The 1 Mantra that Everybody, Every Family & Every Kid Needs

We need folks who love wrestling with hard questions about young people, pinning down practical answers for parents like us. Given how many parents are heartbroken by their kids’ drift from Jesus, I’m thrilled that Kara Powell and the team at the Fuller Youth Institute equip parents and kids to live out the lifelong faith they need. Kara cares deeply about research, but she cares even more about translating that research into real, down-to-earth ideas for families—starting with her own. Kara says their Sticky Faith research has changed the way she and her husband parent every day — and it’s changing the way we are parenting our six kids here… Her guest post here today on the farm’s front porch is this crazy grace gift to every one of us, man, woman and child, down here in the trenches:

Purple ballpoint pens.

On last year’s “back to school” supply list for my kids, they were the straw that broke this Mama camel’s back.

When I was a teenager, I only needed two school supplies:  paper and a handful of pencils.

Now my kids’ school says they need a thumb drive. Plus a protractor. Not just pencils but a certain brand of No. 2 pencils. It’s not a list for the faint of heart.


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After 45 minutes at Target, our shopping cart was 90% full but our supply list was only 70% crossed off.

That meant more visits to school supply stores and websites.

More miles and hours that I didn’t have.

As my three kids hopped in our minivan in the parking lot, I asked a question I have asked so many times I find myself repeating it even when only adults are in the car: “Is everybody buckled?”

Two of my kids answered.

The third was already buried in a book.

Our unsuccessful search for purple ballpoint pens had pushed me too far. So I growled at my daughter, “KRISTA, ARE YOU BUCKLED?”

The tone of voice, the tension in my hands as I grabbed the steering wheel, the tight forehead. I was 180 degrees from the mom I want to be.

That night our family started a new dinnertime tradition.

Since our kids could talk, we’ve shared our day’s “highs” and “lows” around the kitchen table. Based on our team’s research at the Fuller Youth Institute, our family added a question: What mistake did you make today?  

Study after study indicates that almost half of kids from great families will drift from God and the church after high school.

As we have examined 500 youth group graduates to see how families and churches can build a faith that lasts—or what we call “Sticky Faith”—it’s become clear that most kids equate faith with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts”.

When (note I said when and not if) young people fail to live up to those behaviors, they run from God and the church—just when they need both the most.

Because of our Sticky Faith research, our family is hoping that talking (and laughing) about our mistakes will make our home a safe place to confess our sins and celebrate the grace that erases them all.

If I were flawless, I would need no Savior. 

If my kids were perfect, there would be no Easter.

Instead, we need to be reminded of six words that have become a mantra in our family:

Jesus is bigger than any mistake. 

Perhaps like me, you’re haunted by mistakes from the summer.

The kids didn’t read as much as you had planned.

The house is not as organized as you had hoped.

Your family vacation wasn’t as off-the-charts memorable as you had dreamed.

Maybe your regrets are even more substantial.

Jesus is bigger than those mistakes too.

Last August over dinner I looked Krista in the eye, apologized for my tone of voice in the Target parking lot, and received her forgiveness.

Every night since, I capture the opportunity at dinner to ask forgiveness from those I care about the most.

It’s our way to remember the Jesus who is bigger than all of our mistakes.




Kara Powell works with the super sharp team at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and is a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. She was humbled and honored—not to mention downright surprised—to be recently named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch.” Kara’s the first to say that her jobs as a researcher, writer, and team leader are a piece of chocolate cake compared with her role as Mama to three great and “verbal” kids.

Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, a resource used by so a whole revolution of families, including ours, to help give kids the most priceless gift of all—the treasure of lifelong faith. Five Star Read for any parent.