I need my kids in worship with me

First he glared at me. Then he puffed, “I hate church. I don’t want to go.

When we told Paul, my 10 year old, that the regular parts of kids ministry were taking the day off and church would have family worship on Sunday, Paul protested.

Stupid. Boring. I hate this, I hate you, I hate church, I hate…


Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 7

Sticky FiathAdam: I grew up watching the Cosby Show. One recurring theme was that mom and dad wanted you to move out as soon as possible so that they could move on with their lives. Dad celebrated when a child went off to college and lamented when they came home. While they were always welcomed home (begrudgingly) the goal of the Cosby’s parenting was clear: Become an adult.

Looking around– I don’t know if most parents today have similar goals. As I’ve said many times I think a lot of parents express co-dependency on their adult-aged children. It’s beyond living vicariously through them, it’s coddling them towards what Robert Epstein labels “infantalization.” They like their children dependent on them and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make that last as long as possible… complaining about it all the while.

As I read chapter 7 about building a Sticky Faith bridge out of the house and into adulthood I got out of this that we need to have a plan. While I think Kara and Chap emphasized a plan for the senior year of high school and first year of college I know that the plan should include today, when my kids are 10, 8, and 9 months! Why? Because that goal for my parenting has implications in how we do stuff today.

For me, the goal can’t be safety. If there is one thing that irks me more than anything else about Christian parents it is the idea of safety. It’s as if the measurement of a faith-filled life is how safe it is. What a crock! Following Jesus is anything but safe. Therefore the goal of my parenting can not include safety. Sure, I want my children to grow up making wise choices. But I don’t want their default to be faithless, safe choices as well. My goal for my children is that they will recklessly encounter and follow Jesus wherever he wants them to go.

Kristen: Megan, our oldest child, is ten years old. We have some time to before she graduates from high school and transitions into college. Still, this chapter provided many good thoughts to consider. My first thought while reading this chapter was to remember from my own college experience that finding and connecting to a church is difficult, even in a Christian college setting. I eventually found a church that I loved. It would later become the church where, as a young married couple, Adam and I served in the high school ministry together and where we formed adult friendships that last to this day.

As a college freshman with no transportation, I would not have been connected if it weren’t for the clunky church bus that provided a free ride every Sunday. Looking back, I’m extremely thankful for a church that loved college students enough to provide resources to connect us to their congregation. Another reason the church relationship stuck is that the church allowed me to serve as a Sunday school teacher. This was a fairly large church that didn’t “need” me. I never felt looked down on as a young college student, nor did I ever feel like I was being used.

Another point that struck me was the advice, “Don’t do for your child, what they can do for themselves”. I don’t consider myself a helicopter parent, however, there are things that I do for my kids (because it’s easier/faster/done right, etc) that are a disservice to them in the long run.

Lastly, I appreciated the section called, “Prepare for Loss” on page 162. I’ve seen too many college graduates (let alone freshman students) struggling with these losses.

Discussion questions:

1. How are you feeling about the reality that your child is graduating? What are you most grateful to God for? What causes you fear or misgivings?

2. What does it look like to trust God with your son or daughter as he or she is graduating?

3. Do you think your child really knows that you love them unconditionally? How could you handle their next failure or success in such a way that you shower them with unconditional love?

4. What family and group or church events would you like to try with your child? When is the best time to try them? Who else could you partner with (other parents, mentors, small group leader, youth leader) to help prepare your child for the transition?


Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 6

Sticky FiathThis is part 5 in an 8 part series on Sticky FaithJoin our book club by signing up here. (part 1234, 5)

Since moving to San Diego, two opportunities stand out where our kids were “getting it”. Three years ago our community group befriended a local refugee family. We assisted the family in a variety of ways – purchasing groceries, advocating for the dad when he was treated unfairly by an employer, and serving as a go-between at parent teacher conferences, etc. One member of our community group even attended the birth of their youngest child, assisting them with hospital paperwork and helping them find comfort in the unfamiliar hospital environment. We did fun things too, like sharing meals, playing together and taking them to the zoo and ocean for the first time. My personal favorite was snuggling with their newborn daughter each Sunday during church. The following year myself and the kids had the opportunity to tutor refugee students as part of an after-school program. I enjoyed the weekly sessions knowing that Megan and Paul were welcome to come along. Even before reading this book, the idea of serving together as a family has been pressing on my mind. Chapter six only made it’s importance more glaringly obvious.

