As training for my youth ministry team, we are reading through the book "Sticky Faith" by Dr. Kara Powell and Dr. Chap Clark. Chapter 1 sets the stage for what this book is trying to accomplish. Powell describes a story of a teen who came through her youth group only to fade away towards the end of her Senior High years. A few years later Kara finds out that the girl is now pregnant. Kara was able to reconnect with this former student in the hospital after giving birth to her new baby. Kara Powell explains a look between her and the teenagers' father that I completely connected with. I often have wondered what can we do to help teens stay connected in the faith. All too often I see specific areas where we tend to loose some kids:
1. The transition from Confirmation into youth group
2. The transition from Junior High to Senior High
3. The transition from early Senior High into later Senior High (jobs, car, social life)
4. The transition from High School to College
I have seen some 7th grade classes that were huge in number fade down to a core group of a much smaller size by the time they were Seniors. And this doesn't even factor in the final transition which appears to be the toughest one of them all. One one hand, with this book, I feel a sense of relief that this is not just my problem or my church's problem. Rather it is a national problem within the global church. But after taking that sigh of relief, it still doesn't help within my local context. I still have a righteous anger over why and how faith seems to take a back seat with some teens as they grow up. Enough negativity.
Another observation that I made was in the importance of the relationship of the parents to the teens. The most influential people in a teen's life is their parents. This fact alone sets a priority for us as youth leaders (who are mostly parents of teens), and other parents of teens within our church to understand the importance of parenting. What we model at home and live out day to day will have a huge impact. This is one of the main reasons that I feel like, at times, when a teenager fades away, it is sometimes beyond anything I can do to keep them active. If the parents don't demonstrate an active faith and make their faith a priority in their own lives, how then do I expect a teenager to excel above and beyond the most powerful influences in their lives? So how do we help parents to live out an active and robust faith?
Finally I want to answer the questions at 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?
My hope is that we discover ways in which we can help teens live into their faith through each transition in life. My heart's desire is that we retain more and more teens to stay active in their faith from 7th grade all the way up into their adult years.
2. How would you define sticky faith?
A faith that sticks through all the transitions in life, all the good times and bad, all the challenges both expected and unexpected.
3. How does it make you feel to think that you are the most important influence on your child's faith?
I actually feel good about that. Sometimes it is easy for a parent to doubt their influence and wonder if they have lost control of their teens' faith. But I also understand that it takes a village and I am deeply grateful for all the other adults in my church and in my family who have had a significant impact on my kids and have affirmed all that I and my wife have tried to teach them.
4. As you think about how you've parented thus far, what have you done that has contributed to your kids' faith? What do you wish you had done differently?
I believe that loving and caring for my kids through good times and bad times have been instrumental. I have also been honored to be their "youth pastor". But I also know that they would be the first to sniff out any hypocrisy or inconsistencies if I acted differently at home than I do at church.
I wish I would have made more time for us to enjoy dinner around the dinner table. All too often I feel like we are all running in different directions and eating on the go. There was a time when they were younger where we would have family prayer before everyone went to bed. I really liked that.
5. What do you think of the suggestion that parents trust the Lord with their kids and beg the Lord to build Sticky Faith in them?
This is a great step 1. The authors demonstrate a humility in admitting that this is not a book with "all the answers in 10 easy steps". The fact is that we need to be constantly in prayer over our kids and acknowledging the importance of the Holy Spirit in their lives. To be used of God to help in the transformation of people is the greatest thing ever, especially with your own kids! Let's make sure we are lifting up our teens, small groups and our own kids in prayer on a regular basis.