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Relationships

If you value people in the city, then you will make intentional decisions to build long-term empowering relationships.  Intentionally doing so will allow you to cross cultural barriers and build relationships which enrich your lives.  Knowing people within the city helps cultivate an appreciation of their diversity, which enriches and broadens ones vision and ministry.  It presents itself as an indigenous vault of resources.

Relationships and leadership development on-the-job creates and affirms value, power, and a sense of community in the lives of your ministry teams.

Leadership Development

Invest in people. Pour yourself into those that God sends your way by taking what He poured into you and reinvest it into others.  It may take fifteen years to develop indigenous urban leadership.  It’s necessary, absolutely vital, for implementing an effective and sustainable ministry to city kids.  

  • Make spiritual disciples for Christ in the city… Matthew 28:19-20  
  • Develop spiritual leaders for Christ in the city… Philippians 3:10  
  • Lead others into a Christ-like life of Sacrifice – Suffering – Service:

Because we children of Adam want to become great, He became small. Because we will not stoop, He humbled Himself. Because we want to rule, He came to serve.

Reconciliation

A result of redemption, the end being made right with God, now we are His ambassadors… 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
Satan has a plan to alienate and separate us from God and each other.  You and I need to repent and forgive.

Unity Pledge

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am committed to the unity and harmony intended for His Body, the Church.  I repent and ask forgiveness for any way I have alienated others.  I share remorse for every thought, word, or action that has divided the Church.  I will forgive those who have sinned against me.  I will pray for the unity and harmony of God’s people.  And I will work with other Christians to move beyond any racial barriers, demonstrating the unity of the Glory of Christ our Lord.

Risk-taking in ministry

It is in the heat of urban risk-taking ministry that some of the most innovative and energetic ministries have been developed, which are still used today.

  1. After-school, mentoring, tutoring and other special programs sponsored by indigenous churches
  2. Long-term commitments to disciple indigenous leaders
  3. Training, teaching, and ministry development standards
  4. Bridge teams and young teen programs
  5. 10 Keys of the Kingdom and 7 MIT with song

Location and Place

Are you willing to stay and serve the Lord in a community of need? Living and serving in the city comes with a cost.  You experience life as your neighbors.  You struggle in the city with those that you intend to minister and help.  You share the struggle.  You have a bond – common ground to work from, which builds a trusting relationship.

There is a refreshing movement that blows through urban streets of America today.  It’s called incarnational ministry, which is simply to live and be enriched by the people you minister to.  Whether you presently work on the inside with city kids, effective ideas are born in the city and will inspire your creativity and enhance your ministry.

Networking

Again, focus on networking with others in the community to build capacity and sustainability.  A God-given vision will be inclusive of His Kingdom at-large. Indigenous partners and leadership with the same vision will empower people in the Kingdom if done long-term.  Here are a few areas to consider networking for capacity-building, sustainability, and effectiveness in the city:

  1. Organizations, cohorts, and initiatives that network in the city
  2. Church Partnerships
  3. Innovative Outreach Events
  4. Creative Ministries
  5. Diversity and Development

Strategic Planning

This is not the last or least important component of implementing and growing a city ministry.  I saved it last to emphasize its fluid and/or organic nature.  Its value is immense, thus, used throughout every aspect of developing a strong ministry to city kids.  Strategic planning towards implementation is just that — strategic!  So, this aspect will always be evaluated and tweaked as changes occur in the city, community, staffing, dynamics of individual neighborhoods, etc.

Prayer for spiritual transformation of the city sectors by the Ekklesia is vital for successful outcomes of a strategic plan targeting communities, schools, and city kids.

I am providing you a link to see a proposed strategic plan for CEF City Kids USA.  You will notice that it is currently a proposal.  The plan leverages the use of the 10 Keys of the Kingdom.  It has various metrics to evaluate progress over 3 years.  It also has space for scaling and changes depending on its success and reception by the CEF family.  This proposed strategic plan is focused on vision-casting, leadership development, and risk-taking during its first 3 years.

