Richard and Michael are pre-teen city kids who live, as many say, in da hood.  They have nowhere to go – and nothing to do.  It’s not because they don’t want to. Actually, every time I talk with them they hint around hoping I’ll take them somewhere.

Here’s the usual conversation

“Hey guys, what’s up?”
“Nothing.”
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.”
“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere.”
“Why?”
“Because — there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do.”

Richard and Michael are just two of many city kids who feel trapped and imprisoned inside their own neighborhood. It’s understandable — there are bars around their apartment buildings.  These bars are not intended to keep intruders out, but to slow down and trap criminals during police pursuits. Richard and Michael’s neighborhood is infested with drugs and crime.

“I hear the ball bouncing outside,” Richard says, “and I want to play.  But mom won’t let me go to the courts ‘cause stuff’s happening out there — you know.” Yet in the midst of fear and distrust, Richard’s mom and others like her are receptive to Bible clubs and events for their children.  Especially when those events allow their children to spend time outside of the neighborhood.

Over the past thirty years, the opportunity to reach city kids has grown immensely. Taking advantage of what God can do, we should make the most of every opportunity to teach them the Bible, but we should also remember that they want to do other stuff too.

The truth is — city kids get talked to, yelled at, and fussed at most of the day.  We need to spend time with them — doing what they want to do and sometimes going where they want to go.  Our activities do not have to be religious in nature all the time, but the outcome will be!

Each time we go somewhere together kids ask me questions, like, “Have you ever been in prison?” or “Is that lady your girlfriend?”  Then, they tell me things about themselves and their families.  Instantly, without a prepared Bible lesson, we have a divine teaching moment.

Where to Go and What to Do?

Sporting Events

Take them to a high school or college game, organize a neighborhood pick-up game, enroll them in a league, sponsor them for a sports camp, or organize a sports outreach.

I took a group of twelve Asian and Hispanic city kids to a Duke – UNC basketball game once. Perhaps it was because both teams wore blue and white, but these kids did not even know which team was Duke or UNC. These are some of the best teams in the country by the way. The kids loved it! It was not so much the game, but the snack bar, the picking at each other, and embracing the cultural differences between each other.

After the game we all slid down a big hill to get to our car. This all paved a way for an open discussion about making fun of others and how Chinese were different from Mexicans. I was able to share God’s plan and purpose for all people.

The outing opened up a unique court to play on. The kids were the players and I became their coach for a few hours. Numerous outings and activities are available for the teacher looking for a classroom that connects with city kids.

Arts/Entertainment

Couple a Bible club with an art class, organize/plan a mural project for a community wall, enroll kids in a cultural arts center class, or produce your own drama, dance, or a creative art form for presentation in the community.

Food/Shopping

Bake cookies, a favorite food, watch a movie, take them to the mall or open-air market and have a “looking day”, or walk down the street with a group of kids to the nearest convenience store.  Give them each a couple of dollars to spend while they hang out.

Special or Surprise Activities

Ride horses, go fishing, or rake leaves.  These would be things (stuff) that city kids typically never get to do.

The atmosphere in some local schools is changing! “It feels so peaceful here. I just feel encouraged and uplifted when I visit your school. When I go to middle school, I want to go here. I just love this school.” These are the comments heard from students, parents, teachers, and visitors who step into a select group of schools in the Raleigh-Durham area. This is Great News! Right?

For detailed information visit The Center of Light website

Since the Power & Light program was offered to local schools by The Center of Light, as well as in collaboration with each individual school’s faculty and academic resources, amazing, dramatic, and even transformative changes have occurred. There has been a measurable shift in the behavior, culture and academic level in these schools. Here are a few of the results from the beginning years of a 5-year pilot from each school.

Middle school-selected metrics were identified to evaluate progress. Success was determined by annual improvements in the following with results noted.

