Sticky Faith (Ch. 1): The Not-So-Sticky-Faith Reality

When you travel, it is good to be aware of the terrain. Weather conditions, approaching weather systems, terrain (hills, valleys, mountains, road/path conditions (grassy or paved paths) all are useful to know. And, if you have a family, bathroom stops are critical.

In this chapter, the authors sketch out modern patterns of young people and faith to help us get an idea of where we are going in current culture as well as where they are coming from.


Startling Stats

40-50% of kids who graduate from a church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college.

It would be nice if we could dismiss that as someone's poor conjecture, cynical statement, or ignorant comment. But, as you'll read if you followed the footnote, this is based on a summary of various research results.

Add the story of Tiffany and it will probably (should?) move the heart of any Christian who has God's heart for the young.

Add some of the other statistics:

  • only 20% of college students who leave the faith planned to do so during high school
  • the other 80% intended to stick with their faith but didn't
  • 30-60% of those who leave do return

That last stat is small comfort given God's heart that will leave the 99 to go after the one lost sheep. (Or the lost coin or the lost son. Three parables from Jesus to speak about God's heart, all in Luke 15.)


Defining "Sticky Faith"

As we saw, there are a few things about Powell and Clark's definition of Sticky Faith:

  • It's both internal and external. Inner thoughts and emotions as well as choices and actions are impacted. It's a "whole-person integration" (p. 22). (I can't help but think of how that term is a good description of a life transformed by Christ.)
  • It's both personal and communal. There are individual aspects while also being called to be part of a community in Christ, the Church. (Romans 12/1 Cor. 12 comes to mind with Paul's body illustration: we are parts but also a whole body.)
  • It's both mature and maturing. There is the element of completeness but also the ongoing aspect of growth. (The image of how God's kingdom is "already but not yet fully come" echoes here. At FirstCov, we talk about the aspect that we are on a "journey.")


And the Winner Is...

One of the more uplifting results is that when youth were invited to comment about quality and quantity of support from five groups (friends in youth group, friends outside youth group, youth leaders, parents, and adults in the congregation), PARENTS came out on top.

But they also found that support was not all... how they lived out their faith had the greatest impact on a son or daughter.


Two Aspects to Each Chapter

You'll want to note that each chapter will have:

  1. research info and findings
  2. practical issues of applying it.


Never Too Early/Never Too Late

The good news is faith is a journey that goes throughout life and no matter what time of life, NOW is the time to pray and act. God works in all moments. So, whatever the age and whatever the relationship (child/grandchild, niece/nephew, or a youth in the church family), now is the time to begin. As Jesus noted: nothing is impossible with God.

Share what you learn with others. Form a Sticky Faith Team for your family. As a church family at FirstCov, that is our goal in this book read but there may be other significant adults to invite along, whether for you to discuss or process with, and have join us on the blog or encourage to read the book with you. It may be grandparents, godparents/sponsors, or others.


The Authors and Faith

It was good to hear of the authors' faith in this as well. Research can (& has) become an idol in such situations and their reflections (p. 28) were helpful in how love of God over research, belief in God over belief in research, and valuing prayer over sorting data are good reminders. As they noted:

As we share our research with parents, including parents who are grieving the way their children have strayed from the Sticky Faith path, we are repeatedly reminded of the God who transcends all research and all easy answers. We are struck by how much we need to depend on God for wisdom and strength for ourselves, and sometimes just plain miracles for our families. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit, not us, develops Sticky Faith in kids (p. 28).


Let's Talk

We have the opportunity to "talk" now. Below you can leave a comment (using your full name, a first name or even an anonymous reference for your name). Share a question you have, a thought you'd like to share or reply to someone else.

There are some excellent questions on p. 29 to discuss with a spouse, friend, your "Sticky Faith Team" or someone from your church family. Feel free to comment on any of them.

If you are not reading the book, let's start with:

  • When people read a book, usually they are trying to solve a problem. What problems are you hoping to address by reading this blog? 


  • How have you seen the themes above play out in your everyday observations of life?



Next week: Chapter 2--the sticky gospel.

-Pastor Brian


6 Responses

  1. A Wannabe Sticky Faith Parent
    It is very encouraging to see that this book is not just tied up in research but that the authors are also seeing the focus on God. I’ve seen books almost put research as idolatry. At the same time, they seem to not ignore the research either. Should be good. As for the “problem” I am hoping to address, it is about how I can be intentional in areas of faith as a Christian parent. There seems to be a tension where a parent says “I have no effect” and “I have all the effect”. So while I can’t guarantee my child’s response to God, how do I do everything I can do to encourage them to love God with their all? Also, as a busy parent, how can I do that with other children or youth in the church family?
  2. Anonymous
    I'm thinking of ways to help the children/young adults in our church family: 1. Ask questions. Show interest. 2. Tell them you noticed when they weren't at church, and you missed seeing them.
  3. Lindsey
    I think the most important sentence in this chapter was "Ultimately, the Holy Spirit, not us, develops Sticky Faith in kids." (p.28) This is something very important for us to keep in mind. While reading this and all the statistics, etc., I was starting to worry that the focus of this book was going to be on what WE can or should do instead of what GOD can or will do in the lives of our children. To answer #3 on p.29, I find it encouraging that I am the most important influence on my child's faith. It gives me hope (but of course never guarantees) that no matter where else in the world my children find themselves, including school, what I say and do still really makes a big impact on them and they will still look to me as their role model. I am not perfect, of course, but I desire my children to love and seek God like I do.
    • Brian
      Lindsey, I liked that sentence too. It's great that you find it encouraging that parents are an important influence in helping our kids connect to Christ. Some may view this as a duty but thinking in terms of a privilege inspires us to walk in joyful faith in parenting rather than burdensome weight. His grace is present as we parent...even when we "mess it up".
  4. Nick
    The issue I wanted to address is learning to lead my family and child in a way that makes faith "sticky". I also read in "Thriving Family" a focus on the family magazine about different Trophy Parenting styles and one in particular stuck out to me about how some parents take so much credit for their child's success in life. As parents we can seek to both very intentional, and devoted as we walk with Christ, but also humble. Our kids can be great in part because God made them great! If they fail, it isn't our fault often, it is the choices they make. Knowing that my faith in God is the first model of faith is HUGE and makes me want to really do better, every second to live like Christ!
    • Brian
      Nick, I hear a lot of God's grace in that view and like the vision you cast with "every second to live like Christ". What a privilege as parents!

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