How to Keep Kids from Leaving Their Faith After High School

We just finished a sermon series at my church based on the book Sticky Faith by Kara Powell and Chap Clark (I provide an outline of that sermon series below). This is a breakthrough book in the area of youth ministry. 

Sticky Faith, by Kara Powell and Chap ClarkSticky Faith, by Kara Powell and Chap Clark

The Problem

The problem this book addresses is the fact that 40-50% of kids who grow up in the church end up leaving their faith and the church after high school.

As a result, the question this book raises is, how do we help kids' faith "stick" after high school?

Based on their research, the answer to that question is not "Come up with a better program" or "Hire a better youth pastor." The answer lies with the congregation as a whole.

What do kids need?

What kids need in order for their faith to stick is relationships with adults in the congregation.

Chap Clark, in fact, suggests that rather than the typical youth ministry ratio of 1:5 (one adult for every five kids), churches need to adopt a 5:1 mentality (five adults for every one kid). This doesn't mean that we need five youth leaders for every one kid at youth group. It means that every kid needs to have at least five relationships with adults in their church. Every kid needs at least five adults who are in some way loving them, caring about them, pouring themselves into them.  This includes youth leaders, but it also includes grandmas and grandpas in the congregation, parents of friends, coaches, teachers, and so forth.

Sticky Faith Sermon Series

As a resource, here's how I organized our Sticky Faith sermon series. All of these sermons are available at my church's website:

1. Not So Sticky:  A lot of churches have a great youth ministry. Very few churches actually build a faith in their kids that will last beyond high school. Why is that? What are we missing? This sermon begins to address the challenge of why we’re not building a lasting faith in our kids’ lives.  Listen to "Not So Sticky."

2. It Takes a Church: The challenge of youth ministry is what Chap Clark calls the “one-eared Mickey Mouse.” It’s a model of youth ministry in which the youth ministry is connected to, but separate from, the congregation as a whole. This is one of the primary reasons kids’ faith often doesn’t stick. So, how do we begin to build a sticky faith in our kids? Begin to realize that it is everyone’s responsibility to pass faith on to the next generation.  Listen to "It Takes a Church."

3. The Kids' Table: Remember sitting at the kids’ table at family gatherings when you were a kid? Why did our parents make us sit at the kids’s table? Sure, there wasn’t quite enough room for everyone in the dining room. Sure, it’s more fun for the kids to sit at their own table. But, intentionally or unintentionally, there’s a kind of segregation going on. This is what happens to kids when we give them their own programs, events, and staff. And this segregation is causing kids to “shelve their faith” (Sticky Faith, p. 95.). So, then, what can the church do?  Listen to "The Kids' Table."

4. Bags of Gold: Jesus tells a parable about a master who entrusted his servants with his great wealth. Two of his servants multiplied what they had been given. But one buried his “talent” in the ground until the master returned. Kids are a precious gift that God has entrusted to us. The question for us is, are we being good stewards of the children in our lives?  Listen to "Bags of Gold."

5. Let's Get Sticky: In this Sticky Faith series, we’ve talked a lot about how important kids are to God. And how tragic it is that so many of our kids are leaving the faith and the church after high school. So, what should we do? Here are bunch of ideas for building “sticky faith” in our kids.  Listen to "Let's Get Sticky."

What youth ministry challenges do you face at your church?  How do you think your church does with the 5:1 ratio of adults to kids?

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