Overview

Offers the "village of hope" as a framework where pastors and leaders offer the church as a place of support, guidance, and accountability for youth, parents, and other adults who are raising today's black youth.



The first edition of Working with Black Youth, edited by Charles R. Foster and Grant S. Shockley, was published in 1989. Since that time the challenges for black ...

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Keep It Real: Working with Today's Black Youth

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Overview

Offers the "village of hope" as a framework where pastors and leaders offer the church as a place of support, guidance, and accountability for youth, parents, and other adults who are raising today's black youth.



The first edition of Working with Black Youth, edited by Charles R. Foster and Grant S. Shockley, was published in 1989. Since that time the challenges for black youth have only intensified and grown in complexity. A burning question of Black churches continues to be: How can we effectively ministry with our youth? Their world is fast-paced, media-centered, techno-savvy, hip-hop, violent, and plagued with HIV/AIDS.  The Church wants to guide youth toward a Christian identity with values for wise decision-making. Youth want their questions heard. They want to see hope modeled. They need leadership opportunities.



While there are no quick, easy, or singular approaches to working with black youth, there can be a framework to offer vital and relevant youth ministry. This book proposes a comprehensive framework that has evolved over ten years of annual youth and family convocations of the Interdenominational Theological Center as well as youth and family forums and activities related to the Youth Hope-Builders Academy of ITC. The framework builds on the image of the congregation as a "village of hope" where pastors and leaders get real to offer the church as a place of support, guidance, and accountability for youth, parents, and other adults who are raising today's black youth.


Contributors: Daniel O. Black, Philip Dunston, Maisha I. Handy, Michael T. McQueen, Tapiwa Mucherera, Elizabeth J. Walker, Herbert R. Marbury, Annette R. Marbury, and Anne E. Streaty Wimberly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426737046
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,192,921
  • File size: 782 KB

Meet the Author

Anne E. Streaty Wimberly is Professor of Christian Education at the Interdenominational and Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia. She has 37 years of teaching experience and has been involved in music instruction in all age levels from preschool through graduate level.
Vanderbilt University Divinity School



h.marbury@vanderbilt.edu or hmarb1@gmail.com also
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Read an Excerpt

Keep It Real

Working with Today's Black Youth


By Anne E. Streaty Wimberly

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2005 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-3704-6



CHAPTER 1

The Gift of the Youth: The Hope of the Church

Herbert R. Marbury and Annette R. Marbury

People were bringing their children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs."

—Mark 10:13-14


Introduction

This chapter is written in collaboration with my mother and is intended as a model for intergenerational partnership. Annette R. Marbury is a lifelong church member and has been active in ministry with young people for several decades, serving in various capacities. She is curious to know who the youth are today whose rights and freedoms she struggled for in her early adulthood. She grew up in the segregated South and was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement. She was an instrumental part of my growth from childhood to adulthood, and remains a wise parent and sage.

Our writing styles are different and so are our theologies. However, since we advocate the intergenerational connection in our discussion, we believe it only fair that we attempt to model it in some fashion ourselves. In what follows, we will focus attention on gifts black youth bring to our faith communities. In particular, we will center on the story of the five loaves and two fish in the Gospel of John for what we can learn from it about the gifts of youth to the community. In addition, because of the emphasis here on intergenerational dialogue, we will present a synopsis of a conversation with four youth who spoke frankly about their concern for what is happening in today's church and world. Their disclosures reveal the depth of feelings of youth today and hope for the church and world, if their voices are heard and taken seriously.


Five Loaves and Two Fish: The Gift of a Youth

The Gospel of John's story of the five loaves and two fish, full of potent symbolism, vivid imagery, and mystery, captivated the imaginations of the ancient Christian community. Regarded highly by the Gospel writers, it is the only story to appear in each of the four Gospels. Both Matthew and Mark even report this story twice in differing variations.

At first blush, the feeding of the five thousand appears an unlikely story with which to frame a chapter about "keeping it real" in youth ministry. It is, after all, about Jesus' work with the disciples. But at the center of the narrative is a paidarion, a young boy whom commentators often consider incidental to the story. Without this paidarion, however, Jesus would not have had the gift needed to feed the community.

