Sticky Faith Volunteer Training

Shares Jan 22, 2015 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by Nikky Stephen.

Today’s guest post is from Chad Inman, Director of Christian Education at Rockford United Methodist Church in Rockford, Michigan. Chad and his team were part of the 2013 Sticky Faith Cohort.

We were looking for a way to get our volunteers to jump into Sticky Faith with both feet. Our ministry context is a medium-sized congregation (400-600), meaning that we rely on volunteers to do things that larger churches might assign to staff. We realized that volunteer ownership was the crucial starting point for becoming a Sticky Faith Church.

It only takes a few moments looking into the Sticky Faith Launch Kit to discover that it is jammed packed with resources for equipping volunteers. In our context, we found this material incredibly helpful. Using the Launch Kit, we set out to help our volunteers discover their personal roles in bringing about the big three Sticky Faith shifts of partnering with parents, teaching a grace-based gospel, and integrating teenagers into the life of the church.

Perhaps some of the below suggestions we gave to our team will also be helpful to yours:

Partnering with Parents

We began by encouraging our volunteers to find concrete ways they could invite parents into the process of discipling their children. As a church, we try to make sweeping attempts to do this with all of our children’s and youth programs, but we know that such broad attempts will often fall short. Volunteers have to fill in the gaps. We encourage them to give any information about the content of a gathering to parents that can be used to have real faith conversations with their kids at home. This could mean a text, email, or even a more formalized “take home sheet.” We also ask leaders to look for opportunities to share age-specific“tips with parents, or perhaps personal observations about their student to specific parents. For example, that their son made a great observation that week during the group discussion.

Grace-Based Gospel

Much of the available curriculum we find (especially for elementary ministry) often flirts dangerously with “the gospel of sin management.” We encourage our volunteers to find concrete ways to point children to God’s grace, exemplified in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Whenever a lesson focuses on right actions, we ask our volunteers to ask, “What happens when we mess this up?” in order to bring the focus back to grace.

Our volunteer staff knows the importance of communicating that trust, not performance, is the key to a relationship with Christ. We also ask our leaders to make it a point to help their students memorize and take to heart the grace-focused phrases “Jesus is bigger than any mistake,” and “There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less.” Essentially, we have given our volunteers permission to take the lesson we have given them, and make it more “sticky.”

Integrating Young People

Our team has made a point to instill the importance of helping young people become comfortable with worshiping with the whole congregation. We ask our volunteer staff to look for opportunities to discuss aspects of worship, as well as to communicate the importance of worship. Volunteers are also instructed to help their students find ways to serve, whether it is together as a group, or individually outside of the ministry, as a way to help build a 5:1 web of support around every student. We ask volunteers to: 1) intentionally connect with their students outside of their ministry setting – especially in worship, and 2) make it a point to introduce students to other adults in the church.  

Fostering Sticky Faith is a huge undertaking, and a slow process. This transition takes a personal touch. By asking our volunteers to jump in with both feet and make a personal investment in these three shifts, our effectiveness increases exponentially. Maybe it’s time for you to ask your volunteers to jump into Sticky Faith.

Find Out More About the Launch Kit


Grandparent to Grandparent

Shares Jan 21, 2015 Fuller Youth Institute

Photo by ... Ju !.

Today’s guest post is from Danita Brick, who volunteers as the Sticky Faith Team Coordinator at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Jasper, Indiana. Danita was part of a Sticky Faith Cohort in 2013 while serving as Shiloh’s Director of Student Ministries. Danita hosts six high school girls at her house for cinnamon rolls, bacon, and chatter on Wednesday mornings, and blogs at After Dinner Conversations.

Sticky Faith emphasizes the importance of all ages in the church partnering with families to raise kids who have a healthy view of Jesus.

All ages. Every...


I agree, and it became even more urgent to me when I recently held my first grandchild for the first time. Holding Jude in my arms, I felt the mystery of life, heritage and...


Jude is the next generation of our family, which means our family’s next generation is now.


"There was a certain man...whose name was Elkanah, son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite."  I Samuel 1:1

I’ve been reading I Samuel lately—probably for the third or fourth time. As much as I geek the Old Testament (weird, huh?) genealogy gives me brain fade. Every single time.

