Time:  A Powerful 4 Letter Word

Kara Powell

Today marks the third day of a Sticky Faith Summit we’re hosting in Pasadena, thanks to a grant from a generous foundation.  We’ve gathered about 15 leaders to talk with us about how to best engage teenagers (and families and churches) in spiritual practices, such as prayer and Bible reading.  Our initial round of Sticky Faith research showed that the typical youth group teenager isn’t doing much of either. 

But as you might imagine, this yearlong conversation about spiritual disciplines has broadened to look at the macro topic of “Rhythms” – the rhythms that we all have in our days, weeks, months, and years – some of which help us more authentically connect with God and others, some of which don’t. 

On Tuesday afternoon we had a great discussion about time.  This is a big and tough issue for me.  Time means a lot in my life.  My kids even joke that I pretty much always know what time it is, regardless of whether I’m wearing a watch. 

My FYI colleague, Brad Griffin, led a great discussion in which we looked at how we describe time (i.e., “wasting time,” “using time,” “saving time”), and how many of those terms are economic terms – the same type of terms we use to describe money.  One of the summit participants pointed out that unlike money, everyone has the same amount of time.  We all have the same amount of minutes per day and the same amount of days per week. 

One quote by Dorothy C. Bass in Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time that we read prior to the summit generated some interesting dialogue:  “If we could comprehend what time is saying about us, what would we discover?” 

During the discussion, I realized that time can almost be an idol for me.  I’m all about efficiency, and the quality of my life (and others’ lives around me) is certainly affected when my quest for efficiency makes me view life, hours, and relationships in a utilitarian way. 

So some questions about time that I’m mulling over are: 

  • How does God intend me to view time, especially keeping in mind that all of my time comes from Him and is His?
  • How did Jesus view time while he walked on earth?
  • How can I keep from viewing time through a scarcity mentality?
  • How do I truly experience what I’m doing, instead of merely wishing I could get through it?
  • How do I offer the gift of time to others – my husband, my kids, my friends, my FYI colleagues, my church?

Ironically, as I was finishing this blog, my 6 year-old asked me, “Mom, what time is it?”  Indeed, our interest in time starts at a young age.  


Published May 10, 2012
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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