Parents Ministry, Family Ministry, or Inter-generational Ministry whatever you want to call it seems to be the hot button topic in youth ministry today. From mega churches who are learning about it to smaller country churches who have been doing it forever but want to get a fresh perspective on it, we all cannot debate it’s place in our job description or its value on the spiritual development of our students.


While there are many different theories and strategies out there, I’ll give you an insight to one that has taken off at our church. When I hold a parents meeting I cannot get more than three or four sets of parents there at the same time. So the nifty resources I get for them only make it in the hands of a few parents. So how to get the other parents resourced became a priority. So I designed a nice looking resource table, placed it in the church foyer, and since then I cannot keep the resources on the table. I could make guesses as to why it works, our parents want help but they want it anonymously or they don’t want the other parents thinking they don’t have it all together but the fact of the matter is the resources are going out with great results. I’ve had a ton of parents call me to discuss this or that from a book or article so as long as its working I’m good with that.

In case you were wondering what the top resources are at our church, here ya go:

The key to this idea, like anything in ministry is the follow up. When I talk to a parent I ask them if they grabbed any resources lately and if they say yes I ask which one they’ve enjoyed and we talk about it. Plus all of our parents know if they have any questions with the resources that I am always there to help.

Kevin Patterson is the youth pastor at Dawson Springs First Baptist Church in Dawson Spring, KY. Be sure to check out to regularly get in on his learnings, too!

For many students, college is a time of personal and intellectual discovery. On a fresh autumn day, it is easy to remember the first brisk days of school and all of the excitement that came with the discovery of learning and making new friends. In recent years, much attention has been paid to the apparent lack of religious commitment among college students.

Some say the college experience is to blame, while others cite intellectual skepticism as the source. Others say that the statistics are misleading and that students are simply worshiping and studying faith in new ways – independently or within student ministries. Regardless, intellectual skepticism seems to be a topic of conversation worth addressing, as it pertains to students and parishioners alike.

New College Students Experience New Intellectual Demands.

College is a transitional time for students, not only socially, but intellectually. Derek Melleby, with the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding wrote in a 2008 article that churches need to focus on preparing students for life after college by teaching them to learn to think.

“Many students lack critical thinking skills, failing to take what knowledge is at their disposal to form their own beliefs and convictions. We must continually create space for students to wrestle with the big questions of life. College should not be the first time that students engage in abstract or deep thinking, but for many students it is. Critical thinking and Christian discernment are spiritual disciplines that need to be developed. Like anything worthwhile in life, the developmental process takes time and is difficult,” he writes.

In 2010, the American Family Association held the panel discussion “Church Droupout: Overcoming the Youth Exodus.” The panel found that intellectual skepticism was the key factor in the cited 75% dropout rate. But is higher education really to blame?

Wait a minute. What exactly is critical thinking?

Before continuing, let’s review what critical thinking actually is and why it can be difficult to apply in a religious setting.

Critical thinking is a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false. – Compliments of

In order to apply critical thinking skills to religion, it is necessary to consider the possibility of fallacy. That’s right. In order to become a critically thinking Christian, we have to listen to arguments against our beliefs. This is incredibly hard because it can be intensely offensive! Imagine if someone came up to you and began insisting that God is imaginary?

When Christians lack critical thinking skills developed in regard to their faith, it is easier for anti-Christians to make false claims to logical and rational thinking. Christians who have committed time, research and reflection to their beliefs are better prepared to apply critical thinking skills to anti-Christian attacks; but they have also experienced the blessing of being intellectually confident in their beliefs.

Intellectual Christians

It is entirely possible for Christians to defend their beliefs using critical thinking; however, there are always limitations in logic when discussing faith. By its very nature, faith is mysterious and beyond experiment. That is something we, as Christians, accept and revere.

However, critical thinking is often absent from church environments, especially evangelical churches. The shades between intellectualism and religiosity are often painted in black and white, and, somehow, political views have begun to creep into the evangelical faith to define beliefs outside of the church doctrine. The pressure to conform to all church community views can sometimes squash disagreement and dialogue; and those who hold the majority beliefs simply view (and portray) the opposition as wrong.

If students can’t find answers to their intellectual questions at church, where will they go? Friends, professors, the Internet? What can youth groups do to help high school and college students develop critical thinking in terms of faith?

Doubt, like temptation, is something that young adults must learn to face. A Christian who is unprepared to face doubt may never return to the church.

Mariana Ashley is a blogger and freelance writer for She offers advice for choosing the perfect online program for prospective students and parents and welcomes comments via email at

“Sticky Faith” is making waves in the youth ministry world, so we thought today we would interview Kara Powell, the person behind the movement, and get a little insight into what churches can do to help teens develop a “sticky” faith.

K&J: Explain where the Sticky Faith concept originated.

Kara: Actually, it originated in the mind and heart of a youth leader who was a Fuller student. As a youth pastor, she noticed how many youth group students from her church drifted from their faith after high school graduation. The Fuller Youth Institute worked with her to do an initial pilot study of just the students from her church, which raised provocative questions about the long-term trajectory of youth group graduates. From there, thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment, we were able to broaden our research team of Fuller students and faculty to study 500 students over a period of six years to try to figure out what leaders, parents, and churches could do to build faith that lasts.

K&J: What are some concrete examples of some first steps a church can take to get sticky?