Until Jude came into my life.

This time, instead of brain fade, I wondered what this genealogy would look like in my family.

So I looked at I Samuel 1:1 again and put Jude in the place of Elkanah—Jude, the son of Andy, the son of Gary, the son of Floyd, the son of Peter. And suddenly, a new understanding opened up to me.

Jude will meet Floyd and the other great grandparents, and hopefully, time will allow relationships to build. But he will never meet Great-great-grandfather Peter this side of heaven. Yet, Peter will influence Jude because he influenced Floyd who influenced Gary who influenced Andy who is parenting Jude.


Gary and I are excited to be part of Jude’s faith development. We have stories to tell, blessings to give, and many, many memories to make.

Sadly, over 1,000 miles separate us from Jude. Technology makes communication easier, but it doesn't replace literally being with him. And while we will strive for quality time with him, a large quantity of quality time would be even better.

That’s where their church in Denver comes in. So here’s my plea to that community:

Dear people of all generations at Park Church,

You have many special, special children and youth among you. One of them is my grandson, Jude. Please notice Jude. Encourage him in the faith, and help him learn new skills as he grows. Please be involved in his life. Share your love and wisdom. Help him to “grow in stature and in favor with both God and men” like Samuel and Jesus. Please team with his parents and Gary and me.

 And be assured, I will accept my responsibility to engage with kids of all ages in my home church. I will notice them, learn their names, encourage them, teach them about God and life. I will help them to "grow in stature and in favor with both God and men." I will team with their parents and their relatives (maybe you!) who would love to be here with them, but cannot.

We need each other within both the local church and the church at large. As I serve where I am, I will ask questions about and pray for the extended families of the kids I serve. And I will pray thanksgiving for those in Denver serving Jude.

Three Parenting Questions for Adam McLane

Shares Jan 20, 2015 Kara Powell

This post is part of a series celebrating the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family. We’re interviewing parents who think and write about faith, family, and ministry.

This week we hear from Adam McLane, an oft-consulted voice on teenagers and social media, partner with the Youth Cartel, popular blogger, and author of A Parents’ Guide to Understanding Social Media.

You think quite a bit about technology and how it shapes young people. How do you think about boundaries with technology when it comes to your own kids?

We have some household boundaries which we're quite rigid about. For instance, everyone in the house has to use Internet-connected devices in public spaces of the house. So you can't disappear into your bedroom with your iPad to play games behind closed doors. That also applies to Mom and Dad who both work at home full-time. Practically, that means that we've actually arranged our house so that our office space is really our old living room. In doing that we've made being online, playing games, watching Netflix, and working all a fundamentally social activity. We might all have headphones on, we might all do our own thing, but we're doing it within 15 feet of one another and all of our screens are open. 

That said, we don't have rigid time boundaries. In our house, we consider gaming or watching YouTube or what's commonly called "screen time" a free time activity. So while there are times our older kids have to do chores or get assigned to take their little brother to the park for a while, it's not unusual for our older kids to spend 6-7 hours playing Minecraft in the living room on a Saturday. On a typical school day, we have free time for an hour after school, then homework, dinner, and free time until bed. Many days most of that free time is playing video games. (Or bouncing on the trampoline!)

Is that healthy? I don't know. My parents fretted about my playing endless hours of Madden Football on Sega Genesis and I have still managed just fine as an adult. So while I openly acknowledge that dopamine-triggering games are changing the neurology of our brains, I consider that a societal issue and not something I'm using to manage my children's online behavior.

Looking back, what mistakes have you made in handling technology in your family?

Besides allowing them to play Minecraft? I'm kidding. Minecraft is the Commodore 64 of my childhood. Tomorrow's Steve Jobs is playing Minecraft right now. 

When I think about mistakes I think about my own mistakes. My own bad habits have negatively impacted my kids’ view of technology. A few years back I was taking my son, Paul, to a San Diego State football game. While we were on the trolley to the game, I realized I had forgotten my phone in the car. I said, "Paul, I'm super bummed I forgot my phone in the car. Ugh!"