Adam: OK, so as of today we suck at this chapter. All of it. From top to bottom the McLane family needs improvement in this area of parenting.

I hope I didn’t sugar that.

In the course of our day-to-day life Kristen and I are pretty active about getting past issues of service and seeking practical justice. And while we do a decent job of talking to our kids about the nuts/bolts “why” questions of why we do what we do… we aren’t very good about getting them involved in acts of justice.

“That’s not fair” – This is the mantra of our house

Life’s not fair. Cope and deal kid.” That’s probably not the most compassionate thing to come out of my mouth. But I struggle with the “fair” game our kids play at this age.

Perhaps some of that is a developmental issue with our kids age? Megan (10) is just now starting to grasp the idea that she can serve others for a purpose greater than the reward she’ll earn from mom/dad for doing it. Paul (8) is happy to do just about anything with us… but he’s far from cognitively grasping an act of service as a form of justice. Justice for an 8 year old is getting to eat the same amount of Halloween candy as his big sister or having the same bed time.

Chapter 6 was a wake up call that I can’t just teach justice at church. And I can’t just practice justice personally. I need to teach my kids what justice looks like in our daily lives.

What I loved about this chapter is that it’s not too late or too hard to make changes. Heading into the tween and teen years we are fortunate enough to be positioned to do some really cool things with our kids. Whether its serving alongside them on one of the many service opportunities at church or having them join me on one of the justice projects I’m a part of… having made the connection that is isn’t enough for mom/dad to seek justice but it’s important to our kids spiritual development, those are adjustments we can and will make.

An addendum to chapter 6 for my friends in youth ministry:

As Kristen and I debriefed chapter 6 we talked about the disconnect between the examples of justice work given in the book and some of those in vocational youth ministry we know. It’s not that the examples given were bad, not in any way, they were just representative of a small minority of well-resourced ministries. We laughed together that some of the people following along with this book club don’t even know that churches like that actually exist!

I’ve spent many nights in homes of youth workers across the country. I’ve shared coffee at their kitchen tables. I’ve sat in their offices. I’ve heard their stories of extreme faith and deep poverty. (I’m not trying to dishonor anyone– but you need to know that many people in youth ministry are truly poor.) As I read this chapter I couldn’t help thinking of those dramatically under-resourced folks. While relatively powerless in their ministries they faithfully serve Christ day-by-day.

And I wonder if their kids look at justice a little differently? I wonder if instead of putting together some elaborate plan to teach their kids an object lesson on justice that they need to experience justice themselves?

Maybe someone needs to stand up for them? Justice for many ministry families is a liveable wage. Or health care so they don’t have to chose between a visit to the doctor and their light bill. Or even realistic expectations on their parents so they can be good parents.

As I think about those families, and not too long ago the McLane’s were one of them, I think that teaching justice to their kids looks a little different. Kristen and I joked (Not a funny ha-ha joke) about the choices we were forced to make. We willing chose injustice for our family for the sake of our ministry. Nights when we turned the heat up to 67 and served snacks we couldn’t afford for the sake of hosting an adult small group. Or times when we gave to up our vacation money to support things our church bailed on. Or times where we told our kids no to things because we couldn’t afford them in full knowledge that the senior pastors kids bragged about getting the same thing.

I just want to acknowledge these injustices as we think about teaching sticky justice to our kids. We can’t glaze over the injustice we experience and think that we’re teaching our kids anything. I think as we wrestle with this as a ministry community and try to iron out developing sticky faith in our kids– we need to wrestle with some of the justice issues in our own kitchen. Because when you experience justice for yourself you don’t have to learn about what justice is anymore.

Discussion questions:

  1. Kara shares how her and her husband define their family. How would you define your families priorities? What would your kids say?
  2. How would you describe your ministry role as justice instead of service?
  3. Tell us about a time when you and your family served together.
  4. Think about a few things your kids love to do. How can you help them connect their areas of interest to pursue justice in some area?

Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 5

This is part 5 in an 8 part series on Sticky FaithJoin our book club by signing up here. (part 123, 4)

Let’s be careful about Chapter 5. It’s easy to read this and think about our ministry by default. To not apply what we are learning to our home would be a shame.

A couple quotes from this chapter jumped out at me:

  • “The closest our research has come to that definitive silver bullet is this sticky finding: for high school and college students, there is a relationship between attendance at churchwide worship services and Sticky Faith.”
  • “the high school students we surveyed who served in children’s or middle school ministry seemed to have stickier faith in both high school and college.”
  • “Contact from at least one adult from the congregation outside the youth ministry during the first semester of college is linked with Sticky Faith.”
  • “One family we know has a special ritual that involves sending their two sons to work with men they respect.”

Kristen: I think that I give up too easily by assuming that my children don’t want to sit at the grown-ups table. I grew up sitting in church with my family. At the time there wasn’t a simultaneous children’s church or youth service option. I’m sure there were times where I was disengaged although I can’t recall specific occasions. What I do remember even several years later is being together as a family, observing my parents in worship, and talking about the sermon on the drive home. Nowadays I almost feel apologetic if one of our children sits with us in the main service. While I’m thankful for fun, “age-appropriate” learning opportunities for my children, this chapter has me re-considering ideas to integrate them better at church.

Adam: When I think of my first interactions with the Tuckers (Kristen’s parents) I can’t help but laugh. I’d never been around a family like them. They hung out together all the time. They intentionally did stuff as a family… cheesy stuff like go to the library or park or zoo together. They all listened to Christian praise music on Sunday mornings to get their hearts ready for worship. And after church, I kid you not, they talked about the sermon. I sarcastically referred to them as The Swiss Family Robinson.

Of course, there was nothing wrong with the Tuckers. I just had no idea that there were actually families like that in real life who talked to one another and genuinely liked being together. In truth, they were just ahead of their time… developing Sticky Faith in their girls way before Kara & Chap wrote the book.

Kristen: I love the concept of purposely surrounding each of my children with five adults who care about them. I feel like this is especially important since we don’t live near extended family who would otherwise help fill that role. Reading through this portion of the chapter also prompts me to want to be “that” adult for my friend’s children. This chapter has so many great ideas. I particularly love the idea of forming an intergenerational group of families to invest in one others families.

Adam: I need to confess that this is an area we need to improve in. This chapter came with some good/convicting ideas we need to try. As I reflect on God’s Word in regards to parenting it is so clear that God intended plurality in parenting. As Kristen said, while that naturally involved extended family, we don’t live close to grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. So that means we need to be more intentional about building that web of relationships for our kids.

Discussion questions

  1. To what degree are your kids at the “kids’ table” in your life? What is good about that? What might be problematic?
  2. What are the advantages of trying to surround each of your kids with five adults who care about them? What are the challenges as someone in ministry?
  3. In your role in your church, how (if at all) can you help change your church’s culture? While you may have a limited sphere of influence at your church, what changes can you suggest in your own sphere?
  4. What ideas do you have to help your kids connect with other adults and move toward the 5:1 ratio?

5. How would you explain your 5:1 goal to your kids?


Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 3

This is part 3 in an 8 part series on Sticky FaithJoin our book club by signing up here. (part 1, 2)

Kristen – Chapter one hit me hard as it exposed several weaknesses. I admitted that I while I had a ‘sticky faith’ parenting goal in mind, I had lost sight of important steps defining ‘how’ to get there. I knew that I needed to respond to what God was saying to me during the first chapter. In the past two weeks I’ve made progress towards that end. I’ve been consistent and intentional about praying out loud with the kids (note, I’ve never stopped praying for my children but I’ve not been consistent in leading them in prayer). I’ve helped Megan and Paul complete their church take-homes sheets – looking up, reading, and discussing Scripture. We’ve even had “God Talks” (as the book calls them). Specifically, talking about justice and how God calls us to act and stand up against people who are mistreating others (using the example of a current event). I started including this situation in our prayer time at the beginning of the week and updated Megan and Paul each day. Interestingly, it wasn’t until their Sunday school teacher talked about the situation that they really started asking questions. We had a great conversation that probably wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been praying all week. As we all move into chapter three, I’d love to know what kind of actions (if any) you have taken as a result of this study.