  • Behavior referrals to school administrators – Result: 300 less referrals after 1st year of Power & Light
  • Acts of violence and verbal abuse – Results: No fights during 1st semester of classes
  • Reading levels – Results: Literacy program stated that K-1 readers are now at 6th grade level
  • EOG testing scores for 2017 thru 2019 – Results: Every subject of every grade level had improvement across the board, 2 years in a row, additionally, at the end-of-year 2019 one school increased their improvement by 1 entire letter grade – a “N.C. School to Watch”
  • Suspensions/Expulsions – Results: only 1 suspension reported
  • Testimonies of progress from students, parents, and faculty – Results: Students are intervening when conflicts happen in classrooms, there is a feeling/culture of peace within the schools, overt bullying has ceased, teachers have stated: “This is the best year of teaching ever…”

CEF Durham and the City of Durham are extremely blessed to have a faithful and devoted woman like Ms. Lou Brogden serving city kids, various communities, and schools in the Durham area. Listen to her passion and purpose of her teaching ministry for over 30 years. Thank you Summit Church and Serve RDU for highlighting Ms. Lou‘s cause of reaching city kids for Christ.

Ms. Lou Brogden is a CEF Durham Board member, elderly care-giver, and Good News Club teacher in public schools and city communities.

Ever had conversations which started like this? I remember when… Of course you have — probably many times with family and close friends. Such memories are from events which shaped you and others lives. These experiences are so important and powerful because they helped to form who you are and your perspectives on life as well as the world around you. Whether good or bad life experiences, historic events, or when you finally understood or realized something significant — each are unforgettable memories.

Childhood memories: re-experiencing historic moments

My wife and I have been consumed with all the documentaries and docudramas this month regarding the U.S. and Russian space programs and the 50th anniversary of the first men to land and walk on the Moon. Exciting stuff!!! Great memories of our childhood and teen years! While watching a variety of featured T.V. programs, listening to actual audio of the astronauts in space, observing the control centers in action, and seeing the photographs taken in space, our minds were flooded with memories. Our conversation was dominated by similar events we experienced, places we were at, and the people we were with during the space race to the moon. These were some of the most unforgettable memories which shaped our young lives back in the 60s-70s.

Photo by NASA and William Anders on Apollo 8 mission to the Moon Dec. 24, 1968

Places and moments I can never forget from my past

We were able and expected to watch most of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches on a black & white (b/w) T.V. Many times this happened while at school. Students were absolutely captivated and engaged with space rockets and astronauts. My wife actually was able to view some launches (live) on their school playground. Her dad was an engineer who worked on the rocket firing systems at NASA.

Later, we watched the 1st moon landing on a Color T.V. — this was totally amazing, however the images were all in distorted b/w (below left) but thank God, Walter Cronkite was in living color. Later we saw sharp color photos taken by the astronauts (below right). Our 50+ year journey back in time this summer reminded us of how futuristic and exciting life was as kids becoming teens. We gained a much larger perspective of our planet, the moon, and the space beyond.

Deeper reflections — perspective of the world where I minister

These are memories I will never forget. I also cannot escape my thoughts and memories of hundreds of city kids I’ve had the opportunity to know and minister to through CEF Durham. By engaging their lives, I’ve helped them create some great memories, especially introducing them to the Savior, in whom they have believed for their salvation. Unforgettable, I trust. Also unforgettable is the landscape where most city kids call home. Metaphorically, many live in communities as barren, blighted, and cold as the moon.

These kids are awesome, intelligent, and extremely creative, yet I wonder how deep the impact will be on them from the spiritually dark world where they live. Our CEF teams continue to engage their world and communicate THE Message of Hope while affirming city kids’ true value, their gifts, and their destiny as a world changer. We teach the kids that it takes 10 positive statements and/or actions of bringing Light to their world in order to erase 1 negative statement spoken to them, aka false label or lie, as well as any experience that brings darkness to their lives and community. City kids in Durham are putting this into practice at their schools and communities, but they need help! Want you join us in some way?

This 6-week, comprehensive, multi-dimensional reading camp is coming to a close very soon. We are in our 5th week with our friends at the Durham Nativity School and the Jenny Koortbojian Foundation conducting this Summer Reading Camp. CEF has been offering games/fitness along with educational sessions in Bible, social etiquette, character development, and mental health. The campers have been growing and thriving in each area.

