The Power Of Relocation In Urban Youth Ministry - Reframeyouth

The Power Of Relocation In Urban Youth Ministry

Relocation is a concept that goes beyond a traditional youth ministry approach and truly has changed the way I think about urban youth work. It involves intentionally moving into marginalized communities to live, work, and serve alongside local youth. This approach, deeply rooted in the incarnational model of ministry, is described in "Restoring At-Risk Communities" edited by John Perkins. It emphasizes the power of presence and proximity in making a lasting impact. As my family and I have experienced firsthand, living in the neighborhood we minister to (Garfield) has brought about profound changes both in our lives and the students we serve.

Why Relocation Matters

Relocating to an urban neighborhood allows ministry leaders to engage in incarnational ministry, where being fully present and engaged in the community is highly effective. Living in the same neighborhood as those we minister to helps build trust and authentic relationships, crucial for effective ministry. It’s about understanding the day-to-day realities of our neighbors, sharing in their experiences, and being a constant presence of support and hope.

As John Perkins highlights, the power of relocation lies in its ability to break down barriers and foster genuine connections. Perkins is talking about Community Development that contributes to making everyone’s lives better in a community. I have become convinced that a community-based youth ministry is highly effective and needed in at-risk communities. 

Our Family's Experience

My family and I live in the very neighborhood we serve. My wife works in the local public school district, and our children attend the neighborhood elementary school. This immersion has allowed us to form deep relationships with our neighbors and understand the community's needs firsthand. It has also enabled us to be more effective in our ministry, as we are not seen as outsiders but as part of the community fabric.

Our daily interactions, shared experiences, and mutual support have built a strong foundation of trust and collaboration far more quickly than if we were commuting into the neighborhood. Instead of just seeing students one night a week, or just on Sunday mornings, we see them at the corner store, walking to school, at neighborhood events. I don’t know if we’re still using the terms “organic” or “relational discipleship” anymore, but I think they might actually fit this context. 

The Challenges and Rewards of Relocation

Relocating to a marginalized community comes with its set of challenges. It means embracing a lifestyle that may be different from what we are accustomed to. However, I have come to believe the rewards far outweigh these sacrifices. Witnessing transformative change, being part of a resilient community, and seeing the impact of our presence make it all worthwhile. Perkins says that true transformation happens when we are willing to take these risks and immerse ourselves fully in the lives of those we serve. Plus, we get to receive the gift of different perspectives, cultures, and stories that come with living in our neighborhood.

Relocation is a powerful way to live out the Gospel and bring about real, lasting change in at-risk communities. My family's journey of living in the neighborhood we minister to has shown us the immense value of being present and engaged. It’s not just about moving to a new place; it’s about committing to the people and understanding their struggles. It’s about a shared suffering and as John Perkins' teachings remind us, through relocation, we can break down barriers, build trust, and foster genuine, transformative relationships. It’s also about playing a part in building a community where everyone can flourish.

I don’t know how long we’ll live in the Garfield neighborhood but, I do know that it has deeply formed us and will be an integral piece of how we do ministry moving forward.

Perkins, John, ed. Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together and Doing It Right. Baker Books, 1995.

IG :@aimrightministries & @jeffchuppaz 


Jeff Chupp is the Executive Director at Aim Right Ministries in Phoenix, AZ, where he passionately works with at-risk students. Married to Trisha, they have three children, juggling the hustle of family life with urban youth work. As an ultrarunner, he finds peace and challenge out on the desert trails. An avid reader, Jeff is always eager to explore new ideas and viewpoints. 

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