Kara Powell at Mars Hill Grand Rapids

Feb 15, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Last weekend Kara shared Sticky Faith insights as part of Sunday worship services at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Listen or download the mp3 from Mars Hill's site or iTunes.

Changing Statistics One Life at a Time

Feb 10, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Today's guest blog is by Nate Roskam, on the pastoral team at Nampa First Church of the Nazarene in Nampa, ID.  Nampa was part of our 2011 Sticky Faith Cohort.

We are consumed with the reality that students have nowhere to go post-graduation. Statistics are alarming and at times paralyzing. And as good fear-driven humans, especially in the Western world, we put our heads in the proverbial sand, circle the wagons and push more content  and plan more programs. This horrendous cycle produces a lot, but spiritual growth and “faith-sticking” is not one of the fruits of this labor. We get the exact results we are motivated to change.

As I recognized this one morning, it was as if God shouted at me, “Dude, if you would take half the energy you pour into the existing system and invest it in journeying with students through the transition, you could change the life at a time.”

As I read Scripture, it is stacked with world-changing movements which happen one life at a time. So re-think we did.

About 6 years ago we just started having conversations with post-high students about what they were looking for. It wasn’t an attempt to plan a program, simply to journey with students we love. What we found were broken young adults who felt discarded. For some, this was literally their last attempt at finding belonging in the church. And these were accomplished young people. In this group were world travelers, missionaries, a student development employee at a local Christian University, teachers and graduate students. These were students who on the outside were growing, successful and “okay”.

What resulted was a Thursday night gathering called “A Place”. No frills, no band, just a safe place for young adults to find community and build relationships. No agenda; two words that have paid exponential dividends for ministry.

From this Thursday night beginning has blossomed a self-sustaining movement that has become a relational incubator. This group of passionate young people found a way to offer raw Jesus and real relationships resulting in a sub-culture that has momentum, validating a generation and finding a place at the table. 

One of the first things they did was look intentionally at the transition from high school to the post-high world. What resulted is one of my favorite pieces of our generational ministry: a Senior trip that is planned and facilitated by our young adult ministry. Every year, 6-12 young adults plan, organize and attend our Senior trip. The relational results are inspiring.

A snapshot of what we’re seeing: Valerie’s senior year, she attended our revamped Senior trip. She was embraced and loved on by eight young adults who invited her into the “family”. Before she graduated she was a part of “A Place” and was receiving emails, texts and calls inviting her to hang out multiple times a week. When she started college that next fall, she started going to their Sunday School class and the relationships turned to life-shaping friendships.  That winter she went on the Winter Retreat and found herself surrounded by mentors and friends ages 19-32!

The best part is seeing Valerie adopt that same lifestyle, pouring herself into Jr. High and High school students on a weekly basis.

We’ve found it truly is about relationships, but until we strip away the remnants of fear-based, agenda driven ministry models, we will only get what we always have. And we do not like those statistics. 

Why Aren’t We Really Seeing Change Happen in Our Church?

Feb 08, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

After 15 years of full-time youth ministry, I have more questions than ever before about how Sticky Faith will take root in our congregations.

I recently stood in front of our church with our entire class of kindergartners.  My role at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church is to help oversee all of children’s through high school ministries.  It was the annual Sunday where we pray for these young kids as they start a new kind of journey in school.  My ultimate dream is that these kids would actually be known, loved and walked alongside by the adults of our church and that this time to pray for them would be a launching pad for that. 

I asked our congregation to pray for them – but not just that – I wanted them to do something about it.  I pleaded with them that morning, “If you want to be an adult that actually knows kids like these in our church, not just watches them from a distance, but knows their names, their stories and pledges to model Jesus Christ in their lives, could we stand together while we pray for them so these Kindergartners can see they are supported by you?”

Guess what?  Two things happened – no one stayed seated, and three months later, I don’t sense anything has really changed at MPPC with how we practice intergenerational ministry.

