Via Media X3: Talking about pornography with young women

Shares Dec 03, 2014 Art Bamford

Photo by Susan Sermoneta.

This is part of an FYI series on navigating digital technology and social media with young people, and a multipart roundtable on issues related to sexuality.

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Because the research on sex, social media, and young people is complicated, we’re tackling some of these tougher issues by asking several thoughtful ministry leaders to join us for a roundtable discussion (read their bios here). In this second installment of our roundtable, we’ll be discussing how to help parents and leaders interact with young women about pornography.

Fuller Youth Institute: We were surprised to find that most religiously affiliated young women interviewed by researchers about porn spoke very negatively about it, but not as morally or religiously offensive. They described it strictly in terms of being degrading towards women. In your experience, would you say that churches typically exclude young women from discussions about porn? How do you approach the fact that it affects both genders, even if the majority of women do not view porn?

Annie Neufeld: Most of the time when we talk about pornography in middle or high school ministry we separate girls and boys. In our effort to make an awkward conversation a little less awkward, we separate genders. I think this is appropriate in middle school, but we could perhaps push the “awkward threshold” a bit in high school, and certainly in college.

Adam McLane: I think the days of separating male and females to talk about sex and/or porn is quickly fading. I’ve found both sexes are equally open to talking about it, it just takes the adult to break the ice. Teenagers totally grasp that it is worth talking and thinking about how porn is degrading to women, and also that it is a social justice issue, since a lot of porn is sexually exploitative.

Annie: I also feel that our young women approach it as something incredibly perverse, disgusting, and “other”—which sets them up not to have much grace for their male counterparts. When we talk about porn, I want the males to hear how their viewing of porn affects women; how it is demeaning towards women. However, I don’t know if our young women know why it is demeaning to them—they don’t usually stick around in the “awkwardness” of the conversation to get to why it hurts so much. We should reframe this biblically: porn is offensive because it takes image bearers and makes them objects. That is true for both young men and young women who are looking at porn.

Billy Jack Blankenship: Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that. This past school year we had two college-aged Christian women share their stories, and talk openly about their addictions to porn. It was refreshing to hear their honesty and authenticity, and it was very eye opening that this is not just a male issue. Churches do typically exclude women from these discussions, and when they are included it is to talk about “how they are viewed/portrayed.” There is a very real issue of degrading women, but porn is degrading of everyone!

Annie: Exactly, I want the males and females in the community to hear how their viewing of porn affects the whole. They are members of the Body of Christ, what they do affects the whole community. When one part suffers, we all suffer. Sexuality is meant to be personal but not private—our sexual lives affect everyone else in our community. It’s not just up to “me and Jesus.”

Brad Howell: This reminds of how, in the Victorian era, brothels existed because sex was considered moral only for procreation, and there was a prevailing misconception that men just couldn’t handle themselves. So brothels were viewed with distaste, but tolerated. I think we’re doing a similar thing with porn in our culture today—disdain but toleration.

FYI: When sex is a private issue, it is easy to have disdain for certain things but still tolerate them since they don’t seem to involve us personally. When it is a community issue, we all get more invested.

Billy Jack: I think porn, and our culture more broadly, can easily train us to look at others as objects to be used for our own personal gain of pleasure or power—without thinking about what it means to be in true, committed, loving relationships. It is not about creating rules that dictate whether or not to look at something, but rather thinking about who we are in our relationships.

Matt Laidlaw: But I have to say, it is probably difficult for youth pastors to know how to address the ways porn impacts both genders because the majority of youth pastors are men. Only one side of the experience and conversation is represented by the person leading the conversation, which can also feel degrading towards women in a number of ways if that speaker is always a man.

Mike Park: There is a significant amount of shame associated with viewing porn for both young men and women, but I would venture to guess the shame factor is higher for young women because they are supposed to be offended by it.  We are finding that more and more young women in college are open about talking about it, and a truly safe environment is essential to allow those conversations to happen.


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Via Media X2: Responding to Pornography

Shares Dec 02, 2014 Art Bamford

Photo by Liis Klammer.

This is part of an FYI series on navigating digital technology and social media with young people, and a multipart roundtable on issues related to sexuality.

