Contents in order – top to bottom: (1) Andy Stanley’s “7 Practices of Effective Ministry,” (2) Fuller’s “Sticky Faith”

Connections for Ministry – Executive Summaries

Leader’s Helping Leaders One Idea at a Time

Title of Book/ Publisher/Author

7 Practices of Effective Ministry, North Pointe Resources Multnomah Press (2004), Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and Lane Jones

Focus Statement

“Your ministry is perfectly designed to achieve the results you are currently getting.  If you are satisfied with your results, then there is no sense in complicating your life with these seven practices.  But if you are ready for change, if you see need for improvement, then the principles in this book will give you traction as you press on toward your preferred future.” (185)

Context/Frame/Issue Generating the book

While the average church size in North America continues to shrink, many Church leaders are looking to the latest, greatest “program” to help their churches grow.  Most of us want to just add water and stir.  Andy Stanley and his staff believe that there is no such program.  The solution is finding principles and practices that help the church change direction and serve as a template to understand what needs to be done and how to do it.

Summary

The book is laid out in two parts.  Part one is a fictional story about a pastor who is struggling to lead his church in growth.  He is burned out and feeling frustrated at having to do the same things over and over… and getting the same results every time.  He skips a Church Board meeting and goes to a baseball game.  This has been arranged by one of his elders with the agreement of the other Board members.

At the baseball game he finds himself with seats that are reserved for VIPs.  Sitting next to him is an older man who clearly loves the game.  As they visit he discovers that the gentleman is the owner of the team and has some wisdom in how to set up and lead organizations for growth.  What the gentleman shares are seven practices used to make the organization run well and be successful.

The second part of the book is a practice by practice explanation of how Stanley, his staff and the leadership at NorthPointeChurch put the practices to use.  They stress that the goal is not to help your church become a mega church, but rather it is to help your church be more effective at reaching your community for Christ.  Included in the chapters are small examples of how they effectively used these practices in practical ways.

“The seven practices are designed to provide a template that will help you determine which programs to start, what to stop, and how to improve what’s working.”  (10)

So what are the seven practices?  The authors provide a very clear description of the 7 practices on pages 10 and 11, so I’ll step out of the way and let you hear it straight from them.

  1. Clarify the Win.  It is impossible to know if you are making progress if you are not clear about your destination.  This means examining each and every event and program and asking the question, “When all is said and done, what is it we want to look back on and celebrate?”
  2. Think Steps, Not Programs. Your programs should take people somewhere, not simply fill up their time.  Ask yourself, “Where do we want our people to be?  What do we want them to become?  Is our programming designed to take them there?”
  3. Narrow the Focus.  Focus is the key to achieving excellence and making an impact.  Each ministry environment should be designed to do no more than one or two things well.
  4. Teach for More.  The less you say, the more you will communicate.  You will be more effective at every level of your organization if you say only what you need to say to the people who need to hear it.
  5. Listen to Outsiders.  The needs and interests of insiders have a tendency to determine the agenda for the organization.  This is especially true of the church.  Focus your efforts on those you’re trying to reach, rather than on those you are trying to keep.
  6. Replace Yourself.  One day someone else will be doing what you are doing.  Whether you have an exit strategy or not, ultimately, you will exit.  So embrace the inevitable and prepare now for the future.
  7. Work On It.  To maintain your relevance, your sanity, and your effectiveness, you must carve out time in your schedule to step back and evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing it.

“That’ll Preach”

“Effective leaders constantly hold up clear pictures of what the church is supposed to be, so that everyone understands what it is not supposed to be.”  (76)

“Countless organizations paste on their walls meaningless phrases that never stick in the hearts of their leaders because the words never become part of their everyday language.  If you want your leaders to buy into it, you have to keep finding creative ways to clarify the win.” (81)

“If you want to make a lasting impact, then you need to eliminate what you do well for the sake of what you can potentially do best.” (100)

“To put it another way, our insiders have decided that the needs of outsiders are more important than their own.  When that happens the ‘listen to outsiders’ practice has become an integral part of your culture.” (151)

Ideas for Ministry

Get this book into the hands of your Session Members.  It really is written with discussion by a group in mind.  The goal is to get your leadership team on the same page.