Our 5-Day Club curriculum as well as newly developed programs for strengthening the body, mind, spirit, and heart of city kids has been instrumental in the salvation as well as the academic and social development of the 65 enrolled campers. There are 35-40 city kids regularly attending this unique experience in downtown Durham, which began June 17th. The diverse group of 3rd-6th graders will finish camp next week on July 25th. READ MORE Our instructors have been Joshua Tankard, Jackie and Chi Omotosho, Madison Daniel, and John Blake.

In our progressive, yet conflicted and confused society, should children be taught to pray? Though some might label you as dogmatic, paternalistic, or narrow-minded, even closed-minded… the answer is — Absolutely! As a parent, teacher, or pastor, it’s your responsibility to teach and model, not only how to pray, but what, where, when, and why children should pray.

Why is Prayer Important?

  1. It maintains a close relationship between the child and God. (Daniel 6)
  2. It helps children face their problems by faith. (Philippians 4:6)
  3. Jesus taught us to pray. (Matthew 6)
  4. It builds and strengthens the child’s faith. (Jeremiah 33:3)
  5. Prayer is a Key to the Kingdom, which unlocks, opens, and changes the spiritual atmosphere of the child’s heart, school, home, or community.

What should you teach children about Prayer?

  1. What is prayer?
    A: It’s “talking with God” communicating with words, thoughts, and listening via the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (Bible). Consider using a audio Bible app for listening to Scripture. CEF Durham uses the app from Streetlights for city kids and our Good News Clubs.
  2. Who can pray?
    A: God desires “everyone” to pray. All believing children can pray in faith/believing God for what they ask (Mark 11:23-24) yet sin can be a barrier to God’s answers (Isaiah 59:1-2, Psalm 66:18) to prayer. God will hear the child’s prayers if they confess sin and obey Him (1 John 1:9). God is always ready to listen and answer “Yes” to a child’s prayer for forgiveness and believing on His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 1:12)
  3. Where can you pray?
    A: “Anywhere” — Jonah prayed in the belly of the fish. Paul & Silas prayed in jail. Daniel prayed in a lion’s den. Children can pray anywhere: home, school, playground, at meals, and with friends.
  4. When can you pray?
    A: “Anytime” — Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) – Pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18) – Pray at appointed times of the day (Psalm 55:17)
  5. Why should you pray?
    A: “Because God wants to spend time with His Children.”
  6. What are God’s Good Answers to prayer?
    A: “Yes” according to His Will (1 Kings 18)
    A: “No” if it would not be good for you right now (2 Corinthians 12)
    A: “Wait” if it is not God’s perfect time (John 11)

Additional Resources:

Read more at CEF/pray about teaching children to pray & ask questions

PrayLive and Streetlights apps are available for all electronic devices

CEF Durham has a summer ministry plan: Kids Love Camping! School is out! Weather is hot! What are kids doing this summer?

Many know they’re going to the pool, away for camp, or some vacation time out of town. But many of the city kids we know and love can’t count on doing all these things each summer. Actually, many of their parents wish their kids could enjoy these summer activities. CEF Durham, alone, has offered sports camps, Bible clubs, and overnight camping to children for the past 25 years as an auxiliary ministry. The extended time spent with children and youth at any camp enhances their spiritual formation like no other, short of being their parents and living with them. For the same reason, coaches and teachers are so influential in the lives of their students.

This summer we, at CEF Durham, are doing something familiar, but a bit more comprehensive, with our friends at the Durham Nativity School and the Jenny Koortbojian Foundation Summer Reading Camp. CEF will be a partner in offering games/fitness along with educational sessions in Bible, social etiquette, character development, and mental health. Our 5-Day Club curriculum as well as newly developed programs to strengthen the body, mind, spirit, and heart of city kids will be used during this 6-week camp.

The 50-60 city kids attending this unique experience in downtown Durham, which began June 17th, are loving this type of summer camp. The diverse group of 3rd-6th graders will finish camp July 25th. Thirty full days of inner city camping this summer will form and nurture these young lives into God-loving, world-changing, healthy individuals.

