To Stay or to Leave

Kara Powell

To our delight, Relevant magazine did an interview with me and posted an online story about our Sticky Faith research a few days ago.  It’s generated quite a bit of comment.  As of yesterday afternoon, it had generated 103 comments to be precise.

One of the themes in the comments was whether folks (particularly young people) who are not experiencing God in their current church should leave, or if they should “stick it out”. Good arguments were made on both sides. 

To me, the question of whether to bring about reform from inside your current church or outside it is one that requires buckets of prayer and discernment.  I think God calls individuals to both paths, but the key is to make sure it’s God calling and not just our security which motivates us to stay or our restlessness that stirs us to abandon ship. 

Ironically, it’s often our community that helps us make sure that we’re hearing the voice of God and not just our own fancies.  Tragically, often folks drift so far from Christ-centered community by the time they’re asking these questions that they end up making decisions on their own instead of in the context of a caring web of friends.  And if they leave a church, they often don’t move on to a different congregation, but leave the church altogether. 

So if you’re one of those young adults who is contemplating a move, whatever decision you feel led to make, please, please, please make it in the context of community.  Allow God to speak not just to you, but to others around you.  Others that you trust and who know you well. 

And if you’re a church member or leader, please take a hard look at the ways that you might have allowed your community to become unwelcoming and maybe irrelevant to younger folks.  Maybe it’s not so much that young folks have abandoned the church, but that the church has abandoned them.

One last somewhat related note:  I wasn’t going to quote any of the comments, but toward the end of the comments posted yesterday was this excerpt that resonated with me.  It well captures the ways that I have often unwittingly contributed to young people’s tendency to drift from God and from the church.

To all of you who have been hurt, who weren't taught that your service comes out of your love for your Kinsman Redeemer, who find Christians or church leaders to be phony, who find nothing in the Church for you ... I'm sorry. I must confess I've been careless in my words and deeds just like other ministers.

There are lots of people of God getting it wrong. Yes. BUT! There are lots people of God getting it right.

Published Jan 05, 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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