Similarly, I wanted our board of elders to feel in their souls the need for the church to be intergenerational.  We have one shot each year to present to our elders Sticky Faith principles.  Our whole youth and children’s staff, from across our campuses, came.  We put pictures of kids with their stories on the elders’ chairs and we described with passion and detail our dream to be intergenerational.  I even baked cookies in the shape of a one-eared Mickey Mouse (a clever youth worker years ago used a One-Eared Mickey Mouse as a symbol for how youth ministry can be dysfunctional if it floats outside the body of the church, like an ear that is barely connected).  I made our elders hold the cookie the entire meeting and then asked them to bite off the ear as a symbol of our church’s commitment to Sticky Faith-style thinking and action.

Guess what?  Two things happened – everyone bit the ear off, and six months later, I don’t sense anything has really changed at MPPC with how we practice intergenerational ministry.

Why is that?  Why aren’t we seeing change in our congregation’s practice of intergenerational ministry even after some very creative communication efforts?

I’m concluding my error has been that I’ve been on a “cognitive assent campaign” but have failed to give our congregation concrete steps forward.  Our congregation is willing. MPPC is an amazing church – our people mean it when they stand for kindergartners.  They mean it when they bite the Mickey Mouse ear off the cookie (I make good cookies, by the way). 

But they also are asking… so what?

What are you asking me to do?  Noreally, what should I do?  Should I just start introducing myself to kids I see on Sunday mornings?  Isn’t that a little creepy?  Does this mean we all need to volunteer in children’s ministry or become high school small group leaders?  That doesn’t seem practical.  Does this mean the drums will get louder in the worship services? What, exactly, are you asking me to do when you talk about being intergenerational? Absent concrete answers to that question, we set people up for failure and potentially inoculate them to actual change.  Like a wonderfully intended New Year’s resolution, many people will give effort to reach out in an intergenerational way, but they will give up when they don’t feel like what they are making a difference. 

So I return to where I started:  I only have more questions at this point.  How can every person in our church participate in Sticky Faith?  Could it be that the entire system tacitly conspires against intergenerational connection?

But I’m convinced of two things:  first, I’m not alone.  As I continue to talk to others in churches like mine, there is a growing resonance to this problem and desire to do something about it.  Second, I believe more creative, concrete solutions are needed for future travelers in Sticky Faith.  I believe we are actually winning the “cognitive assent campaign.”  (Hooray!)  People believe us when we say our churches need to shift and become intergenerational.  They just don’t know what they should do about it.  And, at this point, I’m not sure we know either.  

I predict the coming decades will be about changing the concrete structures and systems of the church on a more macro-level to make it a reality.  This is just the beginning of an incredible journey – I can’t wait to see where the Lord leads us all.

Live Sticky Faith Webcast Today!

Feb 07, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Preparing Seniors for Graduation: What You Haven't Yet Heard about Sticky Faith

Join us live TODAY for 30 minutes of research-based ideas for equipping your high school seniors. 

Tuesday Feb. 7, 10:00-10:30 am PST  

To win a free copy of the Parent or Teen curriculum, tweet a question for the webcast (including #stickyfaith) that's related to helping seniors develop Sticky Faith. We'll notify the winners after the webcast.

Watch live streaming video from stickyfaith at


Parents, Don’t Believe Your Kids If They Say This

Feb 06, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Parent DVD As a parent and leader, I am always intrigued in hearing college students and young adults talk about what they wish their families or churches had done differently.  As we were filming the Sticky Faith Parent DVD Curriculum, a young adult named Joel so well-articulated a common cry from young people.  If you haven’t yet seen the curriculum, let me give you a snapshot of Joel’s story.

Joel’s dad was removed from his family when Joel was young.  Trying to raise Joel and his brother and sister alone, Joel’s mom was often and understandably overwhelmed.  As Joel’s brother and sister ended up consuming more and more of her energy, Joel’s mom felt like she could basically leave Joel on his own because he seemed to be doing “just fine”. 

The reality was that Joel wasn’t “fine”.  On the outside, he was a high-performing student, leader, and Christian, but behind closed doors and on Friday nights, he was an out-of-control alcoholic. 

But Joel seemed fine.  So his mom focused on her other two young adult children, rarely even asking Joel how he was doing.

Looking back, Joel wished that his mom had asked him more questions.  That his mom had taken time to send him a note in college, give him a call or a text to let him know she was thinking about him, and probed more into what he was doing on nights and weekends. 

