Urban Hip Hop Outreach

Urban Youth Experience Christ at Hip Hop Camps

“Our LORD, I will sing of your love forever. Everyone yet to be born will hear me praise your faithfulness.”
Psalms 89.1, CEV

Urban youth often find themselves surrounded and influenced by violence, gangs, destructive drug use and rejection from society.

Many of these young people are alienated from the church and the gospel, leaving them spiritually destitute and further away from God’s truth.

However, according to Carl Taylor, editor of the online Journal of Urban Youth Culture, one of the most dominating forces in the lives of young people is a dynamic urban youth culture.

“To denigrate or demonize the symbols and voices of this generation only widens the gap between the old school and the new school,” he said.

In an effort to connect urban youth with the gospel, the American Bible Society (ABS) is providing popular urban culture style materials that are being used by Youth for Christ (YFC) to run Bible-based mentoring programs for unchurched middle and high school students throughout New York. The program’s goal is to validate the uniqueness of urban culture and its compatibility with God’s message of love and hope.

“I came to faith in Christ through Blaze Fest in 2006,” said Thomas Lennon, 17, of Albany, N.Y. “It was there, when I first started hearing about God and asked him into my life. ... Through the emceeing class I attended at Blaze Fest, I have learned how to rap. I am currently working on a hip hop mix tape that is all about God and how to live a life in him.

ABS is continuing its partnership with YFC by providing Elementz of Life® materials, including magazines and CDs. Elementz of Life® introduces the gospel message through personal stories, poetry, art and music – all related to hip hop and urban culture. YFC is using these materials in its City Life program for at-risk urban youth, a program that hosts a variety of events and activities for middle and high school students in Schenectady, Albany and Troy, N.Y. YFC is also offering a summer Blaze Fest, a hip hop camp and festival for 650 youth that teaches students about the fundamentals of the Christian faith in a way that reflects their urban culture.

Research by the Urban Leadership Institute in 2007 indicates that nearly 17.6 million young Americans need or want mentoring, but only 3 million are engaged in quality mentoring relationships.

Since mentoring relationships are key to reaching urban youth, Blaze Fest students are encouraged to sign up for Monday Jump-Offs, a weekly club in Schenectady that offers peer-led mentoring and discipleship. YFC is also holding school assemblies and evening programs for students and faculty, featuring Joseph Jennings, a nationally known Christian youth speaker. YFC continues to implement its middle school program involving five workshops and three seminars to help younger students mature in their faith and grow in knowledge of God’s Word.

Last year, 300 youth attended Blaze Fest, and an additional 200 youth came to the weekly clubs. ABS and YFC have also collaborated on youth conferences focusing on prayer, praise and worship, drama, comedy and biblical teaching in such cities as Charlotte, N.C., and Detroit, Mich. ABS has worked with YFC in Schenectady, Albany and Troy since 2004. Together they have reached urban youth in their neighborhoods, schools and juvenile facilities, teaching them about faith in Jesus and helping in practical ways in times of crisis.

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

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