Your values, heart, and vision matter to city kids and youth

Having Godly Values

Why are core values important?

  1. Values provide the foundation for formulating goals and giving direction for ministry.
  2. Most strategic plans fail because values are not articulated when starting the process.
  3. Conflict arises often due to differing values.

What are ‘Key Questions’ in determining your core values?

  1. What is your ministry and/or organization supposed to be doing?
  2. What do you get passionate about?
  3. How do you invest your time and money?
  4. For what do you (your ministry) want to be remembered?
  5. Are these values action oriented?
  6. Does your (ministry’s) action or behavior demonstrate or address these core values?

Having a Godly Vision

What is Vision?

  1. Desires fruitful outcomes in ministry initiatives
  2. Describes what the ministry will look like in five years
  3. Develops a mental image that motivates people

Where do you connect with a Godly Vision?

  1. Catch God’s perspective on reality
  2. Recognize God’s desire for all people
  3. The flow of God’s redemptive purposes
  4. Seek God’s specific assignments
  5. By empowering God’s indigenous people

How can you know the vision comes from God?

  1. Listen during prayer
  2. Seek/Ask for God’s wisdom and counsel
  3. Minister with others who share the same vision
  4. Promotes faith rather than fear
  5. Motivates people to action which multiplies
  6. Requires risk-taking
  7. Glorifies God, not people

Having Godly Resources

Time: It may take fifteen years to develop indigenous urban leadership.  What are the implications when this decision is made? Are you willing to make such a commitment to the Lord for city kids?  Staying and Serving  This type of commitment is rare and not for the weak.  Will your vision be focused on making a long-term commitment?

Networking: It’s a must, biblically and practically, if you are going to survive and thrive in the city. A God-given vision will be inclusive of His Kingdom at-large.  Indigenous partners and leadership with the same vision will empower people and sustain the mission if done long-term.

Favor: As you labor faithfully and consistently, look for people, programs, and pulpits within the community that will supply the needs and gain ownership of the vision. Look in the city.  There is a vault of resources that cannot be found anywhere else.

God is saying “Go” to the people… yet in the omni-matrix of God, He is saying “Come” join me in the city where I AM at work. I AM here. It is good. Also… if people are empowered and equipped, they already have all the resources needed to solve their own problems. We need to stop trying solve people’s problems and issues,

John E. Blake & Dr. John Perkins

Look for Part 7 soon How To Implement a City Kids Strategy, which will wrap up this series of articles on Developing a Heart for the City and City Kids

How would you define success in ministry to city kids… actually, any children and youth? Does your adopted measurement impact your strategic plan? Does it help sustain and scale your organization beyond the current ministry year? Actively matching your organization’s purpose with how you show up and what you do on a weekly and annual basis is critical for success and defining success.

Forgiveness, redemption, and resolution are key components towards success which provides real hope and power while ministering in the city. John E, Blake

I’ve learned that real success begins within your own heart, acknowledging its brokenness and dependence on the Lord for Godly forgiveness, redemption, and resolutions in our own lives. Only then can we proclaim and live these truths, putting them into action, among the people we minister to. Stay with me, I want to share how I’ve learned to define success in ministry and specifically with city kids and their communities. I believe there are at least 3 Godly aspects when bringing resolutions to the complexities of ministry to the poor, marginalized, and distance from God.

Forgiveness and redemption

First, let me provide a list of personal and direct ministry benefits from forgiveness and redemption. At the end, wait for it, I’ll provide my list of what success looks like, in the natural, when ministering in the city and with city kids. Please offer your comments after reading as well, thanks!