I could use a long list of “re… words” to describe what we all need more often than we actually have opportunity to access. Recharging, reloading, rebuilding, or restoring are all objectives when I seek time to get away. There’s an exciting expectation to rest, but also engage in uncommon activities which revive my body, mind, and spirit. As our family often does, we retreat to the coast. Rejecting the pile of tasks to do and the books to be read, my senses are rejuvenated by the sounds of the sea, the sand between me toes, and the taste of good seafood. Ah, what a place and time to recover well!

Not all of you know, I’ve had four surgeries in the past two years, not counting several ear surgeries in the past and an ACL replacement in a knee several years ago. I know about recovery, both quick and very slow. When I found and felt those breakthrough moments, “WOW!, I’m going to get back… recover.” Well, I’m in one of those breakthrough moments right now with a total shoulder replacement and loving the success and expecting the day I can say. “I’m fully recovered.” My mind and spirit needs that as well. I look forward to recovering well.

Today, as we make our way to our most common coastal destination, I so look forward to the mystical gifts of recreation (re-creation) and renewal. Hopefully, hearing a Word from the Lord… Expecting to recover well. Recovering well brings excitement, renewed energy, and focus. I also look forward to these gifts spilling over into our ministry to city kids. I’ll need the energy and focus as CEF Durham will partner with others to hold a 6-week camp for city kids this summer.

“Ain’t it good to be on this side of the table for a change?” said city kids while serving their community. While riding home from a basketball game, with a group of Hispanic and Chinese American youth, “Mr. John, do you have anyone in prison?” It’s the extra time we spend with city kids that detonates the EXTRAS around a community-based Good News Club.

Good News Club-ers serving their community during a Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s the EXTRAS that make any Good News Club special, memorable, and sustainable. Every child likes to have fun, work on projects, serve others, be active, and learn new things. Why not include these valuable academic and social experiences within the culture of Good News Clubs? I don’t think it’s possible, during a typical 1-hour club, to plan and implement the teachable moments you can experience when offering the EXTRAS to your students.

Special, memorable, all-day, extra fun times at the State Fair

CEF along with partnering local ministries, churches, and concerned individuals have developed an urban network for new strategies and strengthening best efforts, which will focus on 10 or more identified communities for the next 10 years.  A simple strategy of biblical and wholistic discipleship will be used following guidelines from Luke 10 and other passages where Jesus gives instructions to His disciples regarding building His Kingdom.  This is how the EXTRAS are birthed, developed, and used in local ministry. Thus, multiple and intentional engagements with city kids, in addition to the Good News Club, can be leveraged while incorporating this strategy.

Between 1999-2007, we started an EXTRA Good News Club, which enrolled over 1,600 city kids and youth within 2-3 years. As we intentionally made the club extra large in attendance, extra long with weekly ministries as well as the Saturday morning event, using extra wide-open games, and extra prizes along with an extra high expectation for every child, we got EXTRAordinary results.

Tennis Academy campers (city kids) enjoying pro and college-level matches

Here’s a short list of EXTRAS to use as suggestions with your community and school-based Good News Clubs in which we are using in the Durham area. Before you use these, consider your own area, creativity of your team, local resources, and connections.

Slip & Slide: City Kids style to kick-off Good News Club for the new school year
  • Any appropriate and/or relevant sporting events
  • Slip & Slide in the community
  • Field Trip: Local or State Fair
  • Attend a candlelight vigil for those murdered, incarcerated, etc.
  • Serve the community: take trash out for neighbors, serve a dinner, plant a garden, build a skateboard ramp, prayer walking, etc.
  • Visit all the buildings and/or homes in the community, pray, invite to club, or special events, etc.
  • Baptism Service: Use the community swimming pool for those who’ve made salvation decisions for Christ and have the pastor of the supporting church conduct the baptisms.

