You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘City Kids’ tag.

Over the past two years I’ve been captivated by the Scriptures and conversations with other Christians about the reality of authentic revival and spiritual transformation of our city. The discussions were usually filled with passion and restlessness. Leonard Ravenhill says in Why Revival Tarries, “The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer.”

A deep longing for a fresh move of God was evident in those people. I began to intersect with others from many perspectives and walks of life, which had passion, vision, and compelling prayer lives. Truly a revolutionary spirit was emerging in Durham.  Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole called this a “deep restlessness about what it means to live faithfully in a broken and divided world” in their book, Reconciling All Things. Embracing this reality I began to investigate my ministry history with CEF as well as my own life.


Despite the great work of churches and ministries over the years, why was I not sensing an imminent revival ― a change in apathetic attitudes outside or inside the church? Why was there little evidence of biblical transformation, in which I believed in and hoped would come? Was it too late? What was missing? Was I even thinking clearly or biblically?

I had no conclusive answers for these questions. I self-examined my own vision, passion, and prayer life by asking: Was I contributing to this spiritual malaise? Could in fact, our ministry be partly responsible for God withholding His blessing to our city? But during this struggle, I was soon reminded in another discussion, “Do not mistake God’s presumed inactivity as His lack of involvement or interest in our city.” His Words in Psalms 11-19, Isaiah 57-61, Mark 8, Luke 10, and John 4 as well as from trusted friends began to bring me needed wisdom and a clear understanding about what troubled me. I was also blessed with how to evaluate our ministry teams and an action plan to implement  ― it was simply ten biblical expressions of God’s Kingdom.


After the evaluation, questions were answered like: What was missing?

1. Focused prayer for spiritual transformation of the specific communities where we ministered.

2. Godly relationships with the indigenous people living in those communities.

3. A comprehensive, collaborative, and biblical ministry plan that fostered sustainability and Christian community development.

Evangelism with follow up and some special outreach events had been our plan through Child Evangelism Fellowship® for many years. It was done well. 80,000 lives were touched and heard the Good News and many of those received Christ as Savior during the past 17 years. But it was incomplete. Even when we conscientiously followed Micah 6:8 and Mark 16:15, I realized we were  falling short of expressing the Gospel as Jesus had instructed His disciples to do when He sent them out to every town and place where they were to go.


I realized the focus of Jesus ministry and the heart of God was on people. Their worth, dignity, and living situation dictated ministry. My vision was sharpened on how God valued the people we were reaching, even in the most resource-challenged communities of Durham. As our team refocused, no longer were the people seen as objects or goals of our ministry, but essential conduits and leaders for the transformation of their own communities.

During the past two years, both ministers and residents have been enriched when they prayed, blessed, listened, learned, and ate together. This biblically relational approach has allowed us more effective evangelism, discipleship, and leadership development. Spiritual transformation becomes evident when these ten expressions of the Gospel are implemented. Now everything CEF Durham does will be community-based and guided by these 10 Keys of the Kingdom.

Are you ready to go inside? Good! But there are a few things you should know. First, this is not going to be a sightseeing tour of inner-city ministry. Second, ministering to city kids is real and risky but it places you where God is at work. Third, read Psalm 107:23-24 because it God saying, “This is the essence of life and the way ministry should be.” If you’re ready… These are the core lessons to learn and apply, which are necessary for the journey some call: “inner city ministry.”


Lesson #1

God is good in the hood. Many kids and their families who live in inner-city neighborhoods are aware they have extreme problems. They wish things were different. Many of these families respect God’s Word and believe in prayer. They respond to Christians who bring them help and hope. Often their response is temporary. But yours must never be.

Lesson #2

If you care enough to take the love of Christ inside you will have to prove it by loving city kids and their families. In Grace Matters, author Chris Rice quotes Lem Tucker, “He who has the greatest truth must show the greatest love, which is the greatest proof.” You must prove your love over and over for others to know you really care. Many well-meaning Christians have done great harm in the city by making promises to kids then leaving and never returning. If you love your city and the families living there you must keep your word.

