry plan for the next academic year for each of the nine areas. The idea was to draw a road map of where we’d like to go the following year.

I’m grateful to be at a church where the senior leadership has bought into Sticky Faith. Not just as a good idea to “keep kids in church,” but really understood as biblical ecclesiology. As a result, one of the nine ministry focus areas with a “ministry plan” for the 2014-2015 academic calendar is intergenerational ministry. As a church staff, we collectively crafted a plan for how we are going to be more intergenerational in all aspects of ministry.

While most of our ministry plans are ministry-specific, this one is unique in that it speaks into everything we do as a church. It serves as a guide for how we want to be more intergenerational in our welcoming process, in the tech teams with adults, as volunteers alongside seasoned adults in children’s ministry, in intergenerational service and mission trips, in our worship services as we teach every set of ears, and in community groups as we explore what it looks like to include every age.

One of the biggest benefits of creating a ministry plan for every year is that it’s a reminder of where we’ve come from. Sure, I look at last year’s ministry plan and feel guilty about all the things I didn’t do. But our ministry plans are also a reminder of how much has been accomplished, how much change has occurred, and reminders of where God is working. When you’re trying to change a ministry culture, often the small, regular changes make the most impact over time. But those small regular changes can be hard to see in hindsight.

And when you’re trying to change a ministry culture, good planning is a necessity. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening my axe.”

In case it’s helpful to your team, here’s a sample of our ministry planning template:

Ministry Planning Worksheet







How are we doing in this area?  


What are our strengths?  


What are our weaknesses and opportunities for growth?



What should we definitely keep doing?


What should we consider ending?



What is a new initiative we should begin?


How does the work we are doing in this category fit into our main areas of focus?

Sticky Buddies: Building Intergenerational Relationships in the Church

May 28, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by Glenn Waters.

Today’s story is from Brian Zahasky, the Associate of Youth and Family at Libertyville Covenant (serving along with his wife Maria, the Children’s Ministry Director) near Chicago. They were part of the 2013 Sticky Faith Cohort. When Brian shared with us that 95% of their students are in 1-1 mentoring relationships with adults, we said, “Tell us more!” Here’s their story.

A couple of years ago at a Christmas Eve service, I was talking with a mother of a recent college graduate. Someone asked the mother where her daughter was and why she hadn’t come to the service.

I can still hear the mom’s response as if it happened moments ago: “She didn’t want to come because she doesn’t feel like this is her home anymore.” This statement, and others like it, catapulted my wife Maria and I to think about ways we can encourage more intergenerational relationships within our church.

Out of that grew “Sticky Buddies.”

The premise behind Sticky Buddies is very simple. We invited parents and adults in the church to make an investment in the younger generation with the initial goal that when students come home after their first semester away at college, they want to attend Christmas Eve services. Not because their friends might be there, but because an adult who has invested in a relationship with them is there.

We asked parents’ permission to link their child with an adult in the church for this simple relational connection. Ninety-five percent of our kids ages kindergarten through freshman year in college signed up. Then we asked adults in the church to become “buddies” to these kids. Our requirements were quite simple:

  1. Make a point to talk to your Sticky Buddy every time you see each other at church
  2. Send a card or personal note for college students
  3. Be consistent in praying for your buddy

My wife and I matched people up as best we could, and watched as God moved in surprising ways.

Amy is a sophomore in high school and was going on a ski weekend with the senior high youth group. Amy had never skied before and was completely unprepared for the experience. Her sticky buddy discovered this, and planned a ski outing where she taught her the basics ahead of time. She also located all the ski apparel Amy would need for the weekend. This made such a huge impact on Amy that she told everyone about her Sticky Buddy and how grateful she was for the investment she made in her. Amy now knows that she has an adult champion at church who cares deeply about her and the things that are important to her.

Here are a few things we’ve learned so far from the Sticky Buddy Initiative:

  1. People will surprise you. We were very surprised by the diversity of people who responded to the challenge of being a Sticky Buddy. This initiative has given people who haven’t been very involved in the life of the church a way to make an investment.

