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.  

Becoming Part of Something Bigger than Myself

Jan 25, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Recently an intergenerational team from our church, Hillside Community, ran a half-marathon as part of Team World Vision to raise nearly $90,000 for clean water initiatives globally.

Hannah is a 15-year old who offered her own reflections afterward on how this experience became about much more than running:hannah

I always wanted to be able to run a marathon or at least a half. I had watched my brother run multiple marathons and it always looked like so much fun, but I never had enough motivation to actually do it. When the half marathon was announced in church I had just been thinking more about how I really wanted to run long distance and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to run, get more involved at church, and help a good cause in Africa.

At a lot of church events in the past, I have felt uncomfortable. As a shy person who doesn’t do well with events totally based on social interaction, I never thrived with the rambunctious games or long, unorganized periods of “socializing time.” Going into training, I was afraid it might be the same, but it turned out to be completely the opposite.

I was able to connect with different generations of the church: people my parents are friends with, but who I have never really gotten to know because we have been constantly isolated with only our own age groups at church activities. There were only a handful of people my age running the race, which surprised me at first, but over the course of months of training, I grew incredibly close to each of them.

Running 13.1 miles this morning, I saw all of these relationships and truly understood how close a church family is meant to be. As I ran, I would see others from our team and we would cheer for each other, shout encouragement across the sea of runners, and keep going, knowing that we were each backed by 200 others all doing the same activity together on a chilly January morning. As I passed the mile 13 marker, the cheers of other Hillsiders pushed me to the finish line.

Afterwards we talked with one another; real, deep conversations about how we have changed over these past few months.  It dawned on me that perhaps for the first time in my fifteen years at Hillside, I feel like I belong, like I am a valued piece of something bigger than myself: a community of believers who all truly love one another.

When I started training, I would have said that I run to be as impressive as my brother, to have that medal around my neck instead of simply being the little sister at the finish line. But over these months, my view has changed. Now I would say that I run to connect with the church, to form bonds that will last a lifetime. We have all experienced a lot over the past few months: moments of joy and moments of sorrow, moments of peace and moments of pain, but what was most important was that we could all share these moments together. A true church family, united by a cause and a God much bigger than any of us could ever imagine. 


Finals Care Packages

Jan 23, 2012 Fuller Youth Institute

Today's guest post is from Noah Starksen, Associate Director of Youth Ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame, CA. Originally posted here, reposted by permission.

As any of us who work with high schoolers know, the end of the semester means finals season. For our students, the semester ended just before Christmas. So while many of us adults are enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations and preparing ourselves in the time of Advent, teens are busy studying, studying, studying.  

For our youth group, this also means that it is time for high school care packages.

We did this for the first time last May, and after seeing what came of it, we decided that this would be something we would do every semester.  Finals can be a crazy time for many high schoolers and as a youth staff, we decided that we do not need to add to that by having our high school program in the midst of finals.  Instead we used it as an opportunity to do contact work and be incarnational, as well as give pastoral care.  So instead of asking students to give up a couple hours of study time to come to our program, we would come to them.  So we spent a bunch of time looking up every student’s address and created a google map with all of them on it.  After we mapped out all of our students homes, we split up the map between leaders (going in groups of 2-3 leaders to the homes).  After a prayer for the night, we went our separate ways to students’ homes.  Of course, we texted and called kids to let them know we were coming so we knew that they were home, and they knew we were coming.

We went house to house stopping and saying hi, dropping off our little care packs (which were just paper bags with a starbucks, water, granola bar, pencil, and a note with an encouraging scripture and upcoming events) and sitting with kids.  Some great memories came for all of us from these stops.  We got to sit and just relax with kids and parents, we got to help some kids study, we got to meet some parents that we hadn’t met before, and of course, we got to pray with them for the chaos of finals and the joy of the holiday season.

As we continue to think about Sticky Faith, this was a great opportunity to show students that faith, church life, school life, and family life can all meld together.



Jan 20, 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 Stew Montgomery, youth pastor at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in CA.  Solana Beach was part of our 2010 Sticky Faith Cohort.

My wife loves snapshots.  She loves them so much, in fact, that both her computer and her phone sluggishly groan under the weight of massive amounts of storage being taken up by pictures of significant family events and simple common moments.  Even though I tease her relentlessly about her obsession, I secretly love the plethora of photos because they often carry the memory, the emotion, and the meaning of the reality they have captured.  They are something to hold on to, something that we can come back to time and time again.

Each year in mid-June our church marks Grad Sunday, a morning to deliberately celebrate our graduating high school seniors as they transition from the relative stability of high school to the largely unexplored future of summer and beyond.  Over the past few years, we have developed a tradition of ending our service by inviting our graduating seniors to gather on the chancel in front of the congregation.  Once assembled, we ask anybody who knows any one of the students on stage (from being their Sunday school teacher, from working together to build a house in Mexico, from serving together during KidsGames) to come up front and stand beside the student as we close our service in prayer.  After the benediction, people often mill around for a good while, shaking hands, asking questions, and extending blessings. 

