- A sticky church may not know it's sticky.
There's a short stack of books on my desk. It represents
ideas and stories I'd like to devour in their entirety. The reality
of the stack is that they serve as reminders. I may not finish each book
and I probably get only a taste of most, but they are kindling for the fires
I hope will grow in me.
One of these books in my stack is called Sticky Faith. It's brimming over with practical ideas
on how to build long-term faith in teenagers. One of the chapters I've read gives some thought on how to become a sticky church, where lasting faith can be built up together as a body.
This value can be frustrating to me because a lot of other things seem to take priority
over this goal in ministry. It becomes a faint echo in the everyday loudness of "everything else that has to get done."
I was thinking about it, trying to be positive, when I made a quick assessment.
How much have we done, as a youth ministry team to lean in the direction of
sticky faith building? When I started writing down things I'd consider sticky-
faith-initiative-worthy, I saw that there was more than I had realized already rolling
around and in the works (most of it being done by our church already).
The church where I grew up as a child was a sticky church. They didn't know it. But they were. They, with the help of the Holy Spirit, built a lasting faith in me. What they knew inherently was that it was important for the body to participate in each others lives. I can still tell you the name of the senior adult who checked me in for Sunday school every week. Her name was Helen Hanby. She sent a post card when I was missing and she like to ask about my family. Her smile was warm. I was never afraid to approach Helen, she was safe and inviting.
I remember Carl and Lois Waggoner. With multiple children of their own I wouldn't have blamed them if they were to bring their children to church and soak up a much needed respite of a kid-free sermons and fellowship with adults. But I'm so glad that they chose to be with the children, sharing missionary stories and their lives with us in the basement of our church. They also modeled great parenting. I was taking notes.
Mrs. Fender had a son named Court. She talked about him often. I was in elementary school and her son was in high school or in college. I heard from her perspective what it was like to have an older teenager in her home and she even let us pray for him and for her family sometimes. I felt valued. She brought us into the process and helped us memorize Scripture. Even today, there are moments when I'll ask myself, I wonder what Mrs. Fender would do in this situation?
Our little church in Newark didn't know it was a sticky church but it was--in a huge way they broke the barriers of silo ministry and helped to build a lasting faith in me and in my siblings.
The point--you may not know that your church is already pretty sticky. It's encouraging to know this. It's also fuel to get started on some sticky faith initiatives because you really aren't starting at ground zero at all. This helps me as we move forward with a sticky faith team.
- A sticky team may not realize they are a team...yet.
Our senior adult pastor who spent his first twenty-ish years in youth ministry is our reminder to stay dedicated to connecting generations in our church. He never lets our water cooler conversations remain water cooler conversations. I appreciate this about him.
We met last week to talk about a few first steps to get our students and our senior adults together this summer. After we met, brainstormed, planned, and prayed we came up with what we hope will be a few fun events that will introduce our senior adult community to our student community. A sticky faith team already exists. What's needed are the conversations and the implementation of ideas. You may not have an official name tag or a board room or even a place to sit (my office lacks a few chairs) but you are a team if you're working on the stickiness of your church together.
- A great ritual has tremendous potential.
The maximizer in me posed the question: what are we already doing that could serve us as we seek to build lasting faith and connect the generations in our church? Nuancing what we already do seems like a simple solution and requires less effort on everyone's part. We looked at a few of our best rituals and made an effort to give them extra meaning.
Summer bowling. Let's include each other. Why not?
- "Hipster Bowl" will connect our senior adult and student community. The "wear what you'd wear to high school" emphasis will give us fantastic photo opps and fun conversations. Modified rules will include. Mixing up the lanes and loving each other will build new friendships. It's a small step. But we'll take it.
Senior Adult Pot-Luck turns outward. They'll invite us to their well-stocked and infamously-tasty pot-luck.
- "Meet 'N Eat". Free food. New friends. And a few Quaker questions on the screen to foster storytelling. How was your house heated as a child? How did you get your birth name? The seniors are already meeting. They bring the food. Teenagers are hungry. They have the time. Makes sense to us and we're looking forward to the communal feel of Sunday dinner.
Prayer Stations don't have to be an individual experience. During monthy prayer stations our teens write down the prayers they are thinking. Each month we sit and read them. We pray over them, cry over them, and wonder how things will turn out. Cue light bulb moment. Why don't we share these with the church? Light bulb. And we should also receive requests from our adult small groups to pray over during our prayer stations. Many of our younger teens are afraid of death. They pray for their grandparents a lot. They ask God to help their families with finances, and sickness, and grief. I'm thinking our adults are praying for the same things.
- Prayer Exchange will enable us to share burdens and the deep well of thanksgiving and gratitude. We'll care for each other in our must sincere needs. And we'll celebrate with each other over even the smallest of praises. Another baby step.
If I looked further, I'm sure I'd see a lot more going on under the surface. It's encouraging and helpful to know that we are making progress. It may be slow progress but I'd take slow route any day over flash pan, here today, gone tomorrow growth. That's the thing about sticky stuff. Over time the sticky gets stickier. Glue hardens when it sits in one place long enough. And that's my prayer. That the sticky would be here for generations and that faith would be something solid in all of our hearts.
One sticky step at a time.