Urban areas are growing quickly, and with the growing population comes a larger demand for good leadership and discipleship, which is why youth and ministry go hand-in-hand.
Youth and ministry, hand-in-hand
Fortunately, many volunteers and paid workers have answered that call due to their passion for helping others through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, those they are helping are urban youth.
At UYWI, we describe “urban” as “shared suffering,” and urban youth are youth in urban areas, areas where certain sufferings are shared. What exactly defines an urban area can vary depending on the context of where the area exists. For example, in California, places like San Bernardino and San Francisco would be considered urban. And the youth within these areas are considered urban youth. But like all areas of living, whether it is urban or not, there are common issues that pervade the urban context, many of which affect its youth.
Some may consider youth living in poverty to be “urban youth”, while others might consider youth who do not live in impoverished or “dangerous” areas to be “urban youth.” The issues that do exist, which also extend to fatherlessness, gang violence, but most dangerous and not talked about enough, gentrification. But what exactly is gentrification and what is the impact, especially on people of color, immigrants, mentally and physically disabled persons, and the elderly?
Gentrification, the root of it all?
There are many ways to define gentrification that are relative to the industry, zoning outcomes, and municipal investments. To keep it simple, the most basic “catch-all” definition of gentrification is the “process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents…”. Gentrification is, by its very nature, the practice by which under-resourced neighborhoods undergo urban revitalization as a result of a sudden increase in property values and municipal investment in infrastructure improvements. Gentrification is not only a root cause of many of the issues that the media deem to be “urban,” but it is also causing erasure of urban culture and all the richness, experiences that come with the word.
Let’s train up leaders together
We not only need trained-up youth leaders — working in youth ministry — to help combat the cyclical issues that arise from the urban context, but we need them as curators and preservers of the beauty that make and shape urban culture, urban communities, and the youth within it. Jesus was urban and if He was alive today, would vouch and see the goodness that is what we know to be “urban.”
Regardless of the youth’s context, youth ministry is needed because it reaches youth living in urban contexts like San Bernardino, like Los Angeles, like Houston, like Milwaukee, etc. Youth ministry can empower youth to help address the issues of their communities, preserve what makes it beautiful, and find meaning, purpose, freedom, and belonging through the shared goodness of Jesus Christ.
Why youth ministry? There is much youth ministry that has been done to reach youth in these contexts. Urban youth ministry, just like any other form of youth ministry, needs to remain relevant because youth, especially urban youth are the future leaders that will lead our world, a world that is becoming increasingly diverse every day — and that’s a reflection of God’s Kingdom.
Pursing youth and ministry help
We know 1.2 Million youth are leaving the church every year. At this rate, it is estimated that 42 million young people could leave the church by 2050. We are facing an incredible urgency to reach the next generation! But UYWI provides networks, resources, certification, and coaching so that urban youth have the role models they need to live transformed lives by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our 2025 goal is to have 15,000 urban leaders within our leadership process that will be actively pursuing and engaging 1,000,000 urban youth with the Gospel. Help us Transform a Generation with the Gospel. It only takes ONE to make a difference.