Kara: As we’ve tracked with churches throughout the country, there seem to be three primary first steps that parallel our major research findings. First, leaders are trying to make sure that they are teaching what we call the “Sticky Gospel” of grace instead of the “gospel of sin management” (to quote Dallas Willard) of behaviors. So Sticky Faith begins with making sure that students know that their faith doesn’t revolve around behaviors, but rather an ongoing experience of God’s unconditional love for them. One of the messages our team is trying to spread to young people (including my own children) is that Jesus is bigger than any mistake.

While the first step focuses on the core of our faith, the second and third steps are more about relationships. We’ve seen that young people who are involved in inter-generational relationships and worship tend to have more mature faith in both high school and college. It’s been exciting to see churches take steps toward inter-generational relationships—ranging from periodically cancelling their youth group on Sundays so that young people are involved in one big worship service to specialized mentoring for high school seniors.

The final and third step relates to partnering with parents. So many parents are what we call “Dry Cleaner Parents” who think they can drop their kids off at church all dirty at 9 am on Sunday and pick them up 90 minutes later, with the youth or children’s ministry team doing the cleaning. That’s a far cry from the type of partnership between parents and churches that is best for Sticky Faith. So a big part of our research involves how to support and equip parents with ideas ranging from more training to involving parents more in youth ministry events and programs.

K&J: Are there tools and resources to help youth workers grow in this area?

Kara: Thanks to funding from amazing donors and foundations, we at the Fuller Youth Institute have been able to develop a host of practical resources, which can be accessed at The Sticky Faith books and our Sticky Faith Cohorts have been two of the most powerful forces for change, and we also have a host of free resources available on our Web site.

K&J: What are a few other sites/books you would recommend to help students keep their faith after high school?

Kara: We are big fans of the reThink/Orange group led by Reggie Joiner and his team. Their “Orange” philosophy in which the “yellow” that is the light of Christ in the church combines with the “red” that is the heart of love in the family closely parallels our own research. We highly recommend their work, as well as the College Transition Initiative hosted by Walt Mueller, Derek Melleby, and the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

I’ve often times thought that the titles of our CPYU parent seminars don’t really capture the full impact of what happens in the room. For example, I do a three-hour seminar on youth culture trends called “No Parent Left Behind.” It’s a seminar where I briefly unpack some of the main cultural trends affecting children and teens today. Fact is, some of that stuff isn’t very pretty, and the parents in the room let me know that. . . . which has led me to consider retitling the seminar to something like. . . “Birth Control.”

While youth culture has it’s more-than-fair-share of ugliness and difficult stuff, we can’t ignore it. It’s there. It’s real. And it shapes the values, attitudes, and behaviors of our kids. If we don’t endeavor to see it, understand, and address it, we’re not doing anybody any favors. If youth culture is the soup our kids swim in everyday, we need to be looking closely at what’s in the soup, sharing what we learn with parents, and then move on to address what we’ve found in our ministries to kids.

Josh asked me to share a couple of guest blogs on some of these main trends we’ve got to recognize, understand, and address. The first is “Amorality.” We all know  the terms “moral” and “immoral.” In a world where there’s a commonly held standard of right and wrong, behavior that conforms to that standard is called “moral,” while behavior that deviates from that standard is “immoral.” But life isn’t that simple anymore. We now live in a world where the commonly held standard is pretty much gone. Everyone decides for themselves what’s right for them and wrong for them based on how they feel or what “works for me” at any given time. . . and that can change from moment to moment. That’s why we’re living now living in an “amoral” world. . . the prefix “a” indicating and absence of commonly held standards. Now, right and wrong is up for grabs.

Here’s an example of how things have changed. When I was 12 I was exposed to pornography for the first time. . . that’s is, something other than National Geographic. It was a Playboy magazine my friend Todd had found on the side of the road. When Todd showed it to us, he showed it to us in a place where we wouldn’t get caught. Still, we spent half our time looking over Todd’s shoulder at the magazine, and the other half of our time looking over our own shoulders to see if anybody who might catch us in the act was coming our way. We lived in a world where there was a standard which told us that what we were doing was wrong. . . immoral. Think about our culture’s reaction to pornography today. See how things have changed?

A few weeks ago I was speaking to some youth workers when one of the volunteers – a sixty-something man who had been working with a small group of 9th grade boys for years – shared this frustration. “I recently asked my small group this question: ‘What is true? Name something that you know is true.’” He said they were dumbfounded. It took them three weeks to come up with an answer. You see, in an amoral world, what’s true for me might or might not be true for you. . . and that’s not a problem.

So. . . what do we do with this? I believe with every fiber of my being that our relationships with kids trump all this other stuff. Yes, it might take time to wade through it with them. They won’t be easily convinced. But over time, ministering to them in the context of vulnerable relationship is something God uses in their lives. So, in the context of relationships, here are three strategies (not at all exhaustive!) that offer a good starting point for pointing your students to the truth.

First, know the truth. You’ve got to be pursuing your own relationship with the Incarnate Word, Jesus. You’ve got to be growing in your knowledge of His written revelation of Himself in the Scriptures. Without a knowledge of the truth, you’ll be blown around just as much as your students.

Second, teach the truth. Talk about it in your comings and goings with your students. Look for every opportunity to contrast the truth with the cultural lies thrown at our kids over and over each and every day. Talk about the commercials and ads they see. Deconstruct and discuss the music they listen to. Let them know where Snooki and the Situation might have it all wrong. This is simply living out Deuteronomy 6 with 24/7 non-stop chatter about how the Word speaks to the world.

Finally, live the truth. Nothing is more convincing than seeing truth embodied. Your example is powerful. It’s like St. Francis once said: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Walt Mueller is the President of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding which has tons of great information to equip parents and youth leaders about the culture we live in. He is a great friend and you can read his blog, a must read, right here.