Blog | Topic: Sticky Faith

Rethinking Worldview: J. Mark Bertrand Interview

Bertrand_slideshowThe term worldview is now widely used in discussions about faith, philosophy, culture and education. The word jumped into English from the German, Weltanschauung, and has become increasingly familiar in the last fifty years, especially in some Christian circles. Many Christians latched onto the term because it helped to describe the all-encompassing, cosmic scope of the Gospel. The Christian faith is not just a religion, but a way of life that has far-reaching implications for the way we “see” reality and live in the world. A worldview is a vision of life and for life. Familiarity often breeds contempt, however. While many agree that the popularity and wide-spread acceptance of the concept has been a good thing for the church, some critics suggest proceeding with caution when teaching that Christianity is a worldview.

J. Mark Bertrand has spent much of his adult life teaching young people the value of understanding worldviews and thinking “Christianly” about all areas of life. But he too has concerns about the misuse and misapplication of the term. In his book Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World (Crossway) Bertrand seeks to capture a more complex, nuanced appreciation of what worldviews really are. Bertrand has a degree in English from Union University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston. He is also the author of a successful 3-part series of “Roland March” detective novels (Back on Murder, Pattern of Wounds and Nothing to Hide). What follows is an interview with Bertrand about worldview and how the concept, when properly understood can help young people grow in faith…

Download the interview (.pdf) here.

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Finding Christian Community: 5 Ways to Help Students Connect

Community_slideshowOne of my favorite questions to ask current college students or recently graduated college students is this: what was the best piece of advice you were given before going to college? Here’s a response I received a few weeks ago at a picnic. Between bites of nachos, the student said: “My youth pastor told me to be intentional about finding Christian community. He was so emphatic about it that I remember frantically walking around campus asking everyone I met if they knew about any Christian groups on campus. One of the first people I talked to was a Christian and she’s one of my best friends today. Together we were able to find a group and get connected to a church.” This story reminds us of two things we all need to know about students transitioning to college.

First, the first two weeks of college are critical. Nationally, 25 percent of students do not return to the same school for their sophomore year. On a recent trip to a large Midwestern State University, I learned that this university has been able to reduce that number to 3-4 percent. They’ve found that students transition better and remain at their university longer if the students find good, supportive community quickly. The university leadership recognized that there were only two prominent scenarios for incoming students. Some students would look to the party scene to find friends. While this did provide community, it wasn’t the most beneficial. Other students would fall through the cracks, not really getting involved on campus during the week and going home on the weekends. The university responded by pouring more funding and energy into first-year programs. Helping students find a place to belong has made all the difference in the world in their retention rates.

Second, the opening story reminds us that Christians need to intentionally seek out Christian community on campus. Kara Powell of the Fuller Youth Institute estimates that 40 percent of Christian students do not get connected to Christian community while in college. During the first few weeks of college, students are bombarded with different activities to fill their schedules. Everything is new: people, buildings, class, meal times. Many students are navigating these daily activities on their own for the first time. It’s easy to drop worship and “Bible study” from an already hectic schedule.

What can be done to help students make wise decisions in how they spend their time and who they spend it with? Are there steps that can be taken by youth workers and parents to assist in this transition? What follows are five suggestions to help students connect to Christian community on campus…

Download the full article(.pdf) here.

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Combating Senioritis: 3 Activities for College Bound Students

senioritis2It’s that time of year. Senioritis at school and church is kicking in. Students are ready to coast to the finish-line and make their way to the next chapter of their life story. For many graduating seniors (but not all), the “next step” will be college in the fall. According to recent research by the Fuller Youth Institute only 1 in 7 high school seniors report feeling prepared to face the challenges of college life. How can we engage seniors during the last few months of high school so that they are better prepared for the challenges ahead? What follows are three suggested activities to invite students to think more deeply about this crucial transition (each activity takes about an hour and could work well as three consecutive youth group meetings):

First, create space for better conversations about life after high school. Host a panel discussion with college students and have soon-to-be graduates ask them questions about how they can be better prepared. Consider including older members of the community as well. Have them reflect on their own decisions and transitions when they were about to graduate from high school. Ask people 20+ years removed from college this question: If you could do it all over again, what would you have done differently? Conclude the meeting by giving students the article “Conversations for the College Bound: 10 Talks to Have Before Arriving on Campus.” Have the students discuss the article with the group.

Suggested questions:

What conversation(s) stuck out to you as you read?

Were there any conversation partners listed that you hadn’t considered?

What conversations would you like to pursue over the next few weeks?

Second, have an open and honest conversation about faith after high school. To generate good discussion, watch a Veritas Forum video with college bound students. Veritas Forums are university events that engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life. I highly recommend The Veritas Forum featuring Tim Keller at the University of California, Berkeley.

Suggested questions:

What stuck out to you as you listened to Dr. Keller presentation?

What do you think were his strongest points?

Did you have any disagreements with Dr. Keller arguments for belief in God and the Christian faith?

How do you think Dr. Keller handled the questions from the audience? What can you learn from him about how to have discussions with people who disagree with your worldview?

If you were given the task of explaining or defending the Christian faith at an event like The Veritas Forum, how would you do it? What would the outline of your talk be? Would you be nervous? Why or why not?