The story opens at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had been performing signs among the people. The crowd, amazed by his works, grew and followed him. It appears they had been following Jesus for a good while that day, for the narrator opens the dialogue with Jesus inquiring of Philip as to where he and the disciples might find bread for the people to eat. The question itself is telling. Jesus did not raise the prior question, that is, should they feed the crowd. No, the question's phrasing accepts that responsibility a priori. Rather, his question, according to the Gospel writer, simply probes Philip's willingness and capability to provide for the needs of the crowd (v. 5).

Posing the question to Philip signifies somehow that it is the disciples' responsibility as emissaries of Jesus to meet the needs of the people. Amazingly, Philip balks. He sees the enormity of the crowd, the paucity of his own resources, and he responds out of an acceptance of an economy of scarcity by retorting that even six month's wages would not be sufficient to feed the crowd. Philip was helpless. He was aware of the problem, the hungry crowd, and that Jesus had charged him with meeting the need, but because he could not see beyond his own perspective he could only respond as he did. Another disciple, Andrew, initially responds positively by noting the presence of a young boy with five barley loaves and two fish. In his next phrase, however, Andrew dismisses the possibility of aid from the boy and resorts to Philip's helplessness saying, "What are they among so many people?" Ultimately, just as his counterpart Philip, Andrew is inept, unable to rise to Christ's call and to meet the needs of the people. At this juncture, the story turns and Jesus takes center stage. He takes what the young person has to offer, blesses it, and with it he feeds the people.

Jesus' activity in the story models a full appreciation of the youth's gift. First, in Jesus' request for the food and the boy's willingness to share his food there is an implicit dialogue between Jesus and the boy. One has to speculate that Jesus did not simply commandeer the bread and fish but that, when requested by Jesus, the boy offered them willingly. Note what the Gospel writer does not report about the boy. There is no report of the boy's refusal to share what he has. More important, the boy does not approach Jesus with the economic perspective that so limited the responses of both Philip and Andrew. It does not occur to him that he should also reply, "What are they among so many people?" That which an adult would consider logical or proper does not shape his response. It is unique to his perspective and social location.

Second, Jesus gives visibility to the boy's voice. By offering his food, the boy raises his voice in the prevailing discourse about the community's hunger. What he has is not much "among so many." Even so, Jesus does not dismiss his offer. To the contrary, Jesus assigns to it esteem and a value that places the boy's voice on par with Philip's and Andrew's. By accepting what the boy had to offer, Jesus claims his voice and his offer as worthy before the entire community.

Finally, in sharp contrast, the story juxtaposes Philip's and Andrew's inability and the child's willingness and ability, the failure of the disciples and the efficacy of the boy. Because of the boy's voice, his hunger, his willingness to share, and Jesus' activity of inclusion of the voice of a young person among those of his own disciples, the needs of the entire community were met. The boy not only gave a gift to the crowd but also gave the disciples an invaluable and unexpected gift as well. He modeled for them the possibility of engaging the needs of the people (in this case hunger) without the hindrances of concern for economy and propriety, but rather with the unabashed naïveté that naturally attends youth.

Through the act of feeding, the symbolism of the story comes alive. Bread, for John the Gospel writer, is symbolic of flesh. This story alludes to the Passover meal where Jesus calls the bread his body. For John, Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus calls his disciples to be fishers of people. For the ancient church, this call is related to the spiritual. Together, bread and fish represent body and spirit, the complete person. Jesus' feeding the crowd did not simply sate their physical hunger, but the meal satisfied perfectly—body and spirit.