Redemption from sin gives hope, salvation, and empowers us:

  1. For the hopeless conditions of children we see and teach
  2. For our negative attitudes towards the difficulty of city ministry
  3. As workers, we need to be reminded of the Lord’s work in our lives
  4. To confess our negative attitudes and repent
  5. To ask the Lord to do whatever He chooses to develop a heart within us for the city and city kids
  6. To carry the same message of redemption to city kids and allow God to affect the change that no person, program, or government plan can do

Resolution brings the game plan for solution with mutuality and respect:

In developing a heart for the city you and your ministry organization must have a firm resolve.  This is a passionate resolve, which prays and labors until a biblical and systemic plan is birthed and confirmed. It’s a mutual plan to accurately address and solve spiritual and social issues impacting the culture and lives of the people whom you minister alongside. This strategic plan is framed around three words:

Values – describes who we are and what we really believe. Core values are consistent, passionate, biblical, and distinctive convictions that determine our priorities, influence our decisions, drive our ministry and are demonstrated by our behavior.  Our real core values are exposed in the way we minister, to whom we minister, and also where we minister.  James 1:26-2:1

Vision – describes where we are going. It’s like shooting arrows beyond yourself – Psalm 127 “having a higher expectation than where you are… It’s projecting a vision for success and a heart for God… if you can dunk the ball at 9 foot, then raise the rim.” There are many applications in life, but the idea is to clarify and cast vision of where your organization is going.

Resources – describes what we will use and how we will use it to reach, achieve, and/or resolve the task of fulfilling the vision, which has been cast.

In part 3 the verse Psalm 11:3 was mentioned regarding …when the foundations are being destroyed… there is a biblical answer to repair and resolution to this social darkness.

  • Speak Truth with real applications for living
  • Pray (de-hijack prayer) for transformation not problems
  • Activate the Gospel (de-colonize and clarify)
  • Church active and community-centered
  • Communities and schools pastored:
    • Nurture, love, reconcile for them to flourish
    • Biblical principles are active and evident
    • Spiritual and natural atmospheres change
    • Systemic poverty and issues eliminated
    • Keys of the Kingdom are leveraged for change

Next Part 6 will articulate deeper and offer examples of Godly values, vision, and resources like: Networking, Staying and Serving, Risk-taking and others.

Rejection and Realization

From a systemic and spiritual perspective, I will attempt to reveal the roots of despair and decline in marginalized, resourced-challenged, or poor communities (whichever categorical term works for you). Due to attitudes of condemnation, misplaced compassion, and frankly, ignorance, a sick, broken, generational system of living in hopelessness has taken root.

What’s the Problem: God – Not God Himself, but a rejection of God by indigenous people of these communities and those in power who control and manage these communities. As a result, deteriorating social and economic conditions prevail. Systemic poverty, in every area of life, becomes the norm. Thus, their struggle, our struggle, even collectively our struggle is not only in the natural, but a spiritual battle, which needs a supernatural solution. (Ephesians 6:12)The struggle should not be with our fellow man.

Poverty in every area of life is the result when God is rejected (examples: Nigeria, Europe, US inner cities, etc.). Where do you see this in our own city? What’s wrong with the pictures portrayed by city, neighborhood, or school officials in your city? (example: movie – “A Christmas Carol” and other media depicting poverty). Poverty is often a source of alienation; inequity breeds anger; destructive survival and negative behavior pull families down.  Satan’s plan is very effective!  Christians must view this condition with the mind of Christ.

Spiritual poverty produces hardship in every area of life.  Especially for children and the poor.  Are they not the most vulnerable?  There must be a realization that unless city kids are affected by the Gospel and change begins early in life, the probability is that they will be pulled into the same generational cycle of crime, poverty, and ungodliness.

Regarding your ministry with children, respond to the following: State your purpose in ministry? For what purpose do you live/exist?  Luke 10:27-28 State your most important cause – Something that’s worth dying for… (your values and passions)  Do you have a cause?  State the ways you connect with kids – Nurture and care for the children you teach; equip them for living; hug them; build them up on the inside; most of their outsides are spoiled.  How do city kids respond to you?