Don’t discuss these principles in a theoretical way, rather talk about specifics of how each principle could impact your church.

“What are you doing “well” that is using up resources that keep you from doing “best” in another area?

Analysis: Strengths and Concerns

(Strengths) The practices are laid out very well and the language used is clear and easy to follow.  They also aren’t about buying North Pointe’s “material.”  This is not a church-in-a-box type program.  The tone is never condescending, nor preachy.  The goal is to be helpful in making ministry effective.

Some might be concerned that this sounds like material that might come from the business world or the latest management gurus.  That’s because it does.  These are principles that are used in the corporate world to better reach their target audience with what they have to offer: the old enculturation of the Gospel argument.  As I write about the concern some may have that the ideas for the seven practices comes from the business world, it seems to me to be an empty argument.  I am reading and writing this summary from left to right and in the English language… both would probably be foreign to Jesus’ hearers.  There are many things we do to bring the Gospel into the culture we live.  If we want to reach those who live in a commercial world we best learn the commercial culture and language.  That is what this books attempts to do.

(Weakness) I would say that the weakness of this book is in its expectation that everyone will want to do the hard work that it asks.  These are not quick fix solutions that can be tweaked and then move on to the next “program.”  These seven practices take time, energy, and a serious willingness to lead your congregation to change.  Stanley, et. al. seem to assume that every pastor will want to do this, when many pastors want to maintain the status quo of loving their congregation and tending to their needs without worrying about the size of the church, nor with how well the church is or isn’t reaching its community.  Stanley and crew started from scratch in building North Pointe.  They sometimes fail to understand how difficult it can be to get buy in from leaders who are heavily invested in the “way we have always done it.”

Connections for Ministry – Executive Summaries (submitted January 14, 2013)

Leaders Helping Leaders One Idea at a Time

Title of Book / Publisher / Author(s)

Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, Zondervan (2011), Chap Clark and Kara Powell

Focus Statement (no more than one line)

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a faith community to make a true disciple of Jesus.

Context / Frame / Issue Generating the book (200 words or less)

Sticky Faith decries the results of churches’ practice of youth ghetto-ization in ministry: our youth move away to college and away from Christ, out of the church and out of the Christian faith.  The authors studied difficulties in transitioning youth into faithful adults and suggest ways to create faith that sticks.  The authors’ found that “40 to 50 percent of kids who graduate from a church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college…only 20 percent of college students who leave the faith planned to do so…we grieve over the 40 to 70 percent of kids who left their faith behind and won’t rediscover it in adulthood” (15-16).  “Dr. Tim Clydesdale…concluded, ‘Given the seeming importance of retaining youth for most religious groups in the United States, it is striking how haphazardly most congregations go about it” (27).  Sticky Faith describes ways parents, who are the primary shapers of faith, and churches, as intergenerational faith communities, can build within youth faith that is both internal and external, both personal and communal, both mature and maturing.  It is never too late to start; it is never too early to start building faith that sticks.

Summary / Overview (1500 – 3000 words)

Sticky Faith seeks to provide the theoretical framework and practical suggestions necessary to assist parents and churches toward guiding their youth into an adulthood where Christian faith and practice is deep, vital and living.  The core message of the book is that youth faith development requires  connections with adults: more in number, greater in diversity and deeper in faith sharing. The book consists of eight chapters, helpfully divided into four segments each: (1) opening and sidebar quotes from youth, (2) brief explication of theory, (3) expansive lists of practical ideas and (4) questions for small group discussion.