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Because the research on sex, social media, and young people is complicated, we’re tackling some of these tougher issues by asking several thoughtful ministry leaders to join us for a roundtable discussion (read their bios here). In this first installment of our roundtable, we’ll be discussing how to help parents and leaders address the issue of online pornography.

Fuller Youth Institute (FYI): In dealing with the issue of porn, a lot of the advice given to parents seems to lean towards either total prohibition (e.g. how to get your child to never view porn), or the need to accept it as inevitable—young men are doing this so we need to emphasize restricting their viewing as much as possible. We’re wondering how you negotiate between those two perspectives, and what advice you might share?

Mike Park: Part of the reality of having an adolescent is that it’s almost impossible to regulate all the content they might be viewing, particularly outside the home. Even if they don’t have access to porn at home, that doesn’t mean they’ll never be exposed to it. I encourage parents to create safeguards and boundaries inside the home (keep the computer in an open area, utilize Internet security software, etc.) but also to help their son or daughter to make good choices when (and not if) they get confronted with porn or anything else that is harmful or destructive. 

Billy Jack Blankenship: Most of my interactions are with older teens and emerging adults on college campuses. I will say that the ease and multiple ways students can access pornography is simply overwhelming. We need to stop pretending that parental control is a true option—if a student wants to view porn, they can.

I think it is valid to acknowledge that it is a normal, natural thing to be drawn to such overt sexual content. But that being said, settling for “well, it is inevitable” is also falling short of our responsibility of raising healthy adults in this area of their lives. While teens have such easy and multifaceted ways to access porn, it doesn’t mean they have to look, or fixate on it, or even have to want to look.

Adam McLane: I wouldn’t say I fall in the inevitability category, but I do fall in the grace category. Even a casual user of the Internet is going to stumble upon (accidentally or purposefully) porn. In our house the rule is simple: no one, parents included, may use an Internet-connected device in a private space of the house.

Brad Howell: I like to suggest a different model of thinking along the lines of what Adam has described—that the Internet is public space. By embracing this mental model, connected devices do not belong in private spaces, such as bedrooms.

Of course this doesn’t solve everything, but the benefit to kids is that it helps them learn how to navigate in a world that desperately wants porn to be normative.

I think the claims of universal porn use among young men (and its growing acceptance and use among young women) primarily serves porn producers who want to normalize it, and organizations that profit from scaring parents. Neither serve our youth.

FYI: Regarding the ubiquitous nature of X-rated content, one of the popular solutions we hear about are content filters and blockers. The effectiveness of these is debatable and they can raise trust issues between parents and teens. Weigh the pros and cons for us based on your experience with teens and parents.

Matt: I think you could say that much of the role for parents is knowing how, what, and when to “filter” and “content block” the world on behalf of our children. I’m not sure why doing this electronically would be a different issue. However, if buying a filter is a way for parents to feel like they’ve addressed a problem while avoiding actually talking about sex and sexuality with their children, then filters and blockers are much less helpful.

Adam: Filters are useful for one thing and one thing only: accidentally stumbling upon porn. That being said, we don’t use them in our house and I discourage others to because when a person buys a tool to parent for them or instead of them, it never works. If your teenager (or an adult) wants to look at porn, a filter isn’t going to stop them.

Mike: Like most preventative measures, filters and blockers work best when introduced early so that they become a regular part of a child’s Internet experience at home. Young people are naturally going to be curious and resist boundaries and guardrails, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be in place. If Internet filters create a tension due to lack of trust, it may be symptomatic of a deeper issue that goes beyond just Internet use. But a filter can’t be seen as the end-all-be-all solution. It’s a safeguard, but it can only do so much. 

Brad: As awkward as it is, families need to talk through what protections make sense for your household. Unilaterally slapping teens with blockers frustrates teens and reduces family solidarity.

FYI: Good point. We assume that young people are happy to stumble upon some of this content, but researchers have found that many do not like it at all. It makes them extremely uncomfortable.

Brad: It is easy for adults to fail to realize how many Internet-enabled devices young people actually own. As kids get older, the importance of negotiating any filters and devices increases for all of us. 

Stay tuned for our next post in which our guests will talk specifically about how to include young women when we talk as families and ministries about porn and how it affects the Body of Christ.

