Fresno Urban Immersion


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Fresno Urban Immersion

  3. 3. CHAPTER 1 BOOK REVIEWS I verify that the following list represents all of the books I have read for this course, the page on which you will find my book review, and the number of pages read for each book. BookTitle Page#of book review #ofpages read Street Saints 6 320 Renewing the City 7 240 Churches That Make a Difference 8 336 To Live in Peace 9 261 Transforming Power 10 216 Encounter God in the City 11 191 When Helping Hurts 12 230 Urban Ministry 13 527 Building Communities from the Inside Out 14 376 American Project 15 332 Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community 16 296 Street Signs 17 285 TOTAL PAGES READ 3610 3
  4. 4. 4 Street Saints by Barbara Elliott Templeton Foundation Press (2004) In American cities, Christians are living out their faith and making a difference in their communities. In Street Saints, Barbara Elliott invests a great deal of time and energy into comprehensively examining individuals, organizations, and churches that are involved in many different types of urban ministry. She describes the urban ministry leaders in her book as street saints, and for good reason. The people she writes about are giving themselves away for Christ’s sake on behalf of the most vulnerable people in American society. The “best practices are highlighted for those people who would like to emulate their success.” (xxv) The two most interesting chapters to me were the chapter about Brian King, a former gang member who committed his life to Christ and now leads Street Saints in Fresno, and the entire chapter that was dedicated to the city of Pittsburgh where I live and work. During my visit to Fresno for this course, I had the opportunity to meet Brian King. I witnessed his work first hand. He has a broad vision for the work that goes on in Fresno, but he also seems like the type of person who is very practical, hands on, and open to change. Transformation is a process, and my favorite part about his story is that he goes into great detail about his own journey of transformation. Brian had a dramatic encounter with Christ, and as he describes, “It was crazy. Ever since, God has been placing me in spots where people are real broken and hurt, and I work with people coming through the things I experienced. He gave me a key to go into places where his heart is – with the poor, in prisons, with widows.” (49) God is patient with us and he works through us in his own timing. In Pittsburgh, several men had a vision for transformation in the city. A group of city leaders started praying that Pittsburgh would be more famous for God than for steel, and over the course of many years the process of transformation took hold in a wide variety of systems and locations in the city. The Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation emerged from the original vision for Christians to live out their faith in Pittsburgh. “They are doing so with teams to meet specific physical and spiritual needs, based on a Kingdom vision that embraces the city as a whole.” (177) The Pittsburgh chapter in this book has inspired me to find out more about the legacy that has been built in my city over time. There are many Christ-centered leaders in Pittsburgh. My goal is to connect with those leaders intentionally, as a result of this DMin program at BGU, so that I might be able to learn from them. The head of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, Dr. John Stahl-Wert, lives close to me. I have had several good conversations with him, but I am hoping that we will be able to collaborate more often in the years to come.
  5. 5. 5 Renewing the City by Robert Lupton InterVarsity Press (2005) In this book Robert Lupton retells the story of Nehemiah through a process called midrash, which is an ancient Jewish teaching method using imagination and imagery to add context to Scriptures. The first part of the book focuses on adding depth to the study of the biblical book of Nehemiah. The second part of the book draws parallels between Nehemiah’s community development work in Jerusalem and modern day development efforts in American inner cities. Contemporary urban ministry principles are compared to ancient urban ministry principles. The author argues that the dilemmas facing urban ministry leaders long ago are relevant in resolving similar dilemmas today. One highlight of the book was a chapter about gentrification with justice, which argued that what is needed in cities is gentry “who will use their competencies and connections to ensure that their lower-income neighbors have a stake in revitalizing their neighborhood.” (124) Christians are called to care for the poor, and those who move back into the city from the suburbs need to think strategically about also caring for justice for their neighbors. The book has another great chapter about vision and risk taking. Lupton speaks clearly and with credibility about the need for strong visionary leadership from urban leaders. He argues that “Vision that is divinely authored – the kind that extends me far beyond my own abilities – requires a frightful level of risk taking. It is fundamentally different from strategy planning and goal setting. It requires me to let go of the security of predictable outcomes and venture into uncharted waters with little more than an inaudible internal voice as a guide. Such vision is not a product of human creativity; it is divinely conceived and implanted in the spirits of those who are willing to trust miracle over plan.” (151) Nehemiah was a visionary risk taker, and this is what is needed for all urban ministry leaders today. This is one of the author’s strongest points. The final chapters focus on different aspects of incarnational living. Cities may have a romantic appeal on people from an outside perspective (with their violence, noise, and drama), but everything becomes much more meaningful once the inner city issues begin impacting one’s family and home. Programs are important, but good neighbors are much more important to the renewing of the city. Robert Lupton describes the process of how his ministry became much more effective once he moved to where he was serving. I hope that I am more effective as an urban ministry leader now that I have moved to the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Lupton gives many different examples about how his move impacted his family, and the incarnational move of my family in Pittsburgh has also had a big impact on the community. Many children in my community spend a great deal of time at our house, and my family has had to make quite an adjustment.
  6. 6. 6 Churches That Make a Difference by Ron Sider Baker Books (2002) This book is about holistic Christian ministry. No matter what level churches or individual Christians are at in their faith journeys, they could plug into this book to find out more about how to follow Christ authentically. As the authors state, “The purpose of this book is to help congregations develop more biblical, effective, dynamic holistic ministries.” (15) This book goes a long way in connecting people’s Christian faith with the lives that Gods requires of us. We connect our faith with our actions in a way that provides hope for our neighborhoods. Christians can effectively integrate both evangelism and social outreach into their core mission. In the past, these two concepts have been at odds in many churches. Today, churches are really starting to connect their faith to both word and deed. “Because many ministries historically have been conducted in a one-sided manner, new conceptual tools and models are needed to help church leaders grasp how word and deed effectively work together in holistic mission.” (104) There is a great deal of creativity in the church, and innovative outreach efforts are happening all across the world. The authors stressed the importance of relocation in impacting a community, stating that “The ministry of relocation is essential to breaking down barriers and developing a healthy sense of belonging to the community.” (160) One chapter covered the various fears, dealing with change, and the conflict that results when churches decide to become missional or externally focused. However, I think that the authors could have spent more time unpacking those issues. Fear and comfort are two major factors that keep congregations from impacting their communities. Still, this book is a great tool for Christians who desire to see their churches impacting their communities and the world. In an inspirational call to action, the reader learns that “Your church can proclaim the Good News, comfort the afflicted, build up the cities, and repair the cyclic devastations of broken communities. If you are willing in obedience and trust to take the first small step – and then the next and the next – God will take care of the big picture.” (314) Transformation is a process, and at the end of the day the church needs more guides like this book to lead us down the path of obedience to the whole gospel message. There were many things to apply to my ministry context in Pittsburgh from this book, especially regarding outreach progress and barriers. Specifically, I was encouraged to continue on with the externally focused vision at North Way Christian Community. We have made great progress at North Way, but we have also had many barriers to our church becoming more involved in holistic ministry. As a leader, I must always remember that “It takes time to wait on the leading of the Holy Spirit.” (290) It takes time for people to grasp the vision.
  7. 7. 7 To Live in Peace by Mark Gornik Eerdmans Publishing (2002) The Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore is a great example of how Christians can work together toward the process of transformation. This book documents many aspects of Sandtown’s story, but the primary purpose of the author “is to consider the promise and possibility of God’s peace for the changing of the American inner city.” (1) A wide variety of theological perspectives are covered in order to represent God’s heart for reaching marginalized people who experience urban poverty. The gospel message is meant to be lived out in the streets, not exclusively held onto tightly in the quietness of church sanctuaries. I loved the thoughts that the author presented about being a church of the streets. I have found in my work in Homewood that the Holy Spirit is active in the streets of my neighborhood. We cannot build relationships with the vulnerable people of this world if we are unwilling to go into the streets where they are and spend time being sensitive to where the Spirit might be calling us to go. The church in America has often lagged far behind culture when it comes to diversity. However, I strongly believe that the church should actually be out in front of culture with regard to reconciliation. “Amidst the deep structures of division old and new that have formed in our urban world, part of what it must mean to be a community that bears testimony to Christ is to pursue reconciliation across boundaries of culture, race, ethnicity, social class, and gender.” (83) Christians need to figure out a way to build relationships outside the walls of the church at a time when many Christians are withdrawing from cities and society in general in order to generate Christian bubbles for ourselves. When Christians engage cities and culture, we live out the overwhelming joy of sacrificing all for the sake of Christ. I felt that the author could have developed this point more in the book, although he captured this way of living well in writing, “It is the living memory of Jesus – the rejected, marginal, but ultimately resurrected and ascended one – that opens a new narrative, convicting all who follow him to live vulnerably and passionately for God’s reign.” (236) God desires for us to give everything we have for his sake, and that is only accomplished with unrelenting passion and hope that God is ultimately in control of everything. I saw many parallels to Homewood in Sandtown. Specifically, I live in a house in Homewood that is a product of Christians in Pittsburgh working together to address urban blight through housing. The street I live on was once one of the most violent and chaotic streets in the entire city, and now it is a place of ever-growing shalom. That type of thing can only happen because of God’s intervention. I have been inspired to become more involved in the issue of housing in Homewood, where over 48 percent of properties are vacant.