He looked at me and said, "Dad, I'm so glad you didn't bring your phone. Now you can be with me at the game instead of telling all your friends on Facebook you're at the football game with me." Game. Set. Match. He was absolutely right and we've had to be more aware that attention given to our phones is attention not given to them. When we went camping in Yosemite this summer, one of the best things I did was turn off my phone and lock it in the glove box. I didn't need it, but I would have fiddled with it instead of spending countless hours of playing Bananagrams with my kids and their cousins.

How has being part of the Youth Cartel impacted your parenting?

Two things strike me as family-related impact of my work with The Youth Cartel. First, I'm traveling 80 or more days per year. That's a lot of days where I'm out of the house with only minimal contact with each of my children. It impacts their schedule, it impacts school routines, and it can make it hard to maintain a relationship on day-to-day things if you let it. Second, that means I'm home 285 days per year. Since both my wife and I work at home, we are with our kids a lot. I love the flexibility working from home affords, and one way I express that is by consciously creating one-on-one experiences with each of my children. 

As I have transitioned from full-time church-based ministry to full-time work-based ministry, one thing that has dramatically impacted my parenting is becoming a "regular family." I don't think I understood the pressures my kids felt about being pastor’s kids until they stopped being pastor’s kids. Sure, they miss going to a building where everyone knows and loves them. But it also frees them up just to be normal. So if we miss a couple of weeks in the summer because we're on family vacation, no one notices and that's really lovely. 

How Jon Stewart Helps Build Sticky Faith

Shares Jan 15, 2015 Kara Powell

“Leadership begins with listening.”

This mantra, provided by Dr. Scott Cormode link here at Fuller Seminary, quickly becomes one of the backbones of our Sticky Faith Cohorts. In order to train congregations in building Sticky Faith changes, we help them understand not only what to change, but how to bring about that change. Leaders quickly learn that listening to others (students, parents, volunteers, congregation members) is a key first step in changing a church culture.

That’s why I was especially intrigued with Jon Stewart’s interview with Cass Sunstein, a faculty member at Harvard. In research described in Sustein’s book, Wiser, Sustein studied the effect of spending time with like-minded people. For instance, he examined somewhat “liberal” folks in Boulder, Colorado who spent time only with others who were similarly “liberal,” and replicated the same analysis with more “conservative” folks in Colorado Springs.

His finding: A short discussion with like-minded people made liberals more liberal, and conservatives more conservative. This “echo chamber” effect has been demonstrated in multiple settings when similarly-minded men and women spend time with each other.

How does this relate to leadership and changing church culture? 

If we’re only spending time with people who are like us—or share our viewpoints—we become closed to fresh perspectives. We become more firmly stuck in our ideological ruts, making it harder to leave those ruts even when and if we eventually want to. 

Seeing this interview has made me ask myself a handful of questions:

1.How much time am I spending interacting with people, and media, who have different political viewpoints than me? One of my close friends listens on the radio to NPR and watches Fox News as her attempt for bipartisan information. I probably am not capable of that sort of stretching, but how much am I listening to contradictory political views?

2.How much am I listening to people in different socio-economic statuses?

3.How much am I learning from and interacting with folks from different ethnicities or cultures than me?

4.As I seek to make change at Fuller or in my own church, how am I doing at seeking out different viewpoints?

Of these 4 questions, I feel good about 2 of my answers, and not-so-good about the other 2. 

How do you try to love, listen, and learn from folks who are different than you?

3 Parenting Questions for Jeremy Zach

Shares Jan 13, 2015 Kara Powell

This post is part of a series celebrating the release of the new Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family. We’re interviewing parents who serve, think, and write about faith, family, and ministry.

Our three-question interview this week is with Jeremy Zach. Jeremy is a Fuller grad who has been a great dialogue partner with FYI over the years, first as a youth pastor and blogger, and now as an Orange Specialist. Jeremy and his wife became first-time parents earlier this year.

Jeremy, as an Orange Specialist, you spend time with youth leaders nationwide. Based on your conversations with leaders, what advice would you give leaders who want to support families that perhaps they haven’t heard before?

Supporting families is hard – very hard. And student pastors have a very hard time embracing this reality. Believe it or not, supporting and engaging 25% of the parents on your student ministry roster is a huge win.