  2. It’s a great entry point into Sticky Faith. We have been talking about Sticky Faith for some time, but this opportunity became a great way for people to experience first-hand what we were trying to communicate. When people hear the phrase Sticky Faith, they now have a personal connection with it.

  3. Not every match works perfectly, and that’s okay. Some matches just haven’t taken off. In the spirit of 5:1 (every student having 5 adults who know them and care for them) we plan to do a Sticky Buddy “reshuffle” this fall and match everyone with new partners. The hope is that they continue a relationship with their current Sticky Buddy while getting to know yet another adult in the church.

  4. Unexpected connections happened. We expected the adults to take the relationship seriously and to make an effort to care for their student buddy. What we didn’t anticipate was the way these relationships would provide opportunities for students to learn how to care for their adult buddies as well.

We are still learning and making changes as we go, but we have been so encouraged to watch God at work in these “sticky” relationships this year.  

How have you taken steps toward intergenerational relationships in your context?

When Church Construction Meets Sticky Faith: Building Our New Children’s Ministry Addition

May 13, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

This Sticky Faith Story is from Matthew Deprez, Intergenerational Pastor at Frontline Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI, a Sticky Faith Cohort veteran, and one of our Coaches and Sticky Faith Trainers. (You can hire Matthew to coach your church!) To read the first post in this series, click here. To read the second post in the series, click here.

What would happen if Sticky Faith made its way into church architecture?

Frontline has been working for the past two years on a major building project for our elementary children’s ministry space. Many years ago we purchased a former corporate office building, which was basically a 100,000 sq. ft. empty brick warehouse. We put up some walls to create a main auditorium, and made some decisions about where to locate our children’s ministry.

The result was that our early childhood (birth-Kindergarten) and elementary (1st-5th Grade) ministries ended up on completely separate sides of the building. It caused a lot of problems, not the least of which was the logistical hassle of checking in kids on two sides of an empty building the size of Target. 

As Frontline has become more intentionally intergenerational over the past few years, we started to realize that the layout of our building didn’t reflect our theology. Kids could get dropped off in our elementary area and never walk by the main auditorium where their parents worshiped. In an attempt to give elementary students their “own space,” we created challenges when it came time to transition 1st graders to the elementary space on the other side of the building. There was nothing connecting our elementary and early childhood volunteers. It often felt like they were on different sides of the planet, doing completely unrelated things. 

As we met to talk about how to fix some of these problems, we spent countless hours as a team trying to figure out how our building could reflect our vision. Finally, this January we opened up “The Block,” a physical addition to our children’s ministry. During our grand-opening celebration, a heavily involved children’s ministry volunteer stood in the center of The Block and said to me, “Matthew, this is just what we had envisioned. It’s exactly like Frontline, just for kids.” Finally, the children’s ministry space outwardly reflected what we believed internally. 

Maybe you’re in the same situation as we were. The actual location for your ministry programs don’t reflect your church’s values. Maybe you’re about to remodel your children’s ministry area, or you’re looking at changing the actual location where they meet. If you can relate, here are five helpful considerations we made as we built our new children’s space: 

  1. We built The Block as close to our main auditorium as possible. Now our children have to walk by our all-church worship space to get to The Block.
  2. We made The Block look very similar to our “main” auditorium, while still giving it a kid-friendly feel. Because we don’t run Sunday morning programming past 5th grade, we want as seamless a transition as possible between spaces so it feels as comfortable as possible for kids to go into the main auditorium when they hit 6th grade. Because our main auditorium isn’t a typical “square” room with 4 walls, but a room with lots of strange angles, we wanted The Block to have the same feel. As a result, we used a lot of the same “wall angles” in The Block as the wall angles in our main auditorium. 
  3. We added a large intergenerational gathering space in the middle of The Block for parents and kids to be able to interact together outside of the classrooms. It’s close to the check-in area, a place where parents would naturally congregate anyway.  
  4. We rebranded everything in our children’s ministry to feel like a "neighborhood block.” This was an intentional effort to let parents know we believe it’s crucial for faith to grow in all facets of a child’s life, not just at services on Sunday morning. 
  5. We provided a centralized check-in area, rather than having two check-in areas for elementary and early-childhood. As a result, we’re finally seeing entire families together, not individual “parts” of families being checked into multiple areas.

