Sticky Faith

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Over the past five years, I have been blessed to get to know Kara Powell and Brad Griffin from the Fuller Youth Institute.  In 2006, I got my first glimpse of the initial findings from the College Transitions Project research when Kara presented at AYME (Association of Youth Ministry Educators).  Since then, I have followed closely FYI’s findings as they relate to what they have coined Sticky Faith.

The College Transitions Project followed the lives of youth from youth ministries similar to yours as they journeyed to college.  The project sought to learn how this transition affected a young person’s faith.  I am grateful to FYI for taking on such an important project and for the practical ways in which they are sharing their results.

If you have not picked up a copy of Sticky Faith, then you need to buy it today.  No one is claiming that the project was a perfect analysis of all the teenagers in this country, however FYI has researched, investigate, interviewed, and faithfully sought to learn and share as much as they can on this subject.  I believe their findings will hit close to home for most of you.

The research itself did not provide shocking results, but instead confirmed many youth ministers’ hunches.  It provided evidence.  Then, FYI has faithfully sought to learn what they can from the research about what makes Faith Stick.  When is the tape or glue holding a young persons identity in Christ together to weak?  How can we recognize this?  What practices can we implement that make Faith Sticky?

You will find insights into the research and practical responses inside the pages of Sticky Faith.  They provide insights into what you can do as a youth worker, how you can help families, and what the church can do to build lasting faith in young people.  I personally was blessed by the chapter on helping parents both in thinking about my own parenting and thinking about how to better equip parents.

Thank you to Kara, Brad, and Cheryl for your investment in this project on behalf of youth ministry over the past 8 years.  We look forward to continuing to learn together how to make Faith Sticky!

After you read the book, check out FYI’s new Sticky Faith Teen curriculum that just came out last week.  You can also try out a sample lesson from the curriculum called How do I see myself after Graduation? by Kara and Brad.  Finally, don’t miss out on FYI’s new parent curriculum either made up of 5 great lessons to help parents

My Blindness

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Am I a racist? I like to believe I”m not.

Is the church racist? I like to believe its not either.

Is my church racist?  We try to act like we are not.

In John’s story of the man born blind (Chapter 9).  Jesus tells the pharisees and us that “If you were blind, you would not have sin.  But now that you say ‘We see,’ your sin remains.  In a recent sermon, I preached in lent on the man born blind.  I found this statement challenging for the church and myself.  I reflected, “I am not a racist, yet I am blind to racism all around me.”

I had great friends in elementary school, middle school, and high school who were African-American.  I had a few in college.  They taught me so much about life, friendship, and … the challenges of racial relationships in Memphis, Mayfield, and a private Christian College.  But where are those friendships in my life today?

CYMT’s second year students are looking this week at a piece of Beverly Tatum’s “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”  She rightfully points to fear. Why are we so afraid of the other?  Why are we so insecure in our place on the bus that we can’t let others sit beside us?

I live in a community that is insulated from racial diversity – 94% white.  There are many wonderful attributes in our community – value on education, opportunity, nature, safety – but it does not reflect the real world.  I am afraid that we have created a space that keeps others out to protect our insecurities, than a place that is truly about expanding opportunities.   Our community has it all or do we.  We are rich and yet we are poor.  Our blindness and fear has prevented us from a larger world that looks more like the kindgom of God.  I have a fear that my daughters will not be prepared for the world because where they live looks very little like the real world.

My blindness is apparent.  Will I look for new relationships with my brothers and sisters of another color or race?  Will I like the lawyer in A Time to Kill take my family across the “tracks” and overcome our fears while teaching our children.  Can I recognize my Lord and Savior if I do not acknowledge my Brother and Sister in Christ?

Jesus heal my blindness!

Categories: Youth Ministry

Make Church Work More Fun – #3 Laugh!

March 27, 2011 1 comment

Does the church take itself to seriously?  Yes.  Do we take our jobs to seriously? Yes.  Don’t get me wrong we are in the Kingdom business and our work is eternally important.  Of course, we are God’s instruments and sometimes I think we play funny notes.  When we do, we should laugh.

This is the third post in the series 5 Things to Make Church Work More Fun .  Laughter is contagious!  It is good for the soul.  It is good for community.  It deepens relationships.  Think about how often when you get together with old friends you think back and share stories about funny events.