She never asked or acted, and Joel stayed silent.

Often teenagers or young people will even tell their parents, “I am fine.  I don’t need you to follow up or check up on me.”

Parents, DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.  Please.  Don’t disengage.  Your teenage and emerging adult children still need you to care, listen, and ask questions.  They don’t need you to smother/helicopter/hover over them, but they do need you to be an involved presence in their lives.

If your child tells you to leave them alone, don’t do it. 

The NFL Challenge Flag in Our Families

Feb 03, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Parent DVD If you know me well, you know that I love watching football, especially with my son.  Right about this time of year, I start to get a little sad because the football season is coming to an end.

In the NFL, there’s something called the “coach’s challenge” in which either coach can challenge the call made by the referees on the field.  Was it really a fumble?  Were both feet in bounds on that catch?  

Why is that important?  There’s so much activity out on the field that there’s no way that refs can be 100% right.  There’s no way they can make every call accurately.

And in my own life, neither can I.   Neither can you.

That’s part of why we need community.  When it comes to Sticky Faith, we as parents desperately need others who can walk alongside us, and help us see our families and ourselves more accurately.

One of my favorite parts of doing the Sticky Faith Parent DVD Curriculum was the chance to interview amazing families.  In the curriculum, we feature Marcie.  Marcie tells a story of being in close relationship with other moms—so close that she also got to know their kids.

As one of the moms might confide a concern they had with their daughter, Marcie was close enough to that other mom to either confirm, or challenge, that mom’s perception.  She could either say, “I think you might be right about that,” or “You have nothing to worry about.”

Personally, I would be lost without friends who know me and know my kids.  Just this past weekend I called a friend to get her advice about how I was handling something with my daughter. 

Do you have those types of relationships?  If so, can you be more intentional and explicit in saying that you want to have that sort of commitment to each other?  If you don’t have those types of relationships, who would you like to get closer to this year in hopes that that sort of community can bloom?  

How close is your small group?

Feb 01, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Parent DVD One of my favorite aspects of doing the Sticky Faith Parent DVD Curriculum was the interviews I was able to conduct with wise teenagers and parents.  (Come to think of it, learning from students and parents is one of my favorite parts of my job.)

For those of you who haven’t yet seen the curriculum, let me tell you about Ron, one of the parents I interviewed for the curriculum.  We featured Ron in the curriculum because Ron is part of a covenant group at my church.  I’ve known Ron for over 15 years now, and he can’t go 5 minutes in a conversation without talking about his covenant group.

They started meeting together as young families over 30 years ago.  The six families involved decided that they wouldn’t just be a “Bible study” but that they would commit to really pouring into each other, and into each others’ kids. 

So when they got together, they would bring their calendars and plan their future meeting times.  But they didn’t stop there.  They also brought their calendars so they could share with each other about their kids’ upcoming events and invite the other families to attend.  Whether it was Tyler’s Boy Scout Ceremony or Kyra’s piano recital, each family marked the other childrens’ events on their own calendars, and did their best to attend.

As the families (and children) grew older, the kids started dating and getting engaged.  As each “child” (now really a young adult) was engaged, the covenant group would host a couple’s shower, and give that couple a printed and framed blessing, sharing their hopes, prayers, and dreams for that couple.

That’s Sticky Faith in action.

As we’ve tried to say throughout the Sticky Faith Movement, there are no guarantees that following even the best-laid plan will result in long-term faith.  Not all the young adult children in that covenant group are following the Lord.  But even those who aren’t know other adults who love Jesus also love them.  



Live Webcast: Preparing Seniors for Graduation

Jan 31, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Next Tuesday, February 7th we're excited to offer you a free Sticky Faith Webcast to share ideas about preparing high school seniors for life beyond youth group.  Here are the details--mark your calendar!

Preparing Seniors for Graduation: What You Haven't Yet Heard about Sticky Faith

Join us live for 30 minutes of research-based ideas for equipping your high school seniors. 

Tuesday Feb. 7, 10:00-10:30 am PST  

Bookmark the link:

To win a free copy of the Parent or Teen curriculum, tweet a question for the webcast (including #stickyfaith) that's related to helping seniors develop Sticky Faith. We'll notify the winners after the webcast.


