Urban Ministry Strategies (part 3 of 3)

June 17, 2012

Today is part 3 of 3 blog posts sharing some "Urban Ministry Strategies" which are somewhat related to leadership. Most of these thoughts are related to how Christian leaders make a positive change in the community they live and work in. Enjoy!

Urban Ministry Strategies

While reading, A Heart for the Community seeking to learn about urban ministry, the two most impactful statements/thoughts both came from the chapter, “Mobilizing the Suburban Church: Moving Toward a Lifestyle of Compassion.”[1] In that chapter Alvin Bibbs is sharing why it is important to mobilize volunteers when he writes, “The first thing that needs to happen before a church attempts to mobilize volunteers is to be clear on the mission. Tell the church why it is important.”[2] I believe Bibbs is right: we need to tell potential volunteers why it is important that they volunteer. There might be many reasons that a church wants its volunteers to be locally vested into their community, and it is up to the church to be clear on that mission by sharing it with the people on a regular basis. Additionally, people are extremely busy and they must know why the call for volunteers at church is more important than the Rotary Club fundraiser, their favorite TV show (heaven forbid they would miss TV!), or invitations from Christian friends for activities. When a church communicates what its mission is for mobilizing volunteers and why it is important, that is key to starting it well and being focused on doing the most good in their community.

Another statement that has resonated with me from this book is when Bibbs states, “God’s Kingdom is expanded as people steward their time, spiritual gifts, and material resources toward initiatives to ease the suffering of people who have tremendous needs.”[3] This is very true for the simple fact that the poor, disabled, and disenfranchised are often forgotten about. This is no one’s fault, it is a simple fact of how a society operates within a capitalistic economy where everything functions around the bottom line and making money. People who are poor, disabled, and disenfranchised do not have extra money to spend on extra “stuff”. Thus they are often not solicited for their time or money. This means that when we as Christians reach out to these groups we are reaching people who are not touched as much as others. When we spend our time, use our spiritual gifts, and material resources to help others it helps to expand God’s kingdom to others who might not be as reached as others in our community.

A question I have for Bibbs is, how do you help people volunteer for projects that serve others in ways that (as Lupton would say) develop them?[4] In other words, how do we keep people from volunteering for projects that create dependency among the people being served and belittle the person receiving services? Robert Lupton talks about this being an important element in positively changing communities and I think that if we are going to mobilize people to volunteer from our churches, we need to make sure that those people are actually helping the issue by developing others through their service, not be creating dependency.[5] But, how do we do that?

Another question I have is, how many other “niche” ministries are there that are not being filled? This question steps from John Green’s chapter, “Loving the Sexually Broken: The World of Male Prostitution (Emmaus Ministries).”[6] I am surprised about how common male prostitution is. I would never have guessed that 42 percent of prostitution arrests are male.[7] The thought I am wrestling with is if this is such a dramatic problem that is so common yet I have never thought about it, what other issues and problems are there that need to be addressed? What other “niche” ministers need to be created to specific people in specific situations in a similar way to male prostitution?

[1] Alvin C. Bibbs Sr., A Heart for the Community, ed. John Fuder and Noel Castellanos (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 326-335.

[2] Ibid., 328.

[3] Ibid., 334.

[4] Robert D. Lipton, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2007).

[5] Ibid., 38-51.

[6] John Green, A Heart for the Community, ed. John Fuder and Noel Castellanos (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 388-400.

[7] Ibid., 393.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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