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Via Media X1: Sex & Social Media Roundtable

Shares Dec 01, 2014 Art Bamford

Photo by Kimberley Hill.

This is part of an FYI series on navigating digital technology and social media with young people.

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We’re often struck by what we see touted as “new data” in the news. If we look deeper, many of these stories pluck percentages from the last page of journal articles describing a complicated research process.

That approach may be fine with certain subjects or studies, but when the topic involves research on young people and sex, it can lead to pretty dubious oversimplifications.

For example, there have been only a relatively small number of studies on the phenomenon known as sexting. Some of these surveys provided a definition of what the term “sexting” means, others have not. A 2013 review that compared all of these studies found that when young people were asked about sexting without having been given a definition, the percentages who said they had sexted were higher than when researchers did clarify specifically what sexting meant.[1]

Throughout FYI’s Via Media series we have provided parents and leaders with insights from what we think is the best existing research on each of the various topics we’ve explored. However, when it came to concerns related to sex, like sexting and online pornography, we decided to take a slightly different approach and ask youth workers who interact with young people on a regular basis.

The following posts will share insights from a roundtable discussion with several seasoned ministry leaders. But first, we want to briefly identify our concerns about research related to things like sexting and pornography to be clear that we’re not simply choosing to ignore it. Hopefully these insights will help you understand why some research, as it appears in our news media, can do more harm than good.  

Research on sex, social media, and young people is complicated because:

1. There is not much of it

Topics related to sex and young people are notorious among scholars as being some of the most difficult to investigate.[2] Most researchers steer clear of projects involving young people’s sexuality or sexual behaviors due to the institutional approval(s), parental permission, and teen cooperation needed. That’s why most of what we see in popular media is based on informal online polls rather than actual empirical study.

2. Methods are still experimental

Researchers are still in the process of determining what methods are most effective to measure and understand what effect, if any, digital technology is having. Most studies at this point are still focused on finding reliable methods. This points to something worth considering: If the researchers themselves are skeptical about their own data, we probably should be too.

3. Teenagers are awkward

Imagine a young person you know being interviewed by an adult stranger about their sexual behaviors, identity, or attitudes. Do you think they would feel comfortable, or answer honestly? Similarly, do you imagine a 17 year-old male student might respond differently to questions about his sex life when talking with a young adult female interviewer versus an older male one? It is virtually impossible to account for how the various age and gender-related power dynamics in these types of studies skew the results.

We decided to tackle these tougher issues by asking several thoughtful ministry leaders to join us for a roundtable discussion. We hope that hearing their insights and ideas based on experiences with young people will be helpful to you, whether you are a parent or a ministry leader.

In our next few posts we will explore the topics of pornography, sexting, and teaching young people how to use digital technology appropriately as part of their dating and relationship experiences. Our contributors for these conversations will be:

Adam McLane – Partner at The Youth Cartel and Principal at McLane Creative, Adam is the author of several books including A Parent’s Guide to Social Media (with Mark Oestreicher).  

Billy Jack Blankenship – Minister to Children and College at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church and Area Director of YoungLife College for UC San Diego.

Annie Neufeld – Pastor of Children’s and Student Ministries at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA. Annie completed her Master of Divinity from Fuller.

Mike Park – Student Integration Pastor at Newsong Church in Irvine, CA.

Matt Laidlaw – Director of Adult Life: Formation + Connection (and former director of Kids + Student Ministries) at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI.

Brad Howell – Associate Director for Fuller Seminary’s Northern California campuses and an instructor in Fuller’s Youth, Family and Culture department. This fall Brad is teaching “Youth and Family Ministry in a Culture of Digital Relationships.”

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[1] Strassberg, D. S., McKinnon, R. K., Sustaíta, M. A., & Rullo, J. (2013). Sexting by high school students: An exploratory and descriptive study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(1), 15-21.

[2] Markham, A. N., & Baym, N. K. (Eds.). (2008). Internet inquiry: Conversations about method. Sage.

A Surprising Thanksgiving Gift

Shares Dec 01, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

This guest post is from Sticky Faith Certified Trainer and Cohort veteran Danny Kwon. Danny has been serving for over 20 years in youth and family ministry at Yuong Sang Church outside Philadelphia.