Quick FAQs about the New Sticky Faith Parent DVD Curriculum

Jan 30, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Parent DVDWe’re fielding more and more questions here at FYI about the Sticky Faith Parent DVD Curriculum that was just released.  Why did we do it?  What is it?  How can parents, leaders, and churches use it? 

Thanks to our good friends at Zondervan Publishing, we were able to compile a 2 minute video that answers many of these questions, but for those of us who like to read, I’ll take a stab at some answers.

Why did we do it?  Well, as much as we love and believe in the power of youth ministry, the best research (including our own) indicates that parents are as, if not more, important in a teenager’s life and spirituality than even the best youth leaders.  Every parent I can think of wants to be a positive influence in their kids’ lives, and yet they don’t know how, and feel guilty for all they’re not doing.  Hopefully the Sticky Faith Parent DVD Curriculum can give some positive, helpful principles and tips.

What is it?  We divided the most relevant Sticky Faith research into five different sessions, all of which lasts 15-20 minutes.  The 5 session titles are: 

1: Sticky Faith Essentials

2: A Sticky Identity

3: Family Conversations about Faith that Sticks

4: Your Sticky Faith Team

5: The Ups and Downs of the Sticky Faith Journey

Each session also includes testimonies of real life parents and students, sharing their highs and lows along the path to Sticky Faith, as well as discussion/reflection questions.

How can parents, leaders, and churches use it?  All sorts of ways.  For small group or Sunday School curriculum, as a parent training resource (over multiple weeks, or playing many sessions on one day for parents), for content for a book club, or as a DVD for parents to watch on their own.

Most of us who worked on this DVD training are parents ourselves, and we tried to create a tool that would help us.  We pray that it helps you and other parents too.

The Seniors’ Year

Jan 27, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute
Teen Curriculum

In light of our newly-released Sticky Faith curriculum products for students and parents, we’re excited to share a guest blog series on how various youth pastors have approached preparing seniors for the transition out of high school. Today's guest blogger is Danny Kwon, youth pastor at Yuong Sang Church near Philadelphia. Yuong Sang was part of our 2010 Sticky Faith Cohort.

While we love each and every student in our youth group, senior year for our 12th grade students in our youth group is always the seniors’ year.  We try to make it very special for them.  And while we have always had a focus to make their last year special in youth group, the Sticky Faith initiative has given even more intentionality to this last “official” year in youth group.  Some things we have done:

We begin in July before their senior year starts and have regular Friday night senior nights at our home all throughout the following year. We take time to share and pray, but we also take time to talk and equip seniors for life after high school, especially related to the college application process.  Sticky Faith has helped take this one step further as we now invite adult church members to each meeting to spend time and talk with our seniors.  In addition, we have one pastoral staff from our church (such as the college or young adult pastor) attend the meetings and just fellowship with our seniors.  And of course, we have great food, much more elaborate than the usual pizza or chips, as we want to embrace the seniors to let them know we love them now and after they leave the youth group. 

This month, as part of our youth group mid-week meetings, we are having a former campus fellowship leader of a local university come and share his experiences in college and faith journey and also the ups and downs of what he saw in his friends’ experiences.  While we are excited that he will address the entire youth group, we are also having him come to share with the seniors specifically and to let them know there is “faith after high school.” 

Sunday small groups for our seniors consist of times where adults and the seniors collaborate to come up with a “curriculum” for the year and topics of discussion that the seniors want to talk about before they leave the youth group (like exploring different religions, drinking, doubts, questions about faith).  Moreover, this is not only a time where adults lead students, but the seniors take turns each week leading the small group time.

We hold a graduation banquet for our seniors near the end of the year, but another component we added three years ago based on how Sticky Faith has inspired us is a senior mission trip after they graduate.  This is led not only by our youth ministry staff, but in partnership with our college group pastor and some college age students.  This will be our third year, and over the past two years it has really been fruitful.  Our college pastor has been raving about the ways it helps transition graduates to the college group.  

These are just some musings about how we love our seniors and make it “their” year.  You may have different and better ideas for your context.  By being intentional about it, seniors not only feel special, but also know that they are loved and cared for and can begin to see that there is faith after youth group after all.