Chapter 2 (The Sticky Gospel) – Using John 6:28-29 and Galatians 5:5-6 as their foundational scripture verses, the authors argue that many churches are proclaiming a “gospel of sin management” – do go to church, read the Bible, pray, etc.; don’t drink, do drugs, have sex, etc. – rather than teaching our youth how to trust God.  Citing Jesus, the authors argue that “the work of God is this: to believe [or trust, pistueo] in the one he has sent” (35). Learning to trust God in every situation, for all aspects of one’s life, is the core of the “sticky gospel” that will lead our youth toward a life-long commitment to Jesus.  To begin this journey into teaching our children and youth to trust Jesus, we – parents and church leaders – must first and foremost ourselves learn to trust Jesus: parental modeling is the most important and powerful influence on kids’ faith!  Practically, the authors suggests three things to serve as first steps in promoting a gospel founded on trusting the Lord:

  • Prioritize trust over obedience by framing every situation as an opportunity to deepen our trust that God is alive in our lives and seeking our good.  Rather than the pat answer, “Well, this is what God wants,” offer the more difficult discussion starter, “What does trusting God look like in this situation?”  Always remember that in the gospel obedience follows trust and is an outgrowth of trusting God, the expression of trusting God.  But trust comes first.
  • Frame discussions and activities as opportunities to know and trust Christ.  Rather than make the “adult” decisions in the home, bring your kids into the process: “To what charity should we give our family’s community Christmas gift this year?”  Rather than burden your child with advice, ask them: “What do you hear God calling you to do in this situation with your friend?” Rather than fill every moment of their schedule, offer them the opportunity to make decisions about how they will serve the Lord with their time.
  • Respond with grace when your child misbehaves. If your default response is compassion, you are less likely to panic and more likely to take the long view: parenting is a marathon, not a sprint; our children’s journey, like our own, will have bumps and bruises but by the grace of God they will walk with Jesus.

Chapter 3 (Sticky Identity) – One of the difficulties the modern youth has with faith development is the complexity of our society.  The notion of adolescence (14-22 years) is a relatively new phenomenon, having been identified by psychologists only within the last 100 years, and is an expanding notion (starting earlier, ending later – 11-25); indeed, a new phrase that has been coined is “emerging adulthood” to describe the transition from late adolescence to early adulthood.  The consequence of this explosion of complexity in our society is that many of our youth respond by (a) focusing social, emotional and intellectual energy on “daily life management” (54) and (b) hiding their faith in an “identity lock box,” (54) in which kids think, “I don’t have time (or inclination) for my faith right now but will get back to it (or not) eventually.”

The dilemma of emerging adulthood is one of identity.  The authors quote Henri Nouwen whose insight into the question, “Who am I?,” is that individuals tend to answer the question in one of three ways: “I am what I do,” “I am what I control,” or “I am what others say about me” (57).  Rather than any of these three anthrocentric questions, Nouwen urges a deeper question: “Who am I according to Jesus and the Bible?”  The answer, of course, is that we are created, redeemed and loved children of God called into useful service to bring God’s blessing into the world.  To foster and encourage this latter question as a source of identity, the authors suggest the following:

  • Use your community – the adult friendships that you have – to encourage and shape your child’s identity in the direction of “I am a child of God before all else.”
  • Use rituals to reinforce identity, whether daily or seasonal rituals within one’s family or, especially, at significant life events such as confirmation, graduation, etc.
  • Use hardship to help your child grow.
  • Use extracurricular activities to explore identity.
  • Affirm character growth more than academic achievement.
  • Model a living, loving, seeking relationship with God: do you trust Jesus with your life?

