Look at the students in the picture above. Would you describe them as unchurched/urban/at-risk/inner-city or community kids? Why or why not?
Now do me a favor. Think about the students in your group for a second. What is their background, attitude, and perspective on life?
Take this quiz:
On a separate paper number 1-10. (in any way.)
Next to each that has a yes write the name of the student/parent (or students if there is more than one) that you are thinking of.
1. At least on student is either a child of divorce or growing up in a single parent home.
2. At least one student is suffering from angry outbursts, apathy, or is difficult in some way.
3. At least one student mooches off of others, complains about being hungry or seems to constantly be grubbing for something.
4. At least one student appears to be neglected at home emotionally, spiritually or physically.
5. At least one student lives in a neighborhood, environment or home where you know they rarely feel safe.
6. At least one student seems to always be the victim or feels entitled in some way.
7. At least one student receives more negative feedback than positive encouragement at home. (i.e. You’re never going to be.)
8. At least one parent seems to always be late, complaining, or non-existent when you try to track them down.
9. At least one student who seems to set their own boundaries at home. (i.e curfews, bedtimes, makes most of own meals, runs own life.)
10. At least one student is either overly needy or has extreme trust issues when sharing details about their life. They may offer facts with little or no emotion attached.
The more positives you gave the more students and families you have living in a survival mentality.
One can not merely look at a student and identify what is going on in their hearts or homes. Those of us in youth ministry may use a variety of ways of “labeling” these students: unchurched- urban- inner-city- at-risk- or community kids. If I had to pick one, I would use urban. It does include a demographic area, culture, multi-ethnicity, social ills, and socio-economics. However, I would argue, in terms of the Christian community, this title blurs those lines and moves beyond them. In other words you might be living in the suburbs of New Jersey, rural Kansas or downtown Los Angeles and all have students that fit into our little quiz. The other side of the tracks with their common misconceptions and problems are moving, and reaching each of us in ministry in some way.
Urban = Survival Mode. Therefore we all have urban students.
This idea came from talking to YOU, the youth workers, all over the country. I have these students and families and I don’t know what to do. Over and again there is a common thread, families from around this world have forgotten what hope could feel like, and merely exist into tomorrow.
I would love to engage you in this discussion. What is the mix of your youth programming?