Fuller Youth Institute


The only thing I love more than a great deal is the chance to tell others about a great deal.

That’s why I’m ecstatic at the chance to tell you about our pre-order bundle for our new book, Growing Young.

Our team has worked tirelessly all summer to create this bundle of gifts for you, because that’s how excited we are about Growing Young. It is so much more than a book; it’s a movement, and we want you to join us.

Growing Young is the fruit of one of the most comprehensive and collaborative studies ever conducted on churches that are effectively engaging young people. The Fuller Youth Institute team has spent the last four years studying over 250 congregations that are especially effective with 15-29 year-olds.

We’ve done 10,000 hours of research so that in just a few hours of reading this book, you’ll have the insights you need to enable your church to both grow and engage young people.

Growing Young Book

We hope you’re as excited about this as we are. So while the book is officially available on September 20, we invite you to pre-order Growing Young and receive not just the book, but an additional toolkit of strategic resources.

The best part? They’ll be delivered to you today!


What’s in the Growing Young preorder bundle?

Here’s what you’ll receive in the preorder bundle when you purchase the book before it launches:

  • Growing Young Stories, our 28-page ebook of inspiration. An exclusive look at the churches, leaders, and young people we met through our research. Some of these conversations are unpublished anywhere else!
  • An exclusive webinar: “What Next? Steps to Grow Young” hosted by the authors. Hang out with Kara, Jake, and Brad online and talk about how young people can love your church.
  • A 12-day prayer journey delivered to you via email. Pray with us as you prepare to explore the world of Growing Young and what it means for your congregation.
  • How to Talk to Any Young Person: our 18-page conversation guide. Discover our basic strategies for having meaningful conversations with today’s young people.
  • The audiobook of Growing Young. That’s right! When the book launches, you will receive a free audio download so you can listen to the book wherever you go.
  • A digital copy of Right Click, our latest book on technology. Parenting or leading young people through a digital age can be challenging; this is our ultimate guide to help you and other parents you know.
  • A set of Growing Young themed desktop and smartphone wallpapers. Dress your tech with these beautiful pieces designed to capture the essence of the 6 Core Commitments.
  • A StatSheet featuring Growing Young research. Share the world of Growing Young research with your friends, colleagues, leadership team, and congregation.

This amazing bundle is currently available nowhere else. I can hardly believe how much we’re giving away to everyone who preorders the book. And I am so excited that these bonuses can be yours in the next several minutes!

How to preorder the book and claim your bundle:

Step 1. Preorder the book here. (Already preordered? Move to step 2.)

Step 2. Submit your information, including your order number, through this form.

To find your order number, refer to your order confirmation email, or search your past orders.

Step 3. Confirm your request via the instructions we send you, and download your bonus!

This bundle will be gone before you know it, so I hope you’ll take advantage of these offerings today. Thank you for joining us and supporting us on the Growing Young journey!

Love this offer? Share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter!

Photo by Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity

This is part 2 in a series on rethinking justice and injustice in short-term mission experiences. Read Part 1.

We were instructed to maintain silence during the bus ride back from the state-run Jamaican infirmary. Our mission team had just spent a few hours with patients of varying degrees of mental and physical capacities.

Some participants visited with patients one-on-one, spending time talking with them, holding their hands, and reading psalms. One young man brought a guitar and sang familiar songs. Others were a little more anxious and gathered in small groups with clusters of patients. Some played games and listened to stories—whether they were understood at all through the thick Patwa was beside the point. Some said nothing at all, providing patients with a simple gift of their presence and companionship.

Our journey back to the mission base begged for quiet introspection.

The reflection of one young woman who’d spent much of her summer at the infirmary revealed that for her, this experience was a glimpse of heaven. Here were young American students with their whole lives in front of them who took respite from their self-absorbed plans to share space with elderly Jamaicans, who had little reason to believe that their lives were going to get any better. To her, the visits were like icons of heaven where God brought the nations together, wiping tears from every eye, and bringing an end to death, mourning, crying and pain.

But the young woman revealed that her experience at the infirmary wasn’t all angels and anthems either. There was a shadow side. She said, “It’s kind of like heaven and hell mashed up into one place.”

While the visit to the infirmary became an icon of heaven, it was also the antithesis. Families who were either unwilling or unable to support them any longer had abandoned numerous patients. Many of the patients had severe mental health issues, which caused them to act out erratically. Some had severe physical disfigurations. Some coped with issues of incontinence. Over the course of the summer, the young woman had witnessed negligence of patients at best, and all manners of verbal and physical abuse by particular infirmary staff at worst. All were placed in a crowded, under-funded, state-run facility with few options by which the infirmary might be held accountable to more acceptable standards. For this young American, the infirmary was also an icon of hell, the negation of life as it was supposed to be.

The iconic value of short-term trips

I’ve previously written that perhaps the real value of mission trips is not in fulfilling the Great Commission or by eliminating poverty—they typically don’t do either of them well—but in giving young people an experience of being deeply connected to brothers and sisters from whom they’d been estranged across racial, cultural, religious, and geographic boundaries. I argue that this isn’t a distraction from mission, but rather embodies the work of God to bring a fragmented humanity back into participation in the life of the Trinity. In this way, a cross-cultural trip can be like an icon—an experience through which we see and worship God in a new way.

I think another reason why we take young people on mission trips to some of the most forgotten, poverty-stricken places around the world isn’t just to have young people catch a glimpse of heaven, but also to bear witness to hell on earth. We go to unearth the tragedies that humans inflict upon one another that are functionally invisible to many American young people who live lives of relative privilege. We go to grieve these devastations, and in doing so, we hope to find spiritual energy to prevent these hells from happening again, or from happening elsewhere.

Moses’ short-term mission experience

These kinds of journeys or experiences aren’t without scriptural precedent. In Exodus 2, Moses himself set out on a trip across town to visit the Hebrew labor camps. For most of his life, he’d known nothing but opulence and luxury—palaces, gardens, temples, flagrant displays of unprecedented wealth and architectural wonders engineered with staggering ingenuity. All of these pleasures kept Moses and the rest of the Egyptian bourgeoisie from seeing another reality.

On the other side of the tracks were the Hebrew labor camps, the construction sites—all of the gritty places where Hebrews labored in dehumanizing conditions to make all of the wealth of Egypt possible. Then Exodus 2:11 describes, “One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor.” This journey had many of the makings of a modern mission trip—a young man coming of age, a crossing of socioeconomic, cultural, and geographical borders, a negotiation of his identity as a Hebrew, and a curiosity to encounter something new and real.

There, Moses saw a Hebrew slave, a man who by all outward appearances could have been his brother or his cousin, being beaten by an Egyptian overseer. The Egyptian, while unlike Moses in his appearance, might have appeared as if he had been one of Moses’s classmates or friends—someone like him in his culture and his mannerisms. The brutality of the Egyptian’s actions was more than Moses could stand. He looked around to see if anyone was watching. Then he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand.

Bearing witness to this inhumanity was a moment of crisis that transformed the trajectory of not only Moses’ life, but also that of the nation of Israel. It was a conversion. It was a moment where, for the first time, Moses clearly made the connection between the exploitation of the Hebrews and the privileged life he enjoyed with Pharaoh. Egypt’s wealth was made possible only through the oppression of the Hebrews. James Baldwin, one of the most influential African American writers of the Civil Rights era, believed that Whites were blinded from the injustice inflicted upon his people behind their own illusions of respectability. Baldwin exhorted his Black brothers and sisters saying, “We, with love, shall force our [White] brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.” For the first time, Moses was seeing Egypt for what it was and he was forced to cease fleeing from reality. He witnessed the living hell that raged against his people.

In killing the Egyptian, Moses turned his back on all of the privileges of the Egyptian way of life. He came to see how privilege and poverty are bound up with one another. Moses chose instead to side with the suffering Hebrews, which ultimately marked the beginning of a long journey of God calling him to return to Egypt to liberate his people.

Facing the injustice of the cross

Perhaps we get an even better example in scripture of an encounter with institutionalized violence that might guide us towards a new way to reimagine short-term mission at the end of the book of Luke. First-century Jews knew all too well the injustices that weighed upon them at the oppressive hands of Rome. Yet at Jesus’ crucifixion, the violence of the empire was unveiled in brutal spectacle. Luke 23:47-49 says, “The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

The Pax Romana was exposed as anything but peaceful and just. It murdered an innocent man. The same actions that brought privilege to some brought hell on earth to the masses. Seeing Jesus on the cross forced even the centurion to cease fleeing from reality. While everyone who gathered at the cross lamented, some shook their heads and went on their way. But for those who knew Jesus, the violence they witnessed unraveled their entire world. They were rendered immobile, unable to do anything but stand at a distance and watch.

We shouldn’t confuse standing at a distance and watching with inaction. The Spirit was doing something inside each of them. The brutality they’d witnessed was slowly percolating down into their souls and leaching into their bones. Richard Rohr teaches, “If you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it to those around you and even to the next generation.” Standing at a distance and watching was a way of transforming the pain rather than allowing it to erupt as it did with Moses, who responded to violence with more violence.

Instead, God used these dark, holy hours to prepare this group of followers for what it meant to live in God’s kingdom. Over the next days and months and years, the lessons that they learned at the foot of the cross would give them the spiritual energy and the imagination they needed to embody the Kingdom of God in the face of unspeakable persecution. Unlike Rome and Egypt, privilege in the body of Christ wouldn’t demand the impoverishment and oppression of those outside of it. 

