youth ministry, student ministry, urban youth, urban ministry

Our “New Urban” Society

By Leneita Fix April 7, 2014

Take a moment to do an experiment with me.

Close your eyes and think through the names of students in your program. (That was easy, right?)

Now think about those students’ lives:

  • What is their family make up? Are they living with two parents, grandparents, or in foster care?
  • What are their deepest struggles (e.g., cutting, identity, drugs, family)?
  • Are they dealing with issues no one talks about?
  • What are their interests, likes, and hobbies?

Regardless of where you live, I probably could place you in a room with 50 other church leaders from around the country and hear similar answers to these questions.

There was a time when it was easy to identify where students “fit” in our society by looking at their fashion, taste in music, family make up, or struggles. But now we live in a society of mashed-up culture, challenges, and tastes. It’s harder to categorize people sitting in our pews or attending our youth groups based on income, location, or skin color.

While speaking around the country, I often talk with youth workers who minister to students with family struggles. I’ve heard these students referred to as “inner city,” “at-risk-urban,” “unchurched,” “spiritually immature,” and “dechurched.”

These families are living in some form of survival mentality. They struggle to get through each day. My ministry partner, Jeff Wallace, and I call this society the “new urban.” It includes a demographic area, culture, multi-ethnicity, social ills, and socio-economics. However, this title blurs those lines and moves beyond them. These families aren’t just on “the other side of the tracks.” They are connecting to each of our ministries in some way. Families everywhere are dealing with deep-seated issues. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

It’s time for the body of Christ to stop making assumptions. It doesn’t matter what label we use or what we see with our eyes—too many families are stuck in “survival mode.” But Christ wants them to thrive.

How do we stop labeling? How do we stop thinking, Those problems aren’t ours? How do we stop believing that some families are too broken to fix? How do we partner with a generation of parents that are more distant than ever? How do we intentionally let compassion move us to action?

Jeffrey Wallace and I are partnering with LeaderTreks on April 29 to May 1 for a Refuel Retreat at Pawley’s Island in South Carolina. There, we’ll answer those questions and help you embrace and support the unique students in your group. Click here to learn more about and register for this Refuel Retreat.

Won’t you join us in this important conversation?

About the Author

Leneita Fix

Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace  to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each…  Read More