Fuller Youth Institute


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?

Photo by: Paolo Giancristofaro

Lately we have been sharing about our work at the Fuller Youth Institute over the past few years studying churches growing young—remarkable bright spots in the midst of a gloomy national church landscape. 

Yes, these are churches young people are lovingnot leaving.

But if you tend to be a skeptic like me (I like to think of myself as a hyper-realist), this may be raising all kinds of questions for you. 

Some of the questions we often hear include:

“What about the senior adults in these churches?” 

“Do older adults get left out when churches focus on young people? 

“Do old people really want younger people in the church?”

Over the past decade through our Sticky Faith work we have learned a lot about intergenerational ministry and the importance of adult relationships in the lives of teenagers and emerging adults. So it’s not surprising that we wanted to explore what these relationships look like in congregations engaging young people well. 

In particular, we wondered what older adults think about young people, especially those ages 15-29 (the focus of our project). 

What we heard was inspiring. On the whole, senior adults enthusiastically support the ways their churches are prioritizing young people. 

One adult interviewee put it like this:


I guess I really enjoy the young people who attend our church because I feel like they bring a sort of energy around them. I just love the way they’re so passionate about things. I think that it’s contagious to people around them, and it becomes a great benefit to everyone that attends our church. I think visitors can feel it as well. The other thing I appreciate is that young people have a lot of great ideas. I feel like they’re able to give us new, young, innovative ideas.


How does a church make young people a priority without excluding others?

We asked this question at First United Methodist in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From leaders and young people alike, we learned that when big decisions are made about dedicating more funding, staff, or space to young people, these changes are made by multiple generations who share a common commitment to teenagers and emerging adults.

In our discussion with a group of high school students in Tulsa, we asked why the senior adults in their church care about them so much that they are willing to make changes to welcome them. They replied, “The older people see that we want to be here, so they want us to be here.” 

Here In Tulsa and in other congregations, there was a mutual respect and mutual need that permeated conversations with young and old alike. Adults weren’t forced to focus on young people; they chose to do so.


Discovering the benefits


Churches that are growing young prioritize young people not just for the sake of making young people happy, but because the whole church benefits. One pastor of over 40 years put it like this: “Everybody rises when you focus on children and teens.” 

Adults in another church reflected, “Young people are like salt. When they’re included, they make everything taste better.” 

It may be time to evaluate your congregation’s language about young people.

Sometimes young people are seen as problems to solve rather than potential to be developed. Overwhelmingly, leaders in churches growing young talk instead about the life young people bring to their congregation. 

Vocabulary like vitality, possibility, investment, and energy help them frame conversations about ministry, resourcing, and even potential dilemmas differently. 

At your next ministry leadership meeting, ask for the first words or phrases that come to mind when members think about young people. List these on a white board, and talk about how these words and images might be shaping your responses.

Let’s start a new conversation about young people and the church. 


Get Updates on Growing Young

Photo by: Mari Kojima

Growing Young began with some ambitious questions.

What can churches do to become more effective with young people? Who and where are the most innovative congregations in the country when it comes to engaging young people well? How might we learn more about them?

When our team set out to answer these questions, we knew we had a long road ahead of us. As Brad shared recently, the aging and shrinking of the American church is a far-reaching dilemma. To discover hopeful and meaningful answers, we knew we’d need a comprehensive research project.

As we began to strategize, we realized that this study would involve more than just one seminary, one denomination, or one region of the country. In fact, our questions led us on an 80,000-mile journey around the US to discover churches that young people find irresistible.


Meet the churches young people love


Throughout our research, we encountered hundreds of remarkable and diverse congregations who represent tens of thousands of young people. These teenagers and young adults consistently said they felt “known” at their church. They knew that no matter what happened, their church would feel like “home.” 

There was the East Coast 1000-member Presbyterian church that developed a long-term high school ministry team that pours into volunteer adult leaders, who in turn build a web of support around students.

And the 100-member midwestern rural Reformed church that has become so hospitable to teenagers and young adults that being at church is now the highlight of their week

And the 1500-member urban multiethnic congregation in the South that launched two leadership training programs for young adults in their city.   