Short-term mission as pilgrimage toward the cross

In this way, short-term mission can be reconceived as a kind of pilgrimage to the cross. We make our way down thousands of Via Dolorosas to the slums of Lima and the shores of Lesbos, to Ferguson and the favelas of Rio—to any number of the Golgothas of our world. We go because Christ is being recrucified every day in people who bear his image, and we ourselves must bear witness. Maybe our actions on these journeys become like those of Simon from Cyrene—we carry our brothers’ and sisters’ crosses, if only for a moment. If only for a few, stumbling steps, we sense the crushing weight of mass incarceration and mass migration and share in their suffering on their way to Calvary.

Or maybe our roles are to be more inconspicuous, to find ourselves among the anonymous people who follow Simon and simply mourn and wail at a distance outside a brothel in Bangkok or rehab center in Rosebud. Or maybe we allow ourselves to be moved by the nobility of a local Joseph of Arimathea or a Mary Magdalene who care for bodies broken by injustice, ISIS, and opioids with such grace in the midst of such suffering.

Even in a world where young people are more connected and have more access to global information than ever before, they can be isolated in their own curated worlds. We need to create spaces and pathways, especially for young people of privilege, to encounter the brutal realities of injustice that too many people face. While the empires of Egypt and Rome have risen and fallen, their imagination for the world and the institutional injustice that fuels it is alive and well. Bearing witness to this suffering offers young people an opportunity to see the world as it really is and to make a choice to work for the interests of marginalized people rather than their own.

Action Steps

In light of the ways short-term trips can be icons of hell, here are a few things to consider as you plan your next mission trip or service project:

  • Avoid poverty porn. While it can be transformative to encounter injustice in our world, it’s another thing to be a voyeur, to gawk and consume another’s pain. There’s a big difference between revealing your wounds to a group of strangers who gasp, take pictures, and move on, and showing them to med students who will learn and help others because of your pain. As the wise Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation once disparagingly said about a friend’s boyfriend, “He vacations in other people’s lives, takes pictures, puts them in his scrapbook, and moves on. All he’s interested in are stories. Basically, he’s selfish.” Don’t be selfish.


  • Learn about institutional injustice. There’s an old saying, “If you see a fish go belly-up in a lake, you try to find out what was wrong with the fish. You see a thousand fish go belly up in a lake and you better take a look at the lake.” There are good reasons why poverty, drug abuse, prostitution, hunger, and incarceration are so prevalent in some communities. Most often it’s not because there are so many individuals who lack character or because of a deficient culture. They are the predictable results of systemic injustice. Don’t shame people. Investigate what’s wrong with the water.


  • See people as more than their pain. Avoid the single story of people who are living in poverty and the countries in which they live. While they may be victims, they’re often not completely helpless, and their resilience and resourcefulness can be astounding.


  • Do a (really old-school) altar call. When the 19th century revivialist Charles Finney called people to follow Christ, he enlisted them to abolish slavery. Present young people with an opportunity to give their lives to Christ, and in doing so, to make a decision to work for the interests of marginalized people rather than their own.


Want more tools for your next service trip? Check out our Sticky Faith Service Guide

“Suffering is not optional.” —Desmond Tutu

These somber words perhaps strike us differently in the aftermath of this month’s events, though spoken from a leader who witnessed decades of violence, trauma, and terrorism in his own context. Tutu goes on to suggest, “Our suffering can become a spirituality of transformation when we understand that we have a role in God’s transfiguration of the world.”

We’ve been reminded at FYI that the impact of the trauma our country and globe have sustained in recent weeks will be deep and enduring. When systemic injustices combine with local-level reactions, the combustion blazes beyond our control. Those of us who follow Jesus find ourselves asking very serious questions. How could this happen? Can God still be good? Who can we trust? How can we ever feel safe? Perhaps you’ve heard questions like this in your ministry or your home in recent weeks as the general level of fear and unease has risen.

While we find ourselves at a loss for adequate words to respond to the complexities at hand, we wanted to offer a few resources for helping young people process trauma and tragedy, whether experienced locally or through the media.


Pray and sing laments to God

“Why are you so far off? Why have you hidden your face from me?”

Common spiritual reactions to tragedy include anger at God, questioning God, and struggling to trust God. The most appropriate response to these kinds of reactions is to lament. Lament is a God-given tool to pray and worship our way through pain and tragedy. While uncomfortable and sometimes awkward to read, the psalms of lament (there are over 65 of them) in the Bible give us language for crying out to God in ways we might not normally find acceptable. That’s exactly why they’re preserved for us.

In response to traumatic experiences, it is critically important for a community of faith to offer space for this kind of response to God. As youth workers, we may fear taking students to those places of doubt, anger, and disappointment with God. However, failing to create an environment for authentic lament can result in spiritually and psychologically short-circuiting the necessary healing process. We have the opportunity to offer the hope of Christ and his re-orienting power to lives that have been plunged into trauma and disorientation.

Incorporating lament into your ministry takes careful thought, but does not have to be elaborate. Perhaps you could start by taking time in your next worship service for a reading of Psalm 88, 80, 61, 13, or 10. Ask reflection questions like, “Is it okay to say these kinds of things to God? Where could this kind of prayer go from here?” Then read through the psalm again and invite students to journal or draw their own continuing prayer for a few minutes. Afterwards talk through their feelings of comfort or discomfort in approaching God that way.

Last week in our church’s worship we sang several songs of lament and then prayed prayers that invited people to name specific African American friends, family members, and coworkers, asking God to free them from fear and protect them from harm.  


Listen to voices that are not like yours

After Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, two summers ago, African American pastor Bryan Loritts wrote, “We will never experience true Christian unity when one ethnicity demands of another that we keep silent about our pain and travails. The way forward is not an appeal to the facts as a first resort, but the attempt to get inside each other’s skin as best as we can to feel what they feel, and understand it.” In other words, we cannot hope to understand or have empathy until we stop to listen.

Listening locally is vital. Listening on a national level can also help increase our understanding. Last weekend FYI’s Mary Glenn, an instructor in our Urban Youth Ministry program and local police chaplain and chaplain trainer, was part of a panel for HopeMob with three African American ministry leaders. Mary shared her sense that fear and tension are tangible in many communities right now. As a result, we tend to categorize others and keep them at a distance to deal with our fear. Michelle Higgins of Faith for Justice notes that often in this fear we fail to acknowledge the humanity of the other. Through misconception and miscommunication, we dehumanize both victim and perpetrator of violence. Instead, “seeing the image of God in other humans is at the center of all reconciliation.”

This week, encourage young people around you to listen to someone who is different, and to hear them first as an image-bearer of God.


Go there

A few years back, Fuller alum Brenda Salter McNeil, an advocate for reconciliation and healing, spoke at a conference at Fuller. I re-watched her message this week, and share it as an encouragement for us here.

Speaking about Jesus’ interactions with a Samaritan woman in John 4, Brenda maintains that our credibility is determined by the places we will and won’t go. We can prove ourselves competent by our skills, but other people determine our credibility as witnesses of Christ in the world. Our “with-ness” with others who are different gives us credibility to be witnesses for God. She goes on to suggest that this journey changes us. “If we take the trip, we become witnesses, we become more of who God wants us to be.” I wonder where those places are in our own communities, and who those people are. Young people can often point out our divisions with more accuracy than we might wish. Help them go there. Then wonder together how things might be different.


Look for signs of post-traumatic stress

It’s possible that recent events have left some young people in your community experiencing post-traumatic stress, even if their experiences are vicarious (for example, watching a video of a traumatic event on social media). Symptoms include feeling hopeless, numb, on guard or scared, having trouble sleeping or eating, or other physical distress. Dr. Cynthia Eriksson, a trauma specialist in Fuller’s School of Psychology, once offered these suggestions for pastoral care we can offer to young people experiencing post-traumatic stress:

We need to let them express whatever is going on in their minds in terms of their relationship with God. Our pastoral tendency is to come in with some sort of answer, to help people not doubt anymore. However, the most important first step is to be heard, even if what needs to be said are horrible thoughts toward God. Let go of the need to be a theological educator and stay in the moment in a pastoral place with that person. Acknowledge that it’s often hard to see God in the midst of those experiences. 

If we turn to someone in the midst of doubt and say, “God is going to get you through this,” we risk the possibility of the person feeling guilty or judged for not being able to hold onto that hope themselves. I’ll never forget when I discovered Psalm 88. It doesn’t end with professions of God’s faithfulness, but rather something like, “I’m going to die”. There are moments in life where we do not see the hopeful side, and it seems impossible to hold on to God’s goodness. For many, it might take a long time to see God in the midst of what happened. For someone in a pastoral role, the most caring thing is to hear the doubts and not try to “fix” the person or convince him or her otherwise.

If signs of post-traumatic stress linger more than a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to help the young person find professional help to process their experiences.


Point to signs of hope

I find that it can be easy to fall into continual criticism of others’ responses to tragedy. We quickly critique and condemn both action and inaction, both vocalized protest and silence. In the fog of opinions swirling about us, it can be helpful to look for beacons of hope cutting through the mist.