Have you remodeled your children or student ministry spaces with Sticky Faith in mind? What specific things did you take into consideration?

If you can’t change your physical space, are there other solutions you’ve found to work with the structures you have in place to foster more Sticky Faith connections?

Two Confirmation Ideas that Changed our Ministry

May 05, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

This Sticky Faith Story is from Tim Galleher, a Sticky Faith Cohort veteran, coach, and part of our speaking team. Tim serves at Saratoga Federated Church in Saratoga, California.

Recently our church celebrated our 8th grade students who completed a three-month Confirmation class. During this process, students have the opportunity to evaluate their faith in Jesus Christ. This has been a great way to prepare our students for faith in high school over the years. But two shifts we made this year turned out to be game-changers:

1. High School Mentors

One of the best decisions that I have ever made in ministry was to let our high school students lead the Confirmation small groups. It only took me about 25 years in youth ministry to figure this out! The 8th graders learn from mentors who they will already know when they start high school ministry next year. Our high school students learn how to lead others, and they get to practice what we have been teaching all these years. On the baptism day, the leaders get to pray for and help baptize their small group students. It’s transformational for everyone. 

2. Words of Wisdom from Adults

Our baptism/church membership celebration is a rite of passage: a milestone in a student’s life that the entire church gets to celebrate together. This year I asked adults in the congregation to consider how they could speak truth into the lives of these 8th graders.

We gave all of the adults a card labeled, “Words of Wisdom for a Faith Journey” and asked them to write a few thoughts for these young believers. Their responses were priceless. Here are a few:

“Never do anything that you would be ashamed to tell your grandfather about. Always stand up to shake somebody’s hand.”

 “Prayer is often more about listening. Quiet your heart and mind so you can hear God and his spirit working in your life.”

“Remember, Jesus is always with us. He carries us through the difficult times. There will be time where you may feel abandoned by God, but his is always there…trust in him.”

“At every stage of life there are challenges that will test your faith in God. When you are struggling, learn to start your day by saying, ‘I don’t get this, but I know that you are trustworthy.’ He will prove to you that he is trustworthy indeed.”

“The moments I have grown the most in knowing who I am, who God has called me to be, and the moments I have learned the most about the Lord have come not from comfort but from discomfort. Fear is paralyzing, but our God is not a God of fear, nor a God of abandonment.”

“Don’t make Jesus ‘part’ of your life; learn what it means to make him your ‘whole’ life.  Learn your identity in Christ and live from that identity. When you question things, run to Jesus.”

These are just a few of the words spoken over and to the students as they prepared to be baptized. Then we typed them up and shared them with all of the students. My prayer for all of us is that we can develop more mentoring relationships where these words of wisdom can be spoken and lived out over the next four years of high school.

Here are more ideas for Confirmation! Plus a few more! Share your own below in the comments or by submitting your Sticky Faith Story

Seven Simple Steps to Start Mentoring a Teenager

Apr 29, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by Gonzalo Díaz Fornaro.

Ever wonder how to take the first step in mentoring relationships? Ministry veteran and Sticky Faith Cohort leader Jason Chenoweth shares insights from his experience. Jason serves at Shelbyville Community Church in Indiana.

If you’ve ever been on a first date, can you remember the feeling of asking that person out, or of being asked out, for the first time? For some of us it may have been a while, but we still remember the basic paralysis. It’s terrifying. But why?

Inviting someone into a new relationship, opening yourself up and offering that person access to areas of your life that have been closed before, is a fear-inducing decision. What if I’ve chosen the wrong person? What if they’re not interested? What if they like my roommate better? Are they going to laugh at me? What do I have to offer them, anyway? Did I brush my teeth today?

All of this translates into the area of us taking Jesus seriously when it comes to discipling others in mentoring relationships. The process of investing ourselves in someone else so that they might fall more in love with Jesus, and live that love out each day. It’s an amazing thing, but often the fear of getting started keeps us from taking that first step.

