What is Sticky Faith, Anyway?

Kara Powell

Often when we share about Sticky Faith in a conversation or at a seminar, someone will probe a bit: "What exactly do you mean by 'Sticky Faith?'"  That's a great question, actually.  So we figured with the launch of this new site and new blog, we'd get right to the point.

If you're into research you can visit our About page that lays out more of the details of the six years of research that went into this project.  But the term "Sticky Faith" was born in our office a few years ago when we were brainstorming how to best describe what we hope will happen to kids' faith long-term and Brad Griffin came up with the phrase itself.

We want faith to stick.

Not just in a static way, but a stickiness that keeps growing, flourishing, expanding as these emerging adults experience faith in the context of college and whatever else awaits them after high school. 

So (to borrow from our About page and formal definition) by “Sticky Faith” we mean faith that shows a combination of characteristics, all of which exist in a dynamic tension…

  • Faith that is both internalized and externalized: a faith that is part of a student’s inner thoughts and emotions, and is also externalized in choices and actions that reflect that faith commitment.  These behaviors include regular attendance in a church/campus group, prayer and Bible reading, service to others, and lower participation in risk behaviors, in particular sex and alcohol (two behaviors we are studying specifically).  In other words, Sticky Faith involves whole-person life integration, at least to some degree.
  • Faith that is both personal 1 and communal:  a faith that celebrates God’s specific care for each person while always locating faith in the global and local community of the Church.
  • Faith that is both mature and maturing:  a faith that shows marks of spiritual maturity but is also in process of growth.  We don’t assume a high school senior or college freshman (or a youth worker for that matter) will have a completely “mature” faith.  We are all in process.

That's our team's best take on summing up Sticky Faith.  But we're curious, how would you describe it? What would you add to how you hope faith will stick in the lives of the kids you love and serve?


Published Aug 17, 2011
Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. As a youth ministry veteran of over 20 years, she serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties. Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women You Should Know", Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

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