For example, Sojourners ran an article last week listing ways predominantly white churches and denominations are responding to racially-charged violence in notable and in some cases tangible ways. If the Southern Baptist Church can vote to discontinue the use of the Confederate flag in solidarity with African Americans and as a sign of Christian witness, that’s a sign of hope we can name. If Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter protesters in Dallas can cross a street to join forces and pray, that’s a sign of hope. The cynic in each of us can certainly poke holes through any of these examples, but instead let’s grab fragments of hope wherever we can find them, and point to the Spirit of God on the move bringing reconciliation.

Mr. Rogers always suggested that in the wake of tragedy or other scary events, we should encourage children to “look for the helpers.” Adolescents and adults need this reminder as much as kids. Who’s helping? Who’s caring for victims in Nice? Who’s leading compassionate ministries around the corner in our neighborhood? These signs of hope can inspire us all to action.


In these days, you may find your own soul searching the mystery of tragedy and suffering. In his Lament for a Son, Nicholas Wolterstorff offers:

“Perhaps it has been a mistake to think that God reveals himself. He speaks, yes. But as he speaks, he hides. His face he does not show us. … Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.

Yes, God shares our suffering. While we help process tragedy with the young people around us, let’s keep pointing to that mystery as we hope for the day when this same God will make all things new.


More resources:

National Center for PTSD –resources for identifying and responding to post-traumatic stress

Good Grief –insights on helping ourselves and others work through loss and grief

Your Pain: Six Lenses to Help –How the way we view God in the midst of pain and tragedy shapes our response

Does Your Heart Break –a song of lament by The Brilliance addressing pain and tragedy including racial violence (“Brother” is also a reconciliation song we have used in our congregation).

Helping teenagers make sense of inequality .. without making peace with it

I Doubt It: Making space for hard questions

This article is part of a series on Sticky Faith in multicultural contexts, born out of a recent think tank with leaders from Asian American, African American, Latino, Urban, and Multiethnic ministry contexts. The goal of the gathering and subsequent research is to help ministry leaders better understand and respond to particular cultural realities of these groups, as well as to help leaders within culturally specific contexts adapt Sticky Faith principles and practices in authentically contextual ways. Stay tuned for more in this series!


We were on our way to camp. It was my second week serving as the high school pastor at a new church, and we were off for five days to New York with over 100 middle and high school students and leaders.

I had heard rave reviews of how students’ lives had been transformed in the past at this camp, as well as how balanced their approach was toward both depth and fun. So, naturally, I was excited to experience it for myself. As we traveled closer and the students’ excitement grew, my own excitement began to wane. What had been mostly four-lane highways surrounded by homes, gas stations, and stores soon turned into two-lane highways and wilderness. Cars, SUVs, and minivans were gradually replaced by pickup trucks with gun racks. I began to ask myself as an African American leader if any of the other students of color felt the same way.

The familiar questions soon entered my head: Will there be anyone I can give the “head nod” to in order to get at least a pseudo sense of community? If anything goes wrong, will there be someone who will get it, or who will have my back? Thankfully, the speaker that week was also from an urban community and was also an ethnic minority, but that was about it in terms of diversity. In my experience, Christian camps—while typically exciting and well programmed—are often culturally insensitive to lifestyles and experiences of students and leaders of color.

There’s sometimes an unspoken expectation that youth ministry is the same across every cultural, geographical, and ethnic context. In reality, this is very far from the truth. It’s one of the challenges that the leaders of the Fuller Youth Institute have been wrestling with concerning their Sticky Faith research—and one that I invite you as a ministry leader to wrestle with, as well. Let me give you a little more context for my own journey, some stories from others in the field, and then five things I think every youth leader or pastor needs to consider as they apply Sticky Faith to either a mono-ethnic or multiethnic context.

The journey from mono-ethnic to multiethnic

Six years ago, I left a predominately black congregation where I served for almost ten years called Genesis Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. My next congregation was a large, predominately white—yet becoming increasingly multiethnic—Wesleyan church, Kentwood Community Church (KCC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

By most definitions, our youth ministry at Genesis was successful. We were growing in spiritual depth, influence in the community, weekly attendance, and leadership. So, why was I feeling like something was missing? Nothing our youth group or larger church family was doing was overtly bad, but it somehow felt incomplete. Not only was there a struggle to get faith to stick with some students of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but also it was extremely difficult to get them to stay.

When we arrived at KCC in 2010, it was the first healthy multiethnic, missional, and multiplying church I had ever been part of. I soon learned that, in many ways, I had to start all over. Some things were clearly transferable, while others weren’t. My sense of calling, love for students, and desire to equip leaders and families hadn’t changed, but I would need to make a huge paradigm shift—and so would those around me—if we were going to be courageous enough to follow God through this transition. I learned a handful of important lessons through both failure and success, and I’ll share those alongside insights gleaned from effective youth pastors in multiethnic church contexts different than my own.

One of those leaders is Coby Cagle, serving at Quest Church in Seattle, Washington. Coby describes the difficult journey of becoming a leader who is more self-aware than most of race, ethnicity, and his own blind spots. Having grown up in Houston, Texas as a white male in mostly Asian, Hispanic, and African American urban ministry contexts, Coby generally feels more comfortable in diverse surroundings.

Coby shares his experience that multiethnic ministry can be much more effective when leaders take the posture of listeners willing to learn. The challenges of being vulnerable, honest, and courageous enough to ask questions like, “Who am I?” “Who is God?” and, “How do our stories intersect?” is a vital part of their team’s work. Doing so earns them the credibility to be heard.

In a multiethnic ministry context, choosing not to talk about current issues concerning race, injustice, and culture isn’t really an option. Coby debunks one of the myths of effective multiethnic youth ministry that “the better you get, the less conflict you have.” Often, the deeper we get into multiethnic ministry, more conflict emerges. This can, however, become a means of grace for building deep relationships of trust. When we avoid these issues for fear of creating division, we instead promote superficial relationships. While these types of topics can be volatile and should be approached with sensitivity, we must see not only the potential danger, but also the enormous opportunity for transformation.

In the book Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li describe seven challenges common in multiethnic contexts, as well as how to overcome them.[1] I want to highlight five of these challenges and develop them as a backdrop to engage insights from Sticky Faith multiethnic youth ministry leaders.

Five issues multiethnic youth ministries commonly face

1. Spiritual issues

The spiritual attacks that come when leaders, youth groups, and churches really take multiethnicity seriously is often overwhelming and must not be underestimated. If I were the enemy and knew the power of unity articulated in John 17, then creating division and segregation would be my first goal. Leaders must be prepared for what will come as they seek to do this good work well. Complete dependence on the Holy Spirit and fervent prayer is needed to pursue multiethnic community effectively with any level of longevity.

2. Theological issues

There are both internal and external theological issues that are more pronounced in multiethnic contexts. Internally, many in the church think multiethnic ministry has become important because of changing demographics or cultural trends addressing diversity. We want to make sure it’s clear to our leaders and congregations that cultivating a multiethnic paradigm is less about diversity and more about discipleship. Multiethnicity must no longer be something reserved for inner city ministries or global missions—or seen as optional as long as it doesn’t cost us too much relationally and financially. Instead, churches can embrace a multiethnic reality no matter the geographical or cultural context, grounded in the scriptural call to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28), work toward unity in Christ (John 17), welcome the stranger (a theme spanning both testaments), and look toward the day when all nations will worship around the same throne (Revelation 7).

Externally, preaching about hope, love, and grace from segregated pulpits to homogenous pews and an increasingly diverse and cynical society has become an issue of credibility for many non-Christians when they look at the church. This will continue to be a challenge as we seek to reach more youth who find their teams, schools, and communities more multiethnic than their churches.

3. Cross-cultural issues

Unfortunately, cultural intelligence and cross-cultural competency are often presumed rather than developed in ministry contexts with students. Although our students are often more open to crossing the lines of division due to having been exposed to more diversity at school and in their communities than their parents, the fact is that they often lack a strong foundation or clear understanding of what has created division in the past. Therefore, there can sometimes be a naiveté when it comes to dealing with issues beneath the surface, particularly those of historical importance. Movements like Black Lives Matter and socio-political issues like immigration reform are current examples. We must create opportunities for both students and leaders to grow cross-culturally. This takes a lot of work, as well as the willingness to operate outside of one’s comfort zone. Helping students and leaders understand their privilege or internalized superiority—while also helping them overcome the results of internalized oppression—is critical to move our youth groups to a place of equity and safety for all.

One of our greatest challenges is that students may come to a youth group, but not stay because they don’t feel like they belong. For example, when the only images of people of color being shown on stage, in videos, or publications are people in poverty or desperation in other parts of the world, it shouldn’t just be the people of color in the room who are offended. Also, comments like “I don’t see color” and “We’re all human beings” are wonderful in their intent, but being colorblind in this sense really doesn’t benefit anyone, as it often denies the reality of culture and differences that display the beauty of God’s creation.

Another example of a cross-cultural challenge is the assumption that people who speak English as a second, third, or even fourth language should be the only ones to learn and communicate effectively, not realizing that communication involves not only linguistics, but also culture and values. When decoding communication in a language with which someone has less experience, it can take an enormous level of energy (e.g., mental, physical, emotional, etc.) to sit through a worship experience, teaching time, or small group discussion. Most often, we take that hard work for granted when we are communicating in the dominant-culture language. Our language can unintentionally alienate students and leave them feeling like they don’t belong.

