The most important question to ask before serving

Kara Powell | May 21, 2015

Photo by Cat Klein.

Why are we serving?

Our family was finishing up frozen yogurt, and it was time to get to the heart of our conversation about our upcoming service trip. Thanks to FYI’s exciting partnership with Compassion International on a new family-based project called Step Into My Shoes, the Powell family was going to Brazil to experience Compassion’s ministry firsthand.

Because of our research on justice and service, Dave and I wanted our kids to be more prepared than simply making sure they have the right clothes, immunizations, and bug repellent. During our first Brazil prep meeting, we learned about the history, culture, and people of Brazil. We created a trivia game, rewarding correct answers with York Peppermint candies (a Powell favorite).

Having understood more about Brazil, this second prep meeting was devoted to what I think is the most important question about our trip: why are we serving? Our kids had various answers, ranging from “because we get to miss school” (at least they are honest) to “so we can learn about a new culture.” Reading Jesus’ teachings about “salt and light” helped deepen our conversation, and explore more Jesus-y flavored motivations.

We decided to create a single sentence together as a family. One sentence that we could memorize and turn to when our Brazil experience got bumpy. After several edits and iterations, here’s what the five of us came up with:

“We’re going to Brazil to learn firsthand about a new culture and people because we feel called to spread God’s love.”

The five Powells feel incredibly blessed to get to go to Brazil together. We had wanted to do a cross-cultural service experience in 2015 and God answered our prayers in a bigger way than we ever expected. But also in seasons when your and my family’s service experiences are less than 5 miles from home, it’s always a good idea to talk together as a family about why we serve. Even if it’s a 40-second conversation in our minivan as we’re driving to the local shelter for folks who are homeless.

I’m curious: What do you do to help young people—or your whole family—remember WHY they are involved in God’s justice work?

Find out more about the Step Into My Shoes family toolkit

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Can I Ask That? Volume 2 Curriculum

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Freedom and Exploration. Freedom in Exploration.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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