By: Katie Sobiech
Many would agree that a major problem today is lack of good, quality role models in the lives of our youth. Some grow up with little or no direction, some don’t have any examples to follow, and others just don’t have any good examples to follow.
Charles Murphy, founder of Urban Connection Ministry (UCM), noticed this need and made it his mission to provide positive mentors and role models through UCM. UCM encourages the youth to see beyond what they’ve been shown, allowing them to imagine a brighter future.
Many of the youth they work with are caught in a cycle of generational poverty.
“Our mission is to help them escape poverty,” Murphy explained, “and we do that through worldview development, and hooking kids up with a successful person to mentor them through the process of changing how they feel about themselves and the world.”
This takes place in neighborhoods, community centers and local churches.
Murphy began UCM at Maranatha Bible Church seven years ago, after being on staff in the youth outreach department and noticing the struggles of teens facing generational poverty. It wasn’t difficult to see the effects that poverty, lack of father figures and good examples were having on the lives of the kids. Many lacked the motivation and belief that they could become anything above what they had seen in their own families.
“We came to a deciding point that one church could not take on all of the impoverished kids in the city. Our ministry was doing well at Maranatha, so we decided to spin off and become a separate 501c3 organization,” Murphy said.
Maranatha Bible Church saw Murphy through the process, helping him get established and supporting him as a local missionary.
One of UCM’s biggest programs is Kid’s Connection. This is a group of kindergarteners through 4th graders that meet every Tuesday night.
“The boys are activity based and run around and play basketball whereas the girls have arts and crafts. Though they have different activities the same process happens,” Murphy explained.
After games and crafts the kids break off into small groups for mentoring sessions.
“It could be with a business executive, or an elder from the church – guys of that caliber work with the kids who have no father figures,” Murphy said, “These are kids growing up in an environment where they don’t know anybody who has a full time job and now they’re hanging out with a business executive. It changes their view of who they could be in the future.”
There are also Teen and Family Connection groups.
Changes for the Better
When asked if Murphy has seen changes in the kid’s attitudes since attending these connection nights he responded “Absolutely”.
“We have kids that are graduating from High School that started with us when they were in 3rd or 4th grade and they are now lights in their community. Some of our students even help guide our programming into the future,” he said.
The older kids from years past now help Murphy steer the direction of the ministry according to what they believe is appealing and will work for each age group.
Going into the Schools
UCM is also involved in the local public school system. They often go into the schools for what they call “lunch chats”.
“We teach morality, setting goals, health and hygiene,” Murphy said, “We also offer after-school physical education for the boys. And all of that stuff is good, but it’s really to lead them into Kid’s Connection and then Kid’s Connection is to lead them into connecting with a local church.”
Other churches that collaborate with UCM and work with the kids are Bridge Bible Church in Brimfield, Grace Bible Church in Canal Fulton, and People’s Baptist in Akron. This selection of churches creates a nice geographical network to reach and place more kids in churches.
The ministry is always in need of help with both Kid’s and Teen’s Connection. Volunteers who are interested in mentoring should contact Charles Murphy. For more information on the ministry and how you can connect please visit http://www.jesusconnections.com!