Faith Beyond Youth Group

Five Ways to Form Character and Cultivate Lifelong Discipleship

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Most typical youth ministries today produce nice, obedient kids who behave themselves--and then leave the church and the faith. Even those who remain struggle to extend their own faith beyond youth group. They seem like "good kids," but their lives and decisions outside youth group aren't oriented towards Jesus. Clearly that is not our goal. So what are we doing wrong? And how can we better serve the unique needs of the most anxious, adaptive, and diverse generation in history?

If you're tired of youth ministry that fails to change lives, it's time to change youth ministry. Building on two decades of the Fuller Youth Institute's work and incorporating extensive new research and interviews, Faith Beyond Youth Group identifies the reasons youth ministry often fails both short-term and long-term, and offers five ways adult youth leaders can cultivate character for a lifetime of growing closer to Jesus rather than drifting away. It shows leaders how to cultivate trust, model growth, teach for transformation, practice together, and make meaning so that the teenagers can become adults who hold fast to the truth 24/7 and boldly live out a robust faith in a watching world.


"I hope that every youth ministry leader reads Faith Beyond Youth Group. This book not only locates where young people are at but provides insightful, practical, and doable ways to truly cultivate lifelong discipleship. This book is for all youth ministry leaders regardless of the size or context of their ministry. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach; it's an approach that values and esteems every young person entrusted to you by God. This book is hope filled and provides a way forward for discipling young people in these rapidly changing times."

Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women

"I genuinely want the teenagers I work with to develop Christlike character. (I desire this in my own life as well.) But that's not because I want them to be good girls and boys who grow up to be well-behaved church members; my motivation is that I want teenagers to experience vitality and a glorious partnership with Jesus in his redemptive work in the world. Faith Beyond Youth Group provides rails to run on with research, theological insight, and plenty of practical ideas, bringing to life what some might wrongly think of as a rusty relic of the past."

Mark Oestreicher, founder and partner, The Youth Cartel

"The church is facing a crisis of disintegration. Too many Christians have been formed to dis-integrate their spiritual life with Christ from their life at work, school, and the public square. As a result, the way of Jesus may inform how they conduct their private relationships or manage their households but may not be carried into the more public or communal parts of their lives. Unfortunately, this has severely damaged the witness of the church and the reputation of the faith--particularly among the young. How can we avoid making the same mistake with a new generation? Rooted in research and data, Faith Beyond Youth Group reimagines what youth ministry can look like if our goal isn't behavior management but rather character formation. It presents a vision of youth ministry that isn't primarily about disintegrated events but rather teaching, practices, and relationships that occur throughout a young person's life. There is wisdom here for every church that cares about the next generation."

Skye Jethani, author of What If Jesus Was Serious? and cohost of The Holy Post podcast bar

"Faith Beyond Youth Group is a game-changing resource for anyone in youth ministry. Kara Powell, Brad M. Griffin, and Jen Bradbury present new research along with stories from their ministry experiences to offer a practical tool for youth workers. The book provides effective ideas and insightful reflection questions to help readers chart their map forward, empowering them to help young people move beyond the traditional youth group experience with a rooted, sustainable life of faith. If you're a youth worker who wants to significantly impact young people's spiritual development, this book is a must-have resource."

Christina Lamas, executive director, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry

"This book had me at the title: Faith Beyond Youth Group. It's what we all want, hope, and pray for--faith that matters long after our games, teaching, camps, and programs are over. Even better, the book delivers a clear and hopeful compass to reorient youth ministry toward what matters most."

Doug Fields, youth pastor and president of

"Every discipline has a set of standards. Youth ministry is no exception. Faith Beyond Youth Group addresses the questions youth leaders ask themselves regarding their impact on the youth they love and willingly serve. The authors include interviews and stories from various youth leaders, highlighting their journey of discipling young people who attend youth group. The theological insights walk the reader through a process of understanding the benefits and barriers of character formation. This book is an informative, reflective, and practical approach for youth leaders to follow while they assess lifelong discipleship beyond youth group. This is a welcomed addition to the library of every youth leader."

Virginia Ward, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston Campus

"Faith Beyond Youth Group is a must read for anyone invested in deepening Gen Z's faith. Each chapter combines Fuller Youth Institute's meticulous research with inspiring and thought-provoking stories about local youth workers in the trenches. These stories model a great deal of humility toward the next generation, and they offer so many practical tools to help us work within our various local church contexts. As someone coming from an Asian American youth ministry experience, I was impressed to see how much care and depth they put into making sure that we didn't feel overwhelmed or excluded from the conversation around the state of the Gen Z's faith; rather, I was encouraged to see how we could learn from many different cultural and socioeconomic perspectives."

Kevin Yi, college and young adults pastor at Church Everyday, CA

The Authors

  1. Kara Powell

    Kara Powell

    Kara Powell, PhD, is the chief of leadership formation and executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) at Fuller Theological Seminary (see Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women to Watch," Kara...

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  2. Jen Bradbury
    Karli Carillo

    Jen Bradbury

    Jen Bradbury serves as content director for the Fuller Youth Institute and a volunteer youth pastor at her local Episcopal church. With more than twenty years of experience in youth ministry, she's the author of several books, including The Jesus...

    Continue reading about Jen Bradbury

  3. Brad M. Griffin

    Brad M. Griffin

    Brad M. Griffin is the senior director of content and research for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth ministry leaders and families. A speaker, writer, and volunteer pastor, Brad is the coauthor of...

    Continue reading about Brad M. Griffin