JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 4, 2006 – Urban youth need mentors and leaders who can teach and love them, Julie Boyer told a group of Union University students Sept. 20.
Boyer, a 2001 Union University graduate, spoke to Union students during the university’s annual Global Opportunities Week, which promotes missions nationally and internationally. Boyer spoke to Union students about her job as coordinator of the urban ministry program of Jackson’s Evangelical Community Church.
She called urban work an “incarnational ministry in the community.” One of the long-term goals of the ministry is for the youth being mentored to become mentors themselves.
“If we’re doing incarnational ministry in the community, like it should be done, then those kids should be able to take it over and pour back into their own community someday as adults.” Boyer said.
She coordinates six different programs offered by the church. Currently she oversees 128 Jackson urban youth in first through 12th grades. She began as a volunteer, then was offered an internship and now works full time putting in 60-80 hours a week. Boyer has a Christian studies degree from Union, and has been working for ECC since before graduating.
Boyer told students that urban ministry will not bring an immediate transformation in the youth.
“This is a long-term ministry,” Boyer said. “When volunteers start, I say, ‘Look, you have to rejoice over the little things, because you may not see a change overnight.’”
Boyer said national statistics show it takes seven years for someone in the urban community to become a Christian, and 12 years for them to become a leader.
This is Boyer’s 10th year working with urban youth and she is already seeing the fruits of her labor. One of the church’s urban ministry programs focuses on mentoring middle and high school students. A recent high school graduate and participant in the program will become one of the leaders this fall.
“It’s really neat to start to see it come full-circle.” Boyer said.
Boyer said her intercultural studies classes at Union helped prepare her for her ministry, and she pointed specifically to helpful classes taught by Greg Thornbury, dean of Union’s School of Christian Studies.
“Dr. Thornbury did an incredible job of relating Christ to culture, and integrating that in everything Christ did,” Boyer said, “And that prepared me a lot and gave me a good foundation.”
For now, Boyer is content with her position, but she hopes an urban youth with whom she has worked will one day take her job.
By Heidi Steinrock (’09)