So where do we start? The same place we begin almost everything else: prayer. Ask God about who he wants you to pour into. Only after you have peace about that do we move to step two: the ask.

How do we ask someone into this kind of relationship? Here are seven steps:

1. Start with a one-time meeting – Sit down once to pray together, discuss what the relationship might look like, and what each of you hopes to see happen from this. Talk about what the relationship will be, what it’s not, and how much time each of you are willing to give to it (see #4 and #5 below for ideas). Agree to pray about it, and then set a time for a call, text, or meeting to follow up. No expectations beyond that.

2. Follow up – Touch base and see how each of you is feeling. If either of you haven’t spent time praying about it, you might want to give it more time. If both of you feel good about moving forward, then schedule your next meeting.

3. Create a schedule – At your next meeting start talking about how often you will meet. There’s no magical amount of time. Some mentoring relationships are highly intentional about spending time together multiple times a week. Others meet once a week or only once a month. You both get to define it. There’s no set answer to this one.

4. Be honest about what you’re offering – Many people confuse mentoring with counseling or with being a best friend for life. Mentoring has small elements of counseling and friendship, but the purpose is to help someone grow in their faith and life. It’s a partnership where each party is giving something.

5. Decide what you want to do together – Some mentoring relationships spend time reading and discussing a book or study. Others are focused on prayer. Service projects are also an option, or finding activities you both enjoy. It’s important to develop a plan, otherwise the relationship will devolve to you being the other person’s counselor. Do not default to “God will just lead us each time.” God is leading you ahead of time. Get a plan in place.

6. Set an end date – How many times will you meet? I recommend 6-8 weeks at first, then renegotiating the relationship. You can always extend it longer after your last meeting, but this keeps either of you from being trapped if it turns out not to be the best long-term fit for either of you.

7. Focus on the Bible and prayer – Use all of the other resources you can, but always come down to scripture and prayer in your mentee’s life. The time they spend there will be the foundation for anything else you do or study.

This should be enough to get you to meeting three, and that’s where things will begin to happen. It’s okay to take a while. Don’t feel pressured to jump too deeply too soon. When we have a basic process like this that gives us plenty of room to listen to God, and plenty of outs if needed, we can reduce the anxiety and get started!

Read Five Keys for Effective Mentoring for more insights on mentoring ministries and relationships.

Helping Teenagers Write Their Own Stories

Apr 24, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by 1shoe1.

This guest post is from Scott Schimmel, a former InterVarsity staff member and now the President and Chief Guide of the YouSchool, a small group curriculum program to help high school and college students explore their vocational paths through self-discovery in the context of community.

“Kids usually live up to the expectations of those around them, don’t they?” —Dr. Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders

Stated or perceived, expectations can inspire you or crush you. Sadly, for many of today’s young people, expectations often destroy any chance they have to live their unique, best lives. 

Sometimes kids have expectations placed on them that are really lofty and aspirational. Parents might say, “You should become a doctor, because you’re good at science.” Or, “You know, engineering is where all the jobs are, and you’re good at math.” Parents generally mean well and want the best for their kids. At their worst, though, parents can attempt to work their own issues out through their kids, hoping to live vicariously and get their own needs met through their kids’ successes. Parents might even say shaming things like, “Don’t disappoint us.”

Other times, the expectations are way too low. Recently a sophomore in high school showed me her report card. It had five ‘F’s’ and one ‘C-’. I asked her what she thought about when she saw her report card, assuming she might feel embarrassed, sad, or angry. Instead, with a glimmer in her eye, she said, “I’m really excited about the ‘C-’, actually. Everyone in my family has always called me stupid and a failure, and the ‘C-’ proves them otherwise.” Far too many young people know that there is very little expected of them, except perhaps for barely graduating high school. If you ask them, they’ll tell you that they aren’t going anywhere in life, they’re going to be just like their dad, or their older sister, or their cousins. They expect failure, disappointment, and poverty. 

