Some Go, Some Stay

Kara Powell

Yesterday I had an interesting and eye-opening conversation with a youth leader.  One in which I found myself contradicting myself.

This youth leader is at a church of about 500 in a major city here in the U.S.  Let's say for the purposes of this post that his church is in Chicago.

Every year as his seniors graduate, about half of them leave Chicago for college.  The other half stay locally and enter the workforce and/or study at a local community college. 

Because Chicago is the type of city it is, every year also a new influx of ambitious college students/emerging adults descend upon the city, looking for (and often attaining) prestigious internships or admission at top universities.  This fairly ambitious group of students shows up at the church and ends up intimidating the local, homegrown students.  The local students end up drifting from the church, and usually from God too.

I suggested that perhaps this youth leader considering offering some distinct preparation for those students who were staying local, so at the very least they weren't surprised by what they might feel as new students showed up.  But I also said (and here's where I contradicted myself), "But I wouldn't want to make the polarity that already exists even worse."

What would you do?  Is it good to offer some distinct, targeted training, or would it exacerbate the local students' feelings of being different?  Does it acknowledge a reality that should be acknowledged, or does it make it even more of a self-fulfilling prophecy? 


Published Aug 25, 2011
Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. As a youth ministry veteran of over 20 years, she serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties. Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women You Should Know", Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

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