Bridging Research and Resources for Youth Ministry
When Kara Powell (PhD '00) heard about Fuller's plans to launch the Center for Youth and Family Ministry (CYFM), she saw a unique opportunity to facilitate the building of bridges between academic research and the practical needs of youth ministry. Powell had been working as a faculty member at Azusa Pacific University and consultant for youth worker training organization Youth Specialties when Fuller sent her the planning documents for CYFM--and asked her to consider applying to be its executive director. "I was stunned by how similar the plans were to the work I had been doing for Youth Specialties," she says. "I really felt that the Lord had been preparing me to connect research with the daily needs of youth workers."
Powell's preparation for this position had, in fact, begun many years previously. She was a student staff member with Young Life during college, and then served as associate youth minister at San Diego First Assembly of God while earning her Master of Divinity degree from Bethel Theological Seminary West. Powell was then college pastor at Lake Avenue Church for several years while working on her PhD in Practical Theology at Fuller. "As a Fuller PhD student," she reflects, "I benefited enormously from a number of faculty who balanced the tension between provocative research and the real-life issues of ministry."
Meanwhile, the vision for CYFM began to emerge at Fuller following the Columbine tragedy, at which point President Richard Mouw, the three deans, and a handful of faculty started discussing the need to have a better bridge between the academic and youth ministry worlds. Powell's name surfaced quickly as a likely candidate for the executive director position at CYFM--and so began her transition back to Fuller in a new capacity.
An integral part of CYFM's mission is networking and cooperative efforts among youth leaders across America. "Almost without exception, as I talk with other leaders about CYFM and our mission of translating research into resources that transform youth and family ministry, they are keenly interested and have a great vision for how we can partner together," Powell says. "I'm especially looking forward to the ongoing training that happens through our Urban Youth Ministry Certificate, which is the first-ever academic certificate of its kind in the country. We continue to hear from youth workers of the enormous impact it is having on their work with high-risk kids and families in urban contexts."
Another passion for Powell has to do with the ongoing findings of CYFM's College Transition Project, which is a three-year longitudinal study focusing on 200 youth group seniors as they transition to college. "Youth group kids' transition to college is notoriously rocky," she explains. "We are studying the dynamics of the transition, as well as the qualities of youth groups that help students have more healthy bridges to college. Based on our findings, we'll develop practical resources for youth ministries eager to set their seniors on a lifelong trajectory of faith and service."
Powell has published several such resources already, including Deep Ministry in a Shallow World: Not-so-Secret Findings about Youth Ministry and the forthcoming Deep Justice in a Broken World: Helping Your Kids Serve Others and Right the Wrongs Around Them, both co-authored with CYFM colleague Chap Clark. Powell regularly speaks at conventions, retreats, and conferences across the country, and makes a special effort to encourage women in youth ministry. Her passion for facilitating more effective youth ministry, a passion nurtured during her studies at Fuller, has become for her a vocational calling--one in which she now, through her position with Fuller's CYFM, invests in the next generation of emerging youth leaders.
For more information about CYFM and its free resources, visit www.cyfm.net.