Tag Archives: Kara Powell

A few weeks ago I got a shiny blue package in the mail from Zondervan Publishing House containing a prepublication copy of Sticky Faith, the new book for parents by Kara Powell and Chap Clark. The book has a catchy title and from the looks of the fancy packaging, it’s going to be marketed pretty well by the publisher. That’s a good thing if you’re an author!

I was eager to read my copy of Sticky Faith not only because it’s a topic I’m interested in, but because of who wrote it. My package included a nice personal note from Kara who I’m proud to say was a very bright student of mine when I was teaching youth ministry classes at Bethel Seminary in San Diego about 15 years ago. She went on to Fuller Seminary, got her PhD and now heads up the Fuller Youth Institute. There’s no question that she has become one of this generation’s most respected youth ministry voices.

Chap and I go back a long way, having worked together for many years at Youth Specialties. He also teaches at Fuller Seminary and his 2004 book Hurt has established him as one of the leading authorities on adolescent culture.

Simply put, Sticky Faith is a book for parents on how to pass lasting faith on to their kids. It’s not the first on this subject of course. (Ahem, now would be a good time to plug my book Generation to Generation, right?) There are quite a few good books coming out these days to help parents raise their children up in the faith.

The unique spin that Powell and Clark give this topic is found in the word “sticky.” They express concern, as we all do, that faith just doesn’t seem to “stick” with kids who populate our youth groups. “Our conclusion is that 40 to 50 percent of kids who graduate from a church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college.” Some researchers have put this percentage a lot higher (anywhere from 65 to 80 percent) but Powell and Clark, while being a bit more optimistic, make it clear that “a 50 percent rate of Sticky Faith” is unacceptable.

I found their chapter titled “A Sticky Web of Relationships” to be especially good and affirming in my current ministry (Pastor to Generations at College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego.) For the past couple of years, besides working with parents I’ve been trying to help our church take some baby steps towards becoming an intergenerational church, which is what this chapter is all about. Powell and Clark write about the importance of connecting kids with ordinary adults in the church (not just the trained youth workers) and creating what they call 5:1 (a reverse in the typical ratio of adults to kids in the church).

I’ve advocated something along those same lines for many years. In my mind, the first youth group in history was the one found in Luke 2:46. That verse pictures Jesus as a 12 year old, sitting in the temple with a group of elders (“teachers” in the NIV). Rather than a bunch of kids with one adult in charge, here we have one kid with a bunch of adults. I’m not sure how many elders were actually there with Jesus at the time, but I do know he had more than one overworked, underpaid youth worker.

The basic idea behind 5:1 is to intentionally and regularly integrate young people with the adult population of the church so that faith can be passed along from one generation to the next in a natural and dynamic way. Powell and Clark offer several examples of churches that have successfully made this transition and some of them reflect our experience so far at CABC. Like this one:

“So they canceled Sunday youth group. No more Sunday meetings. Instead, kids are now fully integrated into the church on Sundays. Kids are greeters, they serve alongside adults on the worship music team, they are involved in giving testimonies, and they even give chunks of the sermon from time to time. The youth pastor described the power of this 5:1 shift: ‘We knew that this would change our kids. What has surprised us is how much this has changed our church.’”

We don’t have the teenagers preaching sermons yet, but our pastor frequently uses them as sermon illustrations.

Intergenerational churches are not new of course. What’s new is that churches over the past 50 years have intentionally and regularly segregated kids from the rest of the church. “And that segregation is causing kids to shelve their faith,” say Powell and Clark. Not the only reason, perhaps, but certainly a contributing factor.

I suppose my only nit-picky criticism of the book would be the authors’ overuse of the word sticky—sticky findings, sticky identity, sticky Gospel, sticky justice, and so on throughout the book. The book started to even feel sticky. No wait, I think that happened after our 5-year-old grandson Jack used the book as a placemat. Still, this is a good book, one that I’ll definitely be recommending to parents and youth workers.


Category: Ministry, Parenting

Last week I went to Chicago to attend a 3-day youth ministry conference called “Shift the Future” at Willow Creek Community Church.  It was sponsored by the Willow Creek Association, a leadership organization affiliated with the host church.

I went because I’m doing some writing this year on youth ministry and wanted to listen to what others were saying about it.  I went to all the sessions as a conferee, something I really haven’t done in a long time.  For most of my life I’ve been involved in putting on conferences or speaking at them.  To just sit, listen and take notes at a ministry conference of any kind felt very different for me.  While there, I always felt like I needed to be doing something … but these were false alarms going off in my head, I kept telling myself.

notes-from-shiftSo I took notes.  I’m not a very good note taker.  I tend to doodle a lot.  At the right is a sample, from a seminar I attended on junior high ministry led by Scott Rubin.  The seminar was actually quite good although you couldn’t tell from my note-taking.

Highlights of the conference included the opening address by Francis Chan, a pastor from Simi Valley California who has become a very popular conference speaker (he also did the YS conventions this past year).  He’s dynamic, passionate, transparent and very inspiring.  I did have a question regarding his use of his daughter in one of his illustrations to make a point.  I’ve always been hesitant to do that–to use your own kids in stories that make you (or them) look good.  There are two schools of thought on that (yes and no).  I’ve generally come down on the “no” side of that debate even though I sometimes break the rule myself.

I also enjoyed the session featuring Mark Holmen, a pastor from Ventura California and Bubba Thurman, a youth pastor from Texas.  Together they presented a compelling argument for ministry to and with families, which of course is a passion of mine.  I’ve heard Holmen several times (I’m a big fan of his) but never before Bubba Thurman.  I was very impressed by his presentation.

I also enjoyed hearing Kara Powell speak.  Currently with the Fuller Youth Institute (Fuller Seminary), I was blessed to have her as a student (one of the brightest and best I ever had) when I taught youth ministry at Bethel Seminary in San Diego.  It’s not surprising at all to me that she’s making such a significant contribution to the field of youth ministry now.

While I was at the conference, I had a chance to have dinner with an old friend of mine, Mark Senter, professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  He has just finished writing a very thorough history of youth ministry called When God Shows Up, scheduled to be released next January by Baker Academic Books.  We had a very interesting conversation about the future of youth ministry and a few other topics as well.  One thing we both agreed upon: the future of youth ministry is no longer in our hands.  Our role is to cheer on the next generation of youth workers and avoid putting a lid on their creativity and passion for doing what God is leading them to do.

A big THANK YOU to the Willow Creek Association for making it possible for me to attend the conference, especially to Scott Rubin, the junior high pastor at Willow Creek Church, who also let me stay at his house.   It was an encouraging and productive week for me.


Category: Ministry