Part 3: What are the main points of Sticky Faith?
Note: This is Part 3 of a multi-part series. Check out the entire Making Changes Stick Toolkit for more ideas you can use today to help lead change in your ministry.
Research shows that 40-50% of students from good youth groups and families will drift from God and the church after high school. We’re not satisfied with that, and we believe you’re not either!
In our study of over 500 youth group graduates, we have uncovered three main shifts that are needed in order to help young people develop a faith that sticks:
1. Shift from a behavior-based gospel to a grace-based gospel. When asked to describe what it meant to be a Christian, many of the students in the study pointed to a list of behaviors. They believed God would like them better if they behaved well. This type of faith is analogous to a jacket; it can be put on and taken off, but doesn’t change what’s on the inside. When students with this type of faith experience some sort of failure in college, they feel like they have taken off their faith (like a jacket) and thrown it into a corner. We need to help students develop a more robust understanding of the gospel.
2. Shift from separating teenagers from the rest of the church to integrating them into the overall life of the church. Our research shows a strong connection between intergenerational worship and relationships and mature faith. The problem is that as youth ministry becomes more professionalized, the more it tends to segregate students. If this is the only type of ministry approach taken, the whole church misses out on rich relationship and discipleship opportunities.
3. Shift from a “dry-cleaner” view of parenting to partnering with parents. Dry-cleaner parents drop their kids off at youth group expecting to pick them up 90 minutes later all clean and pressed. In other words, they’ve learned to outsource their kids’ spiritual development. Instead, youth leaders need to imagine new ways to partner with parents in their kids’ faith formation.
Before you take the important step from listening to communicating a new vision, it is vital that you and your leadership team are on the same page about the current reality and health of your youth ministry. The goal is to understand where things are now, which will help you discern the path you need to take to get where you’d like to go.
Below are a few ideas to help you do that, based on the main points of Sticky Faith:
1. Assess students’ understanding of the gospel: This one is pretty simple. Sit down with students and ask them to describe what it means to be a Christian. Listen carefully and take notes on what you hear (or write them down immediately afterward). You and your leadership team could get together with students outside of youth group, or make this a small group discussion. The key is that you come back together and gain a clear picture of how your students understand the gospel.
2. Assess intergenerational ministry: Consider making an “intergenerational map” of your church campus. This map helps you to understand where students spend time, and to identify where there are opportunities for them to interact more with adults. Detailed instructions can be found in this document.
3. Assess partnership with parents: The first part of this is to understand the expectations that parents have of the youth ministry. In part two of this toolkit, you asked several parents about their mental model of youth ministry, which provides you with this exact information. As a leadership team, talk about the expectations the parents in your church have.
A second important piece is to understand the way your youth ministry is currently structured, and how well it partners with parents. With your leadership team, make a list of all of the activities that make up your youth ministry. Walk through that list and assess which ones partner with parents well, which ones do not, and brainstorm new ideas for moving toward partnership.
Assessing the current state of your youth ministry is both an art and a science, and there is no one-size-fits all approach. While the exercises above provide you with some ideas to get started, feel free to come up with your own assessment that fits your context! Share your assessment ideas in the comments section below.
Reflection questions for you and your team:
- Based on the application exercise above, how do students at our church understand the gospel? What adjustments do we need to make in our teaching and our community in order to nurture an environment of grace?
- How well are we doing at facilitating intergenerational ministry? How could we do better?
- What are parents’ expectations of our youth ministry? What could we do to improve our partnership with parents?
- Taking these three areas into account, how far are we now from where we want our youth ministry to go? Why?
Resources to Go Deeper:
- Sticky Faith Cohort – Join a dynamic learning group of other innovative churches committed to take the research and apply it to their settings to offer more transformative youth and family ministry.
- Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark, and the Sticky Faith Parent Curriculum DVD.
- Sticky Faith Parent section of our website - For ideas, articles, curriculum, and other resources.
- More Than the Red Bull Rip Off – Article by Kara Powell, Chap Clark, and Brad Griffin about the Sticky Gospel.
- Intergenerational Ministry Beyond the Rhetoric – Article by Brad Griffin and Brenda Snailum about leading toward intergenerational ministry.
Explore part 4 of this toolkit: How do I communicate the Sticky Faith vision to others?