Next Part 5: Forgiveness, Redemption, and Resolution with Godly Values, Vision, and Resources

This is the 3rd part of a series on Developing a Heart for the City and City Kids. Part 1 (below) began on April 16, 2019. There will be a total of seven parts to complete this presentation and discussion. Additional topics and resources related to teaching city kids can be found at CEF Durham and The Center of Light as well as this blog.

As I asked in part 2, How would you or will you respond? Perhaps a better question for a better discussion would be, How do you respond when confronted about social, systemic, and spiritual issues in the city? How have your responded in the past. Civic and Christian leaders have grappled with these questions and issues for many years. We, in CEF, have talked and strategized over these things for the past 20-30 years. Some progress was made towards being more reflective, in our literature, of the multi-ethnic children we teach. A few changes were also made in our teaching methods, which made an impact on our teaching curriculum and teacher training of the main CEF ministry programs — Good News Clubs and 5-Day Clubs.

Typical responses

How have your responded in the past? Here are a few general, but typical responses to the needs within the city.

Condemnation: Having attitudes, which say, ‘They deserve what they get.  Why don’t they get a job?  Well, Jesus even said that the poor will always be with us.  How can they live like that?  Don’t they care?  Look how dirty those kids are?

Cultural Chasm: Feelings of alienation pulling you back from the city. This is a humanly cultivated apprehension because of being culturally distant and different from those in the inner city. Cultural competencies are weak.

Curiosity: Attracted to a fabricated danger, risk-taking adventure, it’s cool, or a self-centered glorification by going into the ‘hood’ and doing good deeds. Picture-taking for personal benefit and conversations.

Compassion: God-centered and inspired attitude, which causes your heart to love, care, reach out, hang out, and be enriched by those in the city.

Heart reflections

Your responses are a starting point, now reflect on what your heart allows you to see. To develop a heart for the city and city kids, you must look at…

Broken Lives: Have you seen any difficulty loving the people of the city?  Increasingly, the poor have become nameless, faceless statistics.  The poor are no longer our next-door neighbors, nor do they sit in the pew beside us. They may be seen as the object of our outreach, but not as valuable, powerful, world-changers within their community… or our friends.

Neglected Families: Have you seen pain in the eyes of children? Have you seen children of the inner-city being neglected?  Do you appreciate the reason why? Many youth must care and defend themselves and their siblings, provide safety for their families, experience the lack of adequate life skills, yet have lots of street smarts, and are victims of few on-going programs to nurture and equip them for healthy living and decision making.

Negligent City Sectors: Have you seen the results of negligent parents, schools, churches, communities, ministries, and government agencies? When these city sectors are also broken, inadequate, and unsure of how to take action, you have a recipe for disaster and devastation. When evangelicals left the city both physically and spiritually, the turf was conceded to government agencies, liberal agendas, ignorant and irrelevant churches, broken families, etc. The salt and light, Jesus talked about, was mostly removed from the city… and the enemy devoured it.

…if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?… Psalm 11:3-7

What are the foundations broken and why?

  • Family broken — Too much selfishness and arrogance
  • Religion broken — Too little passion to help the community
  • Schools broken — Lack of wisdom
  • Communities broken — Fear
  • Society broken — Darkness

In this day and age, given the context of need in our cities, given the separation by race, culture, politics, and social issues that exists… given our history in this country — what would Jesus have us do?

Coming in part 4: Rejection and Realization a Reality Check

Go deeper with a few suggested books:
1. In His Steps by Charles Sheldon
2. Let Justice Roll Down by John M. Perkins
3. Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton
4. One Blood by John M. Perkins
5. Reconstructing the Gospel by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

If Jesus were walking with us today and asked, “What do you see?  Do you see the need, the depths of despair, and pain?”  The Lord would be asking you to look, where?  How would you respond?

Biblical Response

According to the Bible, the heart of God responds to the disadvantaged with active compassion.  This is the heart of pure/true religion.  Compassion is all about connecting with the helpless condition of the hurting world.  The spiritual and physical needs of this world are great.  Look around, where are the greatest needs?  Who is suffering the most?  If you are called to Christ, you are called to compassion.  What is your response?

