TD Jakes Encourages City Leaders to Do 'Daunting Job' to Help at-Risk Youth

At a recent interfaith prayer breakfast in Jacksonville, Fla., Bishop T.D. Jakes, lead pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, encouraged religious and city leaders to acknowledge their "daunting job" of helping at-risk youth by uniting on a private, public, and spiritual front to improve graduation rates and decrease crime and unemployment rates in the city.

Jakes served as the keynote speaker at Mayor Alvin Brown's annual Interfaith Breakfast on Monday. along with speakers from Faith Temple Assembly of God, Evangel Temple, Alachua-Central African Methodist Episcopal Church, Celebration Church, and Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church.

"We need to fight the good fight of faith," Jakes told those in attendance, as reported by The Florida-Times Union.

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"Our job is daunting. A generation of people don't have job skills, don't know how to parent. … We have a real job to do today," Jakes added.

The theme of Monday's prayer breakfast, which took place at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, was "faith, family and friends." It focused on exploring "ways to build community partnerships that will improve education and reduce crime," according to official City of Jacksonville website.

According to First Coast News, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown also offered wise words at Monday's event, telling those in attendance that education and higher graduation rates are among his top priorities as a city leader.

"When we close the education gap, we will close the opportunity gap, and when you close the opportunity gap, you close the economic gap, and when you close the economic gap, you close the crime gap," the mayor said.

Jakes has also focused a portion of his ministry, the T.D. Jakes Ministries, Inc., on decreasing crime rates through community outreach.

His ministry is affiliated with the Texas Offenders Re-entry Initiative (T.O.R.I.), for example, which serves as a year-long re-entry program for ex-offenders entering society after prison.

The program is aimed at properly acclimating prisoners back into society in order to reduce future crime.

Monday's prayer breakfast has been criticized by some for not being truly interfaith, as those speaking at the prayer breakfast were reportedly all Christian.

In a separate article by The Florida-Times Union, city spokeswoman Aleizha Batson admitted that the lack of several faiths at Monday's prayer breakfast was an "oversight" on behalf of the city, as the 2011 and 2012 breakfast events included a rabbi, a Hindu priest, and an imam.

"While we invited religious institutions of many faiths to attend the mayor's Interfaith Breakfast, it was an oversight not to ensure that a variety of faiths were represented on the program. We look forward to having religious leaders of many faiths on next year's program," Batson told the paper.

Jakes' The Potter's House, which boasts a membership of 30,000, is currently preparing for its upcoming MegaFest, an annual, three-day family themed conference taking place in August which will include talks from Jakes, his wife Serita Ann Jakes, Lakewood Pastor Joel Osteen, wife Victoria Osteen, and others.

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