Child Evangelism Fellowship® executives, headquarters staff, and hundreds of CEF staff, board, and volunteer members enjoyed, perhaps, the best USA conference in recent memory May 6-10, 2019.  There was a spirit of freedom and breakthrough as well as numerous conversations around forgiveness, reconciliation, collaborative outreach, reaching our U.S. cities, and new approaches to ministry.

Workshop leaders: Michael Harley, Esther Beasley, and John Blake

Due to the presence of the keynote speaker Dr. John Perkins, for workshops on City Kids, which were led by myself, Michael Harley, and Esther Beasley, and for the strategic planning and development done over the past several years, CEF ministries will become more effective, collaborative, and sustainable in “urban America” (especially areas of socioeconomic and spiritual need). CEF will be ever-present and intentional to minister alongside others in collaboration for spiritual transformation of city kids, their families, and communities across the USA.

READ MORE about City Kids

For the favor of God and to effectively engage your city, a community, or a local school, an intentional Christian witness and service, based on Jesus’ teaching to his disciples in Luke 10:1-9, is absolute. Prayer Evangelism is the 1st leap towards spiritual transformation. There are four key components within the instruction Jesus gave his disciples before He sent them out. These steps are interconnected and flow in the order that they were given.

As we reach-out to those around us in prayer, we do so knowing that we carry the authority of the Name of Jesus as well as protection from evil. Through our expressions of the Gospel (via 10 Keys of the Kingdom) Matt.16:18-19, God’s Light and Truth bring about change in the spiritual climate (attitudes and activities) within the community we reach through ministry. From Luke 10, the first steps are to pray for where you are being sent v.1, pray for other laborers v.2, and then go v.3, following the next steps.

Luke 10: steps and leaps towards transformation

  • Bless: speak peace to people and systems in your sphere of influence. v.5-6
  • Fellowship: build relationship with those outside the Kingdom of God. v.7-8
  • Minister: respond to their felt needs in the name of Jesus. v.9a
  • Proclaim: announce that the Kingdom of God has come near and is available to them through Jesus Christ. v.9b

Foundational Questions about reaching a city

How do you reach a city for Christ? Build a canopy of prayer over the entire city – block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, in order to change the spiritual climate.  1 Timothy 2:1-8

When can we say that a city has been reached? The answer represents a four-part progressive penetration of the gospel.

Level 1: Canopy – everyone has a shepherd – Bless the lost… Luke 10:5

Level 2: Relationships – everyone knows their pastor – Fellowship… Luke 10:7

Level 3: Spiritual climate changes for the better – Meet felt needs… Luke 10:9

Level 4: Transformation – the Kingdom is evident in one or more city sectors – Kingdom of God is near/has come to the city… Luke 10:9

  • Discipleship of city/community Matt.28
  • Marketplace redeemed/reclaimed Luke 19:10
  • Every Christian a Minister and Work is Worship Col. 3:23
  • Take Kingdom of God to the kingdom of darkness Matt. 16:18-19
  • Elimination of systemic poverty

6 Final steps towards reaching a city for Christ

“…the grace to reach the city has been deposited in the city; and if it takes the whole Church to present the whole gospel to the whole city; then prayer evangelism is the best way to equip the saints to do it.” 

  1. Establish God’s perimeter in the city in dedicate sites/homes as lighthouses of prayer (Repent/Reform)
  2. Secure God’s perimeter with sites/homes of peace (Reinforce)
  3. Expand God’s perimeter via prayer walking in strategic sites, homes, and neighborhoods (Kingdom Builders/Rebuild)
  4. Infiltrate Satan’s perimeter with acts of public prayer at identified gates, speaking peace in dark areas, reading Scripture, prayer walking in strategic public areas (Repentance/Reconciliation)
  5. Attack and destroy Satan’s perimeter by going into neighborhoods, to visit, listen, bless, and empower… (Spiritual Warfare/Reinvest)
  6. Establish God’s perimeter where Satan’s perimeter used to be through public worship, Lord’s Table, meals, fellowship… (Reclaim/Restore)

Questions or comments about Prayer Evangelism? Contact me here or post them at praydurham

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