After interviewing 81 young indigenous leaders from across the country our team discovered 3 KEY FINDINGS. Later in this blogs series we will break down each of these findings in detail and suggest some practical implications for you and your ministry.
FIRST FINDING - Relationships Matter Most
In the past, City Life national leaders and staff had observed anecdotally that if City Life staff or volunteers were going to have influence in the life of an urban youth, there had to be a strong foundation of a trust between that young person and the City Life adult - that’s what we can call the “relational domain.” (You can read more about City Life’s relational domains here.) The research showed us proof that people (more than programs) are what influence urban youth to become life-long followers of Jesus. Programs do matter, but just not as much as the relationships that are built within those programs and outside of programs. Relational trust with a Christian adult was the number one influence on an urban youth developing into a leader for Christ! The research told us that an urban young person must know that ministry leadership team can be trusted before they will allow them to have significant influence in their life.
SECOND FINDING - Catalytic Life Events Move Young Leaders Forward
Our second major finding from the research was that an urban young person, in order to move toward maturity in Christ and leadership, must possess the skill and ability to turn a negative life experience into a positive life experience. The research told us that urban youth must be able to take a traumatic negative event in their life (say, being kicked out of school or having a parent die from a drug overdose) and be able to use it for positive motivation in their life. Whatever their negative experience, the urban youth has to have the emotional and spiritual skills to be able to turn to God in the midst of their struggle and make lemonade out of the lemons in their life.
THIRD FINDING - Relational Mentors are the Key
A true relational mentor is more than just a Christian adult example. A relational mentor is someone who has a more specific, regular connection with an urban youth. The vast majority of our 81 interviewees identified that they were drawn into a relationship with Christ because of the example of someone in their life, but really grew in Christ because of a relational mentor. The research informed us that it is imperative that everyone in the ministry (from paid staff to volunteers and even the urban youth themselves) realize they are an example. Examples must understand that their actions and words carry weight to observant urban young people. But, Christian examples ARE NOT relational mentors. If you want your urban youth to grow into maturity in Christ, you have to be able to connect them with relational mentors.