  8. 8. 8 Transforming Power by Robert Linthicum InterVarsity Press (2003) The main idea in this book is relational power, especially as it relates to the engagement of Christians in urban ministry and community development. The first part of the book provides a foundation for a theology of power through such biblical examples as Nehemiah and Jesus. The second part of the book is more practical with strategies clearly outlined for people who want to make a difference in their communities. Linthicum outlines the significance of individual relationships as well as ways for the church to corporately address systemic oppression. The author argues that Christians must engage in the proper understanding and usage of power through relationships, although many evangelical Christians have tended to shy away from the use of power in the world over the past century. The first couple of chapters present the various dynamics of healthy and dysfunctional communities. The next section focuses on specific ways that Christians utilize relational power to engage broken systems, with Jesus and Paul serving as guides. Linthicum says that Paul was “very sophisticated in his understanding of and use of power, and that use of power was built upon a highly developed theology of public life.” (113) From the material that is presented, the reader gathers that Christians have a crucial role to play in public life in our modern society. In fact, many aspects of a healthy community, or what the author describes as shalom in the city, become broken when Christians fail to engage in the use of power. The remaining chapters in the book focus on the exchange of relational power through individual meetings, which lead to the mobilization of the broader church, or body of Christ, en mass in the engagement of relational power. The author also presents strategies for strengths and weaknesses that can occur when the church becomes powerful. For instance, Linthicum cites accountability, confrontation, civil disobedience, negotiation, and agitation as five biblically-based strategies that the church can use to take on corrupt systems. Of all of these actions, the author argues that confrontation is the most difficult for the church to utilize because they “believe it to be inconsistent with a loving, Christ-like faith. But… you can’t hope to bring about change – in a church or in a Christian organization or the world – and avoid confrontation.” (171) In Pittsburgh I need to focus on building relational power through individual meetings, and I would like to be more active in participating with faith-based groups that are working together to impact systemic failures in my city. I do meet with people regularly as a part of my job as a pastor, but I know I could be much more strategic in terms of who I meet with and how the meetings are set up. My goal is to particularly be more effective at setting one to one meetings with pastors in Homewood and in the east end of Pittsburgh.
  9. 9. 9 Encounter God in the City by Randy White InterVarsity Press (2006) Involvement in urban ministry can lead to a process of transformation. However, that transformation does not just randomly happen. Christians who get involved in cities need to practice reflection in order to fully experience all that God wants us to learn. That briefly summarizes Dr. Randy White’s intention in writing this book. There are practical points within the book, but White also leverages the use of personal stories in order to “maximize insight into the city through reflection and application.” (16) With thoughtfulness and humor, White captures both the joys and the pains associated with life in the center of the city. I could relate to a lot of Randy’s experiences in urban ministry. His openness about different situations has actually helped me tremendously in Pittsburgh. What do I do when a prostitute or a homeless person shows up on my doorstep asking for money or shelter from the storms of life? How does God want Christians to respond to mentally ill? What do we do when people steal things from our front porch? I have had to deal with all of these questions in my journey of moving to Homewood, and the experiences in this book help to answer those questions. In fact, most of the time the “answer” is that there is no rational answer to the toughest questions in life. Still, God has equipped all of us to be creative and find solutions if maybe we made a wrong decision but are willing to learn from our mistakes. The important thing is that we do not remain paralyzed by inaction or become overwhelmed by the complexities of modern cities. “There is a reciprocal relationship between action and understanding. God has designed us in such a way that we don’t fully know something until we have acted on it. And when we take action, especially in the form of service, it cements our understanding, sealing the truth in our souls and leading us to live out God’s love.” (179) Randy emphasizes that transformation occurs both personally, for the practitioner, as well as corporately in the community where the work is being done. Urban ministry leaders have a lot to give, but God also has a lot to teach them along the way. God may choose to change the neighborhood around through strategic planning and vision, but it is important to understand that God’s plans are often different than our own agendas. I am committed to being a better steward of my experiences in Homewood. I often hold back from sharing my personal experiences in Homewood because I do not want to make the work that I have been called to sound heroic or even exploitive of the relationships that God has allowed me to share with kids and their families in my community. However, if my heart is in the right place in sharing experiences, then other Christians might be able to take the onramps and become more involved with the transformation that is taking place in Homewood.
  10. 10. 10 When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett Moody Publishers (2009) Christians can do great harm or great good while attempting to help vulnerable people. Many followers of Christ experience a desire to want to help other people, but “we need the person of Jesus Christ to transform not just the poor but also ourselves.” (12) The authors of this book present many examples of how Christians have hurt people while trying to help. However, they do not leave us hanging with that unfortunate outcome. The authors also present ways for Christians to consider how to serve others so that positive outcomes for both the poor and themselves might be achieved. The authors touched on the significance of individual relationships when Christians seek to serve poor people. “When working at the level of individual poor people, it is imperative that they and we have a correct understanding of the nature of God, self, others, and creation and the way that God intends for human beings to relate to each of them.” (84) Many high risk youth start out in life without an understanding of the purpose that God has for their lives. Faith-based mentors can help to introduce young people to how God wants us to interact with each other at a young age. Also, there seems to be a great debate in America about poverty. The issue of material poverty is even divisive amongst Christians, usually along conservative and liberal lines. Do oppressive systems generate material poverty, or does individual sin and bad choices lead people to live in poverty? I thought the authors did a great job of bridging the divide by pointing out that “worldviews affect the systems, and the systems affect the worldviews.” (92) Poverty is a complex issue, especially in cities. And, so, the Christian response should be equally complex in order to address the issue. We should work systemically and individually in our efforts to help people in need, using biblical examples such as Nehemiah and Jesus as our guides. There is no simple solution to the poverty and brokenness that billions of people in our world experience on a daily basis. Transformational leaders seek to steward influence and resources in order to help vulnerable people, not harm them. And, reconciliation occurs as a result. “Development is not done to people or for people but with people.” (105) Relationships are an important part of transformation. I do not ever want to hurt anyone I am trying to help in Pittsburgh, but I know it has happened and it will happen again. This Doctor of Ministry program has helped me tremendously to become a more effective urban ministry leader, and this book is just one example of how Christian leaders from all over the world are learning how to be more effective at what we do. As a direct result of reading this book, I have reexamined several things that North Way does in our local outreach efforts. Recently, we have tried to become more relationship-based.
  11. 11. 11 Urban Ministry by Harvey Conn and Manuel Ortiz InterVarsity Press (2001) Manuel Ortiz describes this book as “the final work of Dr. Harvey Conn,” (11) the coauthor who became very ill and died before this work was completed. Dr. Conn wanted to deliver an urban ministry text book of sorts to students and practitioners in cities around the world. The authors do a deep dive into how Christians should respond to the complexities of urban life, covering such topics as the history of urban life, biblical perspectives on cities, understanding cities through the lens of the social sciences, community development, and the importance of Christ-centered leadership in mission to modern urban contexts. The authors have a wonderful overview of urban ministry. When I first became involved in urban ministry, I ordered as many books as I could about the subject in order to understand if I was being effective as a Christian leader or not. Although I never read the entire book at the time, many sections and excerpts helped me to engage my urban context appropriately. Now that I have had the opportunity to work through the whole book, I am even more appreciative of the scope of this work. The connection of sociological research to biblical perspectives was particularly helpful. “Use of the social sciences can make Christian mission activities both more effective and more fluid. We are able to plan and strategize better when we gain an accurate understanding of the dynamics of culture and geography in an area.” (256) Modern cities change rapidly, and demographic information is crucial for urban ministry leaders. Yes, individual relationships should always play a significant role in planning, but we should not be afraid to utilize social science tools that are available to us. Problems develop when Christian leaders spend too much time staring at demographic studies, and not enough time out and about in the community building relationships. The section on mentoring the urban leader was also an important part of this book. Over the past five years, I have sought out mentors to help me navigate the challenges of urban ministry. In the same way, I have given myself away on behalf of many young people in my community in order to help them progress as the urban leaders of the future in Homewood. “Mentoring is one of the most effective ways to disciple new Christians to maturity in Christ. Mentoring is also the best way to develop urban leaders.” (429) I heard from a U.S. census worker that only 3 percent of the people in my neighborhood of Homewood in Pittsburgh actually completed the recent census forms. When I pulled data recently to learn more about Pittsburgh, I noticed that the statistics seemed to be largely off base. Homewood statistics were nearly nonexistent in the research. That is why it is important for me, as a Christian leader in Homewood, to not emphasize demographic studies so much as spend time out in my community getting to know my neighbors even if they are not counted in census studies.