Chapter 4 (Sticky Faith Conversations) – Shockingly, only one in eight (12%) youth have faith conversations with their mom and only one in twenty (5%) youth have faith conversations with their dad, and youth whose parents are Christian are less likely to discuss sex and other touchy subjects than their non-religious friends!  Yet the authors’ research demonstrates that sticky faith is developed when parents (a) talk about their faith, (b) talk about their doubts and (c) encourage individual thought – whether trusting or doubting – by their child.  The authors lament the absence of conversation between Christian parents and their children, yet they provide several practical ways to get connected and get dialoguing with one another, including:

  • Make (not hope for) space and time for quality conversations by managing your schedule and looking for opportunities to have simple, natural conversations (e.g. while watching TV, in the car, at dinner, etc.).
  • Learn to listen and ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions rather than lecture. Most of our youth “know” the right answer that parents want to hear; what they crave is an honest engagement with an authentic question.
  • If you ask a question of your child, be willing to answer it for yourself; think dialogue not monologue and thereby model for your child the inner life of a disciple who wonders and questions, who does not have all the answers but is willing to trust Jesus nonetheless.
  • Gently confront the touchy subjects head on!  If you need to process your fear-based anxieties with your spouse or an adult friend before hand, do it…but then talk about whatever is needful with your child.

Chapter 5 (A Sticky Web of Relationships) – In what this reviewer believes is the most significant chapter in the book, the authors use the image of a family’s two tables at a holiday dinner – a kids’ table and the adults’ table – to describe the sad state a youth ghetto-ization within the church. It is no wonder our kids struggle to make the transition to new churches when going to college: “they know youth group, not church” (100).  To encourage full and true inclusion within the church is to develop sticky faith.  The most significant thing a church can do for youth is include them in intergenerational worship; say good-bye to “adult worship” upstairs (in the nice sanctuary) and “youth worship” downstairs (in the dark, damp basement).  The second and third most significant things churches can do is to involve youth in service to children and encourage them in relationships with other adults.

An insight the authors had was to reverse the well-known 5:1 ratio of youth to adults for a typical youth group outing and call for a 1:5 ratio of youth to adults surrounding them as models and mentors, offering wisdom and encouragement.  Parents can help create this 1:5 ratio by encouraging adult friendships among their children.  For instance, the father-son trip to the ballpark can become the father-son and two other guys outing.  Or again, girls’ movie night out to see Twilight can include all the teenage daughters in each household so that the teenage youth can see the movie, too (again).  Churches can help create this 1:5 ratio by ending the practice of segregation and ghetto-ization of our youth.  Rather than the pastor handing out Bibles to third graders, the pastor and a teen can hand them out together.  Rather than hosting a youth mission trip, host an all-church mission trip.  If the youth object to losing “their” mission trip, change the typical 5:1 ratio by inviting nine adults to chaperone instead of three.  The possibilities for creative life-sharing are endless: whatever it takes, get kids and adults connected!

Chapter 6 (Sticky Justice) – Sticky faith is concerned with justice, especially for this generation of Millenials.  Although service is important, justice is the goal; beyond giving the cup of water, justice requires we understand why access to water is impeded for some but not others.  The concern for justice, as the authors take pains to note, is a core biblical value and related to God’s gift of shalom, but how to encourage a concern for justice within our youth?  The authors highlight four essential values for parents and churches regarding justice: (1) it must be literally in our homes, both modeled and practiced; (2) it must thematically connect to our kids own lives; (3) it must be experienced personally as our kids encounter those who are or have been oppressed; and (4) it must be processed relationally as our kids have the opportunity to partner with others and build friendships.

With the explosion of youth mission trips, the church would seem to be in a good place to promote a concern for justice, yet the results of our mission experiences too often have failed to make a lasting impact.  The authors argue that our model for youth mission needs to change.  Instead of the typical mission week (or five days) to a distant land with some processing and reflection at the end of each day, the authors argue two other critical steps are needed.  Before the mission experience, concentrated time is required to frame and train the youth in order to prepare them for what they will experience and deepen their ability to see, hear and interpret the movement of Holy Spirit throughout the trip.  After the trip, there needs to be not only an initial debriefing but also an ongoing conversation that seeks to solidify the growth steps initially taken while on the trip. Learning the ways of justice is not a week but a life’s journey.