Adam – Last week, I ended the book club with a question for parents about goals. I asked, “Have you ever stated goals for your children’s faith development?” and most of us kind of winced a bit in responding to that question. (Myself included) It was an easy question to write but the fact is that it’s really hard to articulate what we would like our children’s faith to actually look like at specific life stages.

I reflected on that tension as I read chapter 3 of Sticky Faith. As a parent I have a hard time defining what faith development looks like at specific life stages of my own kids. But when it comes to my professional life? That’s like standard operating procedure in the church! I remember working on a document called “A description of a discipled person” and reviewing that with high school parents for years. How is it that I can run a parents meeting and describe in detail what a students faith should look like upon high school graduation but I can’t even articulate what that looks like in my own home?

For me, that revelation gave me a lot to reflect upon.

Identity formation, intentional friendships, the power of ritual

Our kids are 8 months, 8 years, and 10 years old. Each is full of personality. And it’s fun to imagine what they will be like as adults. Chapter 3 was a great reminder that my role as a parent has great importance in their identity formation process and I shouldn’t take that for granted.

We aren’t quite at the point where they wrestle with “Who am I?” questions. But I know that the words and actions we pour into them help them know that they are God’s beloved child. As Kristen referenced above… we can begin things in them today which will help them not only know who they are in God’s eyes, but also know that God’s Word is bedrock for figuring out who they are and where they fit in this world. It’s one thing to guide my child towards whom I want them to become. It’s an entirely different thing to help guide them on a path of discovering who God wants them to be!

Rituals and relationships are so important to this process. Ministry has lead us geographically far from our physical family. And yet God has, in His benevolence and providence, provided families and friends who deeply impact our kids. I love surrounding them with people in our life and saying, “Yes, I hope those adults rub off on my kids!” We have a lot of rituals in our house. From Saturday mornings at the Farmers Market to going to ball games to hiking Cowles mountain, we have established things that we, as McLane’s, do. But as Kristen mentioned above, we need to be more intentional about helping them connect the dots between what we are doing and why we are doing it. Megan and Paul could each tell you that we go to the Farmers Market so that they can learn where their food comes from. But I wonder if they would so quickly articulate why we worship Jesus at church?

For discussion

  1.  What are some ways you identified yourself growing up? How were they helpful to you as you grew older? How were they harmful?
  2. Of Nouwen’s three answers to the question, “Who am I?”, which of these are you most prone to rely on? Describe what that looks and feels like. Which of these does your child rely on? What does that look like?
  3. On a scale of 1 to 7, 1 being easy, 7 not so easy, how hard is it for you to see yourself as the beloved child of God? How easy is it for your child? Describe what you mean.
  4. Name some ways you can emphasize who your child is (a beloved child of God) rather than what your child does. How would this emphasis change your approach to your child’s extracurricular activities or academic achievements?

Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 2

This is part 2 in an 8 part series on Sticky FaithJoin our book club by signing up here. (part 1)

The Heart of the Matter

I read chapter 2 with a heavy heart. As a lifelong youth worker I had a hard time fully concentrating on what the words had to do with my family. Instead, my imagination ran wild with examples of students, core students, who walked away from their faith. Great students from great families whose seemingly solid faith evaporated in college.

Like you, I know families who have zero of their children walking with Jesus. (Or one out of four; two out of five, etc.) I’ve drank that bitter coffee with those tearful parents. I’ve heard their lamentations. I’ve even seen some of them start to doubt Jesus because “he wasn’t there for their kids.” Those are tough meetings and we’ve all had them. We wish we had answers but all we can offer is compassion and shared frustration.

If you are like me those meetings end and you get in your car and cry. Sure, those are tears for those students. But they are also tears of resolve. “Not my kids. What do I have to do? How can I do things differently? I can’t afford to go 0-3 in my own home.