As a youth pastor, the idea of teenagers having doubts and struggles in their faith can be frightening and discouraging. Sometimes it has even made me question my effectiveness as a pastor, even after 20 years of doing this.

Having teenagers of my own as a parent, their personal struggles cut even deeper into my questions about my effectiveness as a Christian parent.

However, being part of the first Sticky Faith Cohort made me more aware of and intentional about learning to embrace teenagers’ doubts and struggles. I started speaking more about it in my teaching. I started encouraging students in the midst of their struggles, in person or on social media. And my wife (a marriage and family counselor) would remind me that when a person struggles and doubts, it is often because they are fighting for a belief they hold.

I was affirmed of this move toward being present with students in the midst of their doubts when a student posted the below last Thanksgiving.

I’m thankful for pastor Danny because he always stresses the importance of struggle in our lives. That struggle is how you learn and how God pulls you back in. That even doubt is okay, and can be how my relationship with God gets stronger. I didn't believe him for a while. But I had a lot of struggles this past year that made me think about what he preached. Because he stressed this point so much, it stuck with me. I’ve found that struggles not only make my relationship stronger with God but also with others. This is what I’m most thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

I love her line "it stuck with me." It makes me realize that embracing the doubts of teenagers is part of Sticky Faith in their unfinished stories.

Ultimately, I am affirmed that God can use doubt in a powerful way in the lives of our students. I know and believe this because it is God's promise in my life, too. As the apostle Paul reminds us, "[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

That’s a lot to be thankful for.

How can I connect with FYI at Youth Specialties’ NYWC in Atlanta this week?

Shares Nov 20, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

Great question! The FYI team will be around Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in Sacramento and would love to see you. Here are a few ways to connect with us:


  • The FYI and Fuller Booth: Several Fuller Seminary and FYI team members will be at the booth throughout the weekend during exhibit hall hours, especially Brian, Johanna, and Matthew. Stop by for information about Fuller academic programs, Sticky Faith Cohorts, our books and resources, or whatever you're curious about. Sign up for our free resources and get entered into hourly drawings for free copies of Can I Ask That? Plus, we would love for you to add some ideas to our customized Sticky Faith wall throughout the weekend!
  • Exhibit Hall Stage: Come hear Kara and Brad interview each other at our Exhibit Hall Stage time 3:30-3:40pm on Friday. You might learn something surprising.
  • Sticky Faith Author Meet-Up: Kara and Brad will be at the FYI booth Friday from 3:40-4:30pm and want to chat with you. Please drop by to say hey.
  • Thinking about joining our Sticky Faith Cohort? If you're considering joining our yearlong Sticky Faith Cohort in 2015, drop by to talk with Brian at the booth, or shoot him an email and set up a time to talk over coffee.

Seminars, Intensives, and Panels

  • Sticky Faith Intensive: Kara and Brad will be teaching this learning lab on Thursday 1-6pm in A402/403. It's a great way to take a 5-hour dive into Sticky Faith (additional registration fee required.)
  • Seminars with Chap Clark: Chap will be leading a Friday afternoon 4:15-5:45 seminar on leadership in A305, and a Saturday 1:30-3:00 seminar on middle school ministry in A402/403.
  • Sticky Faith Family Ministry Seminar: Kara will be leading a Sticky Faith seminar focusing on the new content shared in the Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family on Saturday from 4-5:30pm in Room A411.
  • Kara in the Saturday Night Big Room: Kara will be headlining the Saturday night 7:30-9:30pm Big Room. DON’T MISS IT.
  • Late Night Film Premier! Kara and Matthew from our team will be sharing a premier sneak peek at our new video series that will help you partner with parents in nurturing faith in families. Join us from 10:00-11:00pm Saturday night in A404/405.
  • Seminar with Steve Argue: On Sunday from 9:15-10:45am Steve will be presenting “Helping parents parent their post-high school kids” A302. Come learn from Mars Hill Grand Rapids’ pastor and resident theologian and FYI partner!

Pick up a copy of the All-New Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family

This is exciting: In addition to our other Sticky Faith resources, the YS Store will be selling the all-new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, and Zondervan is running an ebook discount of $2.99 all weekend. We’ll also be giving them away in surprise locations around the convention. Follow us on social media @stickyfaith and @fullerfyi to discover where.