4. Relational issues

Relationally, there’s the danger of the “single story”[2] that has the potential to shape how we see others whose culture or history we don’t yet understand. Parents, for example, are okay talking about unity and diversity until it means their kids’ closest relationships begin to change (e.g., best friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, marriage, etc.). Once folks realize how difficult this is, many decide to go back to what is more comfortable, more homogenous, and just easier.  

Multiethnic ministry often sounds good on the surface—and the brochure is very appealing—but the practical application proves far more difficult. Ebonie Davis, youth director at Trinity Baptist Church in Waldorf, Maryland, shares this story:

Early on in my ministry, a white student, who attended church without her family, came to me one Wednesday night with a "random" Bible question. "Doesn't the Bible say that black people and white people shouldn't date?" I was so excited about using this practical question to share some biblical insight that I didn't smell the ulterior motive. We had a great theological discussion about being “equally yoked” spiritually as more important than race or ethnicity, why God would make such a mandate, and the importance of dating Christians once she was allowed to start dating. We left agreeing that God's Word was so good and so relevant for today. (Can you feel my naiveté?) Well, my dear student used this as an excuse to start dating a black guy (yes, he was a Christian). Unfortunately, this was a big problem in her family. Though she was allowed to date, she had been expressly forbidden to date someone from another race … because of the Bible. Her uncle was a pastor who held very racist beliefs, and the family considered him their spiritual guide. Now that I had unknowingly countered a deeply held theological understanding, she felt she had license to do what she wanted. In addition to the massive conflict in the family, her father actually threatened to kill me over this teaching (seriously!), even showing up in our church and staring me down through part of one service. For several weeks I had to be escorted out of the building, and had to park my car out of sight when I was at work. Eventually, he agreed to come in and talk with our pastor, who was able to calm him down.   

Although this story may seem extreme, it highlights the complexity students face with not only their thoughts and experiences, but also the major influences in their lives—not to mention the role that leaders in a multiethnic context often have in helping reshape reality through the lens of Scripture in an often-countercultural way. 

Until our relationships from Monday through Saturday are consistently transformed, then our Sunday morning will remain homogenous. We must be willing to cultivate community among a diverse (racial/ethnic and socioeconomic) group of students both outside and inside the church. Building these relationships often helps to break down stereotypes, promote inclusion, and foster a healthy level of cross-cultural trust where mistakes can be made without offense. Instead of lightning rods of division, mistakes can become places of growth—and, sometimes, even humor.

5. Practical issues

As folks move from denial to delegation to throwing dollars at the problem to eventually discovering the why of multiethnic ministry, the next and more pressing challenge is often the how. Where to begin will depend on the philosophical view and openness of leadership. This can result in conflict regarding timing, pace, and agreeing on a starting point. A few possibilities include:

  • self-work through reading, listening, and reflection
  • community-based approaches
  • inclusive worship styles
  • types of camps and conferences
  • empowering diverse leadership
  • staff reflecting the community and congregation
  • integrated small groups
  • mission trips and service projects

Where you begin, your pace, and your timing all have the potential for both positive and negative repercussions. Because of this, counting the cost ahead of time is extremely important.

One example of this is found in Ebonie’s church. For their congregation, effective multiethnic ministry has to include a faith-based appreciation for justice. Others may see a social services-based or community-based approach that meets people’s needs as a first step. Still other ministries may want to partner with an existing parachurch organization that already has credibility and influence in a community. Often, one of our biggest flaws in strategic planning is trying to do it all ourselves, failing to realize there’s great benefit in community partnerships.

Questions to consider in your own ministry

As you think about youth ministry in a multiethnic context, I hope you’ll wrestle with a few of these questions and consider the five issues above. Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, but helps give us a start to the conversation. In Part 2 of this article, we’ll explore more specifically how to contextualize Sticky Faith principles in multiethnic ministries.

  1. How can we develop relevant systems and programming to foster cultural competence and cultural intelligence in our student and adult leaders?
  2. How do we influence camps and conferences to model a multiethnic vision in their leadership and planning, from the worship to the speakers and breakouts, so that sensitivity is given to the complex cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds within our youth groups?
  3. With a limited amount of structured time each week, how can we grow the relational capacity needed to build trust that crosses lines of race/ethnicity, as well as urban/suburban/rural barriers that so easily divide us?
  4. How do we partner with parents who are disconnected either because of where they are in their own faith journey or for some other reason?
  5. How can we prepare our leaders for words like “family,” “education,” and “resources” to have broader meanings in different cultural contexts?
  6. How could conflicts around our differences actually become gifts of grace from God that take us deeper beneath the surface for opportunities to grow relationally and theologically?

[1] Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li, Leading a Healthy Multiethnic Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 53-212.

[2] TEDGlobal “Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2009.

Someone recently asked me, “What’s your greatest hope for the Growing Young project?” 

I had to pause for a moment. Not because I don’t have much hope, but because there is so much to be hopeful about. 

Kara, Jake, and our team at the Fuller Youth Institute have been so inspired by our work with the 259 congregations who opened their doors to our questions, probes, and at times expeditions right through their actual church doors. We’ve been mulling over big questions about churches young people love for the past four years, and we’re eager to share what we’ve discovered.

So I could have answered the question about our greatest hope for Growing Young by focusing on how we envision more and more churches involving and retaining young people in the congregational community.

Or our hope that more and more young people would not only discover churches they love, but also would discover Jesus in those churches through the living Spirit of God at work among the community. 

Or I thought about our hope to impact hundreds of thousands of churches across the country through resources and training in the years to come. 

But in that moment I was reminded of another hope, one that drives so much of what we do at FYI. We want to change the way the world sees young people. When I think about that, here’s my answer:

Our greatest hope for the impact of Growing Young is that when any adult in any church sees a teenager or emerging adult, their first response is NOT:

… to shrug their shoulders in ambivalence.

… to roll their eyes in distaste.

… to throw up their hands in bewilderment.

… to tear up in grief.

I’m convinced there is too much missed potential in too many churches because we tend to start with the negative. We get discouraged that our church might never change. We become cynical when we see young people leaving or look at our aging buildings and outdated models of ministry. We feel stuck. Then we project all that onto young people themselves. 

At FYI we envision a new reality.

Instead, when adults see young people, we hope their first response might become:

… to smile in welcome.

… to learn a name and listen to a story.

… to empathize with the challenges of becoming an adult today.

… to be inspired by their energy and ideas. 

… to be filled with hope about the potential of the church. 

In short, we want adults in congregations to see the possibilities when it comes to engaging young people, not just focus on the obstacles. And we want them to know that helping young people discover and love the church is not just a far-fetched dream. It can become a current reality.

We can’t wait to share with you what we’re learning. We think it can change the conversation about young people—in your church, and perhaps in your own head and heart. 

It’s time to unlock the potential and passion of young people in your community. Let’s do it together!

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Five Conversations You Must Have With Grads Before College

Don't miss this opportunity before they leave.

Shares Jul 07, 2016

Photo by: David Barnas

Graduation has come and gone, but your recent high school grads are likely still around for a little longer. What should your final conversations with them be about?

Recently FYI friend Josh Barton shared some ideas about what his church is doing throughout the year to prepare seniors for what’s next, in hopes of launching them well.  Josh is the student ministry pastor at Trinity Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, a suburb of New York City. As you read about their work with high school seniors, consider not only your plan for next year, but what conversations you may need to have this summer with the grads still within your influence.


“I’m not going to lie. I’m super excited about going to college so I can party and drink.”

This is one of those comments that you don’t want to hear as a youth pastor, but you know some students are thinking. I just didn’t expect the upfront honesty coming from one of my own students.

I believe that college can be one of the most fruitful and spiritually-enriching times in the lives of students. I’ve seen faith thrive in some of our students while they are in college. I’ve also seen faith put on the shelf by others. I’m keenly aware that this newfound independence, especially in the first semester, can take students down a road that leads to dark places. So how do we, as youth workers, come alongside our students and equip them to navigate life after high school?

In our church, we started “Senior Project,” a five-session program in the second semester of senior year that mixes practical life skills and tools to nurture faith in college. When students graduate out of our ministry, part of our vision for each senior is that he or she would have a thriving faith and have practical tools to keep growing closer to God.  

Here is an example of the topics we tackle during Senior Project:


Life in a Dorm. We talk about practical things like how to organize your dorm room, what things you will need to know about living in a dorm, how to do laundry (we actually do a load of laundry with the group), navigating public transit, campus safety tips, and how to best utilize the Student Union.

Faith and College. How do students move beyond simply keeping their faith in college, toward growing and thriving? That first philosophy class is coming, along with the teacher that hates anything that smells of religion. We talk through hard questions or topics that will get thrown at them, such as whether science and Christianity can co-exist (we believe they do, and we talk about how they might respond in that conversation).

Budget, Time Management, and Spiritual Disciplines. We found this session to be one at which our students were taking voracious practical notes. We walk through, step-by-step, how to budget money (you’re welcome, parents). We talk about tithing, saving money, and how to manage expenses. We talk through how to manage time (especially since Mom won’t be around to wake us up or tell us when to be where). We end this night with the “why, what, and how” of spiritual disciplines so students have tools to feed themselves.