That’s the heart of the matter. Am I wiling to change the trajectory of my parenting for the sake of their faith? Am I willing to forego my “non-negotiables” for the sake of my children wrestling with their faith in my home? (As opposed to pushing that until college.)

Inarticulate, sin managing, parent pleasers

Kara and Chap were too nice to put it this way but that’s essentially what their research reveals. Their research showed that Christian students can’t articulate in their own words or testify from their own lives what walking with Jesus means. And since we’ve elevated the role of rules to a place higher than faith, our children know how to act like a Christian without knowing what it means to truly have faith in Christ.

We assume that if our child walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and acts like a duck they must be a duck. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works with trusting Christ.

Kristen’s thoughts

Trusting God is a discipline necessary for sticky faith development. Reading this chapter has helped me realize that I need to be a stronger communicator. In not wanting to over-share certain decisions or events in our lives, I’ve missed opportunities to articulate how decisions are made based on my trust in Christ. As our children grow older, I see the value of creating discussions and activities to help develop their framework of trust.

I specifically recall a conversation last year when I asked Paul if he had ever made a decision to trust Christ. His response – “every week!” Digging deeper, what he meant was that every week in Sunday school his teacher made the class pray with along with her to “accept Jesus”. Defining what it means to trust Christ is a challenge after sorting through all the do’s and don’ts thrown their way, even (and perhaps especially) at church.

Discussion Questions

  1. Sometimes it helps to start with a goal and work backwards. Have you ever stated goals for your children’s faith development? What is the goal of toddler faith? Of elementary-aged faith? Of middle school faith? Of high school faith? Or college faith?
  2. As ministers our kids feel extra pressure to perform as “professional Christian kids.” What are ways you’ve seen your children practice “sin management?”
  3. The book stated that “obedience is a response to trust.” Why is it better to begin with trust and then respond through obedience? Is it ever good to go the other direction: obey first and hope that trust follows? Have you ever experienced either of these in your faith journey? If so, what was it like, and what happened?
  4. How do you see your child’s faith in light of this chapter? Where do you see them growing in what it means to trust Christ, and where do you see them living out the do’s and don’ts of Christianity?

Sticky Faith Book Club, Chapter 1

This is part 1 in an 8 part series on Sticky Faith. Join our book club by signing up here

A horrible reality

For Kristen and I, the journey towards Sticky Faith for our own kids began in 2008. The first seven years of parenting went by in a blur of Sunday school lessons, small groups, Wednesday night youth group, and retreats. From 2000 – 2008 seemingly all of our energy went towards our ministry. We went into ministry as a couple to serve the church together. But as time went on in reality it became that I was in full-time ministry while Kristen was a full-time parent. Our marriage was functional but periodically miserable because life wasn’t panning out the way we’d hoped. Surely, a life in full-time ministry and having a family wasn’t supposed to be like this?

We were losing them. Their child-like faith was evaporating before our eyes. We could observe it. But then Megan (then 7 years old) actually said it.

Daddy, the reason I hate church is because that’s where you love other kids but ignore us.

That was a double dagger. First, she said she hated church. Second, she hated church because of our vocation. Before she said that we knew things needed to change. But those words took the conversation from “We know we need to make adjustments” to “Holy crap, we have to change things NOW!

A commitment to change

As I read the first chapter of Sticky Faith my heart soared with the reality that it’s not too late. Maybe we lost some of the early battles but we haven’t lost the war… yet. In that regard statistics matter and don’t matter. I have three kids. It’s impossible for me to look at the 50% rate of Sticky Faith and pick 1.5 of them to make it. I can’t hold Jackson in my arms or send Paul and Megan to school hoping that one or two of them stick with Jesus into adulthood.

Kristen’s reflections:

In 1 Samuel 1:27-28, Hannah delivers her son Samuel to Eli the priest saying, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” It’s hard to imagine physically giving back a child I desperately prayed for. In reality, I know that my children already belong to the Lord. Faith development is the “giving them over to the Lord” part of my parental responsibilities. It requires action and intentionality. Gut check time. Am I intentional in building faith in my kids? Truthfully I fail (often).

