'In-Your-Face' Urban Youth Workers in it for Change, Not Fluff

Considering the number of churches there are in the world, there should be change. Considering the number of churches that exist in a specific city, there should be change in the way things are going in that city.

"If the church is the light of the world, then why is the world still dark?" posed a sought-after speaker to hundreds of urban youth workers.

Harvey Carey, founder and senior pastor of the Citadel of Faith Covenant Church in Detroit, Mich., and known for ministry to urban youth, spoke at the Urban Youth Workers Institute (UYWI) over the weekend to show youth leaders how far they've drifted away from changing the city.

"This ain't no game," said Carey at the May 17-19 conference at Azusa Pacific University in California. "A generation is at stake and we're so busy with arts and crafts and PowerPoints that we're missing taking our neighborhood for God."

Urban youth workers constantly deal with the violence, poverty, drugs, broken homes and injustices that a typical urban city houses.

"I guess we work with broken lives in ashes," said Jeffrey De Leon, executive director of Leadership Training Ministries and speaker throughout the Spanish speaking world and the United States, on Friday. "And I'm guessing that you are that Christ in your city.

More emphatically, he said, "I know you are that Christ in the city."

Constantly surrounded by "wreckage" in the cities, many youth workers tend to feel weary or burned out. But the UYWI was designed for the hard-core youth worker ready to make changes.

This conference was designed for the "in-your-face" type of youth worker, said Carey. The type who's "not in it for fluff, but wants to really see things change."

Youth workers often attend conferences for fresh ideas and revival and conferences are often themed around how to change the world. But Carey wants to see real and radical change.

"What has your youth ministry done this year to change the world?" he asked the crowd.

Youth ministry is not what the workers or leaders do to minister to youth, he said, but how they develop youth who engage themselves in ministry work.

This summer, youth leaders have planned camp, fundraising events and mission trips for their youth group. But oftentimes, such programs or events just turn out teens who are again born again and cause little change.

"[Youth ministry] got blended in with some meaningless dribble called youth group," said Carey.

Carey had taken part of his 1,500-member youth ministry to a newly opened strip club in Detroit. While the hundreds of youth surrounded the building in prayer and shouting "God bless you" to people at the entrance to help prevent more people from entering, Carey and his fellow youth workers prayed at the top of their lungs inside the club for God to help the young women strippers and stop the demonic forces. The strip club closed down soon thereafter, Carey testified.

"You can reclaim your city," he said.

While the blame for a city's violence, injustices and poverty is a lot of times placed on the government, Leon points to the church as the answer to the problems of the city.

"We're the only ones who can represent Christ," he said.

Stressing the need to be the light of the world, Carey shouted: If darkness exists in the cities, "that means the light is not shining, period."