A high school student attends a youth group at a local church in his neglected neighborhood. He participates in Bible studies, youth group events, and experiences an altar-call moment to accept Christ into his heart. The church was there to help him live like Christ and grow spiritually. He gets to know God at an early age through the church; however, as he graduates high school, the connection with the church starts to dwindle. One day, he finds himself in jail, still struggling with his life's physical, mental, and social factors. This is the true story of Nick, a young man who was a regular attendee of the local church youth group and had his own spiritual connection with God yet found himself in the Cook County Correctional Center.1
It can be easy to blame the events of Nick’s life on him, his parents, or even the church, but the issue is not who is to blame. Rather the problem is that while the church targeted his spiritual life, they neglected to address the other factors impacting Nick’s life. There was no consistent presence from the church in his life. He came to know God, but had little to no guidance, support, and accountability as he grew. Jonathan Brooks, who has a personal relationship with Nick, states “We cannot have people believe that Jesus, who is God in human flesh and knows what we endure, would only be concerned with saving their souls.” He claims that when entering into long-term relationships with one another, or practicing presence, there are other factors to consider other than spiritual health.2
According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2021 there were 37.9 million people in poverty in the U.S.3 Nearly 1 in 7, children, more than 10 million, under 18 lived in poverty in 2019. Since May 2020 it has been reported that 2.5 million children have fallen into poverty.4 While the numbers of those in poverty are drastic already, these rates are measured based on only a few kinds of poverty, not all of them. These numbers are based on economic and physical factors, but there are other kinds of poverty that impact youth. Other places of poverty include lacks of spiritual, intellectual, affection, human will, civic involvement, and solidarity parts of life.5
1 Jonathan Brooks, Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018), 79-80.
3 “Poverty in the United States: 2021,” United States Census Bureau, accessed November 7, 2022, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2022/demo/p60-277.html. 4 “Child Poverty,” The State of America’s Children 2021, Children’s Defense Fund, accessed November 7, 2022, https://www.childrensdefense.org/state-of-americas-children/soac-2021-child-poverty/. 5 Kerry Loescher, “Eight Kinds of Poverty,” Class notes from CHRM 307 Urban Outreach Ministries, Oral Roberts University, September 2021.
Lowder, Sarah, "Practicing Presence: How the Local Church Should Target Poverty of Solidarity with Their Neighborhood’s Youth" (2023). Theology Undergraduate Work. 10.