A great need exists to provide inner city youth with alternatives to the poverty, despair and hopelessness of their surrounding environment in order to break the cycle of failure through the power of Christ and to build future Christian leaders, both for the inner city church and for their communities.
We believe that God can raise leadership in the urban setting and that it is paramount to do so. The Rev. Tom Skinner said, “The leaders are not outside of the community: the leaders are already in the community…What you must do is be committed to raise up a new generation of leaders for this community.”1
The question is: how best to do so? First and foremost, we believe that the saving power of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can bring about a permanent transformation. It is necessary, then, that young adults be exposed to the gospel message in a context that is meaningful to them. However, the distractions, fears and burdens of daily life in the city tend to crowd out the message. We have found that the camping experience provides a respite from that environment and that youth and young adults are more receptive to the gospel message when removed from their normal environment. We have found summer camps to be extraordinarily effective in the lives of young people.
We believe that developing leadership is a long term commitment. Rev. Wayne Gordon wrote, “In my estimation it takes at least fifteen years to raise up indigenous leadership from the communities we serve.”2 It takes continuity to bring about changes to an individual who has been scarred for years by family and society. A single annual camping experience is too infrequent to provide the ongoing spiritual continuity that is so important in spiritual growth and maturity. We believe, therefore, that providing a more regular camping experience – e.g. monthly – is a powerful means of breaking the cycle of despair and hopelessness.
We believe that God values every person individually and interacts with people individually and therefore we should care for every individual as well. Our structure and programs should be designed to deal with people on an individual basis and to address each person’s unique needs. A key mechanism for doing so is through indigenous role models. By pairing each young person with a mature, Christian adult mentor, the young person gains a resource for accountability and for discipleship and continued growth once back in the neighborhood. In addition, this provides a leadership building opportunity for the mentor.
God has also given to the believer a grace community, called the church. It is God’s people, the church, who gather around and support the person through the changes toward wholesomeness and leadership. Therefore, ministry must be intimately connected with the local church body. As individuals grow in maturity they are encouraged to take on leadership roles in the inner city church, empowering them and encouraging them to become all that God wants them to be.
1) John M. Perkins ed., Restoring at-risk communities:Doing it together and doing it right (Grand Rapids:Baker,1995)pp.182-183.
2) Marvin Olasky, The Tragedy of American Compassion(Wheaton:Crossway,
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