A couple of weeks ago I published a review of the book Sticky Faith, and described how much I liked it and how influential it has been in my thoughts about youth ministry. In that post, I mentioned that I had been teaching a Bible class on that book, and I wanted to briefly share some thoughts and information about that class.
What We Did
For a quarter (roughly the beginning of January to the end of March), we had our teens and their parents combined in one class together. Each family received a copy of Sticky Faith, and was encouraged to read one chapter each week in preparation for class.
When we met together each week, the class would be divided into smaller groups—sometimes we had parent groups and student groups, and sometimes we grouped families together. Each week we would review that week’s chapter and try to cover the main points which the book had presented, and then give discussion question to our small groups to talk about.
Our small groups would then share what they had discussed with the entire class.
What Was Good About It
At times I felt that our class struggled with continuity and momentum because we missed a few weeks because of bad weather, but on the whole, I felt that the class was very beneficial for our youth group and our parents. I am glad that we did it for at least a few reasons.
First, it helped our parents become much more informed about what was going on in our youth ministry. I spend a significant amount of time trying to communicate and publicize the things we are doing as a youth group (trips, devotionals, youth rallies, etc.):
- Every week I write an article in our church bulletin which announces and emphasizes these events.
- A calendar of upcoming events is posted on our youth group bulletin board.
- Events are announced publicly in our worship assemblies.
- I tell the students over and over and over again about upcoming events.
- On a fairly regular basis, I send out text reminders to students and parents about certain events.
- Less regularly, I post information on our youth group Facebook page.
Despite all of these efforts, I routinely have students and parents act like they have no idea what is going on. It is a frustrating thing. But those concerns were largely eliminated, at least for one quarter. It was nice each week to be able to mention upcoming events directly to parents when I had their attention, and I noticed increased participation as a result.
This was certainly not the purpose of the class and it’s not something that I can do every week, but it was a nice side effect.
Secondly, it was good for our parents and teens to learn practical ways to build a lifelong faith. That is what Sticky Faith is all about—practical things that parents and families can do each day that help to build a faith that lasts for a lifetime instead of getting shelved after high school.
As I mentioned in my book review, there is a ton of helpful information in Sticky Faith, and a class like this was a very helpful way to ensure that our teens and especially their parents were exposed to this material.
Third, it was good for our parents to hear from their kids. It’s no secret that it can be hard for parents and their teenage children to communicate with one another. One of the nice things about this class was that it provided an environment for that to happen. As our student small groups reported out the results of their discussion, parents got to hear about things that were important to their kids and learn more about how they think.
Fourth, it was good for our kids to hear from their parents. The reverse was also true. Teens do get to hear from their parents, but a lot of times it is in the form of a lecture after they’ve messed up somehow. Getting to hear their parents publicly express their love, concern, faults, and ideas was a powerful thing for our students.
Overall, this was a class model that I enjoyed, and I plan on using it again. It won’t become our primary educational model (there’s a lot to be said for developmentally appropriate, age-based instruction), but having our students and their parents learning side by side and learning from one another is an important thing, and one that we want to continue to develop as part of our educational program.
One final, but important note: lest you think that I came up with all of this on my own, I want to give full credit to my friend Joseph, who taught a similar class at his church and was gracious enough to give me pointers and share his (excellent) class notes and resources with me. Joseph is a great youth minister, and his thoughts have been helpful and influential for me.