Working for the church would be more fun if we would laugh at ourselves and together.  Youth Ministers can bring this gift to the staff by sharing funny things that happened in the youth ministry, something that happened during worship, etc.  Don’t share things to bring others down, share them to help folks be a little less serious and a little more joyful.

Our staff is still talking about the story I shared after Ash Wednesday service about the 2 1/2 year old who wanted a butterfly not a cross.  See if you can convince the boss that sharing these stories together should be a regular part of your life together as a staff.  Its hard to be in a fight when you are laughing about something!

Really stuffy staff, maybe you can break the ice by using a cartoon from Inherit the Mirth.  You can find a new cartoon each week on

Make Church work More Fun – #2 Play Gotcha!

March 25, 2011 Leave a comment

In my recent post 5 Things to make Church Work More Fun, I listed the following things as some ideas for how to overcome the mundane challenges that sometimes come with working on a church staff.

  1. Celebrate
  2. Play Together
  3. Laugh
  4. Share Stories
  5. Worship Together

I promised to unpack them, so here is number 2 play together!  Why are games important to youth ministry, because it creates space for youth to build relationships and common experiences with each other.  In preparing for staff retreats or planning days, I always remember being asked to “do something that is fun and builds team.”  I remember being offended the first time I was asked. Surely, I had something more to offer in leadership that games and team builders.  I did and I did on the retreat. But what I found was that my youth ministry gifts were extremely valuable to our time together, because the games and team builders broke down walls, loosened people up, and create creative space just like they do in youth group.

Over the years, I have led lots of games with church staffs.  Some of my all time favorite moments come from the following activities:

  1. Bowling – you just don’t have to be good
  2. Ropes Course or ropes course activities (its lots of fun to be the leader)
  3. Encore – a great game that involves singing

But my all time favorite was an idea by Paul Bonner my junior high youth minister.  We worked on a large church staff with 60+ staff members.  Paul convinced our senior pastor to play Gotcha!  You may remember the 80’s movie (I guess actually most of you don’t because you weren’t born yet). Here’s how you play:


  • Small water gun pistols for everyone on the staff (or in your youth group)
  • Strips of paper with the names of everyone participating on them (one name per strip)
  • You may want to create rules sheets in case people try to cheat


Everyone receives a piece of paper with a name on it(they should not have their own name and you need to make sure that two people don’t have each other’s names otherwise the game will end prematurely) and a water gun.  Here are the rules:

  • Each participant attempts to shoot the person whose name they receive with the water gun.
  • Participants must keep their names a secret until they shoot the person.
  • Participants can only be shoot under the following conditions:
    • A witness must be present
    • It can only happen on the church premises
    • During working hours
    • Worship service times are off limits
    • Bathrooms are off limits
  • After shooting their person, the staff member declares, “Gotcha!”
  • The person who was “got” gives the person who shot them their name which becomes their next target
  • You can only “get” your target.
  • Your only defense against the person after you is to avoid being got.  So avoid places with witnesses and run fast.
  • Play continues until the winner gets their own name.


Giving out names is key to a successful event, because you want to avoid an early end where someone gets their name before everyone else is eliminated.  This happens sometimes if you have an even number of people.  In the scenario below, you could end up with 2 winners who don’t know abou the other.  An odd number of people and making sure two people don’t have each other eliminates this problem.

  • Deech – Mindi
  • Mindi – Lesleigh
  • Lesliegh – Deech
  • Andrew – Julia
  • Julia – Jim
  • JIm – Andrew

Our staff had a blast.  Some took the game more seriously than others.  But after 7 days, our pastors administrative assistant was the winner.  She took me out on day two by simply telling me that the senior pastor needed to see me.

What other things have you done as a staff to have fun?

Categories: Youth Ministry

Encore – Hysterical Singing Game

March 25, 2011 4 comments

When I was in high school, I played the board game encore.  When I became a youth minister, I adjusted encore to make it one of my groups favorite games and group building activities.  Because youth love music and listen to all kinds, this game has the potential to engage everyone and not to many games can do that.  I quick google search showed that the game still exists and that you can purchase it from Amazon for $12.  I have played it for years and never purchased it until today.  I think it will be worth the $12 investment, but you can try it out with your group using my adjusted rules and see if you like it first.


