Two Great Insights from Reggie Joiner's Playing For Keeps”

Kara Powell | Oct 28, 2013

A few nights ago my seventh grade son walked in our front door from a junior high meeting at our church. Both animated and sweaty, Nathan told me about how much he loved the dodge ball game they had played as well as the “eating a donut off a string hanging from the ceiling” crowdbreaker.

I asked him what the talk that night had been about. He couldn’t recall the Scripture passage, but he could remember the stories that Annie, our junior high pastor, shared. He recounted how her parents’ divorce had shattered her “jigsaw puzzle” world—a shattering that was hard but ultimately helped her grasp both God and community in bigger ways (and yes, Annie did shatter a jigsaw puzzle as an object lesson).

It was the story that Nathan remembered. It was the story that stuck.

I thought of this conversation with Nathan as I read a great new book by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy called Playing for Keeps. As is so often the case with the resources that Reggie and the reThink team develop, I kept nodding my head as their recommendations parallel my own experience as a youth leader, as well as our Sticky Faith research.

One of the principles endorsed in Playing for Keeps is that “stories matter”. Reggie and Kristen spell out some practical ways that kids need stories:

  • Kids need stories from their grandparentswhether that be biological grandparents or older adults who influence them.
  • Kids need fictional stories – Jesus models this in the parables he teaches.
  • Kids need Bible stories – All the stories of the Bible, spread throughout its 66 books and written by over 40 different authors over 1,600 years, connect to tell the macro story of God’s love for us through time.

In addition to the book’s focus on stories, I have been struck both as a parent and a leader by its focus on time. Reggie and Kristen urge leaders to be intentional in their use of time. Every week, we have a chance to make a difference by the way we steward our days and hours to love, serve, and tell stories.

I appreciate Reggie and Kristen pointing out that we don’t have to be neurotic, paranoid that we are letting seconds and minutes slipping away. But we do have to be aware of the time we have, and the potential it has to leave a mark on kids (and us for that matter).

Reading the book made me wonder: how can I use my time this week to deepen my relationship with young people, and hopefully deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ too?

As a leader, how do you try to leverage both stories and time in your ministry?

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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