Demonstrating justice, compassion, and humility is required

Only through the Power of God, the Word of God, and our intentional decision to practice the Heart of God can we develop a heart for the city and its people.  Developing a heart for the city and its people means being called to Christ and called to compassion.

…be doers of the Word and not hearers only… but a doer who acts… [control your tongue, care for the afflicted, keep oneself unstained by the world, show no partiality… this true religion]

James 1:23-2:13

Jesus said the people in cities and villages were ‘harassed, weary, or distressed’ meaning: to be flayed open, in hopeless despair, thrown down, to be at the end of oneself – the recurring effects of those who are ‘harassed’ can be pictured as a rock is thrown onto a pond, which results in a seemingly never-ending cycle of ripples and rings, thus illustrating the downward spiral of discouragement and hopelessness felt by the poor and disenfranchised.  Jesus was moved with compassion.  He saw beyond external appearances into the hearts of the people.  He saw that they were unprotected, unsaved, and unguided. Jesus said to pray that God’s people will enter into the pain and suffering of those harassed.

…When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd…

Matthew 9:35-38

Your Response

When you walk down the streets of our cities, when you drive threw neglected, despairing, destitute neighborhoods, when you see crowds of people…  How deeply do you see?  Are you moved with compassion or revulsion?  How would you respond? It is possible for you to do the right thing for the wrong reason or to do the wrong thing for the right reason.  How will you respond?

Look at the statistics:

Ray Bakke reminds us in A Theology as Big as the City, “The frontier of missions has shifted to the cities. The greatest number of unreached people is no longer geographically distant but rather culturally distant. You must realize that the nations of the world are coming to the city.“  Today in a new millennium, missions has dramatically shifted in many ways, including from safe to dangerous, from receptive to hostile people groups, from villages and jungles to urban/city jungles.  The 2000 U.S. Census revealed: 55-80% of the country’s population lives and will be living by 2050 in metro/urban areas. U.S. now reports, as of 2017, 75-85% of families with children are living in the largest US cities and urban metro areas.

Look at the trends:

Everything from music to fashion, language and politics is dominated by urban trends, says Bob Bufford of Leadership Networks. Sociologists, market analysis, and government officials pay close attention to what happens in urban America. What happens there will influence what happens everywhere.

Look at the task:

There is no easy, painless or inexpensive way to minister in the city today. Urban ministry is nearly always cross-cultural and calls us beyond ourselves into uncharted territory (Psalm 107:23-24). But city ministry is critical! D.L. Moody said, “Water runs downhill, and the highest hills are the great cities. If we can stir them, we shall stir the whole country.”

Look at the Word:

To practice obedience to the Word of God and participate in contemporary missions, we must go inside the city. We must cross, not only an ocean and a continent, but the street with the changeless Gospel.  The entire Scriptures, including Jesus earthly ministry, demonstrates this imperative.

Look at the Church:

Where is the Church in regard to this mission field?  Do our methods, ideas, and attitudes really impact today’s urban kids?  Do they produce devoted disciples for Christ?  In Dare to Love the Ghetto, Keith Phillips tells about one particular church, “They took five or ten black boys from the inner-city for a week of camping experience, stuffed them full of the gospel, meticulously recorded each decision and then pitched them back into the ghetto with these words of comfort: God bless you! We’ll send follow-up materials by mail. Hope everything works out.”

How would you respond to the above question: What do you see…? In the next part of Developing a Heart for the City, to be published, consider your responses by these questions:

1. Can you see the Heart of the Father?

2. What does the Bible say about reaching cities?

3. How deeply do you see and is your heart moved for city kids?

John E. Blake
The courts are open after school, weekends, school holidays, and summer breaks.