At a new adventure we’ve started called YouSchool, we’re diving into these conversations headfirst. In the high-achieving, Ivy-Leage-bound world, it’s powerful to tell young people not to let anybody else write their story for them. Discover who YOU are, what makes YOU tick, what ticks YOU off, and what YOUR future looks like at its best. We encourage teenagers to dream soberly, with an honest and clear look at who they really are—their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, values, challenges, and all.

In the inner city, often the world of under-performing and under-resourced communities and schools, it’s the same message: DON’T LET ANYBODY ELSE WRITE YOUR STORY. It’s not true that you have to repeat your parents’ story. It’s not true that you’re stuck. There are tremendous challenges in front of you, but you have a chance. There’s something powerful when a person gains self-awareness. That usually turns into confidence, which breeds direction. At that point you see a fully self-motivated person engaged with life. 

It’s not about giving kids false hope, or about teaching them to disobey their parents. Young people deserve the opportunity to explore themselves in a safe environment of trust, where anything goes because everything is already impacting them. Since we launched last year, we’ve seen hundreds of students be changed by going through a self-discovery process with their peers, equipped with common-sense questions and a chance to have real conversations with the people who matter the most to them. As they honestly dive into their lives, something sacred happens. They shed other people’s expectations and start seeing what their lives could be at their best.

They pick up the pen to start authoring their own story. 

How have you helped teenagers begin to write their own stories?

What ideas do you have for preparing high school seniors to write a new story beyond graduation?

How do you help parents who want to write their kids’ futures for them?

Download a free lesson on IDENTITY from the Sticky Faith Teen Curriculum

Here’s another idea about teenagers writing their own “stories of future hope.”

Learn more about YouSchool

Inter-Department Calendar Planning: Turning A Radical Idea Into Reality

Apr 17, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by Philip.

This Sticky Faith Story is from Matthew Deprez, Intergenerational Pastor at Frontline Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI, a Sticky Faith Cohort veteran, and one of our Coaches and Sticky Faith Trainers. (You can hire Matthew to coach your church!) To read the first post in this series, click here.

As I think back on the strategic decisions Frontline made in the past year, one of the most important things we implemented was an “Intergenerational Department Calendar.” Of course we had all done calendars before, but they were done within our individual departments, at different times in the year. The likelihood of one department seeing another department’s calendar was slim-to-none. It led to each department not feeling like we were connected with other departments, and our “teamwork” mentality was becoming harder and harder to maintain. Because we didn’t know what each of us were doing week-to-week, we weren’t working together to maximize opportunities for people at Frontline. 

One particular time, I remember the children’s ministry and adult discipleship departments doing almost the exact same event for parents, but two weeks apart. If we had done it on the same day, it would have cost less, been easier to promote, fostered teamwork within departments, and a variety of other wins.

We desperately needed to re-think our annual calendar. During a 3-day retreat with the Intergenerational Department, we worked an entire day on a yearlong calendar that has dramatically reshaped the way our church functions. 

Here are a few things that happened in that planning process:

  1. Every department came to the retreat ready to “pitch” what they planned to do over the next year.
  2. We made sure major events didn’t fall on the same day, or even around a close time frame. We left a “gap” for Frontline-attendees to “recover” and “process” before gearing up for another event.
  3. The process forced each department to simplify and trim down the amount of events we were doing. We had too much going on, and it was exhausting our staff, volunteers, and Frontline itself. Slowing down gave everybody an opportunity to breathe, which allowed us to better resource and equip the church.
  4. We talked a lot about promotional timelines for events, not just the events themselves. It occurred to us that part of the problem wasn’t just having a lot of events, but that the promotional timelines were getting in the way of each other. If an event’s promotional timeline conflicted with another department’s event, we shifted it to a different time in the year. As it turned out, departments willingly moved their events and agendas so other department’s events could thrive.
  5. We challenged each other. If a department felt like another department’s event wasn’t going to be a “win” for the church, it was openly discussed. We ended some events we’d been doing for a long time because we all had the freedom to be honest. And honestly, our church is better off because we killed these things, too.
  6. We fought for each other. It took a while, but toward the end of the planning process, departments were sticking up for other departments. We all wanted each other to win.
  7. We realized it’s way harder to plan a unified calendar up front, but way easier the rest of the year. Getting along, working together, having fun, casting vision, and implementing programs and events was much smoother than in past years. I would gladly experience the difficulty for a few days of up-front calendar planning than be frustrated the remaining 51 weeks of the year.
  8. We actually stuck to the calendar. Obviously we’ve made some changes here and there, but for the most part we’re still on track for what we planned that day.

