I found a very helpful article by Jen Bradbury about creating sticky faith in youths. As a church, there is much that we can do to help youths keep their faith through their schooling years. I pulled out key quotes for each section and added my comments at the end of each.
1. Centered On Christ
- When it comes to fostering sticky faith, nothing is more important than “students’ view of the gospel.” Ministries that foster sticky faith, the report says, are centered on Christ.
- We must relentlessly remind them that the Christian faith is one centered on the person of Jesus. Developing and maintaining a relationship with God requires engagement with scripture and the stories of Christ found there
- Use mission trips to share Scriptures.
- Cracking open a Bible and wrestling with its content must become part of a youth ministry’s DNA.
- The fact that God wants their very lives is something that appeals greatly to a generation looking for a leader worth following and a cause worth committing their lives to.
Seth: We don’t need to come up with more exciting programs. We need the right kind of program that challenges youth with the word of God. I don’t think youths are superficial or easily distracted. That’s just because churches assume they are. I suspect when we confront them with radical discipleship, they will rise up to it.
2. Infused With Grace
- Instilling sticky faith means creating ministries that are expressions of grace.
- Grace needs to be our default position, the way in which we reflexively respond to students.
- When churches are suffused with grace they also welcome teens into the larger church community, treating them as vital parts of the body of Christ.
Seth: We have to cut them some slack because we know we’ve made similar dumb things when we were their age too! When we look at Jesus, he gave people many second chances to make it right. We need to be graceful, merciful and loving. Catch them when they fall and encourage them to keep trying.
3. Intergenerational Relationships
- Adults need to show an interest in teens—which usually requires an intentional effort to connect people across generations
- Change the usual ratio of leaders to students. Rather than aiming to have one adult leader for every five students, it’s better to aim for connecting every teen with five adults who are willing to invest in the teen in some way, even if rather small.
- Utilize adults in our youth ministries as leaders.
Such adult leadership teams are at their best when they, too, are intergenerational.
- Look for parents, empty nesters and senior citizens who are willing to spend time with teens, asking them questions and then listening to their responses and encouraging them.
- Adults can invest in teens by learning their names, greeting them each week, asking them a question about their week and following up on the conversation in the next week.
- Prayer buddies can also be a powerful form of intergenerational connection. Adults commit to praying for a particular student—for a specific time period or event. Prayer buddies then write one another a note, introducing themselves to one another and encouraging each other. Whenever possible, give prayer buddies an opportunity to meet and connect with one another in person, through worship, meals or celebrations.
- One way of connecting teens with adults is through an interview or oral history project: teens develop a set of questions to pose to older people in the congregation and then conduct formal interviews.
Seth: I think this is a great point! I’ve observed that churches with youth services have problem transitioning young adults back to the main service. But I do know churches that don’t have youth services but there is still a disconnect between age groups. What is needed is a platform for intentional connection between youths and adults. I believe that when both are pushed into the mix together, it is mutually beneficial. Youths aren’t the future of the church, they are the church. Invest in them now!
4. Intergenerational Worship
- Involving teens in worship is crucial for learning to contribute to the body of Christ.
- It’s time to reevaluate the wisdom of holding separate worship services for youth.If teens become used to worshiping only with people their own age, they will find it hard upon graduating from high school to transition into intergenerational worship services.
- It requires not scheduling youth group or Sunday school simultaneously with worship so that teens are free to attend intergenerational worship.
- Help students better understand worship so that they can more fully participate in it and, in the process, encounter God. Explore the word and the sacraments, to wrestle with the words of the creeds and even to craft our own creed, to explore the meaning of the lyrics of the songs we sing and to explore what scripture says about prayer.
- Intergenerational worship demands not just that we invite youth to attend but that we give them opportunities to use their gifts in worship as ushers, acolytes, lectors, musicians and assisting ministers, not only on token occasions like “Youth Sunday” but throughout the year.
Seth: Youths love music and what better way than to let them contribute. Not only music but in other areas too as ushers, stewards, prayer. The key is to give them chances to serve and not label specific ministries as adults-only. Young people need to be trained, given confidence and allowed to fail. If they can’t fail safely in church, where else can they fail? The world outside isn’t so forgiving.