Adam and I have three children – Megan (10), Paul (8) and Jackson “JT” (7 months). In case you missed it, we are far from being model parents. The statement made on page 24 gives me hope, “Hear this good news: because faith development is a lifelong process for all of us, it is never too late to be more intentional in your parenting and the faith you model and discuss with your kids.” Adam and I are still learning and developing as parents. With JT’s arrival and with Megan inching her way toward middle school, we have a new determination to make faith development a priority.

The book asks, “What do you wish you had done differently?” For me, I wish I were more intentional about developing the discipline of prayer. (Confession time, my prayer life is active but mostly private.) What about you?

Questions for parents in ministry

  1. There’s a reason you joined this book club, right? What problems are you hoping to address by reading this book and processing it’s learnings with fellow ministers?
  2. How would you define Sticky Faith for your kids?
  3. As a minister, how does it make you feel to think that you are the most important influence on your child’s faith?
  4. As you think about how you have parented thus far, what are ways that your ministry is getting in the way of your parenting?
Books parenting

Join the Sticky Faith book club

To join us, buy the book and read chapter one by October 10th

“Lord, make me a better dad.” 

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8

This is my daily prayer. Literally, it is my prayer every day. Why? Because there have been times when I’ve not been a good dad.

Here’s a painful reality that I’ve had to face: There have been times when I’ve cared more about ministering to other people’s kids while neglecting the needs of my own kids. And as I’ve shared that painful reality I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone in that struggle. It’s a common problem among ministry families and one I think we need to address together.

Your invitation

Kristen and I would like to invite you to join us in an online book club here on my blog where we will be reading, writing about, and wrestling through a brand new book. It’s called, Sticky Faith: Everyday ideas to build lasting faith in your kids by Kara Powell & Chap Clark.

About Sticky Faith

Nearly every Christian parent in America would give anything to find a viable resource for developing within their kids a deep, dynamic faith that ‘sticks’ long term. Sticky Faith delivers. Research shows that almost half of graduating high school seniors struggle deeply with their faith. Recognizing the ramifications of that statistic, the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) conducted the ‘College Transition Project’ in an effort to identify the relationships and best practices that can set young people on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service. Based on FYI findings, this easy-to-read guide presents both a compelling rationale and a powerful strategy to show parents how to actively encourage their children’s spiritual growth so that it will stick to them into adulthood and empower them to develop a living, lasting faith. Written by authors known for the integrity of their research and the intensity of their passion for young people, Sticky Faith is geared to spark a movement that empowers adults to develop robust and long-term faith in kids of all ages.

Each Monday we will write a brief reflection and some questions specifically geared for ministry families. (It’s open to anyone, obviously all Christians are in ministry to some extent, right?)

And then, just like a book club, we’ll open it up for discussion.

How long will it last?

The book is 8 chapters long, each week we will discuss a single chapter. Don’t worry– the chapters are pretty short.

Here’s the schedule:

October 10th – The not-so-sticky faith reality

October 17th – The sticky gospel

October 24th  – Sticky identity

October 31st – Stick faith conversations

November 7th – A sticky web of relationships

November 14th – Sticky justice

November 28th – A sticky bridge out of home

December 5th – The ups and downs of the sticky faith journey

Why this book?

  1. There are a lot of great books out there for parents, but this one is grounded in brand new research conducted by Fuller Youth Institute. Then they took their findings through a series of tests and dry runs to make sure that their learnings correlated. And only then did they boil it down into transferable principles. I think that sets it apart from most.
  2. Like I shared at the beginning, I think parents in ministry sometimes lose sight of their own kids. I’d like to help bring the focus on learning how to raise our own kids for a bit.
  3. I want to be a better dad. Kristen and I don’t have it all figured out. And we’d like the opportunity to learn from others so we can parent better.
  4. Kara Powell, Chap Clark, Brad Griffin, and the folks at FYI are amazing people. They have poured their heart and soul into this project. And I would love to see their hard work benefit families in my life.

How do I join the book club?

