Sticky Faith – Part II

by Steve Wood

In our last issue I mentioned that two professors from Fuller Seminary have written an insightful book entitled Sticky Faith. These researchers tried to discover precisely which type of youth ministry strategies are actually capable of reversing the epidemic of 40 to 50 percent of young people who graduate from church youth groups and then fail to stick with their faith in college. What exactly can churches and parents do to make the faith stick?

Out of thirteen identifiable youth ministry strategies, intergenerational worship and discipleship stood out as the most identifiable. In other words, the best youth strategy for reversing the epidemic of college students abandoning the church was non-segregation of high school students into youth groups which keep them separated from their parents and other adults in the congregation as they grow in Christ.

Here are some other valuable findings in Sticky Faith:

  • High school students who served in children’s or middle school ministry had stickier faith in college
  • “The key social influence in shaping a young person’s religious life is what is modeled by their parents.” (p.24)
  • 20% of college students who abandon the faith in college plan to do so in high school. The remaining 80% of high school students who depart from the faith in college intended to stick with the faith while in college.
  • If just one member of a college student’s congregation who is not a part of the youth ministry contacts the student during the first semester of college (text, phone, letter, or email) it helps “Sticky Faith.” (p.100)
  • Teens that sense that they have the freedom and opportunity to express their doubts tend to have more “Sticky Faith.”
  • When asked what it meant to be a Christian, 35% of the teens in the national survey did not mention God or Jesus. To them, Christianity was a performance-based list of do’s and don’ts more than a covenant relationship with God through Jesus.
  • The two million short-term mission trips teens take are not leading to lasting faith. Five out of six teens report that the mission trips don’t make much lasting impact on their lives. The Sticky Faith authors believe that service projects have stronger impact if they are done close to home. (pp.129-131)
  • Virtually all sexual activity is preceded and accompanied by large amounts alcohol.
  • College students spend in excess of $5 billion on alcohol each year. 80% of college fraternity and sorority members binge drink. The key decisions on whether or not to join the college drunkenness, party, and sex scenes are made during the first two weeks of the freshman year.
  • The key decision on whether or not to attend church and a campus ministry while in college is made during the first two weeks of college.
  • Most teens heading to college are unprepared for the major decision they will be making during the first few days and weeks at college. (p.151)

From these findings, one critical step to take is to help your college bound child have a concrete plan for joining campus fellowships, a local parish, and avoiding the allures of the degenerate party scene.

This article first appeared in the Dads.org E-newsletter, June 2012. Click here for free sign-up.