  12. 12. 12 Building Communities from the Inside Out by John McKnight and Jody Kretzman ACTA Publishing (1997) Most efforts to alleviate poverty around the world during recent generations have focused on the needs of vulnerable populations. Recently, great strides have been made to develop communities around assets instead of needs. This book serves as a practical, basic guide to asset-based community development, because “Each community boasts a unique combination of assets upon which to build its future.” (6) Through this process of asset building, individuals, organizations, and the community in general mobilize their collective power to build better neighborhoods. The organizing process can dramatically transform the lives of people experiencing the struggles associated with troubled urban environments. One of the highlights of this book for me was the section on releasing the individual capacities of young people in troubled neighborhoods. As the coordinator of a mentoring program, and as a mentor myself, I have learned to seek out and build upon potential in the lives of young people instead of being just one more adult who focuses on what is wrong with them. This thought process is something that is built over time, however. “At the present time many of the most innovative community leaders are rediscovering that youth can be essential contributors to the well-being and vitality of the community. Projects that connect young people productively with other youth and adults are seen to be the foundations upon which healthy communities can be built.” (29) The authors did give some general disclaimers about how asset-based community development can be quite challenging, but I do not think the authors mentioned enough about the complexities involved in trying to reach cities. Many community development efforts fail for a wide variety of reasons. However, we can learn a lot from failure. And, there is rarely such thing as a complete failure with urban development. New relationships are often a positive takeaway, even if the tangible outcomes of development efforts do not come as fast as expected or even at all. As Christian leaders, we can learn a great deal from the tension that exists with the process of transformation in complex urban environments. Ultimately, we know that God is in control and that we cannot rely on human effort to achieve sustainable change in this world. This is why the role of churches, and Christians in all sectors of society, is so crucial to the process of asset- based community development in cities. I have had some experience with asset-based community development in Homewood, but as a direct result from this class I have become more deeply involved. Community organizers from the Homewood Children’s Village and Operation Better Block have been making significant strides in our neighborhood in recent years, and I can certainly contribute more to those efforts. We are considering working with Operation Better Block to start organizing with our neighbors on our street. Our homes are assets, the school right next to us is an asset, and the people living on my street are tremendous assets to Homewood.
  13. 13. 13 American Project by Sudhir Venkatesh Harvard Press (2000) Many forces beyond people’s control lead to the problems facing residents in America’s inner city projects and blighted neighborhoods. This book documents that reality through the lens of Chicago’s Robert Taylor housing projects. When it comes to social programs or government policies that are intended to help the poor, program participants are often harmed more than they are served. “Indeed, the high-rise public housing complex has become a contemporary mirror for American self-examination;” (5) All of us, especially leaders within the Christian church, must examine how we try to serve the poor. I thought that the history of the projects in Chicago served as a powerful tale to anybody who might want to attempt to engineer society for the materially poor through housing or government programs. Sustainability should be considered in all systemic efforts to alleviate suffering, even though most people do not tend to consider the long term effectiveness of projects. It would be easy to target slow-moving government institutions, such as the ones described in this book, as the culprits in fumbling efforts to help the poor. Sadly, churches all across America systematically fail to support people living in poverty. We love compassion, but we become uncomfortable and disoriented when it comes to justice. As an example, “The institutions that make up the state are forever concerned with managing space, planning and re-zoning, efficient and rational usage of territories, and so on. Their logic – that of ‘abstract space’ – runs counter to that of the people who live in the space and who may value a particular territory for reasons that have little to do with its planning or economic development potential, but that have more to do with their connectedness to it.” (39) That does not sound too far from the church’s mission sometimes. As governments are often more concerned with space more than the people, churches are often more concerned with maintaining programs or effectively using internal church space than on supporting the sustainable transformation of the lives of the people attending the church. Effective urban ministry leaders are able to keep their focus more on people than on buildings or programs. In Homewood, even though many of the children I interact with do not live in housing projects like Robert Taylor, they experience the negative effects of government programs gone awry that were intended to actually help their families. For instance, several of my mentees have a troubled relationship with their fathers because the government support for their moms systematically keeps men from living in the same house as the mother and her children. I can mentor these kids, but I should also work to help change the systems in Homewood so that families can be restored.
  14. 14. 14 Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community by Charles Dahm Paulist Press (2004) One of the things I really love about Bakke Graduate University is that we do not simply learn about theory. We learn to become hands on practitioners of urban ministry, and we reflect on history. That is what kept jumping out at me with this book. The author wrote about his experiences in urban ministry at a church in the inner city of Chicago, mostly “pastoral ministry in a predominantly Mexican Catholic parish, a community at prayer and in service, a community of faith that celebrates life even as it struggles for a better life for its people.” (1) From the time that I was a teacher at a school district in California with an 80 percent Hispanic population, I have been interested in the Mexican-American experience. This book encouraged me to reflect more deeply about my experiences from this course in Fresno, and even more so on my time spent in Costa Rica and Mexico City during Overture II. I love the concept of the parish community, and I hope to be that kind of a pastor in my neighborhood. I have learned to appreciate the sensory aspect of Hispanic faith. “Mexicans resist the dichotomy between the sacred and secular. God is present in this world in countless ways, and because they are a physical people, they can reach out and touch God through myriad sacramentals: water and candles, medals and rosaries, icons and statues, incense and song, processions and meals. These sensory objects and actions not only remind people of but also connect people to God.” (285) I have long felt that American evangelical Christianity has neglected the sensory component of our connection with God. Many American Christians try to experience God on Sunday mornings, and then our faith has little relevance to our lives throughout the week. As I read through the pages of this book, all I could focus on was how important the Christian faith was to the fabric of the community and the daily lives of the Mexican immigrants struggling for survival in a foreign land. Their faith was far from the faith of comfort and prosperity that has become so popular in many Christian circles in the United States. Many parts of the Christian faith described over many years in this community in Chicago were lived out in the streets in powerful ways. In the book Dahm described what he called street mass. Street mass occurred when the church held Mass in the location of gang shootings or in places where other violence occurred in the neighborhood. This was a significant take away for me in my work in Homewood. There is a lot of violence and illegal activity in my neighborhood. Many Christians in Pittsburgh run away from that violence, but I think the best place for Christian leaders to be is running into those places of violence. God is a God of restoration, and followers of Christ bring light into dark situations.
  15. 15. 15 Street Signs by Ray Bakke and Jon Sharpe New Hope Publishers (2006) This book on urban ministry has two sections. In the first section, Ray Bakke gives an overview of his journey in urban ministry over the past fifty years. He also provides some basic urban ministry concepts to guide contemporary Christian leaders in areas such as the processes of urbanization, embracing the city as a parish, the importance of searching for signs of hope in modern cities, and a basic overview of the urban consultation process in community development. Jon Sharpe describes his urban ministry journey, followed by an overview of the leadership style of Barnabas and how that impacts city consultations. Ray Bakke argues that “fundamentally, for Christians, especially for church and mission leaders, we need a new way of thinking about missions, a new worldview or paradigm, if you please.” (83) He goes on to state that “Missions is no longer across the ocean and geographically distant: it is across the street and is culturally distant, in our cities and in cities on all six continents.” (83) Christian leaders need to adjust their worldview to “incorporate thinking globally while living locally.” (83) Bakke’s insight into missions is extremely important for modern Christians to understand. Many churches and mission organizations are still operating under outdated and ineffective ministry models. People seem to be more than willing to take the time and spend the resources to take short term international mission trips, but they are far less willing to reach people living right in their own cities. Missional leaders that make this adjustment will be ahead of the curve in the United States for years to come. Jon Sharpe describes a powerful process of city consultations, in which “the best consultations come as a result of a long- term networking effort by trusted facilitators and the input of an outsider. The outsider brings a listening ear, a desire to learn from the city, and his or her power to convene the leadership of a city – social, political, and religious.” (216) In essence, Christian leaders in cities all over the world need to understand who needs to be at the table, what will be consulted upon, and how the strategies will be implemented. The whole process is very clearly articulated in this book, although I must admit that the consultation process still seems very overwhelming to me. One of the things I have learned about urban ministry in Pittsburgh is that many leaders are willing to partner for the betterment of the city. Organizations from all over the city, including the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, the Pittsburgh Board of Education, nonprofit organizations, and churches have displayed a willingness to work together for positive outcomes on the overall development of the city. With so many people willing to partner, including organizations that are non-Christian, there are many opportunities for city consultations in Pittsburgh. Perhaps I might be able to partner on a consultation in Homewood some day.