  1. Fill out the form below so we can follow-up with you along the way.
  2. Buy the book; read the first chapter by October 10th. (It’d be great if couples joined us!)
  3. Agree to participate in the discussion and contribute to the group. (Guest posts totally encouraged!)

Where do I buy the book?

  • – paperback or Kindle (I make 6% commission if you buy it this way)
  • – Pretty sure Doug is selling it cheaper than anyone, I don’t make anything from the sale but I did build his store, isn’t that cool?

Join the Sticky Faith online book club

It's free, all you need to do is buy the book and keep up!
  • You don't have to be married or even have kids to join. But if you are doing the book club as a couple we'd love to know that.
  • So we can follow up with you if you get quiet.

Have questions? Leave a comment.

Q1: I’m not in ministry, can I be in the book club? Absolutely! Just know that we’ll be gearing the discussion towards ministry families.

Books youth ministry

3 Books Youth Workers Need to Buy this Fall

Of all the books that are new this fall, here are three that I’m recommending you buy:


Sticky FiathSticky Faith: Everyday ideas to build lasting faith in your kids – Put together a 6-week parents discussion group with the parents in your youth group and work your way through Sticky Faith together. You don’t want to see students leave the church; parents don’t want to see that either. Kara Powell & Chap Clark put together an amazing study of 500 students and their transition from high school faith to college faith.  Sticky Faith shares their learnings plus robust ideas for helping reverse the trends their research revealed. Check out this article about Sticky Faith in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Small Groups

The Jesus Creed for StudentsThe Jesus Creed for Students – I loved Scot McKnight’s best seller The Jesus Creed. This is an excellent adaptation of that work for middle/high school small groups. Chris Folmsbee and Syler Thomas, two youth workers with years of experience, help students grasp what it means to love the Lord with everything and love their neighbors as themselves.

Youth ministry strategy

Youth Ministry on a ShoestringYouth Ministry on a Shoestring – Let’s quickly have the chuckle. Yes– it’s a bit funny that the Lars Rood works at one of the most resourced churches in the world in one of the wealthiest communities in the world. What the title doesn’t convey is a fantastically freeing strategy: How to do amazing things for no, or almost no cost. Lars’ ministry strength is creating unforgettable experiences and moments in the lives of his students and he will share with you how to do that, generally at zero cost to your youth ministry budget. The back section of the book is full of real-life examples from youth workers around the country applying the strategy.

Question: What’s your favorite new youth ministry resource?

youth ministry

The Parent Gap

As a kid, my parents weren’t that involved in church. There was a time when half of my family had some friends in church and did some stuff around the church. But by and large I was the church-e-est of the bunch from about 5th grade until now.

I think my reality as a high school student has peppered my entire career in youth ministry.

  • We are paid by, and charged to serve, the needs of 5% of the population who pay our salary.
  • We are called by, and charged by Jesus, to reach the 95% of the populations with our very lives. (Romans 12:1)

It’s not truly an either or situation. It isn’t that you need to make a choice to only serve Christian families or only serve non-Christian families.

Yet it is that you need to bear in mind that your youth ministry can’t assume that every family is like your “best” Christian families. My parents were actually very supportive of my church-life. They drove me to stuff. They paid for stuff. And even though they were only passively interested in the Christian life for themselves, they were highly appreciative that men and women were investing in my faith development.

Ultimately, Christian families aren’t your primary target audience. God is holding them responsible for their faith development of their children. Research shows that the biggest influence on the faith development of a child growing up in a Christian home is the parent… not the church. (No matter how cool the youth pastor is.)

How can we expect students who aren’t from Christian homes to bridge that gap and be a part of a ministry with constant parental involvement demands? That’s just not realistic.

To reach more people we don’t need a new program. We need a new strategy.


  1. Am I just off my rocker here?
  2. What are some ways you’ve had success engaging the general parent population in your community?
  3. Do you see Christian parents in your ministry as those you serve or those you empower to reach their peers with the Gospel?
  4. How do you, as a youth pastor or youth ministry volunteer, hold Christian parents of teenagers accountable to their responsibilities in the home?