I am way past the point of being effective as a youth minister. But if I was completing my graduate level education today, I would be drawn to a form of youth ministry that urban churches everywhere should consider embracing. Teens’ living in impoverished homes is nothing new. But in more recent years there has been a significant increase of students that are homeless.
On the surface, Granbury appears to be an affluent bedroom community to Ft. Worth. It is also a place that draws retirees, because of the lake and other recreational amenities. But there is another dimension to our community that many fail to recognize. A large percentage of kids are receiving free or reduced meals at school, because their parents are living at or below the poverty line.
And then there is this population of kids that are perpetually on the move…
At the high school, there is portion of the student body that moves from couch to couch at someone’s house in order to have a place to sleep at night. Others are living in cars. If there are parents in the picture, they are totally disengaged from their children’s life. I have been told by educators that there are self motivated students that have no adult guidance at “home.” The fact is: there is not a place that they really call home.
This is not a problem unique to Granbury. A friend of mine from Oklahoma who is a longtime educator noted that the school he serves has hired a fulltime social worker to deal with homelessness among students among other problems. Another friend from Wisconsin cited the fact that there are in excess of 100 students in their school system that are homeless. This is in a city of approximately 100,000 people.
All of us of course wish that the students in our schools could go home to Ward and June Cleaver at night. (Or at least adults who love their kids like Ward and June.) But that is not going to happen. Schools everywhere may have to hire social workers. Churches need to rethink what youth ministry looks like.
I know I am too old to be a youth minister. But I hope that my experience in working in the field with people in crisis can somehow help me to reach out to kids that are homeless. Homeless teenagers are a problem that is not going away. We would be remiss if we choose to turn a deaf ear to those silently crying out for help.