  16. 16. CHAPTER 2 JOURNAL Day 1: March 14, 2011 Everyone arrived in Fresno today, and we spent most of the day getting to know one another. Dr. Randy White lectured for a while about how Christians can be engaged in the process of transformation in complex urban environments. He shared a lot about his personal story where he moved his family into a high crime and high poverty area of Fresno back in the early 1990s. His family had to learn how to work with prostitutes, homeless people, the mentally ill, gang violence, dysfunctional public schools, and a whole host of other issues. A great deal of transformation has occurred in the neighborhood since they moved, but Randy does not take the credit for it. God is moving here, and many people have contributed to how things are being turned around. There are no experts when it comes to urban ministry. The problems are just too complex, and things change all the time in cities. Leaders may be able to develop some effective strategies that work in certain situations, but anyone who says that they have community development all figured out really does not know what they are talking about. Urban ministers must consistently reinvent themselves and learn new skill sets to take on a wide variety of complex issues. To be an effective urban ministry leader, you have to commit to three things. You commit to a feeling of being in over your head and off balance most of the time because that is your new normal. Second, you commit to bringing what you do have, and not being paralyzed by what you do not have. Third, you 16
  17. 17. 17 commit to learning what you do not know. Urban ministry leaders face many situations and tasks that they know nothing about, but they must have the willingness to learn about those things so that the good work can continue. Tonight I am spending the night with one of the thirty families who have moved here to the Lowell neighborhood of Fresno. It would be amazing if that many families ever moved to Homewood. But the work of community transformation is not just about outsiders moving in. It is also about insiders, the people who already live in the neighborhood, also working together to improve everything. My roommate for the week is Keith. He is a youth pastor from Florida. We have had a good time getting to know one another, and I am looking forward to a great week with all of my new friends. It is great to finally spend some extended time here in Fresno with Dr. White. I am really looking forward to this week. Things have been very intense in Pittsburgh over the past couple of months, so this is a much needed break from the day to day life of urban ministry in my context. Randy’s introduction to Fresno was somewhat of a repeat for me because I have spent previous time with him, but, yet, I still learned a great deal from thoughts that I have not previously heard. Randy is a lifelong learner, and he is constantly adapting to new ideas and challenges that he experiences as a part of his work as an urban practitioner. That is why he has so many different thoughts about complex issues that are facing modern cities. I hope to be able to learn and reflect like that as I go through this Doctor of Ministry program and for many years beyond the completion of this degree. I was once again encouraged that there are so many different people taking this class with me. This course has students from many different parts of America, Thailand,
  18. 18. 18 and even as far away as Ethiopia. We also have students at many different stages of the graduate education journey, so there are many perspectives represented here. As I looked through the syllabus for this week, I noticed that we will be traveling to many different parts of Fresno and learning from a wide variety of leaders. This is a significant reason why I enrolled in this course. I know that transformation did not happen in Fresno simply because of one dynamic leader, but many people and organizations worked together toward common goals. What leaders will I meet this week? What surprises will God have for us? I cannot wait to find out. I am already planning to apply what I learned today about the three principles of urban ministry. I am definitely committed to being over my head most of the time in Homewood. I am committed to bringing what I do have to the table, and not being paralyzed by indecision. And, I am committed to learning what I do not know about urban ministry in Pittsburgh. There are many things that I do not know about Homewood, but I am working hard to learn the community. One thing that I’m learning is that God seems to set up divine appointments with people who can teach me things about Homewood when I have an attitude of humility and I am intentional about learning more from my context. This concept will be especially important now that I am leading a new campus of North Way in the east end of the city. I definitely need to make sure that I do not arrive on the scene thinking that I somehow have all of the answers. I have been called to lead in the neighborhood, but my first steps in the community are important. I need to apply the principles of urban ministry that I learned about today in Fresno. Day 2: March 15, 2011
  19. 19. 19 Wow! What a day! This morning started out at Randy White’s home. From there, we walked all around the Lowell neighborhood. We met strategic neighbors. They are folks who moved to Lowell to help transform the community while living in Christian community with one another. Our walking tour of the neighborhood was encouraging and discouraging at the same time. I saw many signs of hope and also many signs of need. Many Christian community developers have been working in Lowell for the past twenty years or so, and there is still so much to be done. That is why it is so important for people working in inner city communities to understand the nature of the process, and not necessarily obsessing about outcomes. It is important to learn from mistakes, and plenty of mistakes are made. It is also important to learn from what is working, and do our best to replicate those efforts. Still, the work takes time. There are many signs of need in Fresno. Today we experienced the ramifications of extreme poverty, prostitutes, boarded up homes, violence, graffiti, spiritual warfare, mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction, gang activity, immigration, and much more. I saw many signs of hope, such as amazing collaboration, strategic partnerships, missional churches, tutoring programs, computer and job training, youth centers, new playgrounds, and community gardens. The BGU courses really do a great job of exposing urban ministry leaders to the realities of the urban lab. I see many similarities with my neighborhood in Pittsburgh, and also many differences. Christian community development is a process that empowers a community to achieve increasing levels of shalom. Shalom has a broad meaning, and it would be impossible to find one single English language word to describe it. It involves the health of a community on many different levels. Anybody who wants to make a difference in
  20. 20. 20 their city must first have their heart break for what is going on there. Just like we did a walking tour of a city today, Paul did a walking tour in Athens and it helped him to understand the dynamics of the city. In my context in Pittsburgh, there are many people who want to try to impact the city without taking the risk to go and walk around in the struggling urban environments. Outsiders can only help so much. People must take the time to enter into the context that they want to impact when it comes to transforming cities. Today was incredible! To think, the last time I was in Fresno I was in the high places playing professional football at Selland Arena, earning a Masters Degree at Fresno State University, and hanging out with friends in the nice and clean affluent parts of town. For the past couple of days, I have intentionally gone to parts of Fresno that many people try to avoid. I spent today in parts of the city that experience extreme poverty, and I would not trade the experience for any of the things I experienced when I was here in my twenties. What are the systems in Pittsburgh that are undermining shalom? There are breakdowns in a lot of systems in Pittsburgh that contribute to cycles of poverty and brokenness. The government does some good things, but they also contribute to problems. There are some great things about the school district in Pittsburgh, but there are also many problems that they are working hard to reform. The steel industry leaving Pittsburgh led to a huge break down in the economic systems that still impact life today. Again, people are working hard to adjust but the process takes time and people in power are not always willing to upset the status quo. There are plenty of slumlords in Homewood, people that are trying to make money on real estate while crushing and
  21. 21. 21 taking advantage of the poor. A lot of the slumlords in Homewood actually live in places like New York or California, but they also live in affluent parts of Pittsburgh. I wonder if slumlords go to their churches on Sunday morning and tithe off of the income they make off the backs of the people they oppress in Homewood. And some churches contribute to the systemic break downs in Pittsburgh by avoiding complex urban problems, running away from the issues, or actually endorsing the oppressive structures that keep people living in cycles of poverty. Thankfully, there are some churches and Christians in general who care about the shalom of the city and are engaging in meaningful efforts to restore the community to health. Christians sin when they fail to act when it comes to injustices and systemic oppression. I learned some great ideas from the ministry Street Saints with regard to helping parents get involved in the work that is affecting their children. Also, they started a recording studio because so many kids want to rap. But, if the kids want to use the recording studio they are not allowed to go in there and say anything they want. They have to write the raps out before they record, and if they cannot write then tutors are available to help them. They have to learn how to use the equipment, and also learn how to take care of it all. In the end, the kids get to rap, but it is also an educational experience that empowers them and teaches them responsibility and the power of positive words. In Homewood, the kids are always asking me to record them rapping. Now, I have a strategy for how to make the experience more transformational for the kids than just mixing beats and trying not to curse in my living room. It is going to be fun to try when I get back. Day 3: March 16, 2011
  22. 22. 22 This morning we started the day by debriefing about the previous day’s experiences. We talked for a while about the concept of mission drift, which occurs when people involved in missional activity begin to lose their focus because the needs in communities become so overwhelming. It could also happen when organizations pursue funding that might not be related to their mission, but they go after it anyway because they need the resources so desperately. Collaboration with other organizations helps us to avoid mission drift. Partnerships are also important because often silos develop in Christian ministry. It happens because a passionate Christian leader builds an organization around a cause, they begin to compete with other organizations for resources, and suddenly all of those organizations isolate themselves from others in order to survive. The silo philosophy is unhealthy in organizations and churches. The issue of desperation came up multiple times today. The basic thinking there is that in cities, the problems are often hidden to people. City and church leaders are often unwilling to act until they have reached a point of desperation, which generates the passion needed to mobilize help. For instance, the issue of urban blight is not an issue to many business owners until the blight starts moving toward their businesses. Suddenly, they have a new interest in how to deal with complex urban issues. For people like me who are charged with coming alongside Christians to encourage them to get involved in the city, a big part of my role involves helping people to see how desperate things are in Homewood and in other parts of the city. Our hearts must break before we can act. We spent some time today with the director of planning and revitalization of the city of Fresno, Keith Bergthold, a pastor named Eli Loera who heads up a pastors cluster that organizes nearly 200 pastors, the F.U.N.D. organization that works on housing in
  23. 23. 23 Fresno, and Hope Now For Youth which is an organization that reaches out to youth in gangs to provide jobs. We also stopped by the house of H Spees, vice president of Leadership Foundations of America, who lectured for a little while about the dynamics of cities and his experiences in the urban transformation of Fresno. All of the site visits today were valuable. I was probably most impacted by the visit to Hope Now for Youth. We heard several testimonies of staff members working there about how they were able to escape the gang life and join mainstream society as productive workers with solid family lives. I would have liked to have stayed there to learn more about what they are doing, but perhaps I will have to contact them at some point down the road. The time spent with Keith Bergthold was extremely insightful. He spoke a lot about how much the world is changing, and how Christians should be prepared to respond to the new complexities associated with urbanization and globalization. He feels that most of the systems, or institutions, in America have become too big and slow moving, so they are less and less able to meet peoples’ needs. If we would have had more time there, I would have asked him to unpack that statement a little bit. For instance, many parts of federal, state, and local governments have experienced financial distress recently and they are cutting services. How can the church step in effectively to fill in where the government services were cut? Is that an opportunity for the church, or will people view those issues as burdens that the churches who are struggling themselves might not be able to have the capacity to take on? I have seen how mission drift has impacted my work in Homewood. Our central focus should be on mentoring, but the kids and families have so many needs sometimes
