The book comes in two editions; for youth leaders, and for parents, and is accompanied by a comprehensive website that provides additional material and regular updates over at stickyfaith.org. The whole idea is based on six years of study by the US based Fuller Youth Institute who set up the College Transition Project, a longitudinal study that followed over 500 high school seniors during their first three years in college. As they state:
The goals of this research are to understand the dynamics of youth group graduates’ transition to college and to identify the relationships and best practices in youth ministries, churches, and families that can help set students on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service.
Despite being based on some rigorous academic research (you can read the research overview and criteria on the site), the books are very accessible with lots of stories and examples to help draw out the findings. They are also very honest and don’t shy away from asking hard questions such as ‘why do so many “Christian” young people end up walking away from their faith?’ While there are no easy answers here, the authors do suggest some key ingredients they have found that make a lasting impact on the young people they studied helping them to retain a ‘Sticky Faith’.
By “Sticky Faith” we mean a combination of characteristics, all of which exist in a dynamic tension…
- Faith that is both internalized and externalized: a faith that is part of a student’s inner thoughts and emotions, and is also externalized in choices and actions that reflect that faith commitment. These behaviors include regular attendance in a church/campus group, prayer and Bible reading, service to others, and lower participation in risk behaviors, in particular sex and alcohol (two behaviors we are studying specifically). In other words, Sticky Faith involves whole-person life integration, at least to some degree.
- Faith that is both personal and communal: a faith that celebrates God’s specific care for each person while always locating faith in the global and local community of the Church.
- Faith that is both mature and maturing: a faith that shows marks of spiritual maturity but is also in process of growth. We don’t assume a high school senior or college freshman (or a youth worker for that matter) will have a completely “mature” faith. We are all in process.
Encouragingly, the research confirms that it’s never too early or too late to start developing faith that continues to grow and lasts and gives a good theological/philosophical framework and some practical relationship and programming ideas that develop long-term faith in teenagers.