Community. This conversation is best held after your students already know where they are going to school the next year. We sit down with our students and begin to search for churches in their new towns, and we look at the on-campus organizations. We don’t find these new communities for them; instead, we teach them what to look for and how to find communities on their own. If the first two weeks are the most important weeks in all of their college lives, we want to set them up to win. Last year, one student was already talking to a campus ministry’s small group leaders before she even arrived in town. This is possibly the most impactful week in Senior Project.

Q&A about their concerns. You know your students best, so I would recommend you add in conversations around specific needs that your seniors would benefit from discussing. We do an open Q&A with students and allow them to ask anything. We talk through worries, fears, and college life.

Yes, your seniors and grads need more than just conversations. They need the support of the whole church as you walk with them into the next chapter of life. But hopefully these talking points can spark some helpful conversations in the coming months before they become members of a new faith community.

What other topics do you make sure to discuss with grads?

About Josh: Josh Barton is the Student Ministry Pastor at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT. He has been in ministry for 10 years in a variety of roles. He has been married for 11 years and loves being a dad to his crazy four-year-old and six-year-old boys. 

Photo by: Huilin Dai

This article is part of a series on Sticky Faith in multicultural contexts, born out of a recent think tank with leaders from Asian American, African American, Latino, Urban, and Multiethnic ministry contexts. The goal of the gathering and subsequent research is to help ministry leaders better understand and respond to particular cultural realities of these groups, as well as to help leaders within culturally specific contexts adapt Sticky Faith principles and practices in authentically contextual ways. Read part 1 of this article on Asian American contexts.


We’ve all heard the statistics that suggest about half of youth group graduates fail to stick with faith after high school.

No leader is content with these statistics, regardless of ethnic group or context. Most will agree that none of us are immune to it, either—sadly, it’s a reality for too many of our churches and youth ministries. In Asian and Asian American ministry contexts specifically, churches have spent decades trying to address the “silent exodus” of young people walking away from the church and from their faith. 

While many have simply pointed to cultural and language differences as the main reasons (and these are significant), there are also deeper issues for Asian American teenagers and families that contribute to this “not-so-sticky faith reality.” 

In Part 1 of this series, we explored a few of those critical issues for youth ministry in an Asian American context: difficulties with identity formation, performance/works-based understanding of faith development, and cultural and language barriers to engaging families and intergenerational relationships.  

So, where can we go from here?

Our hope is that Sticky Faith principles and practices can help address some of these issues and provide a way forward for churches and youth ministries to help teenagers develop a faith that lasts for a lifetime. At the start, we need to recognize that for some youth workers in Asian American church contexts, implementing Sticky Faith feels like rock climbing without much of a rope. Navigating all the challenges of culture, language, and being an ethnic minority can already feel overwhelming by itself, so the added pressure and expectation to “do Sticky Faith” as some kind of programmatic solution may feel daunting and out of reach.

Our goal isn’t to provide a “silver bullet” solution or a perfect template for youth ministry in Asian or Asian American church contexts. Instead, we believe that Sticky Faith can provide some handholds to gain ground as you care for and disciple Asian American teenagers and their parents. As you begin to engage Sticky Faith in your own context, consider starting with these three goals: focus on a Sticky Gospel, cultivate environments for intergenerational sharing of stories, and create safe spaces for struggle and doubt.


Focus on a Sticky Gospel

Mark was an Asian American high school student who was actively involved in our youth ministry. At one particular winter camp, Mark shared with an adult leader that, after having grown up in our church for his entire life, he had finally come to understand God’s grace for the first time. All of us were beyond thrilled and couldn’t wait to share this with Mark’s parents when we got back home. After all, Mark’s mom was a significant leader in both our children’s and youth ministries. She was even considering leading a parent study on Sticky Faith during that upcoming summer. But when his mom heard the news, her response was one of surprise and disappointment. “What? I can’t believe it,” she responded. “He should have already known that by now. It took him this long to understand grace?” 

For youth workers in an Asian American context, this story can be an all-too-familiar one. Though we may teach about God’s grace and forgiveness, this doesn’t always translate to the lived experience of Asian American teenagers and their families, which tend to be much more performance-driven than grace-oriented.

Whether it’s been actively engrained in them or something they have internalized unconsciously, many Asian American teenagers and their parents filter everything in their world through the lens of performance and achievement. This pressure to perform, succeed, and avoid bringing shame to the family infiltrates not only academic life, but also extracurricular activities, social interactions, and even their understanding and development of Christian faith. 

In an Asian American context, a Sticky Gospel that focuses on grace and forgiveness is that much more powerful and that much more important. When we clearly distinguish between the Sticky Gospel and the gospels of sin or shame management, we help students and parents discover the real message of Jesus. Instead of another source of shame where they might not be “measuring up,” the Christian faith and the church community can become a safe place (and maybe the only place) to experience acceptance and find worth apart from one’s achievement. 

What may be the most difficult part here for Asian/Asian American parents and youth workers is that we assume that this is already happening. We are often good at teaching God’s grace and forgiveness and asking our students to trust in a gracious God. The problem, though, is that our inherited cultural responses both to the failures and successes of students don’t always reflect what we’re asking them to believe. And, often, these are the responses that Asian American teenagers expect both at home and at church. 

What if these same teenagers could expect a more grace-oriented response to their mistakes and failures? 

A Sticky Gospel approach invites Asian/Asian American parents, youth workers, and adult leaders to start writing a cultural script for young people that may be different from the one with which they grew up. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum—it takes a community that together commits to introducing and reinforcing a message of God’s grace and forgiveness in which we invite students to put their trust.


Cultivate environments and opportunities for intergenerational story sharing

One of the most impactful ways that adults can convey a Sticky Gospel is by sharing their own stories of trusting God in the midst of struggle or failure. In this respect, Asian Americans carry an abundance of incredibly rich stories and testimonies to share with students. For many families, the story of immigrating to this country is a recent memory, if not a current reality. In every immigrant experience, there are countless moments of difficulty, struggle, and loss. Imagine the impact these stories could have on the perspective and faith development of young people struggling with their own identity formation as Asian Americans. 

Yet, as we discussed in Part 1 of this series, language barriers and formal intergenerational relationship expectations often preclude the meaningful connections these stories could provide on a heart level. The stories of how hard it was “back in my day” fall on deaf ears because they only serve to perpetuate the ethics of performance and success.  

But what if we got creative in how we tell and share these stories? It’s not uncommon in an Asian church to hold a multigenerational and multilingual service once or twice each year. Instead of only following this model, what if we could also design intergenerational gatherings that focus on sharing stories of trusting God in the midst of struggle? Both young people and older adults could be invited to share their stories, hopefully finding commonality and building trust with one another.

Asian American youth need more opportunities to see adults express vulnerability in their stories and share how they connect with their faith in the midst of the messiness of life. How many Asian American students in our churches can tell you how their parents or grandparents came to faith in Christ? What do they pray about? What do they struggle with? Who were the adults that were significant in their lives growing up? Sharing these stories not only breaks down the formality of so many Asian cultural scripts, but it also gives permission for students to share their own struggles and areas of weakness and brokenness.

One of the ways I’d love to see these stories being told and shared is online and through digital and social media. Our students connect to stories online in words or videos nearly every moment of the day. What if some of those stories could belong to their parents or other believing adults in their church community? These videos could be subtitled to bridge the language barrier. Bridging the cultural barrier would depend largely on the themes and level of vulnerability of the adults who share. For instance, telling stories of adults in the church who have struggled with depression or addiction would break some traditional cultural taboos—those are issues we’re not supposed to speak publicly about, of course. But imagine how this could give permission to an Asian American teenager struggling with that same issue to share his or her own story.

Clearly, this is asking a lot of parents and adults in the church community. We’re inviting them to step out of what is normal and comfortable and into the world of teenagers in their community. We’re inviting them not only to be formal or instructional with students, but also to take opportunities to connect with students as real people with real stories. The more that Asian/Asian American parents and church communities can see that modeled, the greater the chances are that genuine intergenerational relationships can happen. 


Create safe spaces for struggle and doubt

As youth workers, we often get invited into the difficult, yet sacred moments in the lives of our students and their families. Most of us know the full range of those issues, from addiction and self-injury to dealing with issues of identity and sexuality. It’s difficult enough for any dominant-culture white American teenager to find a safe space to make sense of all he or she experiences, but we’ve discussed in Part 1 the added challenges that Asian American teenagers face in their identity formation. 

Asian American youth need safe spaces to express and make sense of struggle and doubt. To create this kind of environment, it often means that we’ll have to speak less and listen more as adult leaders. Our programs may need to be less teaching-driven and, instead, invite more conversation and dialogue. It’s in these spaces that we show our value for students’ words and stories without judgment or reward—we simply listen and invite them to bring these stories before God. 

This is a Sticky Faith practice you may already be doing in your youth ministry. If not, I encourage you to find room in your next small group session, youth group gathering, or retreat where students can be free to share questions, struggles, and doubts. Yes, it could very well be messy and uncomfortable, and you won’t have all the right answers. But the fact that you may not be able to answer every question and fix every problem may actually be a good thing for students to see. It shows them that struggle and doubt don’t exclude us from trusting God—in fact, they can help us learn to trust God even more. 

I can’t stress enough how profoundly important this is for Asian American youth, who are often dealing with some level of latent anxiety over expectations to perform and succeed. There may not be many places where they feel valued and accepted without first being asked to perform. Especially where Asian American students are a minority, there may be few contexts where they feel seen, known, and understood. What if the church community could be that safe place for them? 