And the 5000-member nondenominational church that responds to young people’s core questions and struggles with an authentic exploration of the gospel rather than trite answers. 

And the 200-person urban Baptist Latino congregation that integrated English into its worship services to better engage young people. This church is literally learning a new language in order to grow young.


Defining an effective church


Identifying outstanding churches like these began with a simple definition. In conversation with a team of nearly 30 scholars, pastors, and thought leaders, we nailed down the following description:

A church that is effective with young people is one that is involving and retaining young people in the congregational community, as well as helping them develop a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ.

Simply put, we now describe these as churches growing young because:

  1. They are engaging young people ages 15-29, and 
  2. They are growing—spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and sometimes also numerically. 


How we identified churches for our study


Working largely through Fuller Seminary’s vast network, we solicited names of vibrant congregations from over 35 nominators who fell into three categories:

National denominational leaders from 13 Protestant denominations as well as the Roman Catholic Church and Greek Orthodox Church.  

Respected scholars from seven educational institutions: Fuller Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wheaton College, North Park University, Gordon College, Trinity Evangelical Deerfield School, and Luther Seminary. 

Other experts in ministry to young people outside of specific denominational channels including the Willow Creek Association, Orange, the Youth Cartel, Catalyst, and our own Fuller Youth Institute team.

We asked these nominators to identify congregations that have ministries with young people that are numerically growing, are engaging a large number of young people relative to the size of their congregation, or have something “exciting or missional” going on with young people. 


The diversity of churches growing young


Wondering whether any of these churches are similar to yours?

Almost certainly. 

Since the launch of the project, we have been pleased by the rich diversity of churches who graciously accepted our invitation, responded to online surveys, answered questions by phone, and opened their doors (literally!) to us. Here’s a snapshot of how the 259 churches that chose to participate in the research describe themselves.

Denominational affiliation. 21 major church traditions were represented, including: Anglican, Assemblies of God or Pentecostal, Baptist, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Church of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Reformed or Christian Reformed, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, and those claiming no denominational affiliation.

Congregation size. Churches ranged in size from under 100 participants to over 10,000 participants. The largest three categories were 1,001-3,000 (28 percent), 501-1,000 (24 percent), and 251-500 (15 percent).

Racial diversity. Just over half of the congregations were predominantly white, one-third were multiracial, and the others were predominantly African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian.

Region of the US. Geographic location included all census regions of the country, with representations from the Midwest (33 percent), West (31 percent), South (25 percent), and Northeast (11 percent).

Age of church: The study included newer church plants that were less than five years old as well as historic congregations with over 140 years of history.

Type of community: In terms of where the congregation was located, 56 percent reported being suburban, 33 percent urban, 3 percent rural, and 8 percent a mix of urban, suburban, and rural that was difficult to distinguish.


More stories of hope are on the way


We’ve done the hard work of finding and visiting these churches because we want to move beyond the bad news about young people leaving the church, and give you access to what’s actually working. There are so many more churches from the project for you to meet!

God is doing amazing things in different types of churches around the country – we’re thrilled to share more of their stories in the coming months.


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The biggest mistake you might make in your next family vacation

Shares Jun 07, 2016

Photo by: Moyan Brenn

“My time with Colin isn’t going like I hoped. I keep trying to bring up big topics and he hardly responds.”

My husband Dave’s friend, Doug, was in a panic. To commemorate his son Colin’s sixteenth birthday, Doug told Colin he’d take him anywhere in the US for a three-day vacation. Just the two of them. 

Doug had visions of long conversations. Deep sharing. 

Colin was more interested in seeing movies and tracking down the best cheesecake New York had to offer. 

Doug’s text to Dave was punctuated with anxiety. For months, Doug and his wife had saved up for this trip. So far this vacation wasn’t yielding the relational R.O.I. that Doug had anticipated.

Or was it? 

Based on research we’ve done for The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, I suggested Dave text back this response: “Totally understand. Colin’s a good kid. More important than what you do or talk about together is the way Colin feels around you. He’ll remember how he feels long after he’s forgotten about the cheesecake.”