The student ministries who support parents effectively take many intentional small steps over time. Parent support is about trust. Trust takes time. Over time (3 to 5 years) of small strategic steps, your youth ministry will begin to have a higher engagement level of parents.

They key is to believe as though every family wants your support. So what are practical ways to support families?

Last April we asked 25 of the student ministries who have most successfully partnered with parents to share their tips. Our team compiled their best practices and created a blog post highlighting the top 20 ways these ministries partner with parents. Here’s the link.

Hopefully one of these 20 ways can help you take a next step to support families.

What have you learned from your wife about parenting?

My wife has this insane ability to be fully present with our daughter. She can unplug from work and life’s stress and give our daughter the attention she needs. I, on the other hand, cannot. I am always distracted. It’s hard for me to turn off my brain off at home.

My wife has graciously taught me how to be an attentive parent by modeling what it looks like to be fully present when I am with our daughter. I know being attentive to my daughter is huge! So now my goal every day is to make my daughter laugh hysterically. Right now she loves playing peekaboo and watching me dance, so I can count on doing one of these two things to get her to start laughing. My wife not only taught me to be attentive, but also to have fun while doing it. I never thought being a dad could be so much fun while learning so much in the process.

Having been a youth worker for a while but a parent for only a year or so, what do you wish you knew about parents when you were starting out as a youth pastor?

Parents are always exhausted. Every parent told me that being a parent is tiresome. But I never knew how tiring it would really be. I wish I would have prepared more. I only have one kid and two cats at home, and I am tired all the time.

So for youth pastors who are starting out and not parents, my advice is to do five all-night events for your youth group in a row, and you will just begin to get a glimpse of what it is like being a tired parent. And being a parent of a teenager is even more emotionally exhausting. I think if I had known that parents are often so tired either physically or emotionally, I would have had an easier time understanding why most of them had bags under their eyes as they dropped their son or daughter at youth group.   

My Greatest Joy Stealer is Staring at Me in the Mirror

Shares Jan 08, 2015 Kara Powell

Photo by Wonderlane.

“Dave, have we booked our hotel for our overnight?”

After searching our respective e.mails, we realized we hadn’t. We had cleared our calendars for 24 hours and asked my mom to stay with our kids, but we hadn’t finalized one important detail:  where we would actually sleep.

Great. One more task I’ve got to cram in a busy Saturday—before the room rates jump.

As I scanned the internet for the cheapest hotel, it suddenly struck me, “Wait a minute. Taking 17 minutes to find a hotel so my husband and I could have a relaxing (and romantic!) overnighter is actually a good thing.”

An hour later, I turned my attention to sorting pictures on my computer so I could create a photo album of the last two years. Our family is great at taking pictures; we’re not so great at organizing them once we download them. (What is “DCIM” anyway?)

I dreaded the hours…and hours…it would take to sort our thousands…and thousands…of pictures. But as I clicked through family memories, my attitude once again shifted. I had the charming experience of looking through treasured memories and the delight of capturing them forever in a photo album.

I love my friend, Margaret Feinberg’s, new book, Fight Back with Joy. As I’ve been ruminating on her insights—and asking myself what causes me to lose my joy—I’m realizing it’s often the little things.


Sure, I’ve had those seasons when there are major joy stealers in the life of our family or others who are important to us. Cancer. Unemployment. Divorce.

But most of my day-to-day joy is stolen when I view good things as tasks. When blessings become burdens.

Like when I try to surprise my kids with breakfast in bed, and since I’m rushing to get the bagels and fruit and nuts (our stand-by no-cook morning protein) on plates, I end up resenting them. Even though it was my idea.

Or when I really want to spend time with the Lord in the mornings, but I squeeze it in between working out and a shower, and it feels like just one more “to do.”

What would happen to us this new year if we viewed our blessings as gifts and not duties?  Sure, going to work, doing the dishes, and drafting e.mails to colleagues all have an element of “task-i-ness” to them. But at the core they represent the blessing of providing for our financial needs, enjoying nutrition, and using our gifts to help others.

So much of what we do every day is actually a gift from God. And from others who invite us into their lives. We just don’t see it that way.

This year may we claim Margaret’s goal and “fight back with joy.”

What To Do When Your Holiday Family Tradition Flops

Shares Dec 23, 2014 Kara Powell

Photo by Ginny.