I love this dynamic because for me it is a snapshot.  It is a lucid picture for the type of community we want to more clearly become: the type of community that gathers around one another, to support one another, to celebrate one another, and to share life with one another.  For our seniors I hope it serves as something they can carry with them, something they can hold on to, and something that they can come back to time and time again as they move into a yet undeveloped future.

Vision Plans

Jan 19, 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 Lee Hanssen, a high school pastor who serves as the Director of Commitment Class at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, MN.  Christ Presbyterian was part of our 2011 Sticky Faith Cohort.

Often in ministry, we have great intentions and thoughts to share with our students.  Just as often those thoughts come and go unspoken.  A few years ago I was given what I call now a “Vision Plan.”  A man who loved me, believed in me, and had very clear and well thought-out wisdom to share with me sat me down and did just that. 

For the better part of an hour, I sat across the table from a man who looked me in the eyes, affirmed me, shared areas to grow, and prayed over a vision he had for my life.  I left changed--forever.  Not only in my own soul and faith, but changed in the way I wanted to be intentional with those I lead and disciple. 

At CPC, we have taken this process and transferred it to a concept applicable to all graduating seniors.  It is our hope that each student would have the opportunity to sit across the table from a staff member and have a vision plan shared with them.  Vision plans are a great way to individually and specifically honor and affirm each senior as they transition out of our ministry program.  A simple format could look like this:

1)      Begin with affirmations:  Try to make a list of 10-15 strengths that are specific to the individual.  Share how you have seen these strengths in their life.

2)      Next, I like to include a section of favorite memories. (The time we walked around the lake, went to the gym, went on a mission trip to urban Chicago, etc).

3)      Key lessons/issues you have walked through together.

4)      Areas to grow (limit to 2 or 3).

5)      Short-term and long-term goals.

6)      Finally, include a vision for their life (sounds intense!).  This section is really you sharing your heart for what it could look like for this guy/girl to grow into the man/woman God is calling them to be.

Other fun ideas to pepper through the vision plan to make it your own: funny inside jokes, Bible verses, ancient prayers, pictures, nicknames, a general theme (ex. “Jaron the tender warrior,” “Molly the gentle servant”).

Once we develop these plans, we set up a meeting with each student individually and surprise them with the plan. I always print off two copies, one for me and one for the student.  Page by page I talk through it and share out loud the hopes I have for them.  At the end of the vision plan, it is always a good opportunity to ask them if they have anything they would like to share.  This is not a time to fish for compliments, simply an honest opportunity for a young adolescent to have a safe place to respond.  Finally I spend some time in prayer with the student and wrap up. 

Reconnecting and Walking with Seniors During the Stressful Season

Jan 17, 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 Lars Rood, a Fuller grad, a student ministry pastor at Highland Park Presbyterian near Dallas, TX, blogger, and part of the 2010 Sticky Faith Cohort.

As a part of our interaction with the Sticky Faith research my youth ministry felt like we needed to take some new steps to connect and walk with our senior class through their senior year.  It’s a stressful season full of college applications, acceptance and rejection letters and ultimately deciding where to go. That “decision” has so many facets and factors to it that it feels like a really big and stressful deal for our students.

So we decided to walk through it with them.  The Sticky Faith idea was to just surround our seniors in a time of non-agenda relationships. We did this by inviting them over to my house every other Sunday for the entire fall and winter months of their senior year for dinner.  I generally would cook up something good to show them that they mattered and were important to us, and we’d just sit around and talk. In the fall we tried to make sure they knew that we just wanted them there and we didn’t have a program or plan for the evening. The basic idea was come from 6-7. You have to eat and we live close to the church. Just be with us.  One thing I always said was we love you if you come or don’t.

Through the fall we targeted both the seniors and their parents and let them know what we were doing. Most nights we ended much later than 7pm although many students always had to leave early.  We would just sit around and talk about college applications, essays and their hopes, dreams and nightmares about the college process. We talked a lot about their senior year too and other things they were experiencing. 

In the winter students started getting early acceptance letters and some of them decided immediately but others didn’t hear back for a while. For both of those groups we just encouraged and cared for them and stayed consistent with our questions and prayers.  We started having a bit more program in the winter, so each night after dinner we would talk about some specific bits of college Christian life.  We had great discussions about how to find a church, where to meet friends, how to relate to your parents, and what things they should look out for in a spiritual community.  Lots of really good discussions.