Whether you catch us in a seminar, stop us in the hall, or join one of the Big Room sessions Irene will help facilitate, we hope to see you around NYWC this weekend!


3 Parenting Questions for Ken Fong

Shares Nov 18, 2014 Kara Powell

This post is part of a series celebrating the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family. We’re interviewing parents who serve, think, and write about faith, family, and ministry.

I’m so pleased to share this week’s three-question interview with Ken Fong. Ken has long been connected with Fuller, and now serves as the executive director of our Asian American Initiative. Ken has been the senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. A noted conference speaker and church leader, he is a pioneer in multi-Asian and multiethnic church ministry. Ken and his wife have one daughter, and we’ll kick off our interview with a question about conversations with her.

You’ve been committed to having honest dialogue about homosexuality. How do you try to have honest conversations with your teenage daughter about same-sex issues?

Same-sex issues come up quite naturally with our teenaged daughter for a number of reasons. Until this season, she was a big fan of GLEE on television, which features numerous LGBTQ teens in the main cast. But other popular shows like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance have naturally opened the door for us to discuss topics related to homosexuality and our faith in Christ due to the frequency of gay contestants, choreographers, or judges. But without a doubt, the number one catalytic agent for talking with her about homosexuality has been a personal and pastoral journey to find a way home for LGBTQ Christians. While it’s only been after a long, arduous journey that I’ve come to believe that LGBTQ people are just as precious and worthy as any straight person and I are to the Lord, my daughter seems to come by this outlook naturally or maybe generationally. This doesn’t mean she thinks that LGBTQ Christians should be free to do whatever they choose; rather, we both think that all Christians—gay or straight—have chosen to wrestle with what it looks like to live God-glorifying lives.

The biggest stimulus to these conversations has been when some of her friends at church have left because their parents aren’t comfortable with what I’m trying to figure out. Or when she overhears me talking about how I’m getting slammed because of taking the lead on this tough issue. That’s when she’ll ask, “Dad, I get that not every Christian agrees with you; but why does that make it okay for them to call you names and to say bad things about our church?” For our family, on this tough issue, the only way this would be more real would be if someone in our family circle was gay. I especially use these conversations to share with her how I’m feeling and how I’m dealing with the challenges. But I also make a point of sharing with her some of the heart-warming stories that are emerging all around me these days because of God’s calling me to pursue this uncharted path.

Your wife works full-time outside of the home. How do the two of you share parenting and home responsibilities?

We were married in 1981 and we didn’t become parents (after adopting a 6-day old little girl) until 1999. So for the first 18 years of our marriage, we both worked full-time and my wife was the default for the majority of grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen. After we became parents, we stayed in that pattern for another 9 years. I typically worked closer to home and therefore was the natural one to pick up our child from after school care. But even though my wife commuted through rush hour traffic—first from Beverly Hills, then from the heart of downtown LA—I didn’t cook dinner and I didn’t clean up the kitchen.

But all of that radically changed about five years ago. I just felt so convicted that I was sinning against her. My repentance has taken the form of taking on cleaning the kitchen daily and cooking or providing dinner at least two days each week. Now that we’re giving our daughter an allowance, she’s required to clean up the kitchen on the weekends. My simple goal these past several years is for my wife to wake up and walk into a spotless kitchen most mornings so that she can kick off her workday with a sense of serenity, order, and cleanliness. 

As a senior pastor, what do you wish folks knew about senior pastors’ families that they don’t yet know?

As a senior pastor who’s married to a highly respected professional in the banking industry, it’s been really important for the sanctity of our marriage and our respective sanity to know that our church’s members don’t expect her to be everywhere that I have to be because of my job. So she no longer is obligated to attend every wedding or funeral I perform. And I no longer feel obligated to stay for every wedding reception, because I’m trying to reduce the amount of time I spend away from my family. 

Even before we were married, my wife has had to come to church without me and then not sit next to me in worship the past 30+ years. Which means she’s also functioned on Sunday mornings like a single parent. I don’t think most people realize that, by marrying me, my wife has essentially given up ever having a pastor in her life. And that’s true for every other spouse of one of the pastors on my staff. When my wife is hurting, I can reach out to her, but she receives that—understandably—as coming from her husband. So when she had Stage 1 ovarian cancer two years ago, I walked through that dark valley with her, but it frankly felt odd to have any of the other pastors extend care to her. Even when a few visited her in the hospital, they were visiting the spouse of their boss. Most people don’t understand that dynamic of pastors’ families.