Other steps to continue the process include:

  • Serve together as a family.
  • Develop ongoing relationships with those you serve.
  • Make justice a part of everyday life rather than an annual event.

Chapter 7 (A Sticky Bridge Home) – The transition from home and home church to college and a new faith community is difficult: only 14% of students feel “very prepared” for what college brings their way.  The key issues related to a student’s transition include (1) the first two weeks in college; (2) finding a new church, and (3) daily life management.  The good news is that both parents and churches have the skills to coach students to overcome these hurdles; of course, an intentional plan is necessary for the coaching process to work.  What is the student’s two-week plan for setting up their room, creating a viable school / work schedule, drinking (or not), and exploring campus-based social interests?  How does one go about finding a church? What is the most important aspect for a faith community: theology and preaching, programs for college-aged students, location and ease of access? How does one balance a checkbook, pay a credit card bill, access healthcare, do laundry and keep a day planner? The better news is that when both parents and churches discuss these questions and begin a dialogue with students before getting to college, student are more likely to make good choices in the direction of healthy friendships, lifestyle and faith involvement.

There are, however, connections to be made that are specific to either a parent or a church.  For parents, it is essential to recognize emerging adulthood as its own developmental life stage beyond early and late adolescence.  Such recognition guides a parent’s mentoring: (a) trust God with your child, (b) let your child know your unconditional love, (c) don’t do for your child what they can do for themselves, (d) give your child new freedom, and (e) include in your child’s preparation for college an understanding of grieving, thereby preparing them for the loss of the familiar as a necessary step toward embracing a new community and its challenges and opportunities. For churches, the ideas for ministering to seniors in high school include: (a) create mentoring partnerships for the 18-month period beginning with the senior year, (b) transition seniors into servant leadership positions within the congregation, (c) plan a senior “life management retreat” with business professionals (e.g. accountants, nurses, etc.)  participating as leaders, (d) celebrate the seniors in worship with a community blessing, and (e) when the seniors finally go off to college: care packages with lots of notes and cookies!

Chapter 8 (Ups and Downs of the Sticky Journey) – Building sticky faith is difficult work; it is a life-long commitment of nurturing, modeling faith, befriending, supporting, challenging and, above all else, offering our children to Jesus.  In this final chapter, the authors tell the poignant story of a father’s dream in which Jesus invited the father to entrust his daughter to Jesus’ care.  The father says, “I handed our daughter to Jesus.”  If the dream had ended there, the daughter would have been on the path toward sticky faith. But the dream continued, “Then…(pause)…I just couldn’t leave her with Jesus…I reached out and took her back…we were her parents” (188).

Sticky faith is a journey, for children, for youth and for their parents.

Quotes “That’ll Preach”

(37) “Our job as parents throughout the process is twofold: First, we help our kids learn to trust God and create the kind of environment where they are able to explore faith and trust while practicing their freedom to respond in love.  Second, we model an unconditional, nonjudgmental, and ever-embracing love in which our kids can do nothing that jeopardizes as even lessens that love.”

(59) “In building a biblical Sticky Faith, who I seek to be has to be bigger than just me and my dreams.  A rich and sustainable faith recognizes that as I walk in community with God’s people, I ultimately discover who I am…You can build a Christian community around your kids in a number of ways…The point is to build ‘social capital’ into your child’s life, creating a network of caring believers who will pray for, mentor, and bless your children with their presence.”

(63) “Harvard developmental psychologist Robert Keegan sums this up well: ‘People grow best when they continuously experience an ingenious blend of support and challenge; the rest is commentary.  Environments that are weighted too heavily in the direction of challenge are toxic. They promote defensiveness and constriction. Those weighted too heavily toward support are ultimately boring; they promote devitalization…[T]he balance of challenge and support leads to vital engagement.'”

(72) “While it’s often assumed that doubting our faith is wrong…in our study, students who feel the freedom and have opportunities to express their doubts tend to have more Sticky Faith.”

