“Youth with a Purpose” in a suburb of Accra
Churches and Christian organizations are not reaching today’s youth on their own turf, that is, in homes, communities and neighborhoods. Youth-oriented organizations like Youth for Christ, Great Commission Movement and Scripture Union mostly operate in schools and universities. Local churches on the other hand usually have church-based youth programs which target mainly the youth members.
This scenario leaves out the unchurched and at-risk youth to street workers whose best efforts aim at reform, without spiritual concern. Mere social reform, without inner spiritual renewal leaves a vacuum in individuals and communities. To work towards a holistic transformation of the youth who are the “outsiders,” I propose the formation of community Christian youth fellowships to function as churches without walls to reach young people. There is need for such a ministry within Dansoman estates, a suburb of Accra which will be expanded to other cities to address the needs of the urban youth in Ghana.
Generation, youth, churches, fellowship, organizations, communities, incorporation, church without walls, purpose, holistic, spiritual formation.
Basis/Need for the project
Inspiration for this project comes from Acts 13:36, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep” (NIV). From king David’s example we can deduce that having a sense of worthy purpose in life is an important motivating force in shaping the growth and development of young people. David later wrote, “I was young but now I am old,” meaning youth is a stage in the growth process that needs fostering and motivation. There is a great need today for motivating the youth with a sense of purpose in their transition into adulthood. Unfortunately, many young people are merely growing up as a natural process rather than being brought up in an enabling environment that enhances personal growth and development.
The youth of middle class Dansoman and its surrounding deprived neighboring communities need to be reached and given a sense of purpose. There is no greater loss than the loss of a young life full of potential to a life of purposelessness and eventual criminality. The traditional agents of socialization-the home or family, community, school, the media, and even the church have failed to bring up the youth to a worthy heritage.
Young people today are merely experiencing biological growth without the corresponding human, social and spiritual qualities. Because they are offered nothing to live for they are ready to die for anything from drugs to …………….
The centers being proposed will offer an enabling environment where the youth will be made to realize their potentialities through Christian fellowship, bible studies, motivational talks, counseling, spiritual formation programs, talent hunt, skills training, games and sports.
Project location/Community characteristics
Dansoman estate is a large and affluent residential estate in the city of Accra. The suburb is populated by predominantly Christian middle class families. What is unique about this well developed estate is that its immediate outlying communities are deprived slums sheltering a large mixed population of migrants from neighboring West African countries, Muslims, and rural-urban drifters. Most residents are the city’s poorest, hoodlums and criminal elements, as well as low-income families. One of such neighborhoods is the notorious “Sodom and Gomorrah” slum community.
Certain “wayward” youth from the affluent neighborhood form gang alliances with their counterparts from these slums and are known for their notorious smoking of marijuana and pick-pocketing. They take over public school facilities at night and during weekends to engage in all kinds of nefarious activities. Directly or indirectly their presence and activities in the neighborhoods are linked to frequent incidents of violent crimes such as armed robbery and murders in the estate and its environs.
Description of the project as compared and contrasted with some existing organizations
The project as stated above is the creation of neighborhood youth centers which will engage the youth in meaningful group learning activities which will enhance personal growth and development. The plan is to model in the city’s neighborhoods what Scripture Union does in secondary schools and Navigators and Great Commission Movement respectively carries out on university campuses. Scripture Union is a para-church youth-based organization working mostly among secondary school students.
S.U as it is called in Ghana, is represented in second cycle schools by non-denominationalChristian fellowships through which young students are evangelized, discipled and trained for future Christian service and leadership. The Navigators and Great Commission Movement carry out similar ministry among university students. Through the activities of these fellowships large numbers of young students are impacted with the gospel and incorporated into active Christian life during their student years and for the rest of their lives.
The Y.M.C.A and Y.W.C.A as well are youth-based Christian organizations. However they have become more and more secular in outlook and merely social in orientation, leaving no room for spiritual concerns. Another characteristic of the YMCA/YWCA is that they tend to operate at the macro level and fail to address the youth situation on the ground. They lack what I call making a kingdom impact on the youth.
The community youth centers will target the holistic development of the youth in their own neighborhoods. The centers will be evangelical in outlook, providing a safe place for kids, with caring mentors, where their needs are addressed, where they are empowered to serve the community, the church[i] and ultimately their own generation. The project aims at transforming not only the focus of the youth but also the community ethos.
Each center will be called by the neighborhood or community’s name; for example Dansoman Youth Center, MaCarthy Hills Youth Center, South Odorkor Youth Center, etc. Various activities such as listed below will feature at the centers with the weekly fellowship meetings on thursdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. as the focal activity
1. Youth Choir: Neighborhood youth choirs will be formed to encourage the youth investing their time in meaningful activity. Those with musical talents for example will be identified and helped to develop further. Music lessons such as key board, guitar, and trumpet will be offered..
2. Food/Snacks: The centers will operate snack/fast food stands as attractions since youth love to hang around at such spots.