Real Ministry and the Gifts of Youth Today

The story of Jesus' appreciation and acceptance of the youth's gift reveals a potent and relevant model for a very "real" role of youth in today's church and world. Just as the crowd hungered for Jesus' signs and followed after him in Galilee, crowds also hunger today for hope and healing. The needs of people today are evident to the church. Poverty ravages communities across the United States and the world. Racism plagues our society like an unshakeable scourge. War continues to rage in the Middle East and elsewhere with an ever-rising death toll. HIV/AIDS is the number one killer of black men ages twenty-five to forty-four and black women ages twenty-seven to forty-five. Sexism is rampant, while heterosexism and the questions of homosexuality threaten to rend the very fabric of the church. Christ's query to Philip and the disciples resonates with those who claim discipleship in this age. However, like Philip, the church finds itself often inept, incapable of meeting the needs of the people. Like the disciples, the contemporary church also raises questions of economy, logic, and propriety as defenses when faced with the dire needs of the community. Two thousand years ago a young boy heard the call and came forward with his lunch. In his willingness to raise his voice, he pressed to the fore the issue of the needs of the people and the church's inability or unwillingness to meet those needs.

What are the voices of our young people saying today? What gift do they bring to the church and to the task of ministry? How might we allow their voices—unburdened by our inhibitions, our political correctness, and our concern for our positions, our power, our statuses, our reputations, and our finances—to speak to us? How might we become beneficiaries of their gifts in the same way that the disciples and the crowd were on the day of the miracle?

If we are to answer the questions fully, then we must surely accept the reality that gifts come in an inclusive community and there is a current mandate for an inclusive ministry. Carl Sandburg, in words contained in one of his poems, provides a cogent perspective of inclusiveness that

There is only one Maker in the world
and his children cover the earth
and they are named All God's Children.


Jesus' model of inclusive ministry invites our self-critique and action. Jesus' ministry, as depicted in the Gospel, is limited only by human frailty, the incomplete community, and the choice not to accept what he offers. Even with the best intentions, fractured communities often fail to provide solutions to obvious and urgent problems of the moment. "Where will we get enough food to feed all of those people?" Philip was absolutely certain that his fiscal resources were insufficient for the need. While Andrew had appropriately done the research, he also reported that what he found was equally insufficient. Jesus, however, was well aware that the solution to the human need would require the entire community, the boy and the disciples, the youth and the adult, hearing one another and giving full acceptance to the gift that the young boy lifted in the midst of the community.

The first step to realizing the gifts young people bring to ministry is the creation of an inclusive community. Jesus' ministry as depicted in the Gospel models such inclusivity. Such a community within our churches is by nature intergenerational. The miracle happened that day in an intergenerational group with a corporate need. Inclusivity for today's society, with its satellite technology, streaming media, and real-time transmissions, only magnifies the significance of the last lines of Sandburg's poem, "There is only one Maker in all the world/and his children cover the earth/and they are named All God's Children." How might this inclusivity be enacted? There are three dimensions the Gospel story raises: the call is to (1) engage youth in the prevailing dialogue, (2) raise their voices to visibility, and (3) see their concerns as part of the concerns of the larger community and their gifts as blessings needed by the whole.

In her helpful congregational resource Facing Forward in Older Adult Ministry, S. Miriam Dunson argues for this type of intentional connection. She believes that the community of faith can model the values that grow out of our biblical and theological faith traditions. For Dunson, this includes leading the way in developing a growing respect for the dignity of all persons regardless of age, leading the way in helping persons to live their entire span of life abundantly and to the fullest extent of their capabilities, and shaping values and attitudes in society by addressing issues concerning the meaning of life. Although Dunson intends that these values be modeled to invigorate older adult ministries, the same values easily apply to ministry with youth.

Edward A. Loder argues that ministries should not be compartmentalized. Churches cannot isolate one group from the whole, since people do not live in insolated sublets. Rather, humans live in systems, connected to one another. The American economy has had a terrible effect on the traditional extended family. Youth leave their families of origin and lifelong support networks to follow jobs, while their parents move from their communities of origin to retire. Such a generational shift calls for intergenerational understanding and solutions.

Years ago families had no need to be intentional about relationships between generations. They could be taken for granted. Most people lived in the context of an extended family. Members of several generations lived in close proximity to one another, knew each other, and supported each other. The nuclear family, parents and children that once lived in multigenerational groups, now live in atomistic isolation. The new dynamic has had a dramatic effect on the intergenerational connection. Loder says: "Specifically, we live in a way that no longer allows for older people and young people to interact with one another. Our culture is poorer for it."