What’s next?

As we serve and care for Asian American students and their families in our churches, Sticky Faith practices and principles can help us navigate both the challenges and the blessings of our cultural context. While I encourage you to begin with the three starting points mentioned above, I hope that you will further explore how other areas of Sticky Faith (such as engaging parents, participating in service and justice work, transitions, and more) can be implemented in the life of your ministry. For now, here are a few steps for reflection and action:

  • Ask students in your ministry to share their understanding of grace and where they have experienced grace in their lives. How would you share your own experience with grace as part of the church community?
  • Incorporate conversations about Sticky Gospel responses in your next volunteer leader or parent training. Help parents and adult leaders identify their own cultural scripts and discuss ways to develop new scripts that are grace-oriented.
  • What are some of the stories in your church community that you want young people to hear? How can you involve parents and other adults to begin to share their stories with students?
  • Make room in your next youth ministry program, small group, or retreat for students to share questions, struggles, and doubts. Modeling vulnerability through appropriate sharing from adult leaders can be a great way to break the ice.
  • Engage other youth workers who serve in a majority Asian/Asian American church or have Asian American students and their families in their ministry. Find out ways they may be wrestling with Sticky Faith issues and share your own. We need each other for support and prayer and to continue this important conversation together. 


  1. See Kara E. Powell, Brad M. Griffin, Cheryl A. Crawford, Sticky Faith: Youth Worker Edition, 15.
  2. For this article, “Asian” primarily refers to the first-generation Asian immigrant church, parent, or family context. “Asian American” primarily refers to churches or families of second- or subsequent-generation children of Asian immigrants, but for simplicity Asian American also will be used as shorthand to refer to mixed contexts or multiple possible other contexts. 
  3. See Helen Lee, “Silent Exodus,” Christianity Today, August 12, 1996 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1996/august12/6t9050.html
  4.  Sticky Faith, 11.
  5. Admittedly, we’re only scratching the surface of this broad cultural context and on a very limited scope. For example, the differences in the experiences of the children of Korean immigrants versus Indonesian immigrants deserve nuanced conversations. Nevertheless, we hope this article series offers some broad contextual understanding.
  6.  Can I Ask That? curriculum from the FYI team could be a great resource to get you started.

A couple of months ago, our team at the Fuller Youth Institute went on a retreat. As an extrovert and verbal processor, I was ecstatic. We have been hard at work preparing to launch our new project Growing Young this September, and time away from our desks was exactly what our team needed. 

Like other retreats, ours involved excellent food, diligent prayer, in-depth presentations and laugh-inducing games. We’re a team that thoroughly enjoys time together, and this was no exception.

But the most important takeaway from our retreat came when we discussed the mission and vision of the Fuller Youth Institute. 

You see, it is so easy to fall into routine at work: checking off our to-do lists, rushing from one meeting to the next, and discussing the minutiae of our projects. We are passionate. But we can do our jobs the same way day after day, month after month, year after year. 

All too often, we miss the forest for the trees. 

Vision affects productivity, and we needed to put our heads together again. We needed to reaffirm our purpose and direction. We needed clarity

That’s where the magic happens. From this clarity proceeds a plan with specific and strategic action steps for every member. We are now moving forward more diligently than ever. When a team stacks hands on a mission, their impact multiplies


Clarity is the result of a deliberate journey 

Finding clarity is not a mysterious process. We do not “stumble upon” it; rather, it is the result of an intentional decision to invest in the single most important asset of any team—our mission. 

And it is this strategic, unwavering clarity that we strive for in our Sticky Faith Cohort, an opportunity for church teams across the country to transform their youth and children’s ministries. This yearlong program offers the space, resources, and mentorship for teams to stack hands and reaffirm their vision for ministry. 

I’ve been helping facilitate the Sticky Faith Cohort for the past several years. When I ask for feedback, I hear praise for how valuable the content is, but what I hear most is how it helps churches get clear on their priorities in ministry

What I’ve discovered is that what we offer through the Sticky Faith Cohort are exactly the steps anyone needs to take in order to gain clarity. So whether you are on the brink of a decision, or ready to take your current work to the next level, these are the steps you absolutely have to take. 


5 Essential Steps to Clarity in Ministry


1. Time away from your workspace

Where you choose to reflect and gain clarity can make a world of difference. As creatures of habit, we associate certain mindsets with certain spaces; an essential strategy for breaking free of old mindsets is getting a change of scenery. Our FYI team discovered that getting out of the office together for our retreat was nearly as important as the topics we chose to discuss.

We hear time after time from Sticky Faith Cohort teams that traveling to Pasadena for summits helps them be present with one another. They aren’t distracted by their typical routines and are able to focus and connect. 


2. Extended discussion with your teammates

When it comes to vision casting, there is hardly anything more frustrating than leaving a conversation unfinished. But if the pace of your office is anything like ours, you likely feel rushed during these types of discussions. Believe me, we do too. And it’s imperative that big-picture conversations are given the time they require to reach understanding and consensus. 

During the seminars at the Sticky Faith Cohort summits, we give you time to process the content directly with your team. Leaders are able to gauge the health of their ministries in particular focus areas. 

As coaching director Steve Argue says, “We give you time to be real with one another.” Teams often underestimate the degree to which they disagree—and need to realign themselves with a common vision.


3. Insights from leading ministry voices

Determining the purpose and direction of any endeavor—whether a ministry, service, or business—may be doomed to fail if not properly informed by those who have gone before. Consulting with leaders who have done the research, tested the theories, and overcome similar obstacles is a must in order to gain clarity. 

Throughout the Sticky Faith Cohort, we surround teams with experts in the research. They process the content with participating teams, offering their insight as discussion unfolds. In the presence of our experts, leaders explore possible implications for their churches in real time. If something seems unclear, it’s as simple as raising their hand or walking up to one of our presenters. Leaders say that the immediate accessibility of experts adds even more value to the experience. 


4. A community of likeminded peers

Few leaders are successful today without belonging to a mastermind community: a strategic group with the sole purpose of helping each member focus on goals, successes, and failures. This tightknit tribe is a powerful source of accountability. 

One of my favorite things about the Sticky Faith Cohort is that everyone has the same goal: equipping young people with transformative faith. They are thus able to spur each other on through this process of change. 

All of the Cohort teams walk in asking, how can we do this better? We provide time for them to process the lessons with other church teams. These team interactions become vital to the process of implementing change.


5. Input from a Coach

Earlier this year my wife and I hired a nutrition coach for six weeks. We had a goal in mind, but knew we needed some outside perspective and someone who would give us the kick in the pants we needed to shift our lifestyle. The wisdom of a mentor can nudge you to the tipping point. They help you gather up all of the knowledge and discovery of the other four steps, and then determine the right course of action for your ministry. 

Coaching is a significant part of the Sticky Faith Cohort experience. All of our Sticky Faith coaches are active in ministry and have been through the Cohort themselves. They know the ins and outs of this period of growth, and help you stay committed to the goals you’ve established for your ministry.


Clarity unlocks your ministry potential

You may be able to accomplish your goals without doing much research. You may even be able to minister well with little training. But your work will suffer if you lack clarity, and clarity is only achieved with intention.

If you are a leader who wants to bring your team together around a common vision, I invite you to consider the Sticky Faith Cohort. Take a free three-day tour with us to learn more about what the Cohort entails and how it will lead you toward more dynamic youth ministry.


 Take the Cohort Mini-Tour     Submit an Inquiry Form

Photo by: Vincent Guérault

This article is part of a series on Sticky Faith in multicultural contexts, born out of a recent think tank with leaders from Asian American, African American, Latino, Urban, and Multiethnic ministry contexts. The goal of the gathering and subsequent research is to help ministry leaders better understand and respond to particular cultural realities of these groups, as well as to help leaders within culturally-specific contexts adapt Sticky Faith principles and practices in authentically contextual ways. Stay tuned for more in this series!


As I sat at the dinner table, I sensed Josue’s resentment.

He resented his mother for what he experienced as abandonment right after his parents got divorced, when she decided to immigrate to the US. Now that he had joined her here, he expressed his homesickness for Bogota, the only place that felt like home, and for the care of his grandmother who had raised him. 

At the same time, I knew of his mother Gabriela’s enormous sacrifice over the last ten years as she worked up to three jobs, often in 14- to 16-hour shifts, to save enough money to bring Josue to the US. Josue would have preferred to remain in Bogota, but Gabriela had been desperately looking forward to reuniting with her son. Six months had passed since Josue had immigrated to the US, and although he found support in Gabriela’s church community, he still felt out of place, lonely, limited in his English, and relearning how to live with his mother in a foreign culture. 

Responding to Gabriela’s call to come have a conversation with her son was more than simply a pastoral visit—it was an invitation to facilitate reconciliation and to explore the levels of trauma caused by migration. This conversation represents the realities and challenges present in accompanying Latina families in our ministries. Although not all Latino youth migrate to the US, the dynamics present in this story are part of a series of core issues imminent to Latino youth ministry. 