3. Bible Study: The group discussion method will be used to conduct the studies coordinated under designated leaders.
4. Bookstore/Reading library: Each center will operate a non-commercial bookstore and reading library to be called “Rest and Read.” Trained workers will engage visitors in sharing the gospel.
5. Sports and Games: The centers will form soccer teams to engage in friendly inter-neighborhood competitions. Who knows how many of these youths will emerge as stars?
6. Vocational training: As a long term plan vocational training in basic catering and dressmaking will be offered for young girls.
7. Remedial classes: Classes will be organized for young school leavers who desire to improve their grades for university entrance.
Organization and ministry approach
Though the project is a Christian initiative it will operate as a non-governmental organization. There will be collaboration with the communities, neighborhoods, local churches, and state institutions. The youth ministry of my local Church located in the Dansoman estate will be used as the launching pad for the proposed community youth fellowships.
Praise Center is a thriving congregation with a strong youth ministry. In 2003 I created a Youth Church from the congregation by starting a second service from 4:00-6:00pm on Sundays mainly for youths. The decision was informed by ministry plans as well as needs of the youth. As the youth population was growing there was need to strategize and minister to them at their level so as to meet their special needs and interests.
Though considered only a second service and not a separate congregation with a different program from the church I appointed some of the youth themselves to be part of the leadership. They were encouraged and motivated to invite their friends and siblings to the meetings. It also challenged them to be more committed and responsible. As senior pastor I preached at this service at least once every month.
Stages of organizational development
The community youth centers will be an expansion of the Church’s youth ministry into a non-denominational ministry. A ten-stage development plan will be adopted to launch the program.[ii]First of all a strong support base will be formed with an advisory committee made up of representatives of the church, area council of churches, clusters of schools in the neighborhood, and parents in the community. This is a central committee level leadership which will be replicated at all the neighborhood centers.
Having formed the leadership base the next stage will be researching to sample public opinion and inputs through house-to-house interaction to create public awareness and interest. This will also educate parents and community leaders on the aims and objectives of the program and win their trust and support as well as establish rapport with the youth in the community. The task of ministering to youth is so broad based that no one single organization is adequately resourced or extended as to be able to reach and meet the needs of the youth. Therefore networking relationships will be established with existing organizations, churches and schools in the communities which operate by our shared aims and objectives.
Another key feature of the project is that the fellowships will function as churches without walls in the communities. This concept of taking the Church to the people where they are rather than expecting them to come to church is the underlying ministry philosophy of this project. In the Gospels we see Jesus meeting people in homes, street corners, market and workplaces (Mk.2:1-2; Mt. 4:18). The method was effectively replicated by the disciples in their house churches and public meetings, which was part of the causes for the phenomenal success of the early church in reaching and impacting their (Acts 19:9; Rom.16:5).
The youth fellowships will be community based, informal, contemporary, youth-led and youth-focused, in contrast with the traditionally formal and adult dominated Church service. It is expected that this approach will resonate better with youth who are known to engage in a nearly constant search for fresh experiences and new sources of motivation. They want to try things out themselves, disdaining self-proclaimed experts.[iii]
Furthermore, educative and team learning activities that promote holistic individual growth as well as social skills will be developed. These will include out-door and community based programs such as street cleaning and blood donation exercises, visiting and praying for prison inmates and the sick in hospitals. Through such activities young people will get exposure to ministry and social concerns to enhance their personal growth.
Prayer retreats, camp meetings, and prayer vigils to deepen the spiritual lives of the youth will be planned. It must be stated that every activity and program with the youth will be an avenue of equipping them to reach their peers through relational evangelism. Moreover it is perceived that through the group activities and discussions the youth will develop the qualities of mutual trust, confidence and acceptance, team spirit and respect.
The critical role of local churches in the spiritual formation of young people cannot be overemphasized. Since the fellowships will not substitute local churches, local church membership will be prominent and the unchurched will be channeled into bible believing churches for continued nurturing of their faith. The fellowships will help identify, develop, and deploy gifts and talents needed for the health of local churches in the communities and beyond.
Finally as the program catches on with the community, churches and the public as a whole there will be the need for a structured management that will enhance further growth as seen in the church’s experience in Acts 6:1-7; see also Luke. 5:4-7). This will mean permanent staff recruitment, training, delegation, supervision, fund raising, strategic planning, control, and evaluation. In the end what started as a sole vision becomes a shared vision through organization of talents, skills, ministries, resources to serve the needs of the Church and society. Through theYouth with a Purpose program community youth centers will be established to work towards not only the transformation of the youth as individuals, but as generations which affect next generations in a continuum.
[i] Professor Dean Borgman, YM 520 GCTS Boston/CUME, Fall 2009 Lecture hand-outs.
[ii] Dean Borgman (2006): Ten Stages in the Development and Organization of Youth Ministry, South Hamilton MA, Center for Youth Studies
[iii] David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (2007). Unchristian: What a new Generation really thinks about Christianity and why it Matters. Baker Books, Grand Rapids.© 2017 CYS