I recently started putting together a project that I have wanted to do since June, care packages to our graduated student leaders! This was largely inspired by the Sticky Faith concept that we should continue our ministry into our student’s freshman year of college. We thought that a great way to show our continued support of them would be to send them some college essentials for them to keep going as they come in close to the end of their first semester. We wanted to send make sure we sent them some useful things, some “study break” things, and some random things. On our list:

On top of all of that, we are also giving them a handful of encouraging notes written by our Student Leadership Team. I believe that these cards are the real star of the whole package. Those encouragements are where the majority of the ministering is happening. Your first year of college can be crazy! You’re not just figuring out how college works academically, but socially as well. For many of them, this is the first time that they have lived on their own, thus beginning a huge self-discovery phase of their life. It is my hope that these cards will remind them that there is a community back home that loves them and is praying for them.

Care packages aren’t something that we have done before, but we believe that these will make a huge impact on our graduated students!

What is your ministry doing to minister to your newly graduated students? Take a moment today to pray for those students as they continue their transition into college!

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

A few months ago we talked about our first steps in helping our students develop a more Sticky Faith. We interviewed Kara Powell about how to help students have a faith that lasts beyond graduation and how churches are working to build communities that are integrated to a degree but still have effective age-specific ministries as well. If you missed the interview please check it out right here.

The second half of that week we talked about what our church was introducing that very week: Worship Together Weekends. The plan was to cancel youth services once a month in order to encourage families to attend the adult worship services together. The hope was that exposing our teenagers to the larger church experience at Saddleback would help them feel like part of the overall church family, not just part of the youth group.

We’ve been getting a ton of questions about it and many have asked for an update, so here we go!

So far, so good!
The first several weeks of Worship Together have been really great—by cancelling youth services the first weekend we actually also happened to coincide with several holidays (July 4th, Labor Day, etc.) so having the joint services was helpful on the lower-attended weekends anyhow. The real test is probably still coming soon, but it has been great so far.

We have a student section.
Yes, we have a section that is specifically designed for students—but we encourage students to sit with their families and friends first before heading there. Some choose to be there and our student ministry team is very present at all services that weekend, meeting parents, greeting, or on stage for announcements or welcome.

No momentum has been lost.
You would think that cancelling youth group once a month would kill momentum, but we haven’t had adverse affects yet. We communicate with texting and Facebook almost exclusively with our students so they know exactly what’s happening each weekend if we’re on or off. Hasn’t been confusing at all, which is a slight miracle.

So where will we go from here? We committed to a one-year experiment, and so far it seems like everybody is pleased with the results, and we’re excited to hear about other churches that are experimenting with new ideas to help students STICK!

Are you trying new things to develop Sticky Faith in your students?

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.

“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 stickyfaith.org. 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’m super excited to take my team up to the Fam Conference at Azusa Pacific University next week. I’m pumped to hear from George Barna, Dave Gibbons and most excited to hear Kara Powell’s Sticky Faith 3-session Deeper Learning Workshop. I’ve got the books and met up with her a little bit at SYMC and am so pumped to learn more:

Session 1: The Sticky Gospel: Teaching That Launches Young People Toward Lifelong Faith

Research from the Fuller Youth Institute revealed that students often leave our ministries carrying a gospel a lot like a jacket: It’s mostly based on behaviors, and students feel like they can put it on or take it off when they want depending on the situation. In this first workshop, we will introduce the research and explore ideas for using relationships and our teaching to move students beyond a “Jesus Jacket” gospel and into lives immersed in God’s grace.

Get Sticky Faith at SYM

Session 2: Sticky Churches and Families: Helping Adults Get Out of Their Seats and Into Kids’ Lives
One of the most powerful things we can do in youth ministry is connect teenagers to adults: their own parents and caring adults in the faith community. Sadly, few youth ministries truly embrace the power of intergenerational relationships or harness that power to disciple students. In this Sticky Faith track workshop, you will leave with a host of practical ideas from churches engaging parents and the intergenerational church family to holistically surround kids.

Session 3: A Sticky Youth Ministry: Small Ministry Changes that Deliver Big Results

Graduation. Change. Transition. Unfortunately, more and more youth workers are finding that close to half of high school seniors’ journeys after youth group are filled with twists and turns that leaves their faith stranded. What can we do NOW that will help our kids develop a faith that sticks? This seminar in the Sticky Faith track will look at ways to structure the youth ministry environment to facilitate growth in middle school and high school students and will explore everyday ideas to prepare seniors for the transition out of high school.

