13 February 2012 ~ 8 Comments

Is sticky even enough?

The world of youth ministry has spent the last ten (maybe 15?) years struggling with the components laid out in this first chapter. We’ve known for many years that that kids often don’t continue to practice faith to the same degree through their college years, and in fact we celebrate when a youth ministry is full of juniors and seniors, note even really setting our sights on college (FWIW I think this college “rebellion” is less dramatic in mainline denominations and I’ve known of many kids growinig in faith through college ministries or congregations.)


We’ve known for a while what Christian Smith says in chapter one.  “when it comes to faith, parents get what they are.” Others have said that “parents are the best youth ministers.” We’ve known this for a while. We also know that retreats and mission trips transform lives of faith. We know that lock ins and messy games cement positive friendships that are so different than what happens in the middle school cafeteria.  The data tells us one thing. Our experience (and job descriptions) tell us the old school is also transformational (but we wonder if our gut if those kids who experience transformation will be practicing faith as adults, or even next month).


So what does a youth ministry look like that lives in this tension?  That’s the questions I continue to struggle with as I work through chapter one.  A couple of big pieces come to mind; we need to address this as culture change and not a new program, parents need opportunities for faith growth on their own, parents need permission to not be perfect, and the youth ministry needs to treat parents as they are- experts on their own kids.


One other though I had as I processed is that I don’t know that sticky is the descriptor I want. Sticky just stays with you. I like the term used by one of my professors Rollie Martinson; vital faith.  A vital faith is active, central to one’s life, and denotes that without it one would cease to be. Sticky is a marketing concept to me and makes me think of remembering rather than transformation.  That being said, the research was focused on college kids and I feel the authors are using sticky with some different connotations.


Here is a link to what Martinson and others have defined as “Mature Christian Faith,” or what I would like to call Vital Faith.

This is perhaps the most comprehensive list I have seen on this topic.
Please take a moment to comment and respond to either what I said or one of the discussion questions in the back of the chapter.  Even if you feel it’s not a wonderful comment, stick something up there so we know you’re reading and participating. If I don’t hear from you by Thursday I’m going to bug you about responding.

Here are the questions from the end of the chapter:

  1. When people decide to read a book, usually they are trying to solve a problem.  What problems are you hoping to address by reading this book?
  2. How would you define Sticky Faith?
  3. How does it make you feel to think that you are the most important influence on your child’s faith?
  4. As you think about how you’ve pre anted thus fa, what have you done that has contributed to your kids’ faith? What do you with you had done differently?
  5. What do you think of the suggestion that parents trust the Lord with their kids and beg to the Lord to build Sticky Faith in them?  Perhaps you’d like to put this book down and pray for a few moments before you even turn the page.

8 Responses to “Is sticky even enough?”

  1. Tami Leal 13 February 2012 at 6:56 pm Permalink

    I am hopeful that this will be a great asset to our families.

  2. Beth 13 February 2012 at 11:10 pm Permalink

    The reason I am reading this book is to stay on top of any good ideas on how to keep my kids engaged in their faith development. I don’t view that as solving a problem…just being proactive. The focus in the chapter on how parent’s examples speak loudest in influencing their kids gave me renewed enthusiasm to be a good example, and to talk through why we make the choices that we make as a family.

  3. Christina 14 February 2012 at 1:02 am Permalink

    I am looking forward to reading this book. I am hoping to get more ideas about how to increase my presence, as well as, other adult volunteers presence becuase as Powell and Clark said in the foward of stickyfaith, “Kids experience Jesus Chrst when adults in the church give them grace, time, and genuine love with no hidden agenda.”

    Moving from Massachusetts to Dallas has been a blessing when I think of my families’ faith. My children are being brought up in a church that believes and creates places for faith to thrive. I love that CFM and youth are both welcoming to parents also. I have found many opportunitues to be involved.

    Sticky faith I believe is faith that follows you through out your day. It ebbs and flows through ones being. It is guiding.

    The idea of being the most important influence is daunting and amazing. Celebrating and growing in our faith together.

    I believe continuing to walk into the doors of SMAA, discussing our faith, walking our journey together while pointing out the importance and presence of our own faith are things that we do as parents to try to create stickyfaith. I believe that Jason and I focus more on our children than we do on ourselves. I believe that we need to continue to find ways to fill our own faith cups as parents, as well as, individuals.