A Latina congregation seeking to minister to Latino youth, their families, and the surrounding community must always take into consideration the following core issues: 

1. The power of La Familia 

Latino youth are torn between seeking their own good as individuals and the good of la familia (the family). For Latino youth, “unless mi familia is well, I am not well.” Phrases such as “No te olvides de donde eres!” (Remember where you came from!), or “Tú eres un Ramirez, y los Ramirez siempre…” (You are a Ramirez, and we the Ramirez always…!), further reveal the constant interdependence that shapes a Latino’s construction of self. Latino youth often find themselves caught between the message of the dominant culture, which promotes the self as a free agent, independent, autonomous, and private; and a more fluid, interdependent, relational, and embedded self defined by its relationships and contexts. 

Latino youth often sense this tension in relationship to education. For example, Ruth was an exceptional student in her senior year who applied and was accepted to San Diego State University. Ruth’s parents were undocumented. They had migrated from El Salvador and they worked in janitorial services. They valued higher education as a path towards social and economic mobility, and they were very supportive of Ruth’s pursuit to become an engineer. Yet when Ruth considered moving to San Diego (only 2 hours away from Los Angeles), she began sharing with me the various issues that she was considering. Geographical distance would limit her availability to look after her younger siblings or to help her parents financially with her part-time income. For Ruth, studying full-time in a city two hours away presented limited immediate benefits for her family, so she started considering alternatives closer to home. Ruth decided that finding a full-time job while attending community college in the evenings would have a more immediate impact upon her family’s income. While in community college, Ruth heard about the recruiting efforts that the US armed forces were conducting locally and she began to explore the option of enlisting, primarily because she learned that her decision could grant a migratory status to her hard-working parents. Ruth’s story encapsulates this tension of the construction-of-self in constant connection with la familia

Another layer of this tension is found in connection with the usage of language between first generation (Spanish dominant) and second generation (English dominant) Latinos. More precisely, the language difference between parents and youth of Latina families has revealed a role reversal in the parent-child relationship. Since Latino youth tend to be more English proficient, they tend to be the intermediaries between parents and teachers, parents and doctors, parents and police, parents and the utility company, etc. Since parents are dependent upon their children for translation, the young take on adult roles and responsibilities, often experiencing a sense of loss of childhood and/or adolescence, especially if these roles are not balanced with age-appropriate activities and interests. At the same time, Elizabeth Conde-Frazier argues that once this balance is found, Latino youth may use their roles as intermediaries as a platform to discern vocation, gifts, and a vibrant spiritual life.”

Latino youth ministry and the broader Latina church must seek to accompany Latina youth in the process of individuation through the discovery of their God-inspired vocation and gifts, while at the same time affirming and celebrating communal/familial life. 

2. The complex reality of migration 

Latino youth ministry often encompasses both US-born Latinos as well as youth who have migrated from Latin America. Although the first group may not have experienced migration on a first-hand basis, US-born Latinos are impacted by their family’s migration story. In some cases, Latino youth pastors and leaders have to walk alongside teenagers whose parents are undocumented and live under the constant fear of deportation. Often leaders step into family dynamics where an older sibling is undocumented and a younger sibling is a US citizen. 

There are other times when Latino youth ministry becomes the place where a recently-arrived young person from Latin America finds the familiarity of the culture, language, and traditions that they miss so deeply and there receive a “cultural map” to navigate a new context. The reality of Latino youth ministry is that a youth group may be made up of all of the aforementioned situations and cases. This makes it imperative for a youth ministry leader to listen well and identify the unique migration stories impacting a local youth group.

Ultimately, these migration stories involve trauma and crisis for young people on multiple levels, including psychological, sociocultural, economic, spiritual, and educational impact. Latino youth ministry demands knowledge of various community immigration resources for awareness and advocacy before local, state, and national institutions. 

It is worth noting that Latino youth, through the complexity of migration, inhabit a transnational reality in their relationships, consciousness, and cultural identity. This means that Latina youth continue to be connected to Latin America—via family members, media, music, entertainment, and consumption patterns—while at the same time engaging Latina culture and the broader dominant culture in the US. It is common for Latino youth to listen to corridos, bachata and hip-hop all in the same playlist; to watch El Mundial (World Cup) with as much excitement as the Super Bowl; to enjoy a novela in Univision while waiting for American Idol; and to travel between Los Angeles and Guadalajara, Washington, DC and San Salvador, New York and San Juan, or Miami and Bogota every other summer. 

3. Leadership dynamics 

Latina youth leaders are frequently unpaid church members. Paid youth pastors are few and far between, and those who are paid tend to be bi-vocational. This creates a different dynamic in the programming, development, and sustainability of a local Latino youth ministry. However, it does often allow for the strengthening of lay leadership and the expectation of involvement by the whole church body. This also models and allows youth to participate in various ministries at a very young age. It is common to see youth involved as members of the worship team, children’s ministries, and various forms of volunteerism throughout the church. 

Although the Latina church is typically mobilized by the work of lay leadership, it continues to be impacted by patriarchy and hierarchy. More specifically, female Latina leaders often are spearheading the mobilization, organization, and execution of the church’s ministry. Yet I have heard of multiple occasions in which female leaders are given a preaching/speaking dress code when addressing the entire congregation, are invited to speak only to other Latina women and youth, and if married, are required to ask for permission from their husbands before accepting a speaking engagement. Interestingly enough, in the National Survey of Latinos in 2009 conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, when Latino youth between the ages of 16 to 25 were asked “if the husband should generally have the final say in family matters,” 61% of second-generation Latino respondents disagreed with this statement. Hence, Latino youth frequently point to the discrepancy of gender roles lived out in everyday life versus the context of a Latina church. During a week, a Latina teenager may see her mother’s entrepreneurial and managerial skills shine in the running of a small business, while on Sundays, she may see her mother’s church leadership role questioned or unsupported by male leaders. 

Lastly, since el pastor (a senior pastor) holds so much influence and power in a congregation, Latino youth ministry regularly needs the blessing and support of a senior pastor to partner with parents and older church members. This is a key to the implementation of a Latino youth ministry fitted to engage, empower, and reach Latina youth while at the same time honoring the older generations. 

4. Identity formation 

Latina youth both inside and outside the church struggle to determine their cultural identity. On one hand, the threat of assimilation calls for the embrace of imposed categories that promote pan-Hispanic identities and narratives so that one’s mestizo diversity is not appreciated. On the other hand, the process of acculturation continues to give room for Latina youth to determine their own cultural identity so that the process of “code-switching” and inhabiting multiple cultures is done with a sense of self-worth. 

As Juan F. Martinez suggests, the Latina church has a critical role in strengthening the identity of Latino young people as both Christian and Latino. Martinez affirms that the Latina church can create liberating spaces where young people are exposed to positive representations of Latino culture, while at the same time forming citizens of the divine Kingdom in a globalized world. As a result, Latino young people grasp their role as subjects (rather than simply objects) of mission both within and beyond the Latina community and church. 

Recognition of the cultural identification processes and tensions present within Latina youth underscore the urgency for the Latina church to re-imagine and re-envision its present (and future) missional agenda. As Melvin Delgado notes, the development of an “integrative identity,” a bicultural and bilingual identity, allows for Latina youth to “socially navigate their way though life in an increasingly multicultural society.” This ultimately reshapes the agency of Latina youth not only within the Latina community and church, but also beyond. 

It is important to note that this is not an either Spanish-only or English-only question—it is a both/and reality. Bilingualism is a reality lived among the Latina household. The church should create space for and affirm this reality. I have seen the liberating power of bilingualism so that the entire Latina family can worship together, while at the same time allowing a hospitable space for other cultures to engage in communal worship. 

In part 2 of this series, we will explore practical suggestions that may address these critical issues present in the lives of Latina youth. We will also draw connections to Sticky Faith principles that are relevant in the context of the Latina church or in multicultural contexts involving Latino youth.

Action Points: where to begin

1. La Familia: “Que van a decir de nosotros o de ti?” (Saving face) is often the cultural value that gets upheld in Latina families. How much is the “que van a decir…” mentality a guiding force within your youth ministry?

2. Migration: What are avenues that you and your ministry can use to begin to listen to the migration stories present in your youth group?

3. Leadership: What leadership model is practiced within your ministry context? What leadership model will make more sense given the make up of your youth group?

4. Identity Formation: How much room is there to ask questions within your church and youth ministry about the ways culture navigation and code-switching impacts young people’s sense of identity?



1. Throughout this work, I use the terms Latino and Latina interchangeably. I acknowledge along with Juan Martinez that Spanish is a gender-specific language and that the problem of gender inclusivity is not solved by this choice. However, unless otherwise noted as female or male, Latino and Latina will be used to refer to all people of Latin American descent. Juan Francisco Martínez Jr., Los Protestantes: An Introduction to Latino Protestantism in the United States (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011), Kindle Locations 63-64.

2. Joan Koss-Chioino and Luis A. Vargas, Working with Latino Youth: Culture, Development, and Context (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999), 60-63.

3.  The name of the student has been changed for the sake of privacy.

4. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2011), 55-56.

5. Ibid., 56.

6.  National Council of La Raza: http://www.nclr.org/issues/ ; Catholic Legal Immigration Network: https://cliniclegal.org/resources ; World Relief: http://worldreliefgardengrove.org/immigration-services.

7.  Pew Hispanic Center, "Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America" (Washington, D.C., 2009), Report.