Every Sunday during Advent, the five Powells gather around our dining room table for hot chocolate, a discussion on the significance of the birth of Christ, and Christmas carols. 

Except for last Sunday. Both of our daughters were in tears, and Dave and I were ticked off.

Five minutes before we were starting Advent, one of our daughters had been exceptionally unkind to the other. We intervened and tears flowed.

Then hot chocolate got spilled, which didn’t help.

That particular Sunday advent pretty much stunk. 

As we were tucking one of those daughters in bed, she continued to cry. She didn’t want to talk about what was bothering her (which is the first time she hasn’t wanted to share her feelings with me). So I gave her some space and came back to her room ten minutes later. She was still in tears.

I sat on her bed, stroking her back. She finally opened up. She shared how she felt about how we had disciplined her, as well as some struggles she had been having with friends. I can’t give more specifics here, but let me just say, she shared honestly and passionately. I told her when she finished, “You are so right. You see things so clearly.”

Dave came into the room and he and I both had the chance to remind our daughter about what God sees in her. And what we see in her.

As a family experience, that Advent Sunday was a miserable failure. But here’s what I’ve learned in research for The Sticky Faith Guide For Your Family: The relationship matters most. More important than any single family experience, or any holiday tradition, is that my children know that I love them, I like them, and that I am for them.

So the next time you have a holiday flop (I’m sure I’m in for at least one more before New Year’s), ask yourself: Even if the experiencer or tradition fails, how can our family relationships be strengthened?

How is Christmas Comparison Robbing You of Holiday Joy?

Shares Dec 18, 2014 Kara Powell

Photo by Sarah Goldschadt.

One friend collects ornaments from all her family trips, so her memory-filled tree looks amazing. In stark contrast, most of the ornaments on the Powell family tree come from boxed sets we bought on clearance years ago.

Another friend makes multiple homemade treats for her family and friends during December. Through the month of December, we Powells continue our usual dinner routine of simple four-ingredient-or-less dinners, with leftovers on subsequent evenings.

Still another friend decorates the outside of his house to look like a winter wonderland. We Powells spend four minutes tossing some Christmas lights into our bushes and call it done.

I can’t keep up with my friends.

But here’s the good news:  I don’t have to.

As parents, we worry that the holidays will cause our kids to compare their gifts with their friends’. But if we substitute the word “experiences” for “gifts,” then we’ve named a comparison trap that we adults are prone to experience. We might not care as much about what our friends receive as gifts, but we can easily feel insecure if other families’ holidays seem more peaceful. Or more memorable. Or more homemade. Or more fill-in-the-blank-with-any-adjective-you-want.

But here’s what I know about family holidays:

  1. We often only see other people’s best, while we’re well aware of our worst.

    Families don’t always look as cheerful as on Christmas cards, and houses aren’t usually as clean as they are for holiday parties. That other shiny family has its own dull moments also.
  2. Comparison is never good. 

    If I compare myself to others who are in a particularly hard season, it’s easy to feel smug and proud. If I compare myself to others who have it “better” than me, it’s easy to feel insecure and ungrateful. There’s no good that comes from comparison.
  3. Every family does the holidays differently. Figure out how you do holidays best.

    Your holiday will look different from your neighbor’s, or your best friend’s, or mine. That’s great. You have different traditions. You have different family rhythms. You have different family members.
  4. Show yourself and your family members grace when that supposed “special moment” falters.

    Sometimes our actual experiences will fail to match our vision for what that experience could be like. People are grumpy when it’s time to decorate the Christmas tree. Your kids don’t thank others for gifts as you’d like. When (not if, but when) your family experiences fail to live up to your expectations, remind yourself that God shows us grace constantly. We can show the same to our family.

This holiday season let’s stop comparing our worst to other people’s best.

Via Media X6: Flirting, Dating & Relationships in the Cloud

Shares Dec 17, 2014 Art Bamford

Photo by Nino Ortiz.

This is part of an FYI series on navigating digital technology and social media with young people, and a multipart roundtable on issues related to sexuality.

In this final installment of our panel discussion, we’ll get some of the best tips and strategies our contributing leaders have concerning how to help young people navigate digital technology as they begin to date.