It’s not that family events and activities don’t matter. It’s that their value comes from being a platform for your kids to know you’re crazy about them. You really care. You care so much that even when your kids kick away from you, or rebuff your attempts to connect with them, you don’t withdraw. 

You stay present. 


Even reaching out toward them. 

I’m guessing you want a positive, life-giving, long-term relationship with your children. Think about other relationships in your life that offer that to you. Most likely the magnet that draws you to those people is more about how they make you feel about yourself and less about what you’ve actually done together. 

In between seeing the sights or relaxing at the lake, your next family vacation offers all sorts of windows to let your kids know how much you value them: 

At mealtimes: Ask everyone to put away their devices (including you!) and give each other eye contact. If conversation lags, bring along a deck of cards or let one (and only one) cell phone be used for a family game (one of the Powells’ favorite cell phone apps to play together at mealtime is Heads Up!).

On car or plane rides: Look for tech-free and even book-free windows for family conversations and simple fun. The Powells have spent hours together in the car with the low-tech “alphabet game” (looking for letters on signs and license plates) or the higher-tech 94 seconds app. 

At bedtime: Take a bit of extra time to connect with each child. Ask them what they enjoyed most about the day, or what they would change about it. Pray more than your cursory “regular” (and often rushed) bedtime prayer, thanking the Lord for specific qualities you appreciate about your child.

On your next vacation, don’t make this mistake of focusing so much on what your family DOES together that you miss out on the chance to let your family know how much you LIKE them.

What other ideas do you have for building connection during family travel? 

Want more? Check out our Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, created to help you navigate parenting with insights from our Sticky Faith research. Summer is the perfect time to deepen your family’s exploration of faith!

Get Our Family Guide Here

Photo by: Jack Toohey


You may have heard the sky is falling.

Churches are closing their doors.

Young people are walking away from faith.

So how bad is the bad news, really? It’s a question you may have wondered, and one we certainly ponder here at the Fuller Youth Institute. Our FYI team approaches research with a hopeful posture, so we wonder not only what the bad news may be, but also what good news is out there. First, the bad news:

Churches are shrinking

Most churches in America are not growing.

According to an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center, the share of adults in the US who identify as Christians fell from 78 to 71 percent between 2007 and 2014. The increase in those who identify as “religiously unaffiliated” (meaning atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular”) jumped by almost seven points, from just over 16 to 23 percent. 

This well-publicized “Rise of the Nones” varies by denomination. 

Mainline Protestantism has experienced the greatest dip in numbers. From 2007 to 2014, mainline Protestant adults declined by about 5 million.

Roman Catholic adults dropped nearly 3 million.

Adults in evangelical denominations, as well as adults in nondenominational churches with evangelical leanings, actually grew from 60 million to 62 million. 

However, while total number of evangelicals has increased, the percentage of Americans who identify as evangelicals has actually decreased almost one percent from just over 26 percent to just over 25 percent.

Even though these shifts represent major downturns in three of our nation’s largest Christian traditions, not all denominations are experiencing a slump. In particular, several historically Black Protestant denominations remain relatively stable. And outside the US, some traditions are seeing growth globally.

To summarize, no major Christian tradition is growing in the United States today. A few denominations are managing to hold steady, but that’s as good as it gets.

Churches are aging

Most churches in America are also aging.

While young adults ages 18-29 make up 22 percent of the US adult population, they represent less than 10 percent of churchgoers. 

In a recent 10-year study of congregations, people over age 60 increased by five percent and people under age 35 decreased by five percent.

Many churches see their average congregant age increase year by year and wonder what all the graying heads mean for the future of the church. 

Young people do walk away

Alongside this shrinking and aging, churches are watching young people walk away. 

A major turning point for young people’s faith in America tends to be high school graduation. Multiple studies highlight that about half of youth group seniors drift from God and the faith community after they graduate from high school. We’ve spent the past decade studying how to reverse this trend through our Sticky Faith work.

Some—perhaps more than half—of those who drift from the church end up rejoining the faith community, generally when they get married and have children. 

But even those who return have made significant life decisions about worldview, relationships, and vocation—all during an era when their faith was shoved aside. The consequences of those lasting decisions are often tough to erase.

