Sticky Faith Innovation

Youth ministry where young people need us most

Steve Argue, PhD Caleb Roose | Oct 8, 2020

Every time we leave an online meeting, this question pops up: “How was your experience?”

At first the pop-up seemed like a simple question. Then it grew into a grating reminder of all the Zoom meetings we’re enduring. But now, this simple pop-up question has stirred in us something deeper.

How was my experience?
Are we connecting?
Is this approach even effective?
Do our students think it’s meaningful?
Are we being helpful?

Pop-ups or not, we see these questions haunting youth leaders more frequently these days.

When youth ministry goes offline

Most youth ministry had to go “online” for at least part of this year—if not the bulk of it. The approaches, spaces, and resources you used to use to connect with teenagers have been totally disrupted.

But going online has thrown youth ministry offline. Our instincts are off. Our go-to solutions have evaporated, and interactions are starting to feel one-dimensional. We’re having issues (thumbs down).

How was my experience? It’s actually a terrifying question, because it may force us to think about and do youth ministry differently. But maybe that’s the point.

Tuning in where young people need us most

We’ve talked with a lot of amazing youth leaders over the last six months who have given their time and creativity to support teenagers in this unique season. They’ve moved from their typical programming to gathering in backyards, to drive-in movie style family gatherings, to Netflix parties, to Zoom gatherings, and everywhere in between. Their stories inspire us.

But we’re also hearing new questions come out of their improvised ministry approaches:

What do our teenagers really need right now?
What is good news for them today?

And, Where do they need us most?

As you might guess, these questions reach beyond pandemic pivots into the very fibers of our youth ministry callings. Youth ministry has always sought to support young people who are relationally, developmentally, academically, and spiritually on the move. The more invested we become, the more we want to offer enduring support and lasting change for the teenagers we serve.

“Where do young people need us most?” is a perpetual question with an ever-changing answer. And the answers don't only shift when a global pandemic hits—they shift with every incoming class of students and change with each young person we encounter.

To answer this pressing question, we need a way to see our teenagers as they are today—not yesterday. We need what we call Sticky Faith Innovation.

What is Sticky Faith Innovation?

Over the last four years, our team at the Fuller Youth Institute has been conducting research on how youth leaders can better understand and support today’s (not yesterday’s) teenagers and their faith journeys.

Building on over a dozen years of research and working intensively with cohorts of more than 50 youth ministries and 100 youth leaders, we’ve developed a step-by-step innovation process that equips youth leaders to see their teenagers as they are now in order to move their ministries to where young people need them most. The Sticky Faith Innovation process can propel your compassion, creativity, and courage toward cultivating a youth ministry that responds to the changing needs of your young people today.

Innovating toward more meaningful youth ministry

The youth leaders we know want their work to do more than keep the programming going, entertain teenagers, or make parents happy. They are actually asking the deeper questions we mentioned above: “Is our ministry meaningful?” “Are we truly offering good news?” “Are we serving students where they need us most?”

These are deeper and wiser questions that we believe resonate in the hearts of youth leaders. They are worthy questions that require significant answers. In our Sticky Faith Innovation research, youth leaders just like you helped us develop and test an approach that will help you identify and respond to your unique teenagers in ways that are effective, meaningful, and transformational.

We can’t wait to share our new book with you, Sticky Faith Innovation: How Your Compassion, Creativity, and Courage Can Support Teenagers’ Lasting Faith. We have so much to tell you. But for now, it may be best to take that prompt—"How was your experience?”—to heart.

Before you click thumbs up or down on that screen, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Which teenagers has God been placing on my heart lately?
  2. How might young people’s actions, feelings, and questions be affected by their recent experiences?
  3. What might Jesus be saying to them that speaks to their life circumstances and experiences?
  4. Where do these teenagers need the most support and how might our ministry help?

Even these simple questions can begin to tap into your compassion, creativity, and courage, setting you up to innovate responsive, meaningful, and necessary ministries that serve your teenagers where they need you most.

Tweet this: Now more than ever, youth leaders want to do more than keep the programming going or entertain teenagers. Learn more about Sticky Faith Innovation, and find out how you can serve teens where they need you most.


Sticky Faith Innovation

Propel your compassion, creativity, and courage to cultivate lasting faith in teenagers. Coming in January 2021.
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Steve Argue, PhD

Steven Argue, PhD (Michigan State University) is the Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and Associate Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Steve researches, speaks, and writes on adolescent and emerging adult spirituality. He has served as a pastor on the Lead Team at Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI), coaches and trains church leaders and volunteers, and has been invested in youth ministry conversation for over 20 years. Steve is the coauthor and contributor of a number of books, including Growing With, 18 Plus: Parenting Your Emerging Adult, and Joy: A Guide for Youth Ministry.


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Caleb Roose

Caleb Roose is a project manager at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he advises and facilitates FYI church trainings and research (Youth Ministry Innovations, Ministry Innovations with Young Adults, and Living a Better Story), coaches and consults with churches around the country, and develops resources. The coauthor of Sticky Faith Innovation: How Your Compassion, Creativity and Courage Can Support Teenagers' Lasting Faith with Steven Argue, Caleb is passionate about helping young people wrestle with their faith and encouraging leaders to do the same. Caleb has worked in a variety of ministry and professional roles, including volunteering in youth ministries, serving as an associate pastor of discipleship and administration, counseling at and running youth camps, ministering in six different countries with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and managing an after-school program for kids. A Southern California native, Caleb lives 30 minutes from his hometown with his wife, Colleen, and two young daughters, Lilah and Eliana.


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