    The last quetsion WOW. What a wonderful reminder. Trust is not always easy. Begging for stickyfaith is not something I have tried. (maybe I should before turning the page) I look forward to chapter two.

  4. Christi 14 February 2012 at 1:31 am Permalink

    I was excited to learn that parents are the most influential people in the lives of our children in terms of their faith development. I believe that acting on my faith and living out my faith puts my faith into practice so that my own kids as well as my students, can see the Christian life modeled. I think as adults we also need to be teachers and to point out to our children when our actions or decisions are based upon our faith. I need to be intentional about this.

    I prefer the terms “vital faith” or “active faith” as well.

    I wonder what the clergy and laity in our church can do to foster the faith development of our youth? Is there soemthing that our church could do (outside of the Youth/CFM departments) to reach out to our college students and keep them connected to SMAA?

  5. Andy 17 February 2012 at 4:31 pm Permalink

    Great thoughts.

    Filling in a few blanks…
    This book is the result of a study done on college students to see what was true for them and whether or not they continued to practice faith, or not. So, while the research was done on college students, the answer lies in what happens before college as well. That being said, there certainly is rich opportunity for connecting with our college students.

    It’s great to hear you all reflect back the importance of your role as a parent. This is a big, to hear parents say this and it’s the growing edge in youth and family ministry in churches across the country.

    Keep an eye out here for more comments over the weekend.

  6. Greg 18 February 2012 at 3:12 am Permalink

    A. I come to this book for two reasons. First to interact with the others who are reading along with me and second to catch a new faith practice to try during Lent.
    B. Sticky Faith is a life time belief in the Risen Lord that sustains and supports us in joyful times as well as sad.
    C. The thought that parents are the primary faith teacher and supporter is not popular, in my experience – but it is true. I think the issue becomes troublesome when parents feel like they can’t communicate their faith to their children. this is a great discussion topic among parents.
    D. The most important things we have done are the simplest: pray before meals, Church on Sunday no matter where we are, relate faith to real life situations, and family ritual around Church seasons. Right now, there are always things to add but we have a home practice that fits our life right now – is it perfect? Nope but it does keep us grounded.
    E. This last one is the hardest because even though I did not grow up in a strong Christ centered home, I think I turned out alright. I believe that when parents give the primary faith formation to “the professionals” for 2 hours a week, they cannot be assured of a sticky faith for their kids. My parents rolled the dice and it worked out for me but as a parent, I don’t like those odds.

    Thanks to all for being open about these issues. Great book

  7. Noralyn 18 February 2012 at 3:53 am Permalink

    I agree the words “sticky faith” seem more of a reminder note than the depth the authors are trying to explain. (But that being said, the catchy marketing did work to get us to read the book.) I like how the authors describe sticky faith on page 22 – 1. being both internal and external – whole person integration, 2. individual and in relationships with others (community faith), and 3. maturing. Whether in college or high school, our kids will test their faith maturity through pushing into behaviors we might rather they not. But the maturity comes in knowing when to “put on the breaks” of the behavior – and why. This is both internal (a mature, or perhaps moral sense of what is right), and external in being able to find relationships that support faith life. There may be times when kids “fake faith” for a while – seemingly doing those external acts of faith, but the grounding they get through family / parents is critical to their deepening faith. I pray all the time for my daughter. I know my mother prayed for me and for my siblings. When I asked her once how she managed the many times we strayed from our faith walk, she said, I did the best I could, then I prayed alot. Her faith in God poured over us, and we all knew it. For the most part we are all active in our faith – many in our respective churches. Yes, as Greg noted, the expectation of regular church attendance, family prayer, personal acts of service, etc., undergird our family’s actions, but these are no different from what I grew up with. My interest in reading this book is looking at what I may need to be vigilant about. I don’t expect my daughter’s spiritual journey to be all that similar to mine (I would pray it is not) – but I would like to see her as a committed Christian when an adult. So I’ll continue to pray (and enjoy these blogs with other parents.)

  8. Angie 18 February 2012 at 5:42 am Permalink

    I’ve come to this book and this discussion as my older child reaches puberty, confirmation is over and I can already feel him pulling away because “no one goes to church anymore.” I’m looking forward to our discussions and insights on how we can keep them engaged, starting when they are young and continuing through their high school and college years.

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