The Role of Parents in Justice that Sticks

Kara Powell | Feb 5, 2013

As a parent, I’m very aware of the way that I am a door-closer or door-opener when it comes to my kids’ involvement in service and justice that sticks. I am either a brake or gas pedal for my kids’ enthusiasm for serving others by the way I model and encourage service, as well as make space for it in our family calendar.

One of the churches in our Sticky Faith Cohort last year, Upper Room in the Minneapolis area, is deeply committed to being a community that brings the Kingdom to others around them. Through her congregation, six year-old Isabelle heard about “Christmas with Dignity”, a program that allows lower-income families to purchase donated toys as Christmas gifts for their own children at 10% of retail cost. Wanting to make sure that children in lower-income communities received presents at Christmas, Isabelle not only supported the cause herself, but invited others to join in.

For her seventh birthday party, she asked her friends not to bring gifts for her, but instead to bring a toy to donate. She also decided to make her birthday party a “fun run” in which she and nine friends would get pledges for a run-around-the-block to earn even more for Christmas with Dignity. This short video shows Isabelle explaining what she’s doing and why she’s doing it. (Warning: prepared to be overwhelmed by cute-ness as you watch six year-old Isabelle describe her goal of giving Christmas gifts to kids who wouldn’t get them otherwise. She’s even missing her two front teeth.)

As you can see in this second short recap video six year-old Isabelle raised over $700 in one birthday party. People who didn’t even know her supported her quest to share the good news of the gospel with children she didn’t know.

If you’re a church leader, what can you learn from the story of Isabelle? It was the church that shared the initial vision for Christmas with Dignity. Maybe it’s time to ask: How well are you sharing tangible opportunities with young people that show how they can make a difference? For more ideas on how to engage families, check out this excerpt from our Deep Justice resources.

If you’re a parent, what can you learn from the story? This idea would have died without her parents’ support. They’re the ones who made the videos (a good, but certainly not essential step), accepted donations, and allowed Isabelle to create a jog-a-thon centered birthday party. Maybe you should ask: What could your family do this next month in order to help your kids look outward and serve others? Odds are good that your kids already have some embedded, maybe divinely inspired, passions. Maybe your kids care about recycling, or sex trafficking, or folks who are homeless. Use their initial interests as a springboard to brainstorm what your family could do. To read more about one of my children’s justice passions, check out this blog post about taco coupons.

Imagine what would happen to our churches—and our nation—if we had some more Isabelles.

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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