  24. 24. 24 that I often end up getting pulled into many different unexpected directions. While a certain degree of flexibility is to be admired in urban ministry, it should not take us off of the mission to which we have been called. When I return to Pittsburgh, I need to learn more about which networks of Christian leaders are gathering together regularly so that I could possibly join in with them. I know that there is a legacy of pastors and Christian leaders gathering together through organizations such as Serving Leaders and Pittsburgh Youth Network. I am sure I will be able to find some leads. One thing that the leader of the pastors cluster shared with us today was that they do not just pray and socialize when they get together. They all have issues that they bring to the table, and they work hard at taking on those issues together. I have been to “collaborative” gatherings of leaders in Pittsburgh before where I basically showed up and the person who organized the meeting talked for the whole time while we all sat and listened to their vision. Those types of meetings are not really sustainable over a very long period of time. For that matter, I need to examine how I structure collaborative gatherings when I pull leaders together. There is a fine line between providing solid leadership and bogging people down with my own agenda. Day 4: March 17, 2011 Today we spent most of the morning with relocators, or what Randy White calls strategic neighbors. These are folks who have moved into the Lowell Neighborhood in Fresno over the past twenty years. Each of them moved to the neighborhood for different reasons, but they all share the same common bond of seeking God’s shalom in the city. They meet together as neighbors each week in order to develop community with one another. They work on improving the neighborhood together. I enjoyed hearing so many
  25. 25. 25 different perspectives on incarnational ministry. It was encouraging for me to hear about how other people seem to handle crazy neighborhood situations and boundaries with kids and people who stop by to visit all the time. This afternoon we ate lunch at the No Name Fellowship, a gathering of Christian leaders from all over the city of Fresno. The police chief gave a great presentation about how the church and faith-based community can support the work of the police. After that, we visited a pastor named Jeff Harrington who leads a multicultural church in Fresno that is doing many great things to impact the community. Around 35 percent of the people attending the church are Hispanic, 35 percent are Caucasian, 15 percent are African- American, and 15 percent are Asian-American. He talked to us for a while about how to be intentional about diversity in the church. For our last stop in the day we visited the Mayor of Fresno, Ashley Swearingen. She is a strong Christian, and she shared with us about how God works through her to steward resources and influence on behalf of the people living in the city. It was a great opportunity to hear about faith and power in the public square. One of the unique things about BGU is that they intentionally expose students to many different types of people in many different types of positions in society. The stories of the incarnational leaders we met this morning were very powerful, and I also learned a great deal from the police chief and mayor. No matter what position God has placed us in life, we all have the ability to either be good stewards or poor stewards. The work that the mayor is doing in “powerful” places is just as valuable as the work that relocators are doing in “powerless” places. Transformational leaders are able to build bridges between
  26. 26. 26 the powerless and the powerful, and I met several significant transformational leaders today. In terms of some things that were unexpected, the No Name Fellowship was not quite as collaborative as I had expected. The police chief gave an inspiring speech, and a passionate appeal for the faith community to become more involved with the police, but his invitation to help was largely open ended. Randy explained to us afterward that the No Name Fellowship meetings are generally much more collaborative and productive than that, but on this particular occasion we got to see how sometimes meetings can be well-intentioned without the results that could have been achieved. Also, this morning at Youth for Christ we heard a presentation about how they reach urban kids in Fresno. They were doing some great programming to reach kids, but some of the programs seemed to be manipulative in terms of evangelization. For instance, every Saturday morning they do a youth sports outreach that is informal and open to any kids from the neighborhood. Lots of kids show up, and they play games for about an hour or so. Then, they tell the kids that if they want to eat lunch then they have to stay and sit through a gospel message. The kids have the option to leave before the message is given, but they are not permitted to eat lunch. I have no problem with sharing Christ with kids, but there was just something about that particular strategy that seemed overly manipulative to me when they tied it to the lunch. I learned several things today that I would like to apply in Pittsburgh. For instance, many people who know me know that I am very interested in cross-cultural church. I think that the church should be out in front of culture when it comes to figuring out how to be more racially and socioeconomically diverse. Instead, the church is usually
  27. 27. 27 dragging their feet and seemingly remaining segregated without much thought to how churches could be more diverse. Jeff Harrington’s church inspired me because it is an example that it can be done. If Christian leaders are intentional about reaching diverse groups of people, then it can be accomplished. Of course, there is much more to it than that, and each context is different. Still, I want to keep trying to figure out cross-cultural church in the urban lab of Pittsburgh. Also, in the No Name Fellowship I saw an example of how Christian leaders across many different sectors and institutions in a big city can come together with the commonality of Christ to work toward the holistic transformation of the community. In Pittsburgh, I am going to be much more intentional about joining with other Christians to work toward the shalom of my city. Collaboration and partnership is the key when it comes to change, but leadership is required for those things to happen. Perhaps God is calling me to become more involved in leadership in mobilizing city leaders in Pittsburgh. We will have to see where all of this leads! Day 5: March 18, 2011 This morning we visited with Dina Gonzales-Pina from Fresno Pacific University. She is the director of spiritual development at the university, and she also is involved in leading a scholarship program that helps the children of undocumented immigrants to attend the school. We met one of the scholars and got to hear about her journey. Then Dina talked to us for a while about the issue of immigration in America. She is a big advocate for helping to find a sensible path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants and their families living in America. Our group discussed
  28. 28. 28 comprehensive immigration reform for a while, and a lot of the policy changes that were recommended seemed to make sense. Next we went to the Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministry, or F.I.R.M., an organization that serves the large refugee population in Fresno that has entered the San Joaquin Valley because of the agricultural economic opportunities. A large Hmong and Laotian refugee community of over 30,000 people live in the area. F.I.R.M. supports refugees and provides services to help them adjust to life in a new culture. We visited with some refugees at the center who were in an English language class, and I helped a few people with a project they were working on. After that we ate a traditional Laotian meal, and we even participated in a Laotian dance together. I must admit that I just do not have any dance skills! In the afternoon we went to Evangelicals for Social Action and Love, Inc. They work in the area to collaborate with churches and help Christians to become involved in transforming their communities by loving the city. Love, Inc. serves as a clearinghouse for churches with people that come to them to meet material needs. The churches refer individuals to Love, Inc., where they are screened to make sure the needs are legitimate. They then cooperate with the churches to provide care and aftercare for the individuals. It was a unique way for churches to have a resource that helps them to serve people in need more effectively. In the evening the Fresno City Summit started, and we had the opportunity to hear from Noel Castellanos who is the president of a national organization called the Christian Community Development Association. He was a very dynamic speaker who motivated the audience to get more involved in development work in their communities. He used a
  29. 29. 29 lot of Scripture to provide a biblical foundation for Christians to become active in reaching people outside the walls of their churches. We also networked with Christian leaders from all over Fresno who are interested in making a difference in Fresno. The immigration discussion at Fresno Pacific was probably one of the most compelling parts of this day. The immigration issue is very polarizing politically in the United States. My position is that I think that our demonstration of the love of God trumps any government policies that are currently in place. In other words, even if people have come to the United States illegally, they still deserve to be loved as neighbors and children of God. Then, when it comes to policy, I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship that makes sense. I am not an advocate of amnesty, nor am I an advocate of mass deportation of millions of people or building a bigger wall between the United States and Mexico. Comprehensive immigration reform understands that the current immigration system is broken and has been broken for a long time. The immigration issue is not a neutral issue for churches in America. We should get involved to help bring about solutions to the modern complexities involving stakeholders. The important thing for me is that, in Pittsburgh, we should not lose sight of the stories of how families are being impacted by the brokenness of the current system. Actually meeting and spending time with undocumented people in Pittsburgh, just like we did in Fresno, would go a long way in helping to shape my capacity as a leader on comprehensive immigration reform. When I return to Pittsburgh, I plan to investigate whether or not my city has a system like Love, Inc. to help churches meet needs without causing harm and
  30. 30. 30 dependency. I do not know if a clearinghouse for specific requests exists in Pittsburgh or not. If something like that does exist, I would love to connect North Way with that resource. If it does not exist, it would be great to get some churches on board to get something like that going in our region. Day 6: March 19, 2011 Today we started by discussing our class projects for this course. Everyone shared about their project ideas, and the topics being considered should lead to a lot of good work in cities all around the world. I am planning to write about the concept of transformational mentoring based on the eight transformational leadership perspectives of Bakke Graduate University. I will incorporate much of what we have learned in Fresno this week into the final project for this course. After our time of discussing projects, we attended the rest of the Fresno City Summit. Noel Castellanos from CCDA shared about what it means to love a city from a Latino theological perspective. It is always great to hear from so many different types of leaders, and Noel’s thoughts really helped me to see Christian community development from a different perspective. For the remainder of the day I attended workshops about different methods of community development that should prove to be useful with some of the things I am involved with in Pittsburgh. The city summit was good, although many of the concepts were basic. That was intentional, however, because the leaders who organized the event wanted to set it up as an onramp for Christians who are interested in reaching people in their city. They wanted to involve young people in the event, and from what I experienced they managed to hit their target audience. I met young people from all over the city of Fresno who had some
  31. 31. 31 great ideas about how they could impact their communities and neighborhoods. Randy had told us ahead of time that the material would be pretty basic, so I paid attention to how the event was organized and how I could set up this type of event back in Pittsburgh. I learned about some great ideas. In terms of application to my context, I was really able to gain an understanding of asset-based community development from the time that I spent in the workshops. That methodology involves building on the assets in troubled communities instead of on needs and problems. For instance, in Homewood there are many needs that I see as I spend time in the neighborhood interacting with people. But, there are also many assets in Homewood. The kids are resilient and resourceful. Homewood has a great library that is a tremendous resource for the community. The Homewood-Brushton YMCA is a huge asset, and I have been involved in basketball outreach there on Tuesday and Thursday nights (my wife, Julie, and I also work out there because it is one of the best work out facilities in Pittsburgh). The Faison Primary School is a huge asset in Homewood because it is a relatively new building that serves as a hub of activity for the community. I am so thankful for the partnership that North Way has with the Faison Schools through LAMP, and even our mentoring matches serve as assets in the community. There are many assets that can be discovered and built upon in Homewood, and I am looking forward to being involved in that work for a long time. This course in Fresno has been amazing! I will miss all of my new friends and colleagues, but I am also ready to see my family and friends back in Pittsburgh. God is moving in Fresno, but he is also moving in many remarkable ways in Pittsburgh. The transformation in Pittsburgh is a fun thing to be a part of, because I get to watch God do
  32. 32. 32 things that only he can do. I am leaving California refreshed and energized. I am ready to jump back into the good work that is going on. I am ready to love my city!
