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.