As I mentioned before, this process has been very significant for us. We’ve still got room to improve, but we’re already more strategic and laser-focused than we’ve ever been. 

Have you ever done an inter-department calendar? What’s worked? What hasn’t worked?

What resonated from Frontline’s process?

Would you do anything differently? 

What Stopped The Competition In Our Church

Apr 10, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

This Sticky Faith Story is from Matthew Deprez, Intergenerational Pastor at Frontline Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI, a Sticky Faith Cohort veteran, and one of our Coaches and Sticky Faith Trainers. (You can hire Matthew to coach your church!)

Like most churches, separate ministry departments pervade every part of our DNA at Frontline. Even though we’re “intentionally intergenerational,” we still have separate departments and staff: Children’s ministry, student ministry, adult discipleship, worship arts, and on and on.

About a year ago, we started noticing an interesting trend: We were unintentionally competing with each other. We weren’t fighting, or even complaining about each other, but it was becoming noticeable in a variety of ways. We realized things like main-stage announcements, event advertising, using space inside the church building, time-commitments, volunteer recruitment, and ministry calendars were competing for attention.

One time in particular, I remember our children’s ministry feeling like they weren’t getting the same amount of main-stage “announcement time” as the student ministry. Everybody’s intentions were good—we were promoting for important student ministry stuff and children’s ministry had an upcoming event they felt was equally important—but it became clear that we were competing for airplay from the front. As simple as this sounds, we began to realize that each of our departments became more effective when we fought for each other, not against each other.

As the person who oversees each of these departments, I tried to find a solution. I couldn’t find one place where somebody had actually written inter-department core values, so at a 3-day retreat we started by creating 8 core values for the intergenerational department (children, students, and adults) to live by. Here are the values we articulated:

1. Tell Stories: We will focus on telling stories of changed lives, never allowing a program to be more important than the individual lives of the children, students and adults we partner with. As a result, while we will still measure numbers from programs and volunteering, we recognize our best measure of success is through stories of life change.

2. Balance “Together vs. Separate”: We will balance working together to minimize silos and working separately within our own ministry departments. We will do this by helping other departments when needed. We’ll support things not in our job descriptions, but respect that we are still individual departments.

3. Call Fouls: We will give each other the freedom to “call fouls” if unhealthy silos are created between different departments, understanding that we will make mistakes and must be willing to show grace and move forward.

4. Hills and Valleys: We will be aware of the “hills” and “valleys” within each ministry department’s “seasons”, recognizing and showing support when a department or staff member may need help during a busy calendar season or upcoming event. It’s okay to ask for help.

5. Transitioning: We will work with other ministry staff to effectively transition children or students into new ministry departments as needed, even after that child or student has “graduated” from our ministry. This may include inter-department evaluations on how successfully each department transitions people.

6. Effective Advocacy: In an effort to effectively advocate for all departments (children, students, and adults), we will recognize “hills and valleys” and seek to emphasize and promote ministries as equally as possible, while understanding each department’s “seasons” make take precedence sometimes. If applicable, when promoting departments or events, we will work together.

7. Resourcing Parents: Because we all work with parents, and believing that equipping parents to raise their children in a godly, biblical way is of utmost importance, we will focus our energies toward providing the most effective resources, events, and support to make this a reality. 

8. Freedom to Risk: We will encourage and embrace risk by suggesting and implementing intentional, well-planned ideas that build stronger intergenerational and Sticky Faith values. And we will celebrate failures, not just successes. 

Which core values resonate with you and your context?

Which ones would be a challenge?

Is there a core value you would add that isn’t listed here?

How would you implement these core values in your context?