Inner City Youth Ministry – an interview on the subject of inner city ministry
Have you ever thought you might be interested in working with inner city youth? Below is an interview with a man who is currently doing this type of work; he has been asked questions in no specific order, but just randomly.
He has always had a heart for this type of ministry since he was a young boy. He currently has a ministry with the inner city youth in his own city. It has its’ ups and downs, but it is exciting to see how the Lord works and the many blessings He provides within this ministry.
1. What is your biggest challenge in working with inner city youth?
My biggest challenge in this work is myself. Along with Paul I must say “Oh wretched man that I am!” The selfish human heart that resides within me is constantly tempted to be satisfied to care only for myself, my own desires, my own spiritual needs, and my own pleasures. Even the poorest of us in America are really rich in the goods of this world and there is no end to the distractions that keep me focused on self. To die to self in every way is to then allow God to do things through us that we cannot do and for His glory and praise only.
2. What is your basic philosophy in this type of ministry?
Proverbs 16:25 says: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” My desire is to see my own life conformed to God’s way only through the study and obedience of His Word, my desire for those I am called to is that they would reject their own thoughts and turn to God and His Word only for the way of salvation and life.
3. How do you handle angry/disobedient students?
I do not pretend to be an expert here. First, it must be remembered that the anger/disobedience that each person is born with (read Romans 3) is natural and is worsened in these students by their home situations. Before I respond to their anger/disobedience with my own fleshly anger, I try to stop and think what I would be like if I had grown up in a situation like theirs. My desire then is to respond with kindness. While it becomes necessary to perhaps ask a child to leave, take away rewards, or speak firmly during a group time when crowd control is necessary, I try to later go and speak to that child at their home alone and try to help them remember their sinful behavior so that perhaps the Holy Spirit will convict them of their need for Christ. If I do not have unconditional love for them through Christ’s control of me, I may be able to enact some style of military like discipline among them that brings about some sort of change in their outward behavior but I may never truly win their hearts for Christ.
4. What kind of training program do you suggest – present gospel and discipleship?
Ultimately the preferred training would be one that is daily rather than just one or two hours per week. Those of us who desire to raise our children to be conformed to the image of Christ know and understand that this is a daily, moment by moment task. The best training I received in my home life was not the scheduled, formal times but rather practical training by being instructed through life as it happened. While we are working to create a program for inner city kids that incentives them to read the Bible, learn verses, etc… the ultimate training program would be to have full-time missionary work among their daily lives that can model and teach the Word of God on a daily basis.
5. What is the number one way in your opinion to reach these young people?
Ephesians 1:12-13 says: “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” It is the “word of truth” that convinces men of their sinfulness and their need to trust Christ to save them. As a young boy it was this word both taught and lived in front of me that the Holy Spirit used to convince me that I was a wicked person that needed to be saved. The best way to reach these people is with the “word of truth” both taught and lived out before them.
6. How long have you been working in this type of ministry?
This is a hard question to answer. When I was a young teenager, I went to the Downtown Atlanta Rescue Mission. It was there that I knew that my calling from the Lord was to those who were forgotten, mistreated, poor, and generally looked down upon in society. Since then, I have always had “my people” that fit in these categories with whom I am constantly working. Making a more formal effort at focusing my efforts towards seeing a ministry developed to these types of people in Shelby, NC has been something that we have been doing now for almost two years.
7. How did you know that this was the type of ministry that you should be working in?
Ephesians 4:11-12 says: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” Whenever I have lived yielded to the Holy Spirit in my life, it is evident that He has given me the gift of evangelism. Romans 12:6-8 says: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” It has also been clear to me that the Lord has given me the gift of mercy. These two gifts from the Holy Spirit when coupled together drive me to a desire to tell everyone of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus and especially those to whom most of the world does not show mercy.
8. How do your own children respond to your ministry?
I believe that those of my children who have been regenerated feel the way that my daughter has expressed in this note to her Daddy:
9. Why would you choose working with inner city youth as opposed to working with youth in a “normal” church?
The youth of today are much like the youth that you would find in an uncivilized jungle – only a little worse…Life is about play, pleasure, and self. There is no one true God who created all mankind, and they are superstitious and religious while knowing nothing of God and His Word. Bringing them into a traditional church when they have no foundation at home further confuses them and has the potential to make them only more religious – not true converts. The youth of today need what our own children need. They need someone to teach them daily of God’s ways, God’s Word, and God’s salvation. Trying to do this one hour per week in a traditional religious setting is not very effective and we desire to infiltrate their daily lives with love, teaching, and discipleship.
10. Do you have any thoughts on reaching adults in these communities as well as the youth?
Yes. It is urgent! The daily influence in the lives of the young people are often adults who are constantly angry, drunk, under the influence of drugs, depressed, living in open sexual debauchery, and treat the youth as pets that must only be fed food and not as people who are made in the image of God and must be loved, nourished, and trained. We seek to reach the hearts of these adults with the Word of God as much as we do the children.
11. What advice would you give someone who is thinking about working with inner city youth?
Please don’t unless you are willing to put on your Bible glasses and live according to the dictates of the Word of God rather than the traditions of men. Please don’t if you do it so that you might tell someone about “your ministry”. Please don’t if you are not willing to smell like cigarette smoke often, if you are not willing to hug a smelly person, if you are not willing to have roaches crawl on and around you, if you are not willing to be in the midst of drinking and drugs and prostitutes and proclaim the gospel of Christ with compassion. Please don’t if you have believe that it is a special ministry that doesn’t yield much fruit.
Please do if you believe that you are as much a sinner as these. Please do if your heart breaks when you see the poor, the criminal, the drug addict, the homeless, the orphan, the abused, the hated. Please do if you love to be among them. Please do if you remember that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
12. Do you or have your received opposition to what you are doing, whether from other believers or others in general?
Yes. Those who have opposed are those who are usually very religious and know all the right things yet continue to pass by on the other side (see Luke 10).
13. If you could have one thing right now that would help regarding your ministry, what would it be?
Enough income to allow me to be a full-time missionary on the streets of Shelby. Like-minded fellow missionaries.