For more ideas from real families like yours, get the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family.

Download the first chapter free

3 ways the Sticky Faith Cohort changed our team

Shares Nov 10, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

This Sticky Faith story is from Katie Sanders, the Associate Pastor of Formation at Upper Room in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a Sticky Faith Cohort Veteran, and one of our coaches and Sticky Faith trainers.


It all started with an email from my friend Cory. His church had been part of a Sticky Faith cohort in 2011 and knew it would be right up my alley.

He was right. Sticky Faith research and principles put language to things I had been thinking about for years. After reading up about this opportunity, I was confident it was the right next step for our staff. I spent a few weeks preparing for a conversation with our lead pastor. I won’t hide the fact that one of my selling points was a trip to Pasadena in February (we live in Minnesota).

Bottom line… We loved our cohort experience. We were encouraged and challenged and inspired. We met some amazing people. We thawed out in the midst of brutal MN winter. But when I really think back to why this was such a significant experience for our church, three core things come to mind:

1. The cohort created space

I am sure most of us in vocational ministry can relate to the feeling of being on the hamster wheel. We live in the reality of week-in, week-out ministry… nurturing relationships, planning program, writing curriculum, crafting messages. Sometimes the best gift can be to step away from it all. The cohort provided us this incredible space; space to be together as a staff, space to listen and learn and wrestle and dream about our future.

2. We learned A LOT

I remember filling an entire notebook with notes from my cohort year. A definite highlight was learning from Brad, Kara, Scott, and Chap. We covered everything from adolescent development to adaptive change. We got to core, foundational, fundamental topics—topics that too often go unaddressed in ministry settings.

3. We were challenged to do something with what we learned

I have vivid memories of attending past ministry conferences where I walked away with 25 great ideas but had no clue how those ideas could become a reality in our church community. And sometimes those ideas flat out would not work in our context. The hope of the Cohort and the challenge issued to all participants is to take the research and learnings and actually apply them. In fact, a significant part of the cohort experience is putting together a Breakthrough Plan, which involves picking 2-3 areas of ministry and creating a plan to implement change. We were provided individualized coaching and accountability, which I believe made all the difference. One of the results of our Breakthrough Plan was that we started to equip parents in our community in a new way. All of our ministry settings are unique, and the Sticky Faith Cohort not only recognizes this, but celebrates it too.

All in all, we are so thankful for our Cohort year. While ministry development is always a process, our year in the Sticky Faith Cohort helped us to lay a solid foundation, giving us a clearer vision for the work we do with our kids, students, and families.

The deadline to register is December 15th, don’t miss your opportunity to join!  To confirm your spot, email Brian Nelson at or call (626) 584-5546.

Learn more

Is it the right time for my church to join a Sticky Faith Cohort?

Shares Nov 06, 2014 Kara PowellBrad M. Griffin

We’ve been delighted and humbled by the range of churches that have participated in our Sticky Faith Cohorts over the past five years. Along the way we’ve been able to get to know leaders from all across North America, multiple denominations, and all sizes and flavors of ministry.

This fall we’re gearing up for our next cohort starting in January 2015. One of the questions we often get asked by leaders considering the cohort is:

“How do we know if it’s the right time?”

The great news is that we’ve seen congregations in all sorts of stages and situations find the cohort experience helpful to catalyze their youth ministry and entire church toward Sticky Faith. As one church leader shared recently, the emphasis on making change in their own context freed their church to tailor Sticky Faith uniquely to their congregation, while also learning a ton from churches who were both like and unlike them.

Here are 5 things to consider as you think about joining the Cohort:

  1. Start having conversations with other team members that push you to look at both what you’re doing in ministry and why you’re doing it.
  2. What is your vision for partnership with children’s ministry leadership at your church? Churches who see the most gains during the Cohort process tend to move towards synergy between youth and children’s ministry.
  3. How do you want to utilize training opportunities next year? Consider focusing your team training efforts and budget toward the 2015 Cohort in order to create a clear collaborative mission and leverage our research-based resources. We’ll supply you with volunteer training tools and an interactive process for your team to engage for the year!
  4. How involved is your senior pastor with your ministry’s mission? The cohort helps bring everyone on the same page to move toward a clear vision together. Consider garnering support from your senior pastor and other leadership for your church’s participation in a yearlong process. (This video from Fuller President Mark Labberton might help).