Lesson #3

Your primary focus will be to build personal and ministry relationships. These relationships take time to develop and must be biblically based on equality, grace, trust and endurance. This is accomplished by visiting city kids and their families regularly in their own neighborhood. Soon your consistent presence will prove to their families that you care.

Lesson #4

Effective ministries to urban kids have learned that in order to impact children you must visit them.

  • Visits connect you with the child’s world—“You’re not afraid.”
  • Eighty percent of the children who attend your events come because you visited—“You let me know.”
  • Visits expand your personal ministry to each child—“You care about me.”
  • Visits project an image/testimony in the community—“Thank you for helping my kids.”

Spencer got a home visit every week. Soon he and his sister started attending Extra Good News, an inner-city Bible club in Durham, North Carolina. The faithfulness of his bus commander to visit, encourage and pray with the family led to Spencer becoming a teen helper, an active church member and later was involved in summer missions.

Lesson #5

Try these proven guidelines to successful visiting:

  • Set a time every week to visit—your program should revolve around weekly visitation.
  • Use a block-by-block approach to reach more kids.
  • Keep a record of information on each child and his family.
  • Visit every kid but spend extended time with selected individuals.
  • Be prepared to share the Gospel, listen or lend a helping hand.
  • Pray for children, parents and family needs.

Because a children’s worker followed this plan for weekly visitation, Nikki received help when she said, “My mom is always angry, I don’t know what to do.” Jade, a ten-year-old, had a heavy burden after watching the video Left Behind. She told her teacher, “I don’t want my mom to be left behind. Will you come tell her what you told me about Jesus?”

Floodgates for ministry burst wide open when you visit. Will you add regular visitation-home contacts to your city kids ministry? If so, you’ll take your game to another level.

Kids everywhere love basketball – especially city kids. There is little time to talk or explain, just play. You learn as you go and you learn quickly that respect is everything on the court.

To really play the game and earn respect, you’ve got to take the ball “inside” (not play on the perimeter).  Whether or not you can slam it, you need to “take it to the rack”.  If you play inside you will get knocked around, bruised and fouled. But the hoop is the focus of this game.  It is also called the goal – a goal.

Ministry is much like the game of basketball.  Are you really in the game?  Do you have a goal?  Christians are notorious for playing out on the perimeter. Only a few take the ball inside.  Why take the “ball” inside?

A Look at the Facts

Look at the statistics. Ray Bakke reminds us in A Heart for 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.”  The 2000 U.S. Census revealed: 80% of the country’s population lives in metro/urban 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 our comfort zones into uncharted territory.  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.”

To practice obedience to the Word of God and participate in contemporary missions, we must go inside the city.  We must cross the street with the changeless Gospel.

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.”

Long-Term Workers Needed

The city desperately needs long-term workers who are willing to lay down their lives for the children.  Many city kids are confused about religion, yet they hunger to know the truth.

Evangelism is the first priority, but discipleship is critical in the inner city.  The bridge that will cross the gap from city kids to Christ is building relationships that are biblically based upon equality, grace, trust and longevity.  Our attitude must be in concert with the Spirit of God and the Word of God.

Dr. John Perkins states, “There can be no reconciliation without equality.”  God’s people can never fall into the sin of partiality and be effective as God’s ministers.  The city and its people must be seen as equals and they must be valued.

It is in the heat of urban ministry that some of the most creative, energetic, entrepreneurial ministries pioneer paths for the church of tomorrow.  A few examples include:

  • Church-based, after-school summer day camp and other special programs held at the local church facility or a neighborhood site every weekday
  • A 15-year commitment to raise-up and disciple indigenous leaders
  • “Boot camp” training and qualification of urban workers
  • “Bridge teams” working three years to jump-start ministry in a city
  • A program to disciple and empower preteens

The “City Kids” column will focus on the extremely urgent need to evangelize and disciple urban youth and how to do it biblically from contemporary models.  It will challenge your theology and your way of ministering to kids.  It will emphasize that the spiritual battle rages everywhere but the front lines are in the inner cities and the battle is extreme everyday.  I’ll see you on “the inside” next time.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,206 other subscribers

Find a subject

John E. Blake tweets