But bright spots are on the horizon

The data is clear that shrinking and aging are the default for most American congregations today. But that’s not the way it has to be. And it’s not happening in every church. Four years ago, we set out to learn from churches that were bucking this trend. 

As Kara shared recently, our team at the Fuller Youth Institute spent the past four years studying over 250 congregations of diverse sizes, ethnicities, and geographic regions that are unlocking the potential of teenagers and emerging adults

These churches joined us for one of the largest and most collaborative studies ever conducted on the topic, involving over 20 denominations, 25 expert advisors, 1,500 research participants, and 10,000 hours of staff research time. 

All that work was focused on learning more about what’s going right in the church.

There is hope

Yes, it might feel like the sky is falling for the church in the US. And some days it may feel that way in your own congregation. 

But we have great hope that God is still—as always—at work in the church, through the church, and for the church so the church can be all it was meant to be in the world. 

Stick with us—we can’t wait to share all we’ve been learning about churches growing young


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Announcing Our New Project: Growing Young

Helping Young People Discover And Love Your Church

Shares May 23, 2016

I’ve never heard God speak to me audibly. But four years ago as I was praying about the research God wanted the Fuller Youth Institute to do after Sticky Faith, I was pretty sure he pointed me in the right direction.

That particular morning as I was praying and journaling about our future, I wrote these thoughts: “Sticky Faith studied young people themselves. Now we need to study congregations that are really good at reaching young people.”

Those fairly vague phrases penned on a yellow tablet on the navy blue couch in my living room evolved into a dream—the passion of which has startled even me.

I can think of no better way to change a country—any country—than through a reinvigorated church. I can think of no better way to change a church than infusing it with passionate young people.

I can think of no better way to develop passionate young people than to help them understand that God’s grace, love, and mission answer their deepest heart cries.

Telling A New Story

There’s so much bad news about churches today. Legitimately so. The best data shows that most churches are shrinking and aging.

But in the midst of this depressing landscape, there are amazing churches beating the odds. They are heroic. And they are bright lights in the midst of the all-too-often gloomy narratives and research about churches.

Funded by four amazing foundations, the primary goal of our last three years of research has been to understand how and why exemplary churches are effectively engaging 15 to 29 year-olds.

Put more simply, we studied churches that are growing, and growing young.

The Process

How did the Fuller Youth Institute team study these “bright spot” churches?

  • Nominations: We received nominations of 363 amazing churches from 35 highly respected leaders, ranging from denominational and national leaders to academic scholars.
  • Stage One: We received surveys from the senior pastor and youth and/or young adult pastor at 259 of those churches.
  • Stage Two: We interviewed 41 of the most noteworthy churches. Almost always by telephone, our research team conducted one-hour interviews with a total of 535 young people, parents, church staff, and volunteers across these congregations.
  • Stage Three: We sent teams of two or three researchers to visit 12 of these 41 congregations. By spending a handful of days at each congregation, we were able to experience both their congregational worship services and age-specific ministries, as well as conduct in-person interviews and focus groups with young people, parents, volunteers, congregational members, and leadership staff.

In total, these three stages of research helped us amass over 10,000 hours of research personnel time, 10,000 pages of data, and interviews or surveys with 474 young people and 799 adults.

To our delight, these congregations represented amazing diversity in size, geographic region, denomination/tradition (or lack thereof), and age. Particularly thrilling is that over half of the churches we studied during the project were not predominantly white.

In other words, there are no insurmountable barriers for a church determined to grow young.

Coming This Fall: Growing Young

One resource that showcases all we learned is a new Growing Young book that Jake Mulder, Brad Griffin and I wrote that will be released on September 20th with Baker Books. 

Growing Young walks through the six core commitments we’ve found to be most common in churches growing young, and also the ten things you don’t need to reach young people. (Spoiler alert: a super cool senior pastor in skinny jeans is on the “ten things you don’t need” and not one of the “six core commitments.” Some of you are exhaling a sigh of relief at that one.)

I care about books like this one because they change how people think. I care about changing how people think because that changes how we love and serve all generations, but in this case, teenagers and emerging adults.  