John E Blake — Coaching and mentoring youth in Durham N.C. via tennis on inner city courts! Doc Blake’s More Than Gold Fitness & Sportsreach

Research has found that early positive experiences in sports create a lifelong commitment to an active lifestyle. Tennis is fun for families and kids of all ages and levels. CEF and docBlakeFitness are advocates and facilitators of youth and family tennis through More Than Gold teaching academies, camps, and clinics, which are usually held in the late Spring, Summer, and early Fall. We also offer total body fitness workouts to enhance overall strength, agility, and healthy lifestyles.

SOCIAL BENEFITS

  • New friends
  • Quality time with family
  • Positive learning environment
  • Learn teamwork and communication

HEALTH BENEFITS

  • Stay active with aerobic and anaerobic exercise
  • Enhance flexibility and coordination
  • Increase bone and muscle strength
  • Creates mental and physical awareness and well being

PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS

  • Learn sportsmanship and fun competition
  • Develops character and integrity
  • Builds discipline and work ethic
  • Improves relational skills and decision-making

SAMPLE SCHEDULE (40 min sessions)

  • Warm up and stretch
  • Cardio and strength conditioning
  • Racket grip, balls types, court etiquette
  • Skills tutorial and/or Play Tennis Skillastics®
  • Forehand off toss/hit – Run – elimination
  • Backhand off toss/hit – Run – elimination
  • Overhead off toss/hit – Run – elimination
  • Dodgeball repeat skills – Run – eliminate
  • Conditioning via Line Hops – Stop-Start Runs
  • Strokes with partner – Keep Score – rotate
  • Strokes with 5-some – Keep Score – rotate
  • Play – Keep own score – rotate – eliminate
  • What did we learn today?

Most city kids when asked: Is the world getting darker or lighter?  They almost unanimously answer: DARKER!  Why?  They, like you and I, just know that the sadness, despair, crime, economic challenges, and broken families of this world feels dark.  It’s discouraging and depressing.  Children, youth, and their families are struggling to navigate life in such a world.

When the foundations are being destroyed, what are the righteous to do? Psalm 11

Many students, even parents and teachers, feel helpless or clueless of how to combat the perpetual onslaught of hatred, violence, cyber-bullying, or disrespect, just to mention a few forms of darkness in their world.  But this narrative of darkness is changing!  Students are hearing and accepting the truth of their immense and incredible value.

middleschool

They’re rejecting the lies and false labels of words and attitudes thrown towards them like poisonous darts and bringing light to their world (schools) as world changers.  Students and teachers, independently and together, are leveraging their God-given value and power to make choices that will make their school better and flourish.

Read the rest of this entry »

The vision for City Kids is simple – to visit resource-challenged communities and deliver a comprehensive gospel impact. We are faced with many questions in our calling, but it is in our search for the answer that we strive to spread the Gospel to all. Is God powerful enough to keep kids away from gangs? Does the Word of God still accomplish what it says in the current day & age? What if The Church at Durham took seriously its responsibility for taking the Gospel to city kids and youth? What if for 10 years a collaboration of churches and ministries comprehensively served the 10 most physically and spiritually needy communities of Durham?

Living in Poverty

In our area, we face communities where crime and evil have dominated life for way too long. Communities where kids are not expected to succeed. These are the communities where the words: at-risk, under-resourced, and marginalized are experienced everyday by its residents. These are the communities where God has been rejected, yet screams out to be glorified! This is where the Lord desires that the residents welcome Him back into their lives, homes, and their communities.

We’re about reaching city kids and youth for Christ with the whole Gospel to benefit the whole child and their family throughout the whole year.

CEF Durham along with partnering ministries and local Christians are developing an Urban Missions Network for new strategies and strengthening best efforts, which will focus on these 10 identified communities for the next 10 years. A simple strategy of biblical, holistic discipleship will be used. Our vision is to see city kids and families transformed by the Gospel. Indigenous residents will be enabled to lead their own communities in biblical transformation and Christian community development. This would include, but not limited to, evangelism, discipleship, character development, academic tutoring, creative arts, sports/recreation, medical services, life skills, and economic/job training.

Want to talk more about City Kids, offer some insights, question?

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