  33. 33. CHAPTER 3 TRANSFORMATIONAL MENTORING Bakke Graduate University has eight leadership perspectives that are a significant part of every course. The perspectives are calling-based leadership, incarnational leadership, reflective leadership, servant leadership, contextual leadership, global leadership, shalom leadership, and prophetic leadership. Through this urban immersion course in Fresno, I had the opportunity to witness first hand how transformational leaders impact complex urban environments by implementing each of the various leadership perspectives at different times depending on what is needed in certain contexts. In contemplating how I might apply what I have learned in Fresno to my context in Homewood, it became apparent to me that these same eight leadership perspectives might also be applied to help make faith-based mentoring more effective in Pittsburgh. Hence, the purpose of this project is to examine how the eight perspectives of transformational leadership at Bakke Graduate University inform the practices of faith-based mentoring as a means of transforming the lives of at-risk youth. The eight leadership perspectives could enhance faith-based mentoring relationships so that both mentors and mentees experience exponential development in their lives. This concept could be described as transformational mentoring. Research Methods I chose two methods of research for this project. First, I have documented the past five years of mentoring experiences that I have had with my own LAMP mentees in the 33
  34. 34. 34 Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The Learning and Mentoring Partnership, or LAMP, is a faith-based mentoring initiative in Pittsburgh that matches churches with public schools for the sake of matching mentors with at-risk youth. Formal documentation of my matches has occurred through regular, monthly reports to my mentoring supervisor, and I have also documented my mentoring experiences through journal entries in my blog. In this project, each mentee, or group of mentees, represents a different case study with regard to the examination of transformational mentoring. Second, North Way Christian Community has matched over 200 mentors with LAMP mentees in Homewood over the past five years. I sent a questionnaire out electronically to all active LAMP mentors from North Way. Overall around 40 percent of the active LAMP mentors at North Way completed the survey about transformational mentoring for this project, so I was able to gain unique insight into faith-based mentoring. Each section of this project represents an overview of the eight perspectives on transformational mentoring, including a broad definition of the type of mentoring supported by reading materials for this course, case studies from my personal mentoring experiences, and interpretation of the results from the mentor survey. Calling-based Mentoring The calling-based leader “seeks to understand God-given gifts, experiences, and opportunities in understanding his/her unique role as a called instrument of Christ’s transforming work in and above world cultures.”1 Calling-based mentors are committed to spending time with their mentees in spite of the outcomes of the relationship because mentoring is something that God has called them to see through to the finish. When the calling to mentor comes from and is sustained by Christ, the mentoring becomes even 1 Randy White, Urban Field Experience-Fresno Course Syllabus, 2.
  35. 35. 35 more transformational for both the mentor and the mentee because the match lasts longer and the mentor may be more resilient to persevere when the match experiences struggles. Calling plays an important role in the lives of Christians. Mentoring is about one adult spending quality time with one child. Entire churches may not be called to get involved in mentoring, but individuals can be called. Robert Lupton concedes that “the church as an institution must be vested in its own self-preservation; otherwise it would not survive. The church universal, on the other hand, survives only by giving itself away. If you would save your life, the Jesus principle goes, you will lose it. But if you lose it for my sake, then will you find it. I suspect that an institution can’t do that. Only people.”2 Mentoring high risk youth is a difficult undertaking, especially when one considers that most matches are cross-cultural. Mentoring costs us something. That is why we must be called to it. Calling can make all of the difference between a match closing and a long-term transformational relationship. “When we build relationships with people who are in some way oppressed by life, when we work with the powerless, marginalized and exploited to form themselves into people of power, and when we embrace with them the values of a just, equitable and relational culture, we are participating in resurrection power. We are sharing in the resurrection of individuals and their neighborhood, community or city. That is the spirituality of relational power.”3 Faith-based mentoring is a wonderful example of relational power at work. LAMP mentors are called to go into complex urban environments in order to build relationships with high risk youth, regardless of whether or not they are familiar with cities. This work is characteristic of a movement of Christians around the world who 2 Robert Lupton, Renewing The City (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 214. 3 Robert Linthicum, Transforming Power (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 190.
  36. 36. 36 are being called to cities. “The city needs a growing cadre of young leaders – both college and graduate students as well as those already in the marketplace – who will link their skills, their privileges and their sense of well-being to the well-being of the city. In today’s globalized world, to shape the city is to shape the way people experience life itself.”4 Mentoring is an incredible way for Christians to invest in the life of a city, and it is a calling from a biblical perspective. All throughout Scriptures, God has given us examples of how we should give ourselves away to others through the building of meaningful relationships. “Any approach to ministry that involves the church should be based on a biblical theological foundation. Mentoring is certainly not a new approach to training. It has clear roots in the Old and New Testaments.”5 Just as in any other part of life, mentors can search the Bible for inspiration to keep them going in a committed mentoring relationship. A Case Study in Calling-based Mentoring: Rafael Rafael was referred to the LAMP program five years ago by several staff members at his school in Homewood. When I first met him I noticed that he had significant anger issues, his grades were terrible, and he was extremely disruptive at school. He did not have a relationship with his father who is serving a life sentence in prison for murder. The other male influences in his life, his older brother and his uncle, were both heavily involved in gang activity and drug dealing. Mentoring Rafael was rough for the first couple of years. Sometimes we would connect and enjoy one another’s company, and sometimes his anger would escalate and he would try to sabotage our 4 Randy White, Encounter God in the City (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 17. 5 Harvey Conn and Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 430.
  37. 37. 37 relationship. He did not know how to respond to a positive male role model in his life, and I did not really know how to respond to him. We both thought about ending the relationship many times. I think I stuck with this match because I knew God had called me to be Rafael’s mentor. Our relationship changed when Rafael accepted Christ. He was able to turn over a great deal of his pain and anger to the Lord, and I actually started to see a bright future for him. I could see Christ shining through in the midst of extreme brokenness. During our third year together, Rafael and his family had to flee the state because of his brother’s drug debts. His brother and his uncle were murdered within one week of each other. When he moved back to Pittsburgh, the first phone call he made was to me. He started calling me every day, and I made sure to spend a lot of time with him considering everything he was going through. This was quite a strain, but it was something I was definitely called to do. God is slowly healing his heart, and I know God is working through me to reach him. If I viewed mentoring as just another program, then I am sure that I would have quit on Rafael long ago. However, I know that mentoring Rafael is much more than participation in a program to mentor high risk youth. I have been called to build a long term relationship with him as one of the only positive male role models in his life. That is indeed a high calling. LAMP Mentor Survey Results: Calling-based Mentoring In the survey given to current LAMP mentors, 95 percent of LAMP mentors surveyed expressed a strong calling to be become a mentor. A strong calling from God is what might separate faith-based mentoring programs from traditional mentoring
  38. 38. 38 programs over time. Good citizenship should inform our decision to become a mentor, but in the long run a calling from God to mentor may be more powerful than a decision to simply volunteer in the community. Mentoring high risk youth can be extremely difficult, and without a strong calling a mentor would have a tough time maintaining a match over time. There were no significant variances in the survey responses that would indicate that the mentees felt that their mentors were called to spend time with them. This might be because LAMP mentors do not spend a whole lot of time talking to their mentees about their calling. As a support person for the mentors at North Way, I should encourage the mentors to talk to their mentees more about their calling to mentor. Many high risk youth experience poverty in which they often go through their lives in reaction mode. It is hard to think about giving back to other people when you are living in reaction mode. Through mentoring, mentors are role modeling for their mentees how God calls us to do hard things sometimes in order to fulfill an important role in God’s mission to redeem the world. A strong calling from the Lord provides great purpose and meaning in our lives, and mentors have the opportunity to help their mentees understand how a person can live out a calling in life. Incarnational Mentoring The incarnational leader “pursues shared experiences, shared plights, shared hopes, in addition to shared knowledge and tasks.”6 Incarnational mentors intentionally spend a significant amount of time with their mentees in the mentee’s neighborhood and 6 Randy White, Urban Field Experience-Fresno Course Syllabus, 2.