More than any other book project, Growing Young has expanded my vision for all God intends for every congregation. And our research has given me confidence that change is feasible for any church. Including yours.

There’s more to come.

Our team is spending all summer developing additional tools to help your church grow young. I don’t want to spill the beans yet (and in all candor, we are still figuring out exactly what those tools are), but we aren’t going to leave you alone in the change process. We are going to walk with you. And learn with you and from you.

It’s going to be a grand adventure. Journeying with you is going to make it even better.


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Photo by Jonathan Nardi

“You’re so addicted to that phone!”

“You can’t stop playing that game. It’s like you’re addicted.”

“Why are you such an addict with social media?”

Ever heard phrases like this from parents to teenagers—or maybe from your own mouth?

You don’t need us to tell you that mobile devices are pervasive in our culture, specifically among teenagers. Roughly 3 out of 4 teenagers own a smartphone today in the US, granting unprecedented access to and constant contact with their peers and indeed the entire world.

Last week Common Sense Media released a comprehensive research brief on technology addiction among kids and teenagers. Addiction has been a buzzword swirling around young people and digital media for a while.

We’re as concerned as anyone about this at FYI. So much so that recently we researched and developed a resource for parents called Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager in a Digital Media World. As parents and researchers, we agree that families need deeper understanding and more sanity around our digitally-connected lives. Or as one mom shared with us, we need more thoughtful things to say to our kids than just “Put that thing down!” 

That said, we all need to exercise caution before assigning language like “addiction” to technology use. Here are three reasons why calling your teenager a technology/cell phone/social media/gaming addict might not be a good idea:

1. It’s probably not addiction.

According to the Common Sense Media report, one out of every two teens “feels” addicted to their mobile device. But what does that mean? How is it defined? In particular, how do young people themselves understand addiction?

In the medical and psychological world, the term addiction refers to a behavior that is persistent, pervasive, compulsive, and that interferes with daily life on a regular basis. While we might nod our heads when we think about device usage in light of this, truthfully most of us are unqualified to diagnose addiction. Further, it’s telling that so few of us seek treatment for our kids for these “addictions.” It seems we’ve mainstreamed the term as something we don’t really take seriously.

It’s possible that our over-naming and normalizing of addiction language could actually prevent us from seeing and treating true addiction. This is a problem. It’s especially problematic because some young people are, in fact, addicted to aspects of technological interaction. Compulsive gaming and online pornography use offer some of the most evident examples. But if we call everything addiction, parents and young people will grow less and less likely to seek help when it’s really needed.

2. Addiction language is stigmatizing.

If one out of every two teens feels addicted to devices, nearly two out of three parents feel the same way about their kids. This tells us that parents may be using “addiction” language as they talk with their kids about device usage. Especially since 66 percent of parents feel like their teenagers spend too much time on devices.

Further, about one third of both parents and teens report arguing on an almost daily basis about device use. We’re left to wonder how often that word “addicted” comes into play. When it does, how do young people feel? Have you ever been called an addict? Addiction carries a stigma, it’s shaming, and it can define someone by their behavior.

Young people are growing up in a world where digitally-connected media forms are all around them. This is the only world they’ve ever known. They are trying to figure out how to navigate that world, and they also happen to be drawn like sponges to most of what the digital world offers. The last thing they need from us is to be shamed for trying to stay afloat on the only waters they’ve sailed.

Most of the time our attention is more effective than shaming. Even when we suspect true addiction, opening with accusations is rarely effective.

3. We don’t know enough yet about how technological shifts are actually changing us.

This line from the Common Sense Media report sums it up well: “Research on Internet use and children is complicated and varied and, most importantly, woefully incomplete.” In our own research for the parent guide Right Click, coauthor and media researcher Art Bamford came to much the same conclusion after extensive literature review. We just don’t know enough yet.

First of all, very little in-depth research is conducted with teenagers or children. The vast majority of actual research on digital media has been done with adults over age 18. This is primarily because it’s much easier to get studies of adult subjects approved by research ethics boards, and parental permission is required before studying minors, so researchers tend to stick with adults when it comes to legitimate studies.