Third, help students connect with Christian community before they arrive on campus. Remind students of the value and necessity of community to Christian faith. As you learn where students will be going to college, take a proactive approach by contacting campus ministries and churches in those areas. Start by asking others in your congregation who might be familiar with the community in which the college is located. Next, browse the college’s Web site to see what is offered on campus. Send e-mails and make phone calls. Get in touch with campus ministers and pastors in the area. Consider using a night at youth group to help college bound students make these important connections months before they arrive on campus. Check out this article for more ideas: “Finding Community in College: 5 Ways to Help Students Connect.”

Suggestion questions:

Do you think it will be easy or difficult to make new friends in college?

Why do you think community is important to Christian faith?

Do you think college relationships will be the same as high school relationships? Why or why not?

Do you think you will attend church while in college? Why or why not?

Related Resources:



Expert Interview: “Understanding Teens After High School

Expert Interview: “The Fabric of Lasting Faith

Expert Interview: “Sex on Campus

Book: Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning

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Sticky Faith is Deep and Church-Wide at NMC!

Sticky FaithNappanee Missionary Church (NMC) in Nappanee, Indiana is committed to helping youth and families develop a faith that “sticks” after high school. Over the past few years the people of NMC have been greatly challenged by statistics that suggests many students who grow up in the church leave the faith after high school. NMC has also been significantly influenced, encouraged and equipped by the Sticky Faith research and resources provided by Fuller Theological Seminary. So much so, in fact, that one of NMC’s staff members includes the phrase “sticky faith” in his job title. His main responsibilities are helping the church think through a “sticky faith perspective” for all ages and levels of discipleship.

This past weekend I had the honor of spending time with students and parents at NMC. I presented the College Transition Seminar, was interviewed by youth pastor Derry Prenkert during three worship services and spoke to the youth group about Identity Matters on Sunday evening (cut a little short by an ice storm!). It was encouraging to see a church that is thinking deeply and strategically about how to best serve and disciple students and families. Thank you, NMC, for your example to all of us!

Click here to watch a video of Derry’s sermon (The Exchange Lane) and my interview (15:08).

Click here to download (.pdf)  the sermon notes as well as to see a collection of helpful “Sticky Faith” resources.

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A Crisis of Faith? Questions and Doubts for College Students

During a seminar for transitioning high school students and their parents, a parent made a comment that was very helpful. I was discussing the place of doubt within the life of a follower of Christ. One of my main points I really wanted the students to grasp was this: “It is okay to ask questions and to have doubts about faith.” In fact, I explained, doubting is part of the normal process of taking ownership of their faith. I challenged students with these words:

Faith does not deepen through being allowed to stagnate, but through being applied. In this respect, doubt is a positive thing. It is a stimulus to growth in faith. It snaps us out of complacency. – Alister McGrath

The reason many of us do not ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts. – Eugene Peterson

A parent raised his hand and made an insightful observation. He turned toward the students and said, “If you come across a difficult problem in algebra, you don’t have a math crisis. You go to someone for help. And you start with the assumption that you will be able to find an answer. Do the same thing when questions arise about the Christian faith.”

Now that’s a great point! Questions and doubts will come. The question is what will students do with them? Will they go looking for answers: asking pastors, reading books, taking them to God in prayer? I hope so. Here’s my advice in Make College Count: “Just know that when you hear a powerful argument against Christian faith, chances are pretty good that you can find a thoughtful Christian response.”

A report from the Barna Group revealed “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church.”  Reason #6 states: “The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.” Now that shouldn’t be the case. Here are a few resources to help us better prepare students for the doubts they will face and for helping the church to be a more welcoming place for those who are wrestling with faith:


Article: “Where Doubt Falls Short” by Jonathan Dunn (Relevant).

Article: “I Doubt It: Allowing Space for Questions” by Kara Powell and Brad Griffin of the Fuller Youth Institute.

Video: John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt (Calvin College’s January Series)

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What Makes Faith Stick?

Research from the Fuller Youth Institute reveals surprising insights into instilling lasting faith in young people. It is estimated that around 50% of students that grow up in the Christian faith walk away from the church after high school. Many church leaders have known about this growing trend but have not been sure what to do about it. The Fuller Youth Institute, under the direction of Dr. Kara Powell, conducted a ground-breaking, four-year study of this phenomenon. This “Sticky Faith” research followed teenagers from their senior year of high school until their senior year of college, hoping to discover what helped them to make their faith stick. Dr. Powell explains, “As many churches and denominations experience decline, and as anxious parents wonder about their children’s futures, the Sticky Faith research has the power to spark a movement that not only changes youth, but also families and churches.”

Here are three key findings to consider:  First, while most U.S. churches focus on building strong youth groups, teenagers also need to build relationships with adults of all ages. Teens need intergenerational community. Second, churches and families overestimate youth group graduates’ readiness for the struggles ahead with dire consequences for the faith. Most teens are not ready for the challenges and temptations of life after high school. Third, while teaching young people the “dos” and “don’ts” of Christian living is important, an overemphasis on behaviors can sabotage faith long-term. Teens desperately need a Gospel of heart transformation, not just behavior modification.

Visit the Sticky Faith website to learn more about the research and to discover helpful resources that equip parents and churches to nurture in young people a faith that lasts.

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