Kara Powell’s 2 Powerful Questions You Need to Ask about Justice

“Christians are more concerned about Robin Williams than they are that ISIS is beheading children in Iraq.” One of my students ranted on Facebook.

How do we move students to really caring about Justice in the world? How do we get them to care so much that it changes their values and behavior. From research Kara Powell, Exectutive Director of Fuller Youth Institute may have answer. She asks two powerful questions that cut to the heart of the matter. She also offers an excellent resource that you can use.

Let’s face it, if you aren’t family, a pet, a friend or a celebrity, the chances are you’re not on a student’s radar.

But if teens in your youth group, Young Life or YFC Club, are more concerned about celebrities or someone in their circle it isn’t their fault. Teens are just beginning to develop some social awareness in the early stages of adolescent development. What will be on their minds then, is what the media is telling them.

If we are going to change that this year and get kids concerned with the justice Kara Powell from Fuller Theological Seminary suggest we need to approach deep justice in a very different way than most student ministries have been doing it.

To view  Dr. Powell’s session click here. It is really worth watching!


Kara’s concern is that her research shows that most groups think that they are doing their part by running mission trips. She contends that we need to move from “mission trips to missional living” We need to move from service to justice.

As you think through your objective for your group this year here are the questions you need to consider:

1. Why do you do the service that you do?

There is a danger that this is just an expectation of the church that we fulfill on top of retreats, activities, or services. Kara suggests that our goal is to move from service to justice. Restoring justice should be our goal. Kara explains that justice is a process not an event. If we are going to love the world they way that God loves the world then we are going to have to learn about why inequality exists.

2. How long do you want the experience to last?

The second question is difficult. Already, as I see it running a mission trip is like adding another program to your ministry. There are all the training dates and the need to focus on administrative details like permission forms and passports.

Research from Fuller shows that for maximum impact on the lives of the students the answer to the question is before during and after the trip.

Some groups make the teaching go deeper by serving in their home church first. Others will bring students on an urban experience. Some groups take students to serve in a camp or to a rural community to serve before they take them to another country. Some group make students experience a poverty simulation or they have them complete a 30 hour famine.

 A Resource You Can Use:

Before you start planning your next trip and as you consider these question think through. What am I trying to accomplish in the lives of these youth. Is there a way to get a higher percentage of kids concerned about the lost, the needy and the suffering in this world?

Here is a resource of activities that will get students serving, thinking and caring.



Changing a Worldview

We have a very short window of time to help change the ways students see the world. It is so great if we can get them to see how others live in another country and help serve them. Changing their mind for a lifetime will require careful preparation before the experience. It will also require Intense reflection during it. Finally the whole group can be involved in activities that build on the experience keeping the needs of others foremost the minds of all of the students.


Have you taken teens on a trip this summer? What are some ways that you are building on the experience this year?

Share this:
Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com


  1. Great thoughts! I’m right there with you!!
    Feel free to read my post on our Christian response to The crisis in Iraq – http://andrewholm.com/?p=436

  2. Hey Andrew. Thanks for writing in. I will take a look at your post later today. Thanks for the link!

Comments are closed.