Second, this is all so new that there has not been enough time to research the long-term effects of most kinds of digital media use. Again, especially among children.

There are things we do know that apply to adults and kids—like heavy media multitasking doesn’t actually work for any of us (our brains aren’t wired for it, no matter what we might think). But there’s a lot we simply do not have research data to explore. Prematurely suggesting that technology use is going to cause any number of positive or negative outcomes in your child’s future is simply guesswork.

And like many areas of life, balance is emerging as one of the more helpful early indicators of navigating the digital world well. But you probably don’t need research to know that.

So how can we talk about digital media in our family instead?

If calling our kids addicts doesn’t help, what does?

For starters, parents can turn the mirror toward themselves and ask questions about what their own behaviors model for their kids.

According to the Common Sense report, nearly 80 percent of teenagers report checking their devices at least once hourly, but so do nearly 70 percent of parents. Kids agree something is amiss here. Nearly half agree that their parents are regularly distracted by devices when teenagers are trying to talk to them. Half of them also see their parents checking mobile devices while driving, and while two thirds say there is a “no device rule” at the dinner table, about a third say their parents are likely to break that rule during dinner. Finally, a third of kids ages 8-13 say they feel unimportant when their parents are distracted by their phones.

How can we begin to talk about and create healthy boundaries around media use in the home? Here are five quick tips and resources you can access right now: 

1. Set media boundaries … together.

As parents, we are both the gatekeepers and the empowerers of our kids’ media engagement. Sure, school plays a role in ways we sometimes can’t regulate. But we often have more purview than we realize over media choices. Of course we face the classic plea of “everyone’s doing it.” But ultimately? No, your fourth grader doesn’t “need” a smartphone. Or your eighth grader, honestly. That doesn’t mean you are a bad parent for giving them one. It does, however, mean we are accountable from the moment we allow our child to access a device, app, game, platform, or interface for what they are seeing, saying, doing, and sharing. That’s a big deal.

While we hold the bottom line as parents, that doesn’t mean we should dictate every rule and regulation in the home. The best boundary-setting around media use happens when parents and kids talk together about what a “normal” routine should look like, and then hold each other accountable. If that’s a tough conversation for your family, we’ve created a free downloadable tool you can use to have a fresh conversation with your family this week.

2. Learn how to review apps.

Or better yet, require your kids to complete this Request for App form and give you at least 24 hours to make a decision before they download anything. This brief form pushes them to do a little research on things like privacy, sharing, and personal information the app will collect. If you don’t like forms, the questions themselves can help guide a less formal conversation with your teenager.

3. Don’t let gaming game you.

Wringing your hands about the new games your kids acquired recently—or about how much time they’re sinking into playing? Here are ten things every parent should know about gaming to give you a leg up in this game.

4. Draw the age line.

Have a kid under 13 asking to use social media? Here’s an easy way to say no: the law. Read more about why, plus a handful of other tips on making age determinations and helping them join social media.

5. Have a good answer to the retort, “That’s not fair!”

Not all kids are ready for the same things at the same time, and that’s doubly true with technology. As your kids begin to use new technology, you might find that one takes care of their device while another is careless, or one makes good choices while another struggles. Here are some tips for navigating this dilemma.

Finally, keep in mind that teenagers still typically prefer face-to-face interaction with their friends. They use social media and devices because they can, and often because they feel like they have to, but they’d rather be hanging out in person most of the time.

In other words, most teenagers aren’t addicted to media; they’re obsessed with each other. Just like always.

We can affirm the positive sides of social interaction among teens, and as parents we can work to facilitate it. That might mean intervening at times to take a text conversation to real life (“How about we invite her over to hang out with you?”) or restricting device use when kids are together in person (“For the next hour, all devices in this basket. We’re going for ice cream phone-free!”)

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the insights and strategies we’ve shared in Right Click, go ahead and download a free chapter now. We’d love to help! 

Photo by Joebelle

We’ve all been there.

Ministry gets discouraging. We feel stuck. We’re not sure we have been doing the right things or investing our time in the right places. We would love to see more change, but we’re just not sure how to make it happen.

