Conservative research states 40-50% of youth-group-attending students will abandon their faith during the college years.
(if you did not catch Pastor Dave's message, check it out here)
As I (Derry) am working with my 13th graduating class, this is more than a statistic. There are names and faces attached to this. For the past year we have been working behind the scenes to develop a strategic and intentional game plan to reverse this trend. This month, we are beginning to pull the curtains back on what we are calling "The Sticky Faith Initiative."
Here's a few things we want you to know surrounding this all.
- We feel better than the statistic. As we follow up and track with recent graduates who were truly involved and spiritually active, we are seeing signs of a much better retention rate than 50-60%. At the same time, it's not near 100%, so we are going to continue to push forward.
- Parents are HUGE. "Sticky Faith" is a term we've taken from the Fuller Youth Institute who did extensive research among students making the transition from their Senior year through their early years right after youth group. As they began their research, the intent was to focus on the key factors present in the youth group experience that helped nurture a faith that sticks. As they continued on, it became clear that the research would be significantly incomplete due to the significant role family plays in creating sticky faith factors. Bottom line, you are invaluable to instilling a faith that will last in your student. AND it is instilled in both what you do with them and how you live before them.
- The Graduation Bridge is Important. We have started our efforts at the Senior Year through the first year after High School. As this is the key moment where the dropout is occuring, we are seeking to step up our game through 3 key "C"s that will take place from January of the Senior year to January of post-High School year:
COACH (January - early May): Connecting with Seniors in large group, small group, and individual settings to best prepare and equip them for the social, emotional and spiritual transitions about to take place.
COMMISION (May - early August): Honor the Seniors, but also launch them into the next phase of life through various formal and informal settings.
CARE (early August - January): Follow up with graduates and offer support, encouragement, and prayer as they walk through the transition.
- It's About More than the Senior Year: In fact, the faith that is being built from birth through the High School years play a key role in building a Sticky Faith. As a Student Ministries team, we are in the midst of evaluating EVERYTHING we do to ask the question, "How is this/is this not helping us build a faith in students that will still be impacting them 10, 20, and 40 years from now).
- Working with You is in the Works: This is just the beginning of the Sticky Faith Journey. We know that the journey of trusting God with your students, sending them to college, and navigating all that lies in between is a tough journey. As we work on this phase by phase, we hope to get you resources to work with your students. We also have a deep desire to minister TO YOU as you walk through the pains of the nest shrinking and eventually becoming empty.
What if, 5 years from now it would be said, "100% of all students who were involved in a youth group in High School are thriving in their faith during their college years... so much s that 40-50% of those who entered their college years spiritually disengaged are now pursuing an active faith."