If you’re going – we’ll see you up there, too. Gonna be great!


I contribute occasionally to the Slant33 blog where they ask 3 youth ministry voices to chime in on the same topic. This week’s topic is leading from the middle and Kara Powell, Chris Folmsbee and I all discuss it. Here’s a clip from my section, head there for all three takes:

Leading up helps those above see a missing perspective. Here’s why you need to lead from the middle: Your senior pastor isn’t seeing the full picture. He or she has blind spots in areas that your perspective lets you see perfectly. How dare you let them fail while predicting the net failure quietly from the silent middle? I am fully aware of the problem of senior leaders who don’t listen to their people. They exist in every church, and I’m guilty of it too. But that doesn’t mean you should stop leading from the middle.

A few parting thoughts about leading from the middle: It may be interpreted as insubordination at first. In fact, it probably will be. Some people will wish you would take a rowboat back to Youth Ministry Island and never come back. If you bring up problems, you better have some ideas that may work as solutions. Your church will be healthier when you lead up.



Josh Griffin —  August 27, 2011 — 1 Comment

Kara Powell, Chap Clark and Brad Griffin (no relation) have kicked off StickyFaith.org – a new website and book designed to help youth leaders and parents disciple their kids with a faith that lasts. I just got a copy of the book last week and am hoping to read it soon – until then I’ve been jumping around the new site a bit and found a great article on what new college freshman need to hear from their youth pastors:

Head there to check out the site and read the rest of the article, too!

Students’ biggest priority during the first two weeks of college is to establish friendships and figure out where they fit in. Across the board, the freshmen we interviewed indicated that these first two weeks are absolutely critical for creating a social life. The primary–and most accepted–way to do this in college is to engage in the party scene. All too quickly, partying becomes a regular part of the weekly routine for many freshmen.

Often, kids who come out of youth groups have been told over and over what “not to do.” We’re usually pretty good at giving them a list of temptations to avoid, but perhaps not as helpful in equipping students with healthier strategies for other real-life needs like finding friends. Our research affirms that the first few months of college can be incredibly lonely for students who are away from family and life-long friends for the first time, and who may show up not knowing a single other person on campus. Desperate to begin to build new relationships, students go where those from their immediate living situation (roommate, floor-mates) go to find friends. The last thing they want is to be “left behind” on a weekend night. And once they’ve tried the party scene they feel hypocritical if they then add commitments to Christian groups, simply layering “Christian” onto their new identity. Others intentionally decide to shelve their faith and “do the college thing,” intending to pick faith up again later after they’ve enjoyed the party scene guilt-free for a while.

In The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School, sociologist Tim Clydesdale describes this freshman phenomenon as an “identity lockbox”. Students recognize that faith is “good for them” in some way as part of an adult lifestyle, but see it as something to put on hold in order to attend to the more immediate needs of their college lifestyle.


Really enjoyed Benjer McVeigh’s post on the 5 things you should want in any youth ministry when you strip everything else away – some really good stuff in there. Here’s a clip of it, head there for the rest:

1. A great marriage. One of the biggest strengths for me in ministry is my wife, Jennifer. She’s an amazing encouragement, and when I give her, our marriage, and our family the time and energy they deserve, ministry just seems to go a lot smoother.

2. A passionate, visionary senior pastor who is passionate about people knowing Jesus. Thankfully, this one is true for me where I am right now. A lot of youth pastors wish their senior pastor would support them and the youth ministry more. Those are probably good things, but I think it simply starts with a senior pastor who is passionate about people knowing Jesus, which helps determine the direction of his/her church’s youth ministry.

3. A core group of parents who believe that they should be the primary disciplers of their children. Look, we know that this is how it’s supposed to work: parents should be the primary disciplers of their children, including their teenagers. A group of parents who were passionate about this would be a huge asset in helping other parents grow in this area. Of course, not all parents will want to disciple their kids–or will even have a relationship with Jesus for that matter. But it doesn’t mean we don’t set it up as the ideal.


Excited about an event I’m recording a digital presentation for in the morning – Converge 2011 is a student leadership conference in Indiana in early 2011. If it is something you may take your students to, be sure to check it out!