This spring staff members from Xenos' urban ministries held a class to give people an understanding of the work being done in local low-income neighborhoods. Urban Concern and Harambee Christian School Operations Director Michael Larson gives us an overview of the ministries, and the mindset that its participants have found to be most effective and relevant:
Old school Xenos members who haven’t attended a recent youth meeting may not realize how much different the church looks today than it did in the early days when Dennis and Gary were sporting bell bottoms and rocking out to Freebird. Today, Student Ministries is home to a diverse group of young people from a variety of cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
But “Urban Ministry” can be an ambiguous term that means different things to different people and churches. Tim Keller’s book Center Church notes, “Cities increasingly influence our global culture and affect the way we do ministry. With a positive approach toward our culture, we learn to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic, and underserved places for gospel ministry.” However, it’s no doubt that inner city Columbus neighborhoods bear little resemblance to the Manhattanite context from which Keller writes.
When we talk about urban ministry in Xenos, we are talking primarily about ministry to students and families who are low-income and under-resourced. As indicated by our own census and the extensive opportunity mapping done by OSU’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity, urban neighborhoods like South Linden, Weinland Park, and Franklinton, among others, rank lowest in the city for various opportunity indicators including Housing & Neighborhood, Transportation & Employment, Health & Safety, and Education.
Yet, hundreds of students from these neighborhoods attend Xenos affiliated Bible studies each week!
The “Why” of Urban Ministry