The Inner City Church

By Ashanti Lewis

   Being a youth leader at an inner city church has redefined what church really is. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice church. Nice building, comfortable seats (those plush pews are AMAZING!), gleaming smiles and songs of victory that I can hum all the way home…Yes, that’s a great church in my book. But then there are other churches. Churches, which operate more like emergency rooms. People come and go, seeking immediate help and gratification. As soon as their wound heals, they’re gone and you’re left to wonder – did I really make a difference?

   I was fortunate to be raised in a traditional church with a large youth population. We all prayed, laughed, ate, and breathed in the gospel together, without question or objections, because our church and family enabled us to do so…and yes, it was awesome! This sadly has not been my same experience as a youth leader today. Children often come from broken homes in search of immediate relief. Once that need is sufficed and the gospel of God is presented, most children are defensive and defiant against it. Their parents, too behave in the same manner.

[expand title="Read more"]

   I know what you're thinking - it’s not looking good for the poor youth leader, and you're right. I've learned the hard way that it is never a good thing to argue with someone who is initially defensive towards the gospel of Christ; it only makes them run away further.

   So what can you do? Love them. Show them the undying love of Christ as much as you can for the minimal time they are likely to be present. The love of Christ is the only thing that can captivate them enough to change...and so we just love on them. We acknowledge them, support them, pray for them, and provide whatever they need in our ability to give. But, most importantly, we tell them that God loves them, and so do we.

   A happy ending would be that this method produces 100% retention rate and our youth department is at its maximum capacity. Wouldn’t that be a lovely ending...The truth is that most children still walk away and our retention rate remains very low...but that's OK. God calls us to plant seeds and He will give the harvest. We love in the hopes that when they face their darkness hour they will remove the love we showed and know they always have a spiritual home with us when they need it. That is our church; it's not perfect but it's full of love and it is home.

Ashanti serves at the Upon This Rock Tabernacle in Albany, NY.
To contact Ashanti, click here.
For more information about the church, click here.