  39. 39. 39 environment. Many mentoring programs encourage the mentors to take the kids out of their neighborhood because those neighborhoods are perceived to be bad. Mentors are encouraged to give their mentees new life experiences by trying new things. This may include such things as sporting events, museums, going to the mentor’s home in a different neighborhood, and many other new experiences for the mentee. While it is important to show kids new things, mentors should be careful not to reinforce the concept that for mentees to have a good life, they must escape their dysfunctional home life or neighborhood in order to make it. In the minds of the children, the “good life” then becomes “out there” somewhere in a place that is definitely not to be discovered in their own environment. An incarnational mentor spends time with their mentees in their context, helping them to have a positive vision for their lives within their own surroundings. Just as Jesus entered into many messy situations, so we as mentors who follow Christ should also be willing to meet our mentees where they are. High risk youth do not need to be rescued from their environments, as tempting as that may be for the mentor. They may choose to leave their neighborhoods one day, but they also have a need to be developed as leaders who may contribute back into the community. There are always assets that can be built upon in blighted urban neighborhoods, and the young people in those communities may be the biggest assets to future generations. The leader in the LAMP mentoring initiative in Pittsburgh is the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Pittsburgh Public Schools is a large, urban school district, and a healthy school system is an important part of any community or city. Through LAMP, churches can help to make sure that Pittsburgh has a healthier public school district. This is an example of what Ray Bakke calls common grace in the
  40. 40. 40 city. “Common grace includes a transit system, a health-care system, and educational system, or a sewer system. The city is a gift of common grace.”7 A healthy urban school district and a healthy city of Pittsburgh in general are mutually beneficial for both urban and suburban Christians. LAMP mentors engage culture by becoming incarnational leaders in the midst of broken, urban systems. When mentors spend time with mentees in their mentee’s community, they begin to have a shared hope that the neighborhood will be transformed. Christian mentors can have profound hope in the midst of difficult circumstances, and they can readily share that hope with their mentees. “Hope proclaims – against all the relentless claims that a meaningful future is not possible, and against the constant agonies of suffering – that because of the cross and the resurrection, tomorrow can be different from today. This is the work of the Spirit of life, who draws all of us toward the renewal of life.”8 Life for many LAMP mentees is a profound struggle to thrive in the midst of poverty, and incarnational mentors are able to help their mentees find hope in the midst of brokenness. Incarnational mentors are also able to invite mentees into their own context in order for their mentees to experience new things, just as they are also able to enter incarnationally into their mentee’s context in order to learn from their mentees. “Whole-life relationships must go both ways. Just as we enter into the everyday life of others, we should also allow others to see our daily life and family interaction.”9 A Case Study in Incarnational Mentoring: Tyran 7 Ray Bakke and John Sharpe, Street Signs (Birmingham: New Hope Publishers, 2006), 113. 8 Mark Gornik, To Live in Peace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2002), 234. 9 Harvey Conn and Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 440.
  41. 41. 41 Tyran is a sixteen year old mentee in the LAMP program. He lives in Homewood, and he is essentially homeless because he bounces around from house to house finding shelter with various friends and relatives. He is resourceful, resilient, creative, and he has a great outgoing personality that attracts people to him as a leader. In the past, Tyran has used those natural leadership skills in negative ways in order to meet his own needs. At one point he sold drugs, stole property, and vandalized vacant buildings. He led other kids in the neighborhood to get caught up in those things. Since Tyran spends so much time walking around his neighborhood, and bouncing around between friends, he comes into contact with many men in his neighborhood who have sought to involve him in leadership in the local gangs. He has seemingly constant pressure on him to sell and use drugs, simply because so many of his friends and relatives are fully immersed in the drug culture in Homewood. When I first started mentoring Tyran, it was nearly impossible to keep up with him on a weekly basis. He missed a lot of school, so it was never a sure bet that he was going to be there on our mentoring days for me to pick him up. He did not have a cell phone, and there was no way to reach him by phone at any of the houses that he commonly slept at. Dropping him off after the mentoring time was another significant challenge. He seemed to want to be dropped off at a different house every week. It has always been my practice as a mentor to make sure the mentees actually make it into their houses after I drop them off, and with Tyran he would often be turned away from the houses he asked me to try to take him to. Eventually somebody would end up taking him in, but there was rarely any consistency in his life.
  42. 42. 42 Two significant breakthroughs happened in my mentoring relationship with Tyran. First, he was able to get a cell phone so that when I needed to contact him he would be available to tell me where I could find him. It was still difficult to track him down, though, so the second breakthrough happened when I moved to Homewood. Tyran was now able to walk to my house, which helped us tremendously in being more consistent with spending time together. As an incarnational mentor, I also tried to be more intentional about finding him in his neighborhood and spending time with him there. We started utilizing the Homewood YMCA. My goal was simply to spend time with Tyran in his context as much as I could so that I could connect with him more often. That strategy really paid off. He has shown remarkable progress with his life. He is doing well in school, staying out of trouble, and he has accepted Christ into his life. LAMP Mentor Survey Results: Incarnational Mentoring In the survey, 58 percent of LAMP mentors did not spend any time in their mentee’s neighborhood, while 16 percent of the mentors frequently spend time in their mentee’s neighborhood. Incarnational mentors spend time with their mentees in the mentees’ neighborhood, so this is an area that could definitely be emphasized and improved upon in the LAMP program. Just like Jesus, incarnational mentors are willing to go into places where many people are unwilling to go. American cultural Christianity may encourage Christians to withdraw from society and culture, setting up what may be considered a Christian bubble of sorts. When we isolate ourselves from people in need, we end up running in the complete opposite direction of Christ’s call to serve hurting people in their own context just as he did.
  43. 43. 43 There were no significant indicators of whether mentees spent a lot of time in their mentor’s neighborhood. School-based mentors spend time with their mentees in the school building, so it would be impossible for those mentees to spend time in their mentor’s neighborhood. One-to-one and family-to-one mentors have the option to take their mentees to their homes, but some of them actually do that often and some do not. The survey findings showed that family-to-one mentors took their mentees to their homes more often, and I would suggest that happens because it is simply more convenient and less costly for family-to-one mentors to spend time with their mentees in the family home as opposed to at sporting events or museums with additional costs. Another factor might be the distance of the mentor’s home from where their mentee lives. In LAMP, many mentors travel to Homewood from suburban or rural parts of Pittsburgh that can be thirty to sixty minutes away. In that scenario, many of the mentors prefer to spend time with their mentees in places closer to Homewood instead of driving all the way back to where they live. Reflective Mentoring The reflective leader “lives in reality, reflects on its meaning, and catalyzes others with the courage, symbols, and example to make meaning in their own lives.”10 Reflective mentors are able to move beyond programs and activities to focus mentoring experiences on the meaning that is found within the relationship. Some mentors quit because they do not feel like they are getting anything out of the program. Other mentors quit because their mentees seem to be unresponsive or unappreciative of the mentoring activities. Reflective mentors invest in the relationship by helping their mentees unpack what they are experiencing during the time spent together. Reflective mentors also reflect 10 Randy White, Urban Field Experience-Fresno Course Syllabus, 2.
  44. 44. 44 on the meaning of the mentoring experiences in terms of how God is intending for their lives to be transformed according to His purposes. Sometimes God will require us to do things that do not make sense at the time, and only upon reflection are we able to understand God’s purposes. That is why it is so important for transformational mentors to be reflective. One of the best things about reflective mentoring is that it has the power to accelerate transformation in the lives of the mentors. Many volunteers go into mentoring thinking that they are going to change a child’s life, but along the journey the mentors are drawn closer to Christ. In Churches that Make a Difference, the authors noted that “The goal of the church’s holistic outreach is the transformation of people, communities, and society for the glory of God. For God to work through us in this mission requires that we first, and continually, allow him to transform us.”11 Sure, many mentees experience the joys of transformation in their own lives, but the mentors experience it for sure. “Strange, isn’t it, how we feel called to a mission of saving others, only to discover that the calling ends up being at least as much about our own salvation?”12 Reflection is an absolutely critical component of effective mentoring. All mentors carry with them many gaps in their worldview when they enter into the mentoring relationship. “Deeply held prejudices and fears are often shaped over time, and therefore time is required to dismantle them.”13 Thankfully, mentors make a commitment to entering into a long term relationship so they have plenty of time to work through issues that arise. That is why most mentors describe that they experience dramatic 11 Ron Sider, Churches That Make a Difference (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 142. 12 Robert Lupton, Renewing the City (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 240. 13 Randy White, Encounter God in the City (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 31.