Fuller Youth Institute: The whole process of flirting, dating, being in relationships, and the like has changed quite a bit thanks to digital tech. As you talk with teenagers about this, how do you address the issues of what is helpful and appropriate (or not) in romantic relationships online as opposed to in “real life”?  


Annie Neufeld: Students will often tell me about having “conversations” with peers of the opposite gender when they really mean they were communicating by text. Ultimately during these “conversations” there are generally misunderstandings, mixed messages, and hurt feelings. I tend to tell students to make a general rule that they will not have important conversations over text. Wait to be in person or at least have conversations over the phone.

I also advise our young women to not put too much hope in “flirting” over text. Young people are so much less inhibited over text—they say and do things that they would never say or do in person. This gives our young women and men a false impression of the other person. It also creates a false sense of intimacy—it is often difficult to maintain the same kind of texted witty banter in real life…and then everything gets confusing.


Billy Jack Blankenship: I definitely think a good rule of thumb is to never argue or fight over text, and young people are often the worst about this. All you get from texts are the words—no tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. That makes it incredibly easy for miscommunications to happen, or for people to say things that they wouldn’t face-to-face or over the phone.


Annie: Sadly, it is simply part of our culture that young people are hard-wired to have difficult conversations in this manner. And why wouldn’t they? Why would you want to risk rejection face to face when you can do it over text? This is a difficult habit to break in our young people, but I think it is essential to their ability to learn what real connection feels like with someone of the opposite sex.


Billy Jack: I encourage young people that all digital conversations should lead to, or point to conversations in person. “I miss you, when can I see you next?” as opposed to “I miss you, let’s text for the next hour.” I try to model this behavior too—when my wife calls or texts I will call back and let her know that we will talk it through in person. We only text quick details. Similarly with students, if we text back and forth past a few minutes I tell them we need to talk in person—let’s set up a time to talk.


Brad Howell: We need to develop healthy habits when using digital tools to nurture relationships. There is a host of things we could discuss, but top of the list should be any activities that deny another person’s full humanness. In relationships I think this involves being mindful about whether we are using technology to try to control or manipulate other people for our own purposes.


Annie: We have to show students—even though it is so awkward, that you can actually love someone better in person through empathy and respect; your ability to have difficult conversations improves every time you have one. Getting in touch with difficult feelings doesn’t have to be scary and can point to Jesus—vulnerability is a good thing and is a window to God’s heart. As the adults in their lives we have to show them that there is something more valuable than avoiding awkwardness.


FYI: It might be helpful to note here that research has found that many young people worry about parents taking away digital privileges if kids share about negative experiences. As a result, young people “are unlikely to be the ones to bring up the subject.”[1] It is helpful for parents to be really clear that honesty (within reasonable limits) will not be used as an opportunity to take away their privileges. The way young people incorporate digital technology into their relationships may seem foreign or unnatural to us, but it is important that our focus remains on the who rather than only the how.


[1] Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2013). Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. Basic Books. p. 101


Christmas Cards are Liars

Shares Dec 16, 2014 Kara Powell

Photo by Kasia.

The Powell family Christmas cards include a picture like this:



Cute family, right?  Love them to death.

But here’s another picture our photographer took a few moments earlier. Truly, we weren’t trying to fool around in this picture. She just captured us in a very Powell moment.



Looking back, I should have put both these pictures on our Christmas card. Because both represent all of who we are. The full spectrum of the Powell family.

I cherish every Christmas card I receive. I open them, put them in a basket on my kitchen counter, and then re-read them a second time over Christmas break. I love seeing and reading about my friends’ and family’s years. 

But let’s be honest:  No Christmas card ever tells the full truth. It’s impossible to; there just isn’t space. Plus we inevitably filter out the less pleasant parts of our family, or our year, and showcase only the highlights. (Same thing with social media. We’re prone to share our highs and hide our lows.)

It’s too late for me to re-do my Christmas card. They’re already ordered and on their way to our house for our family to stuff, stamp, and label. But as each of us opens Christmas cards and sees our friends’ and family’s smiling faces, let’s remember that life has both grins and tears. And let’s celebrate that Jesus—the Emmanuel—is with us through it all.