There's a lot of ways to care for your senior class. This was just one way we did it and they said they loved it. The payoff was that this winter when they were all back from college, we were able to have great talks about their first semester.  

Church Field Trips

Jan 11, 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. Sticky Faith research team member Meredith Miller kicks us off with a three-post series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

After spending most of a weekend retreat for grads focused on personal spiritual growth habits, we closed out with what we told the group was the most important component—community.  Specifically, we challenged them to engage in the multi-generational community of a local church.

On Sunday, we took the group to the church I attended in college and lucked out, because it was “church on the beach” Sunday.  We sat on the sand hearing testimonies before ocean baptisms, and all got a little sunburned before the morning ended.

Thus we kicked off Church Field Trips, a series of six visits to churches in our surrounding area.  Our team strategically selected churches we respected that were distinctly different from our own—more charismatic, smaller, more ethnically diverse, more conservative, more liberal, louder, bigger. After worship we discussed how they would process that visit if they were considering the church while away at school.

Each discussion employed the same basic framework.  First, we reminded ourselves of two things: a single visit is like a snapshot of life in an ongoing community, and whether you ‘liked it’ is not really enough to go on after one visit.  Then, we asked the same series of questions:

  • What did you learn from their bulletin or other print material?
  • What did you learn about them from their music, announcements, sermon and other segments of the service?
  • What did you most enjoy?
  • What felt different or strange to you?
  • What questions would you want to ask someone who calls this church home?
  • What more would you want to know or experience in order to want to call this church home?

We had this conversation over a meal or dessert.  Sometimes the staff pointed things out the grads missed (like the time the elder list was in the bulletin and had no female members) but often we held off so they could draw their own conclusions (like the visit to another church I called home during grad school.  The students liked it, but completely misread the community.)

At the end of the series, the grads scheduled a seventh unplanned visit.  They went to our own services, trying to imagine being new to the area.  Then they discussed:  would you attend here if you were a new student from a local school?  Their feedback was invaluable for our team as we considered how to connect college students to our community.

Senior Retreat

Jan 09, 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. Sticky Faith research team member Meredith Miller kicks us off with a three-post series. Read part 1.

When we first began to construct a summer calendar just for our high school grads, we had a pressing issue to address.  For the first time, graduated seniors could not attend camp with the rest of the youth group, whereas in the past they could.  So we decided to host a weekend retreat for them, just a few weeks after graduation at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.  I’m biased because it’s my alma mater, but most would agree it’s a beautiful campus.

The weekend was designed to address faith after high school, with a strategic flow to the meetings.  Our first evening involved an open discussion about the changes they were beginning to experience, especially how their faith was not going to be enforced for them anymore.  We hoped to equip them to take ownership of their spiritual growth.  We discussed “The Problem with Quiet Time” from Nancy Ortberg’s Looking for God.  In a nutshell, Ortberg questions the idea that God is only available if we meet him for 30 minutes (minimum) in the morning.  With a journal.  And after saying the ACTS prayer.  Any other way we find God’s goodness, grace, and delight is, at best, “extra credit.”

The next day, we introduced Gary Thomas’ Sacred Pathways:  nine unique ‘paths’ for drawing close to God. With the Sticky Faith research, we talk about a faith that is internalized and externalized.  Thomas’ pathways include externalized faith dimensions and affirm that God forms and guides us throughout all of them.

The book includes a self-assessment, which identified paths to which one might be well suited.  After taking the assessment, the rest of the morning was devoted to engaging in practices that aligned with the different pathways.  They goal was not only to seek God, but also to be aware of how well that path ‘fit’ for them.  For instance, we had empty, undecorated dorm rooms for an ascetic experience, and we went to the beach for the naturalists.

Overall, the retreat was one of the highlights of my summer, and set us up for a great series of future conversations with the grads.  But I’ve only talked about Friday and Saturday.  Next time, I’ll write about Sunday’s church on the beach, which closed out the retreat and kicked off a 6-week series of church field trips for the group.

What I loved:

  • There was plenty of time for fun.  We played late night glow-in-the-dark Ultimate Frisbee in front of the administration building, spent Saturday afternoon at the Santa Barbara zoo, and got Cookie Monsters at Longboards on the pier at midnight.  The super-late night options especially offered new flexibility and freedom for the grads, who were used to having more structure in youth group.
  • They unplugged from phones and TV, even though they got service and had a TV available.  I love that camp invites us to unplug, but it often does so by force, because there just isn’t a tower.

 What I would change:

  • It was tough to put every one of Thomas’ nine pathways into practice, but I’d be sure to have them all.  For instance, we didn’t have an activism opportunity prepared, and a few of our students had that as their strongest pathway.
  • I’d have invited parents of the grads to be involved in some way—sending letters for their kids to be read over their time, or meeting us for church on Sunday.

Next time:  Church Field Trips