Early on in my church ministry, I received the book Sticky Faith from a parishioner who was a venture capitalist. I remember the day he came into the church office carrying a copy of this book and feeling much inspired. He’d just heard the “pitch-deck” of a fledgling company that used the resources named in Sticky Faith. Ray has since gone on to be with Jesus, but what he shared in that brief conversation has stayed with me.
The simplicity is almost too easy and can be missed: “Youth need to participate in worship.”
Worship isn’t meant to be passively accepted as a weekly experience. Rather, youth must take ownership and become involved. As Episcopalians, it is easy to have the mindset that “why of course the youth are involved in worship! We see the acolytes every week!” But Sticky Faith requires more than vesting and serving at the table. Youth need to feel like they have a voice and that their opinions matter.
Sticky Faith, written by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark, is backed and supported by the Fuller Youth Institute. The Vision Statement of the Fuller Youth Institute located in Southern California is, “We equip diverse leaders and parents so faithful young people can change our world.”
The Fuller Youth Institute’s website has this to say about Sticky Faith.
- “Despite the age segregation that exists in our churches and broader culture, each young person is greatly benefited when surrounded by a team of five adults. We call this the new 5:1 ration.”
- “Many young people see faith like that of a jacket: something that they can put on or take off based on their behavior. We seek to help students develop a more robust understanding of the gospel, one that integrates faith into all aspects of life.”
- “Research demonstrates that parents are the #1 influencers when it comes to spirituality in young people-yes, even teenagers. We help leaders develop new ways to partner with parents, empowering them to nurture faith in their families.”
- “Doubt is not toxic to faith. Silence is. Young people want conversations in response to their hardest questions, not just answers. We offer tools and training for these discussions that deepen the faith of everyone involved.”
Gleaning from this Fuller Youth Institute, here at Saint Michael and All Angels in California I have been intentional about how we invite our youth and children to participate in worship and church programs.
Intergenerational ministry has many different faces. During the past year, as church life slowly gets back to motion, we have tried different models of intergenerational church ministry with relatively good success. Most recently was our Youth Sunday which always takes place at the end of the school year in June. Our homilist was a college student, the lessons and Prayers of the People were read by a fifth and seventh grader, and elementary age children shadowed the ushers. The bulletin artwork was also created by our youth. The joys of the day can be seen on the faces of all who participate.
Our other intergenerational events take place following worship on the church patio. Long rectangular tables are set up with all the necessary supplies. Those attending Coffee Hour can continue chatting, while others “get to work” on whatever project is fitting to our liturgical calendar. Advent Wreath making was a fun one! The seasonal activities also appeal to our college students as they return home at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. And, it’s always good to see them!
Next month we will hold the “Blessing of the Backpacks” at announcement time in worship. In early December, we will offer a Gingerbread House making event. Our Shrove Tuesday has become Shrove Sunday with brunch and pancake races taking place after worship. We hold a Stations of the Cross for Families on Good Friday. And in summer, our Vacation Bible School “Journey with the Saints” is intergenerational at its zenith!
This year, I reached out to FORMA and VTS formation leaders Sarah Bentley Allred and Altagracia Pérez-Bullard during their office hours. These Zoom meetings have been a fabulous resource as fellow formation leaders share ideas for the coming year. One offering that I found most endearing was the “Genius Bar” in which youth have a special booth on the church patio to answer “tech” questions. This is one of the many creative ways for youth to interact with the other age groups. It is a Win Win! Sarah and Altagracia support intergenerational ministry and are great listeners. Need to find inspiration? Be sure to register and Zoom in, they are available Tuesday and Thursdays from 1:00 – 2:00 PM EST. I highly recommend it!
How have you creatively approached intergenerational ministry in your church context?