With such a generational divide in today's society, the youth who hold the fish and bread have all been removed from within the church's domain. Since the church no longer hears them or sees them, but only creates compartmentalized ministry for them where they are not empowered to explore and use their gifts, the church no longer lives in ways that are theologically relevant to young people. Because their voices are oftentimes unheard or only heard outside of the church, such as in hip-hop music, for example, the church misses the gifts of an important part of the intergenerational connection.

We simply cannot do relevant theology in isolation. The task of theology is not a private affair. It is always in some sense a community effort arising from the context of the community and meeting that community's needs. For each human need, God depends upon the community to find the proverbial five loaves and two fish in a basket; and this "meal" can be given by a young person already in our midst and waiting to witness to Christ by meeting the challenges of our present-day world.

In theory, an inclusive, intergenerational community appears workable, but how might it look for the church? What questions might young people raise? Is the church ready for their gifts, as was the crowd in Galilee, or would the church rather go hungry? In order to answer the questions, it is important to hear the voices of youth.


Engaging the Dialogue: Giving Ear to Young Voices

Any discussion emphasizing the importance of an intergenerationally inclusive community would be sorely lacking without the real voices of young people. As chaplain at Clark Atlanta University, I hear daily the urgent questions and pressing concerns youth raise and seek to answer. In moments of sharing, I have become aware of the power of their message and know that it brings "food" for thought and action in the form of challenge and insight for our hungry world. Young people are worthy of our attention. As a result, the voices of several youth will be included here. Specifically, I gathered four students together for an informal conversation on the story of the five loaves and two fish. Focusing on that story, I raised the issue of the people's hunger and the disciples' inability to meet that need. In follow-up, agreement arose that our own communities have pressing needs that our churches either refuse to or are unable to address. We discussed how the young boy's gift not only fed the crowd but also forced the disciples to work with Christ to address the need of the community.

Ultimately, I asked the students to put into words some of the questions or concerns they would raise for the church's response. The issues they raised and those not raised surprised both Annette R. Marbury and me. Surprisingly, none of the four black youth raised the issues of racism or sexism, two topics that we both believed would rank somewhere in the conversation. Instead, three other issues quickly emerged from the discussion. The youth named "the church's schizophrenia on poverty," "the church's division on homosexuality," and "the church's silence on the war in Iraq." The refreshing unabashed naïveté with which they posed the issues was similar to the youthful qualities of the boy in the miracle story in the Gospel of John. And like the community in that story, the church today needs the youth who shared from their hearts about very real circumstances.

Engaging the dialogue is risky business. It calls us to make room at the table for unfamiliar, sometimes critical, and sometimes angry voices for which the community might not be ready. However, only when we can hear the voices with the critique of the young will we be in a position to receive the gift and provide needed nourishment to the community.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Keep It Real by Anne E. Streaty Wimberly. Copyright © 2005 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

PREFACE,
PROLOGUE: The Challenge and Promise of Real Ministry with Black Youth Anne E. Streaty Wimberly,
PART ONE: Welcome to Our World: Hearing, Seeing, and Responding from Inside Teen Life,
1. The Gift of the Youth: The Hope of the Church Herbert R. Marbury and Annette R. Marbury,
2. A Matter of Discovery Philip Dunston and Anne E. Streaty Wimberly,
3. Getting Real Maisha I. Handy and Daniel O. Black,
PART TWO: Called to Lead, Staying the Course,
4. Called to Parent: Parenting as Ministry Elizabeth J. Walker,
5. Hope in the Midst of Struggle: Church and Parents Together in Raising Teens Tapiwa Mucherera,
6. The Teens Are Watching Michael T. McQueen,
EPILOGUE: Keep It Real: Claim Hope for Tomorrow Anne E. Streaty Wimberly,
CONTRIBUTORS,
NOTES,
BIBLIOGRAPHY,

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