  45. 45. 45 transformation in their lives before their mentees experience transformation. In fact, many mentees actually get worse once they are matched with a mentor. That is why commitment is so important to mentoring, because God wants to work through us to help us grow as we build an authentic relationship. Mentoring matches often fail because the mentor enters into a superficial friendship with their mentee, and they never actually engage and share their lives with the younger person. In order for a mentor to be successful, “The mentor must enter into the life of the mentoree. The mentor cannot be distant. A friend in biblical terms is one who becomes a soul partner, one who shares intimately with another. This is very difficult for many who have never learned to develop friendship. Friends need each other; friends are willing to confess to each other; friends have conflict but are willing to reconcile; friends are vulnerable to each other; friends learn from each other; friends never allow for superior-inferior dimensions. This is a very supportive role for both as they engage in the mentoring process.”14 A Case Study in Reflective Mentoring: Andrew and Tyree Just like any group of people in society, high risk youth have a wide variety of unique personalities. Hence, some LAMP mentees are extremely outgoing, some are extremely introverted, and others are every other type of personality in between. Andrew is an example of a mentee who happens to be extremely extroverted. He talks a lot, and when he is with a group of kids he is usually the conversation starter and center of attention. One of Andrew’s best friends, Tyree, is introverted. He does not talk very 14 Harvey Conn and Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 441.
  46. 46. 46 much, although every once in a while in a group setting he will jump in with a comment. For the past three years I have served as a school-based mentor to Andrew and Tyree. I try to be intentional about spending one on one mentoring time with each of them, but I also like to spend time with them together during lunch time at their school. Reflection is a crucial component of the time that I spend with both Andrew and Tyree. Since Andrew is so outgoing, he verbally processes through the experiences that happen to him in his life. If he is having family problems or struggles with his relationships at school, when he spends time with me he just starts running on and on about those issues. I listen to what he is saying, and I help him to reflect on what he is dealing with in his life. I ask him reflective questions that make him think more deeply. We often stumble upon teachable moments when I practice reflective mentoring with him. On the other hand, if I did not pay attention during my time with Tyree we would probably go months without having any meaningful reflection time about life. So, I ask him open ended questions to help him to reflect about the meaning of the things he experiences. The quality mentoring moments can be discovered with enough intentionality on my part as the mentor. If I viewed our mentoring relationship as simply a program or a way to give back to the community, as many mentoring programs do, I might have become frustrated with both of these mentoring matches and given up prematurely. Instead, I discovered that proactive reflective mentoring has led to a more transformational mentoring experience for both mentors and mentees. Beyond helping mentees to reflect, it is also important for mentors to reflect on how the mentoring experience might be transforming their own lives. When we give ourselves away to others in service for Christ, we are stretched in many good ways.
  47. 47. 47 Without reflection, as mentors, we might become overwhelmed by the match pressures. Although mentors should not try to control the outcomes of the match, mentors can be more or less effective depending on their own consistent behavior over time. Just as with any long term relationship, change is necessary over time. Reflective mentors navigate the ever changing dynamics of mentoring relationships with high risk youth because they regularly assess how they are connecting with their mentee. LAMP Mentor Survey Results: Reflective Mentoring The survey determined that 90 percent of LAMP mentors reflect often on their mentoring experiences. This was one of the strongest findings in the survey. Since many of the LAMP matches are cross-cultural and the mentees often experience intense struggles in life, it is important for mentors to constantly examine how the matches are progressing. Mentees change over time, and mentors change over time, so reflection is necessary in order to navigate the changes involved in a long term mentoring relationship. Often, experiences that may occur over the course of the relationship may appear to be one way, but after reflection the mentor is able to see circumstances from a different perspective. Reflection on the part of the mentors may open the door for the Holy Spirit to speak into how mentors might impact their mentees. About 60 percent of the mentors thought that their mentees reflected on the meaning of the mentoring experiences only on occasion. This can be a frustrating part of the mentoring process for the mentors. Many kids have a difficult time showing emotion or engaging in the mentoring activities in more meaningful ways. When mentees seem to behave in a more neutral way to the mentoring experiences, mentors might assume that
  48. 48. 48 the mentees are disinterested or dissatisfied with how the match is progressing. To avoid that type of frustration, mentors can help their mentees to reflect by asking good, open- ended questions about activities or things that the mentee is going through in life. The process requires a lot of active listening skills and patience on the part of the mentor, but there is usually time for reflection during the mentoring time together. That is particularly true for one-to-one mentors, who usually have a car ride back to the mentee’s house to utilize for reflection time. While reflection is good, mentors should be careful to avoid overwhelming their mentees with questions and advice. Sometimes mentees are not in a place to open up about certain subjects, or they may just want to be quiet if they are experiencing a lot of difficulties in life. Servant Mentoring The servant “leader’s behavior and priority is on servanthood first. In the style of Jesus, the leader leads by serving and serves by leading.”15 Servant mentors become involved in mentoring because they want to serve God, and as a result, serve their mentees. There is no agenda to fix individuals through human efforts in servant mentoring. It is often quite a sacrifice for busy adults to carve out time to spend with a high risk youth, but servant mentors are successful because they understand that this is an area of their lives where God is calling them to serve another person selflessly. Mentors struggle when they enter into a match with a top-down mentality, as if they are going to teach some troubled kid about how they might be able to lift themselves up by their bootstraps and improve their lives with enough effort. The savior mentality is prominent in many mentoring circles. Mentors think that if they try hard enough, and prescribe enough good advice, that they can save their mentees from poverty. This type of thinking 15 Randy White, Urban Field Experience-Fresno Course Syllabus, 2.
  49. 49. 49 almost always undermines the friendship, because nobody wants to be friends with someone who is constantly trying to fix them according to their advice which may or may not be applicable to their life. Mentors do not save their mentees. Only Jesus saves mentees. And in following the model of Jesus’ servanthood to all, transformational mentors will find that their matches are more effective when the mentors die to themselves and serve as Christ served us. Followers of Christ should always have a heart for serving the most vulnerable people in society. “The most compelling motivation for compassion is faith in God. People of faith reach out to others because they have received divine love and they share it with others in gratitude. Those who do so enter into a reciprocal relationship that changes not only the person who receives, but also the one who gives.”16 Clearly, God desires for us to give ourselves away to one another. Mentoring is a great way to do just that, and in doing so we help to establish authentic Christian community. “The Christian faith envisions a communal life. Christ calls people to a life of sharing and caring in community, and the church exists to facilitate this process.”17 A Case Study in Servant Mentoring: Catrell Catrell was the first mentee I was matched with in Homewood. He had shown some signs of being somewhat disruptive at his school, so the staff recommended him to LAMP. For our first few months together, I was actually wondering why he needed a mentor. His grades seemed to be good, and his behavior was not too bad relative to some of the other boys I had met in his school. We met every week over the summer, and one 16 Barbara Elliot, Street Saints (West Conshohocken: Templeton Foundation Press, 2004), 255. 17 Charles Dahm, Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2004), 68.
  50. 50. 50 of the things I noticed was that he never thanked me for spending time with him. When I would drop him off at his apartment, he would just get out of the car and walk to his house without ever looking back. When the school year started, I actually thought that my influence on him was making him worse. He was suspended for nine days during that fifth grade year of school, and his grades dropped dramatically from what they had been before he was matched with me. I was not sure if he would want to go on for another year when it came time for our one year celebration. I did not know if he enjoyed our time together or not because he rarely showed any kind of appreciation. Still, I did not feel released from our match. God had called me to mentor Catrell, and as a servant of the Lord I was called to serve him with my time and energy. The second year of the match was even worse. His grades dropped even more, and he was in danger of being held back because of the number of days he was suspended that year. I still could not tell if he liked having a mentor or not. I felt like a failure. At one point during our third year together, Catrell got into a fight while playing laser tag with one of the other boys in the LAMP program. I had to take him home, and on the car ride to his house I remember thinking that it was not worth it to mentor him anymore. It was just too much trouble. He was very upset with me for taking him home after the fight, and he kept telling me, “I hate you. I hate this mentoring program. I never want to see you again.” When we got to his house, he slammed the car door and stormed into his house. I called my mentoring supervisor to explain what had happened, and I informed her that this was probably the end of the match. It was apparent to me that Catrell did not want anything to do with this relationship. In my mind, mentoring him was a thankless task and it was only making him worse, anyway. A funny thing