Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy (an all-male charter school) just pulled a THREE-PEAT announcing that ALL of their graduating seniors have been accepted into four-year colleges!

At a time where faith in the traditional educational system is beginning to waiver for many, Urban Prep Academy on Chicago’s south side must be doing something right.   Once again, 100% of its 2012 graduating seniors are heading off to college in the fall.  And by the way, this school is the only all-Black, all-male public prep school in Chicago!

This is the third year in a row that the school has achieved the feat thanks to hard-working teachers, parents and of course…the amazing students.

The school started with students whose futures had been left for dead by their public schools: Only four percent of the school’s incoming freshmen were reading at grade level when they arrived on campus.

The young men at this incredible school are reason for hope and celebration as they continue to break barriers and defy the odds!  What an inspiration!?

See Chicago Tribune Letter to the Editor: Success stories

For many years as the Christmas holidays are approaching, I have often had the privilege and opportunity to speak with groups of young people involved in a youth outreach or in youth groups.  With the increasing commercialization of Christmas, it is a welcomed occasion to remind and discuss the “reason for the season” as we like to say.

It is a researched fact that the average attention span of teenagers is to be right about 12.5 minutes (for adults it is 15-20 minutes).  With that fact in mind, I have always known it to be important to grab attention, spark curiosity and be as relevant as possible within that short timeframe.

Young people often like to “rep” where they are from geographically in their cities so as I researched where the promised Messiah was born, I learned that Bethlehem was a small village five miles south of Jerusalem.  My friends in Chicago especially appreciate the title I created, “South side Messiah.”  Now that you have read this far, I share a few thoughts about this Messiah.

This miraculous child anointed by God to save human-kind is to establish a throne as the King and the Messiah.  The wise men who were seeking to worship the King went to Jerusalem first thinking it would be the city where the new kingdom would be established.  Think about it… if that were to be the case, the magi would have been the only ones who could have visited and worshiped the newborn King.  The shepherds and the lowly would have been forbidden to enter the gates of the palace and not allowed to see the Son of God.  

It had to be this way because the Good News was being delivered to everybodyeverywhere.  What an incredible moment it must have been!  All of the heavens celebrate to see God’s plan of love and salvation unfolding in this south side village of Bethlehem.   The new born King was not born in a palace, but in a stable; laid not in a crib for royalty, but a manger; dressed not in fine, princely clothing, but in swaddling rags.

The manger illustrates God’s affinity for the poor and the lowly.  The King of Kings was born into a condition that many of our young people and their families identify with today.  A condition of poverty and it could not have been any other way.  This poor and ordinary birth was an indication of the spiritual poverty required within the hearts of Christ followers to come.

It is those who know their own internal poverty who are the closest to God’s heart.  It is the religious, the self-important and puffed up that are most resistant to Christ… most resistant to a “South side Messiah”.  Jesus told us it is the simple, the childlike, and the weak who are closest to the kingdom of God (see Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:15; Luke 9:46-48).

The Messiah came to knock down barriers to God not raise them. The mystery of the King of Kings born in a lowly manger is simple yet profound. Out of a humble manger in the little town of Bethlehem came the greatest love man has ever known.  The Messiah born in that indistinct setting still touches and changes people 2,000 years later.

Do you feel compassion for those who are less fortunate?  Do you want to really make a difference in the lives of others?  Do you feel called to serve the poor or teach in an urban school?  Are you sensing a prodding to invest yourself in an under-served community?  Do you have a driving compulsion to reach at-risk youth and/or young adults in need?  If you feel the tug of these questions, you may be hearing your calling to serve.

Recently I was digging through some old files I used previously for training in youth outreach and educational settings.  I found an old document, titled “What Being a Youth Worker Ought to Do for You.” This one page of ought to statements have been passed around youth ministry circles for years.  When I worked for Young Life these words repeatedly helped challenge and encourage myself and others to serve.

These ought to statements are such a realistic, powerful and challenging set of truths.  I have used this piece and adapted it to fit many different scenarios; whether it has been working with privileged youth, under-served youth, schools, or whole communities.

Instructions: Read, allow time to marinate, and digest slowly.

WHAT SERVING THE POOR OUGHT TO DO FOR YOU

  • Ought to seem so unreachable and big that you can only see it through the eyes of Christ by faith.
  • Ought to be harder than you can handle on your own, to make you more dependent on God.
  • Ought to give you enough disappointments to make you humble and break your spiritual pride.
  • Ought to be difficult enough to make you weep for others, that you might become more compassionate.
  • Ought to have enough demanding, insensitive, ungrateful people in it to make you love like Jesus loves.
  • Ought to have enough impossible, insurmountable obstacles in it to teach you the goodness and power of God.
  • Ought to teach you how to love when you are tired, give when you are spent, and pray when you are weary.
  • Ought to teach you the power and truth of His word, the strength of His voice and the might of His commands.
  • Ought to teach you how to turn your mourning into dancing, your sadness into joy and your sorrow into laughter.
  • Ought to teach you to love the only One worthy of all our love – the One who became poor that you might become rich and unjust so that you might become just.

I offer these challenging reflections to any who feel called to be in service to the poor.  I offer them as a way to know the power of God, and hoping that this knowledge will lead us to move forward in renewing the city with compassion, hope, and justice.

Proverbs 29:7 NIV – The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.