  • A list of words you would might find in a song.  For an hour long game, you’ll need 10-15 words.
  • Something to keep score on


Divide your group up into teams of 3-10 people.  This game is best played with no more than 4 groups and 40 people.

The group on your left starts the first round.  Each round, you will move clockwise with a new group starting.

The leader will share the “word” that each group must sing.  Then beginning with the first group, each group or individual in that group must sing a phrase from a song containing the “word” and 5 other words.  The first group has 20 seconds to sing/say the phrase. Then moving clockwise groups continue to sing/say songs with the “word”. After the first group, the time limit is reduced to 10 seconds.  A group is eliminated from the round if they cannot think of a song or they sing a song that has already been sung.  The last group standing gets a point.

Here are some “words” that work well.

  • Blue
  • Love
  • Heart
  • Train
  • Plane
  • Tractor

You can also use topics like:

  • Girls Name
  • Transportation that doesn’t have wheels ie. walking, running, hot air balloon, etc.
  • Types of Cars
  • Hymns
  • Food
  • Cartoon Theme Songs


If it appears they will go forever on a topic, award points to all groups or whoever still remains and move on to the next topic.  If you are playing, it helps to have a piece of paper and pen so that you can make a list of possible songs and be prepared when your turn comes around and to eliminate songs sung by other groups.  You will have to determine what’s a song.  Expect to get commercial jingles and other short jingles in addition to songs.  You’ll have to make the rule “one way or the other.”


Hopefully, your group will understand to keep it clean; but if your group is like my group then a friendly reminder might be in order!

Make Church Work More Fun – #1 Give them a Brick

March 24, 2011 7 comments

My wife used to work in the marketing department for a large construction company.  This company did a great job of celebrating and affirming people and therefore people liked working there!  The church on the other hand stinks at celebration and affirmation of staff and volunteers.  I am regularly appalled at how we treat people who have given years of there lives in service to the church when they retire or leave the staff.  We do not publicly affirm volunteers who gave tirelessly in efforts to do incredible things for the kingdom.

So how can we create an environment of celebration?  Well, here is what the construction company did.  Anytime, you felt someone had done outstanding work, gone the extra mile, or had surprising results, you gave them a brick.  It was a virtual brick that you sent by email affirming that persons work, but everyone in the company got a copy of it so that all could affirm them.  One of the staff members kept track of the number of bricks someone earned and they could be turned in for gift certificates to go to lunch extra.  I must say that I loved it.  It created the space for people to affirm each other and celebrate success and rewarded them for it.

Why don’t we celebrate and affirm each other more in the church?  We have not created an environment of affirmation and celebration.  Youth ministers can make working at the church more fun by doing this!  There is no reason that you can’t send out an email letting affirming and celebrating others.  You may be able to talk your pastor into making it some kind of official celebration thing like the bricks.  One pastor, I worked for went for giving them a “hand.”  You sent an email out when you wanted to give someone a “hand” for doing a great job.  It was cheesy, but worked.  It encouraged everyone to get out of their silos and take notice of what each other was doing.

Take the responsibility for building into your staff meetings a time of celebration.  By celebrating others, you will be affirming their call and hard work.  You might even get affirmed and celebrated in return.

What are other ways of creating celebration and affirmation on church staffs?

5 Things to make working at church fun!

March 24, 2011 3 comments

One of my firm beliefs is that youth ministers have an important task on church staffs … making working at the church fun!  Working at a church can be difficult especially when the staff does not have fun and celebrate.  For whatever reason, these things do not come easy to  churches.  We help others worship God on Sunday and then we turn church into a job instead of a vocation on Monday.

If you are a youth worker, then no matter what your age you still have enough youthful exuberance in you to be a leader and bring joy to your staff.  I’ve found that when you do all these things you earn the trust of the staff and church leaders.  If you focus to much on one area, then you can be labeled the church clown; but with perseverance they will join you in these things and find greater joy in their work and your community.

Over the next few days I’m going to give examples and unpack these things, but here’s the 5 things to get you thinking.

  1. Celebrate
  2. Play Together
  3. Laugh
  4. Share Stories
  5. Worship Together

I posted #1 – Celebrate Give them a Brick today to get you started.  Tomorrow’s post – #2 Bowling and Got Cha!

When and how does your staff do these things together?