Photo by: David Zhang

This article is part of a series on Sticky Faith in multicultural contexts, born out of a recent think tank with leaders from Asian American, African American, Latino, Urban, and Multiethnic ministry contexts. The goal of the gathering and subsequent research is to help ministry leaders better understand and respond to particular cultural realities of these groups, as well as to help leaders within culturally-specific contexts adapt Sticky Faith principles and practices in authentically contextual ways. Stay tuned for more in this series!


If a non-Asian youth leader walked into almost any Asian American youth ministry in America, it might feel fairly familiar. 

If that leader was you, you would likely recognize the songs, maybe play an icebreaker game you’ve played before, and hear a message from a youth pastor who attends the same leadership conferences that you do. You would break up into small groups and hear questions and conversations from students who largely speak and act just like the students in your church. 

The one main difference is that these students and their families happen to be Asian Americans. And the question is, does that make a big difference in how we think about and do youth ministry with these specific young people?

Part 1 of this series will explore why it does matter. Then in Part 2 we will look at what Sticky Faith principles and practices could look like contextualized for an Asian American church context.

As the number of Asian American churches continues to grow across the country, it’s important that we’re beginning a discussion about the critical issues for youth ministry in the Asian American context. If we want to better serve a significant number of students, families, and leaders, then it’s a conversation that needs to keep happening in youth ministry and church leadership circles. But it’s a daunting task for two reasons.

First, the Asian American context reflects a range of ethnicity, culture, and immigrant experiences that is both broad in scope and rich in history. To list the variety of Asian American experiences from second-generation East Indian American to fourth-generation Japanese American could take much more than the length of this article. 

Second, it’s easy to rely simply on stereotypes or superficial generalizations to describe the experience of Asian American teenagers and families. Does every Asian American church or family function in the same way? No. Is every Asian American mom a “Tiger Mother”? Of course not. Does every Asian American teenager excel at math and get accepted to an Ivy League school? My parents hoped so, but clearly that is not the case. 

To begin this conversation about concerns and needs pertaining to youth ministry with Asian American teenagers and families, we need to recognize that first we have to do a lot of listening and a lot of learning. This is both for those who are in the Asian American context of youth ministry and for those who are trying to understand and partner with youth workers in this context. We’re not looking to create definitive cultural summaries; we’re brainstorming talking points to help us better understand how God is calling us to care for and disciple Asian American students and families.

So to help us get started, I’d like to highlight three critical issues: difficulties with identity formation, a performance/works-based understanding of faith development, and cultural and language barriers between generations.


1. Difficulties with identity formation

When we think about the issues that impact any adolescent, the questions of identity (“Who am I?”), belonging (“Where do I fit?”), and purpose (“What difference do I make?”) are regularly at the forefront. For Asian American youth, figuring out these questions becomes more difficult as they navigate the expectations of their Asian cultural heritage and the challenges of coming from an immigrant background.

Along with the questions that every adolescent asks themselves, Asian American youth have a whole other set of questions they are confronted with: 

  • Do I embrace the ethnic and cultural heritage of my family, or do I push it away because it doesn’t fit mainstream American culture? 
  • How do I tow the line between being “too Asian” in some settings and not being “Asian enough” in others?
  • What do I do when I encounter racism or racial stereotypes? 
  • When is it okay to pursue my own passions, dreams, and interests when they differ from those of what a “good Asian son or daughter” is supposed to do? 
  • Why does even the thought of not succeeding or not fitting in bring about such deep feelings of shame and insecurity?
  • Is it okay to fail?

What can result is a constant low-grade fever of stress and anxiety caused by an underlying tension that they are “not enough.” They’re not American enough because they’re Asian. They’re not Asian enough because they’re American. They’re not fitting in enough. They’re not trying hard enough. They’re not successful enough. And the list goes on.

We can’t discount these challenges facing Asian American students. They are not all simply the “model minorities” who quietly and successfully assimilate to mainstream culture and achieve academic and economic success. Many are struggling to connect with two very different cultures, trying to measure up to impossibly high expectations, and dealing with varying degrees of societal racism. 

What if the church could be a safe place for them to figure this all out?


2. Performance/works-based understanding of faith development

Several years ago I stood in our church hallway with an Asian American high school student who I would describe as a high-achieving, highly-involved, discipled-since-she-was-in-diapers student leader. For the first time ever, she started opening up about some of her frustrations and doubts about life and faith. And she started to cry. 

None of that surprised me as a youth worker, but what she said next did: “I feel like I just lost, because I cried in front of you. I feel like I lost because I showed weakness.” I was puzzled and asked her why, assuring her it was perfectly normal to be in the emotional place she was. But then she said, “I was raised to win. I have to win at everything.”

Though seen as a cultural stereotype, it often proves true that Asian American youth are put under an enormous amount of pressure by their parents and social structures at large to succeed in academic and extracurricular activities. Again, the image of the “Tiger Mother” who militantly pushes her child to succeed (even at the cost of the child’s sense of self-worth) is indeed a caricature, but based on realities that resonate for many Asian American youth. 

What does this mean for an Asian American teenager’s understanding of faith? Faith development either becomes secondary to academic or real-world success or becomes another avenue in which the teenager feels the pressure to achieve and succeed. 

Almost every youth worker I know in an Asian American context has heard this question posed to Christian parents: “Are you more concerned that your child gets into Harvard or gets into heaven?” The exhortation behind this question is well-meaning: put as much emphasis on your child’s faith development as you would on their academic or extracurricular development. Instead of missing church on Sundays because of swim meets or youth group on Wednesday nights because of yet another tutoring session, parents should encourage their students to be “better disciples” by actively participating in those youth ministry programs.

But this is where all of us who are part of the “spiritual family system” for Asian American students (youth workers included) need to pause and ask this question: 

Are we operating with a performance/works-based understanding of faith development, or one that is rooted in the radical grace and forgiveness of the gospel?

For Asian American youth, the shame-based and performance-oriented notions of worth and success can easily bleed into their understanding of how to grow and mature in their Christian faith. I’ve heard countless times from students who want to go on a short-term mission trip or join the student leadership team that their main reason is a desire to “get back on track with God” or “get better in their faith.” While this may not sound different than what you would hear from any other Christian teenager, Asian American youth often deal with it at deeper, more fundamental level. If they’re not growing in their faith or meeting the expectations or cultural norms that are prescribed for them in their Christian homes or youth ministries, they are failing with God, too. 

And that failure can translate into shame for the family. Many Asian cultures have shame-based and conformist aspects to them, wherein the success of the child is directly tied to the honor and status of the parent and family. While immigration history affects the magnitude of these cultural forces, they still exist for second- and third-generation Asian Americans who see the success of their children as a reflection of their own success. Having grown up with these expectations themselves, Asian American parents (unknowingly, at times) can push their children to find their value in how much they succeed, and even in how fervently they believe in God.

How many Asian American students who attend our churches feel this way: If they don’t achieve at home and at school and at sports AND at church, they will be letting someone down, losing, or somehow considered less?


3. Cultural and language barriers to engaging families and intergenerational relationships

Youth workers in the Asian American context who hear stories like these all the time would love to come alongside these young people and invite them into a better story. But as experience and research has taught us, we don’t do that alone; we need to minister in partnership with parents, extended families, and adults in our churches in meaningful intergenerational relationships.

But this is often the biggest roadblock for youth ministries in the Asian American context. When parents and other adults in the church have a different “heart language” and culture than that of their children and young people, parent-child relationships are strained and intergenerational relationships feel impossible. And often the youth worker and a few volunteers who understand youth culture (and sometimes are the only ones who speak English) become solely responsible for the welfare of the teenagers in that church. 

Even for churches where the language and culture divide for Asian American adults and youth is not as significant, intergenerational relationships are still difficult because those adults usually have not experienced significant intergenerational relationships within the church themselves. They view intergenerational relationships largely in terms of positional authority and pedagogical responsibility, i.e., “respect your elders and listen to your teachers.” These Asian American adults know how to be responsible adults who teach a youth Bible study, but not how to meaningfully connect with the awkwardness and confusion of a young person at a heart level. Their cultural narrative says that adults can’t relate to young people where they are because it doesn’t match up with the prescribed roles for adults. 

So even when language or culture is not an issue, intergenerational relationships for Asian Americans still tend to look more formal and instructional than in other contexts. For example, volunteer leaders in Korean-American youth ministries will often be referred to as “youth teachers” and will be called “Teacher John” or “Teacher Susan” by students. In the Chinese-American church, children will call adults “uncle” or “auntie,” but more so because of respect and cultural norms than because of a meaningful intergenerational connection. 

Imagine the impact of an Asian American adult who doesn’t follow the same old cultural script and steps into the world of a young person in order to share love and grace. It might just feel like the ministry of Jesus. 


What’s next?

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll take a look at how an Asian American ministry could implement Sticky Faith principles and practices in light of the contextual issues above. As you consider these issues yourself, here are a few steps for reflection and action:

  • How do you see these issues reflected in your own personal story and faith journey (particularly if you’re an Asian American) or in the lives of Asian American students in your ministry?
  • What are the assumptions of and attitudes towards Asian Americans in your community? How do they affect young people and their view of the church/Christian faith?
  • Talk to some Asian American young people about the expectations or pressures they face. Where do those expectations and pressure come from?
  • Talk to an Asian American parent about their experience of parenting and what causes them stress or anxiety about their child’s future. How does that impact both their parenting and their own faith journey?