  5. If it would help to talk with a leader from another church within your denomination/tradition or your community who has been through the Cohort, let us know and we will do our best to connect you with someone.

Often the factors leaders think might be obstacles to participating in the process don’t have to be. Issues like a senior pastor transition or having a small youth ministry team don’t necessarily mean the timing is bad. Sticky Faith won’t look the same in every church. We think that’s great news for leaders like you.

Sometimes God surprises leaders with the timing of the cohort. We’ve heard story after story about how God has used the cohort journey as a catalyst for their team, youth ministry, or congregation in ways they hadn’t predicted. Nothing excites us more!

As you prayerfully consider if this is the right timing for your team to join the 2014 Sticky Faith Cohort, know that we’re praying for you. We trust that God will bring together the right churches for the right time, and we can’t wait to see what this year holds!

If you have been considering the cohort, email or call Brian Nelson today at (626) 584-5546. The deadline is December 15th for the 2015 cohort; don’t miss getting a spot for next year!

Cheering you on,

Kara Powell, Brad Griffin, and the FYI Team

Learn more about the Cohort

3 Parenting Questions for April Diaz

Shares Nov 04, 2014 Kara Powell

This post is part of a series celebrating the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family. We’re interviewing parents who serve, think, and write about faith, family, and ministry.

This week we hear from FYI partner and Sticky Faith Certified Trainer April Diaz. April and her husband Brian parent three children, two adopted and one biological, and have learned a ton as an intercultural and adoptive family. April also serves as the Director of Coaching for the Youth Cartel, and last year released her first book, Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker: A Manifesto of Integration.

You and your husband, Brian, are deeply committed to multi-ethnic ministry and relationships. How have those types of relationships benefitted your family? How, if at all, has your commitment negatively impacted your family?

Being part of a multi-ethnic community has utterly changed our understanding of God and the Gospel. Our family is also very multi-ethnic. I'm your boring white, Midwestern girl who married a 1.5 generation Puerto Rican (meaning his parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico, and Brian was born outside the US but moved here as a kid), adopted a couple Ethiopians, and have one biological mixed baby. Our family is quite the picture of diversity. As our family has grown in diversity, it's been very important for us to surround ourselves with others "not like us." After all, the story of the Good Samaritan is really a story about being a neighbor by going toward someone who is not like you. It is in that uncomfortable place where we can lean more into the grace and character of God. The incarnation even becomes more miraculous through that perspective.

As we've interacted with and grown in relationships with cultures unlike our first culture, we can see the fullness of God more. It's allowed our kids to see the family isn't only about bloodlines but it's about love and commitment to one another. I believe each person is created in the image of God. We are his imago dei. And just as each person reflects God's image, I believe each culture embodies a characteristic or attribute of God. We've seen more of how different cultures and ethnicities understand God through their environment, strengths, and especially their pain.

Having adopted two children, what do you wish you had known before they entered your family?

I wish I would've known a couple of things. First, how utterly "my own" they would feel as my kids. I knew I would love them completely, but I didn't realize that our adopted son and daughter would feel as much "my own" as my biological son does. It's an incredible thing God does in our souls to knit us together as a family. It's also been an indescribable transformation for me as I experience God's adoption of me with new understanding. I knew God adopted me as his child because of his work on the cross, but I KNOW it differently now.

Second, I wish I would've known how painful adoption is at every level for the rest of our lives together. The losses our two oldest kids have experienced at such an early age are incomprehensible to me. They've lost birth family, culture, language, heritage, food, and more in order to become ours. We realized that before we adopted them, and embraced that loss with the hope of healing. But I didn't realize how every Mother’s Day my heart would ache as I remember the loss of their first mom. I didn't consider how every time we see a new doctor, I would feel the pang of having to answer "do not know" with every family history question. I never thought about how every birthday I'd be simultaneously so grateful for their birth, yet heartbroken both that I was not a part of that moment and also for the loss of their biological parents. I suppose I wish I would have known how ongoing the painful moments would be, yet also kissed with redemption at every step.