(77) “One of the most important pieces of Sticky Faith communication advice we can share is this: never explain something to your kid if you can ask a question instead.”

(92) “Sociologist Tim Clydesdale writes: ‘Faith trajectories are often set in early adolescence. Sadly, most ministries are long on fun and fluff and short on listening and thoughtful engagement. The former produces a million paper boats; the latter produces a handful of seaworthy ships. Launching a million paper boats is an amazing spectacle on a clear summer day, but only a ship can weather the storms and cross oceans.'”

(95) “In an effort to offer relevant and developmentally appropriate teaching and fellowship for children and teenagers, we have segregated – and I use that verb intentionally but not lightly – kids from the rest of the church.”

(107) “[Good] mentors ask, ‘What is God already doing here?’ – not, ‘What should God be doing here?'”

(140)  Quoting a father regarding his philosophy of parenting through difficult decisions and discussions: “We believe these conversations are huge in their lives. God gives us the privilege, if we will, of walking with our kids as they process God’s leading and transformation. These discussions don’t just magically happen. We can’t quantify or compartmentalize what is accomplished as we listen, as we ask open-ended questions, as we discover together, and as we pray. But if we abandon the effort to participate in these discussions, we risk the unintentional consequence of communicating that God works only in the service event and not in our daily lives.”

(146) “The most important thing to remember is that even more important than how deeply or even actively our kids care now is that their faith eventually moves toward justice as a core and expressed value.”

(184) Quoting a student regarding the impact of a parent’s modeling faith: “With my dad I definitely see a devotion to the Lord. I would walk into his room sometimes looking for him, and walk quickly back out because he would be on his knees by his bed praying.  So those images are definitely burned in my mind in terms of his commitment to the Lord and to our family.”

Three to Five Good Ideas for Ministry (no word limit)

Be intentional about nurturing intergenerational ministry and the 1:5 youth to adult ratio by (a) including youth in intergenerational worship on a regular basis, (b) including youth in servant leadership both in worship and ministry, (c) asking all church programs to ask themselves on a regular basis, “How can we do our ministry side-by-side with a young person?”

Be intentional about the transition from beginning of senior year in high school through the first year of college through (a) assigning mentors for your seniors, (b) offering a life skills retreat for seniors, (c) coaching parents on how to prepare themselves and their children, and (d) sending care packages with notes and cookies to your collegians.

Be intentional about encouraging parents to engage their kids in faith discussions by coaching them (a) to create space for open-ended, non-judgmental dialogue, (b) to ask questions rather than offer explanations whenever possible, (c) to share their own inner doubts, wonderings, challenges and insights.

Analysis: Strengths or Concerns (500 words or less)

(Strengths) The central concepts behind Sticky Faith are intuitive and realistic: we have a problem retaining our youth into adulthood; our youth have been ghetto-ized as a Christian sub-culture within the church; we need to become intergenerational faith communities; we need to model the kind of faith that is always learning to trust Jesus with our lives.

The quantity and quality of practical ideas for churches and parents within this book is staggering.  An executive summary is inadequate to capture the sheer volume of the authors’ experience and giftedness as youth leaders and parents.  In addition to the practical applications for parenting and youth ministry, the depth of insight and constructive overviews of youth development add to the confidence level this reader has in the authors’ understanding of their subject.

(Concerns) The only concern this reviewer had while reading this book is the validity of the research.  I think what the authors say is true.  I feel their research conforms to my personal experience.  But there appears to be flaws in the authors’ research methodology; the type of churches used in their research tended toward the Anglo, suburban, evangelically oriented and large.  While this description does not match all of the churches in their study, the description is accurate enough to call into question how extensively this model can be used with confidence in other settings.  For instance, would sticky faith concepts apply in an inner-city, Roman Catholic setting? How about an African-American congregation in New   York?  Because the book is not written for an academic audience, some of the research’s foundational methodologies were not explained in detail.

Let the reader heed caution.

 
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