For Ian, the words “mom” and “dad” didn’t belong together. His parents were divorced, busy, and preoccupied with their own professions and problems. The breakup of Ian’s family shook the 14 year-old to his core. He questioned who he was, where he belonged, and whether or not anyone really cared.
Thankfully, Ian’s friend, Spencer, cared. Spencer invited Ian to his youth group at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even though the church was 45 minutes from Ian’s home, Ian was desperate for a place to belong and for people who cared. So he decided to check it out.
The church soon became Ian’s refuge. The warm greeting he received from both teenagers and adults showed Ian that he had a new home and a new “family” that cared about him.
While the congregation had always said they wanted to help young people know they belong, it was the church’s participation in FYI’s yearlong Sticky Faith Cohort that showed them how to turn that vision into reality. The church fully embraced Sticky Faith’s teaching that every kid needs five adults who are on their team. Who support them. Who are consistent.
Ian’s small group leader, Jon, was one of Ian’s five. Jon was the caring adult Ian was missing at home. Jon came to Ian’s basketball games. He helped Ian and the other boys in his small group memorize Scripture. Jon and his wife even relocated, moving to a house closer to where Ian and the other guys from his small group lived, so he could be near “his guys.”
Because Mars Hill also plunged into FYI’s Sticky Service resources, Jon and other church leaders were able to help Ian discover his purpose. The youth ministry had always done mission trips. But through FYI, the church learned to maximize those opportunities by better preparing students ahead of time and improving the questions they asked students during and afterward. Ian went on every trip, and his heart became captivated by the needs of people in Michigan and beyond.
Because of the way Sticky Faith also shaped Mars Hill’s teaching, Ian came to realize his identity is grounded in God’s grace. When Ian blew it, Jon and other adults reminded him of a core Sticky Faith principle: “Jesus is bigger than any mistake.”
Ian is now a sophomore studying at Yale University, but the Sticky Faith climate of Mars Hill continues to shape him. Jon keeps in touch and has coffee with Ian every time he is home from college. Ian’s decided to study social work so that he can help others experience the unconditional love and acceptance he found through Sticky Faith. Because of FYI, Ian’s faith has stuck.
Ian’s story shows that when young people are surrounded by a loving Christian community, they are positioned to become everything God intended for them. FYI trains and works with churches and leaders every day to make that possible for millions.