I know prayer is something that is very important to you. How does prayer shape your family? What do you wish your family was doing differently when it comes to prayer?

I really love how my kids will initiate prayer at moments other than meals and bedtime. I also love our rehearsed bedtime prayers when my kids burst out with what they were grateful for in that day. It almost feels like a kid-sized prayer of examen together (on the good days). My tired body is energized when they ask aloud with me that God would "fill their dreams with the Holy Spirit, give them peace, and restore their souls". Those are sweet times as they learn about talking with God. 

I wish we were more diligent about asking our kids about where they see God at work (as only a 6, 4, and 2 year old can articulate) and asking God for what they need at any moment throughout their days. Our instruction on prayer is more organic and less structured than I'd like, but maybe that's okay for their ages. 

5 Ways the Sticky Faith Cohort Is Still Changing Our Church (3 Years Later)

Shares Oct 29, 2014 Fuller Youth Institute

This Sticky Faith Story is from Matthew Deprez, Intergenerational Pastor at Frontline Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI, a Sticky Faith Cohort veteran, and one of our Coaches and Sticky Faith Trainers.

Our church had the privilege of participating in a Sticky Faith Cohort in 2011. When I think back on all the decisions Frontline has made over the past 3 years, the decision to join the cohort has been, without a doubt, one of the most important. Here are some ways the Cohort is still changing our church:

1. We formed a new network

One of the most unexpected parts of the cohort is the ongoing relationship Frontline has been able to build with other churches who have been part of cohorts. Three years later, some of my closest friends in ministry are leaders from other churches we met that year. I’ve been challenged by how to do ministry from churches with under 200 people, and churches as large as 10,000+ people. Some of our most effective changes have happened because of ongoing conversations since the cohort ended. 

2.Programmatic shifts

Our ministry programs today look completely different from before the cohort. Earlier this year, we finished building a brand-new Children’s Ministry wing with Sticky Faith values in mind. Then this fall our student ministry willingly volunteered to give away their student ministry room so they could meet in our church’s main auditorium in order to feel more connected to the larger church. We do interdepartmental trainings with volunteers, and have shared a cohesive (and non-competitive) interdepartmental calendar. Our staff structure changed to more effectively work together and better resource people at Frontline.

3.We disciple the entire family, rather than just individual people

Previous to the cohort, our staff worked hard to disciple their own demographic individually. Today, we try our best to ask how the entire family can be discipled. This means our staff regularly has to put our heads together, and work as a team. We still have age-appropriate departments and ministries, but we’re working hard to disciple the family as a whole. We’ve done Sunday morning sermon series based on what we’ve learned from the cohort. We’ve created “Milestones” for families to celebrate and grow together. We’ve provided simple opportunities for families to have spiritual conversations together, and implemented family-based serving opportunities locally and abroad. Before the cohort, we internally believed that in-home discipleship was the most important thing we could provide for a child’s spiritual development, but we didn’t know how to do it. After the cohort, we actually put resources in place to make family discipleship a reality.

4.We measure effectiveness...more effectively

Before the cohort, we essentially measured the effectiveness of a program based on how many people showed up. While we still measure programmatic attendance, the cohort helped us process better ways to measure the effectiveness of what we do. Now, we evaluate our staff differently, recruit and retain volunteers more effectively, and resource and equip parents more passionately. In short, the way we measure success has created a different set of expectations for everybody at Frontline, and we’re much better off because of it.

5. The cohort brought us to sunny California!

I’d be lying if I said that getting to California in February and October wasn’t a draw for us. February’s weather in West Michigan isn’t terribly attractive, and since lake-effect snow doesn’t exist in Los Angeles, it was a fairly easy sell to get our staff to go. In all seriousness, the times on-site in California were critical for us. Meeting the other churches, interacting with the FYI staff, and getting away as a team were all crucial to the cohort being a “win” for Frontline.

I can’t think of anything else Frontline has done over the past 3 years that has changed our culture as much as the Sticky Faith Cohort, and my hope is that as many churches as possible gain the same experience!

Learn More

For questions and to confirm your spot, email Brian Nelson at or call (626) 584-5546