I remember one season when I thought our small group approach had grown stale. So I tried four different small group models in one year. Four! Leaders and students got so fatigued by the constant change that by the time I introduced the next plan, it was mostly met with blank stares. Defeated, I ducked my head and fell back into a rut that I knew wasn’t the best way to accomplish our goals. I couldn’t see a better way forward.

We’ve heard similar stories from leaders who wonder about implementing Sticky Faith in their contexts. They quickly nod their heads when we share what Sticky Faith is all about, or they tell us about their excitement after reading a Sticky Faith resource. But then they’re stuck figuring out what to do next. Or discouraged because they tried something and it failed.

Have you ever found yourself making one of the following statements?
I want to equip young people with lifelong faith, but I have no idea where to start.

In my first youth ministry job, I inherited a model high on fun and emotion but low on depth and long-term transformation. I had ideas about how our ministry could look different and what students could look like as thriving young adults. I just didn’t know how to get from where we were to where I hoped we could be.

My church is too small—or too big—to build an effective youth ministry.

Those of us with only a handful of students showing up in our ministry are worried that our efforts will have little impact, especially when families see “regular” attendance as “once every three weeks.” On the flip side, those of us overwhelmed with a crowd of kids every Wednesday night can hardly keep things under control. Deeper discipleship seems daunting in both scenarios, as does fostering “real” community.

I don’t think we have buy-in from parents on changing our youth ministry.

If we’ve heard this once, we’ve heard it ten thousand times. Leaders worry that parents are either too disengaged, too distracted to give enough energy to support a change, or so committed to youth-ministry-as-usual that they will shut down attempts at change out of fear. Sometimes these worries about parents are well-founded; other times leaders simply haven’t worked to cultivate enough trust among parents to secure their partnership in bringing about change.

I don’t think we have buy-in from our senior pastor to try new things.

Man, have I blown it on this one! Once I actually went directly around my pastor’s “no” to do what I thought was the best idea for our ministry. It didn’t go so well for me. More often, we hear from leaders who have pleasant, but distant, relationships with their senior pastors. They struggle to get enough attention to move ideas forward that require the whole church to respond or change.

Yeah, we tried implementing change. But it never really got off the ground.

Our big launch flopped. Our four-week series fizzled. How many times have you caught yourself saying some version of, “We tried that, but…”? I actually caught myself saying this last week about my own youth ministry! Sometimes we’re not very persistent. Other times we invest so much with such futile results that we give up. Change is hard, slow, and not for the faint of heart.

If you can relate to any (or all!) of these scenarios, we’ve got your back. In fact, we developed a resource just for you because leaders like you asked for it and we decided we couldn’t NOT do this to help.

In response, our team built a toolbox of resources called the Sticky Faith Launch Kit that not only addresses all of the scenarios above, but also drips with bonus products that are almost embarrassing to list because of how much we’re giving away along with the book:

  • Over 20 videos to use with your team or your whole church
  • Six months of volunteer training sessions to help deeply root the vision and practically apply the philosophy
  • Over six months of scripted email templates to use with parents to make your work easy and make you sound awesome
  • Seminar outlines and media to make you look awesome in front of parents and your entire church
And that’s only half of it.

The real heart of this resource is a step-by-step guide for forming a launch team and leveraging that team to effect deep culture change in your congregation. This is not a quick-fix resource. It’s a proven process for shifting your ministry and your own leadership toward more effectiveness.

We call the Launch Kit “Your next 180 days toward Sticky Faith” because it is truly a journey. We have spent the past handful of years walking with churches like yours through implementation issues related to team dynamics, leadership culture, organizational changes, and church structures. Taking the best of what we’ve learned from other leaders, we packaged it in one of the most practical resources FYI has ever developed. Plus a lot of our own heart, sweat, and tears. We published it ourselves, at a financial risk, without a cent of author royalties, because we believed in it that much.

Step one is to make sure you don’t start this journey alone. Get a team around you of people who care about young people. Then let us be part of your extended team. There’s no need to remain discouraged or stuck. Here’s help.


Order the Launch Kit today