Artist Kobra Tupac Mural Maimi

Choppin’ It Up

May 8, 2017 | Andrew Mann | Ministry

If you let a person talk long enough, you’ll hear their true intentions! Listen twice, speak once.Tupac Shakur

The burger was good—a flat patty with crispy edges, crunchy lettuce, a glistening tomato, sriracha aioli, all between two sides of a toasted, buttery bun. Neither this meal nor the company sitting across the table were planned at the start of my day.

The young man, who in conversation disclosed he was now twenty-two years old, had texted me earlier that afternoon. He remembered we had met when he was twelve. He came to a basketball camp. Since then we’ve had many fist bumps and hugs as we pass on the street. He’s never been in our building, never been to church. He’s a rapper. Most young men in our neighborhood are or at least aspire to be. However, he actually is. He’s performed at the Apollo, has tens of thousands of followers on social media, and is excited about signing a deal with a prominent record company. His music reflects his experience in life, an experience very different than mine.

Yet there we sat—talking, listening, or in his words, “choppin’ it up.” Perhaps as you get closer to the end of this paragraph you’re expecting to find a point, a moral, a conclusion. No, it’s not here, just as I don’t have a conclusion to the end of my story. When we got back to the block, we parted ways with another fist bump and a hug. I’m not sure the point of it all, but I look forward to more opportunities to chop it up.

Artist JR through a mother's eyes in the bronx.

Raising the Bar

April 24, 2017 | Josh Johnson | Ministry

“We know how to be teenagers. We want [the church] to show us how to be adults.” Kristin, aged 17, from Raising the Bar: Ministry to Youth in the New Millennium by Alvin Reid

Our students today are constantly fighting to find a place they can gain a feeling of self-worth. No one likes to feel useless or unproductive. It often becomes easy to judge people we see in struggles and think their circumstances are strictly their fault. But far too often the students that walk through our doors have done nothing to choose the life they live. These students are a product of neglect, brokenness, and purposelessness. Students come to your ministry for this need; they want to feel relevant.

How do we make students feel relevant?

Far too often our world has watered down its expectation of young people. We chalk up every mistake, every question, and every small triumph as adolescence. Dr. Alvin Reid discusses this issue in his book Raising the Bar: Ministry to Youth in the New Millennium. In chapter 4, titled “Truth or Consequences,” he covers how the Bible treats the myth of adolescence. This idea is upside down from what the world expects: kids will be kids . . .well into their twenties! God expects our young people to be the church of today. This can only be done when we stop treating youth as children. When we read God’s Word, it addresses two groups: children and adults. There are no tweens, teens, or even youth groups with cleverly named programs. Instead we see in Scripture . . .

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 HCSB

“Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 HCSB

Healthy youth ministry must include some form of expectation followed by accountability to meet those expectations.

Take a moment and honestly think of the youth ministry you were, are, or need to be a part of today. What can you do to change the thinking of how our youth are equipped for the kingdom? Will you equip our young adults for His kingdom?

Josh Johnson is the youth director at Graffiti 2 Community Ministries in the South Bronx of New York City.

Artist Icy & Sot boy using legos to rebuild broken building

Thriving in Ministry with Your Kids

April 17, 2017 | Kerri Johnson | Ministry

Once you can relax and love God and let him love you, you may find that some of your Christian activity is not of God. Susan Field from My Children, My Mission Field: A Family’s Place in God’s Plan to Change the World

As you look on the precious faces of your children, visualize them walking the path God has laid out for them. Remind yourself of how much your own love for them mirrors the love of God for them and the love of God for you.

Raising children while serving in ministry can be hard. The juggling act is never ending.  Just remember you only have your children for a short time. They grow up fast. You don’t want them having feelings of competing with ministry for your attention. They are your ministry first. Teach them about God’s love. Show them how to serve others. Lead by example with rest and family time.

Always put God first, your spouse and your children second (in that order), then your church/ministry.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NIV

Kerri Johnson is the Graffiti 2 Works director at Graffiti 2 Community Ministries in the South Bronx of New York City.

tools mural painted by artist John Edwards.

More Serious Than a Hole in the Wall

April 10, 2017 | Andrew Mann | Ministry

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Abraham Maslow

One time I tried to install shelves in the kitchen of my small New York City apartment. I had a hammer, screwdriver, and little experience. It didn’t go well. For months, every time I washed dishes, the oversized holes in my wall were evidence I didn’t know what I was doing. Some time later, a friend who knew what he was doing came and completed the job. He had the right tools and the right expertise.

In ministry we are faced with problems more serious than a hole in the wall. We are faced with the problems of humanity. Not their problems—our problems. Every day I need food, sleep, water, and shelter. But that’s not all. I also need security, acceptance, confidence, and purpose. Jesus addressed these problems in multiple ways. He told stories, made friends, healed, and fed. He spoke bluntly, gently, subversively, and compassionately. Humanity’s problems were uniquely addressed as Jesus met people’s needs, set them free from sin, and taught Upside Down Principles for living God’s way. Then He sent us, His followers, to do the same.

Photo: Steve Hood

giant sleepers painted on roof by artists ella and pitr

No Ears

March 20, 2017 | Andrew Mann | Ministry

You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. Proverbs 3:24, NLT

One of the most miserable feelings is sleeplessness. Many years ago while receiving chemotherapy, I experienced multiple side-effects. Perhaps the most annoying were hiccups, mainly because my body spasms obstructed sleep. My inability to sleep was a side effect of a side effect, not the root problem. I know many others who experience the same problem, not always because of physical ailments but sickness nonetheless; insomnia or abnormal sleep cycles are pervasive.

In our ministry center in the Bronx, we often have kids who curl up and sleep on our black couch; sometimes they fall asleep at their table while trying to complete homework. These snoozing kids don’t complete their homework, miss spending time with friends, and aren’t able to hear the good news during Bible study. Maybe they’re missing out on important things, and we should wake them up, but I have to think the best news for them comes via the relief of slumber. A hungry child has no ears; then again, neither does a sleepy one.