“People are searching for a real spiritual encounter—yes, even students. And the conversations I am having are incredible and life transforming for those who engage with their hearts.”
Twenty years ago I walked into my first ministry position in East Vancouver. Fresh out of Bible college, I was full of evangelistic fire to reach students for Jesus. I was learning hip-hop dance at the time and decided to offer my new skill to the school across the street from the church. Before long I was teaching dance to the entire student body as part of their physical education classes. In addition to that, I wrote and directed a musical dance production which featured their students. I’ve since been in over 50 schools in Vancouver and Calgary using my passion for hip hop to set in motion what I call Resilience Through Urban Art.
As Christ followers, I believe we are called to release His kingdom to the world. God has relevant answers to the issues society is facing today, and He gives His followers keys to address them. Personally, I am driven to communicate messages of courage, compassion and belonging based on principles found in God’s Word. He wants every person on this planet to experience what it means to belong to Him, and to know His unconditional love and forgiveness.
Sadly, teens face many obstacles to experiencing this reality: self-harm, bullying, suicide, anxiety and depression, to name a few. In the past 10 years, Canada has seen a tremendous increase in these types of mental health issues. Statistics show that one in every five students in school today deals with at least one of them. As kingdom-minded people, we cannot overlook this current reality—and we must be ready to engage, ready to care for the broken, binding up their wounds, and seeing those who are held captive set free! We carry hope with us wherever we go.
That’s why I have created the Courage Program, which has been embraced in many schools this year. Combining movement and music, and working with local emcees, Rubix and Rebecca Dawn, doors have opened for students to do more than just talk about courage—they get to experience it first-hand! Each student also receives a booklet to help them, along with their teachers, to navigate through steps on becoming more courageous. Based on kingdom principles, this tool has been attractively designed with a clear message that talks about letting go of fear and shame in order to “become” who you were created to be.
God has shown me how easy it really is to engage with the kids in our communities throughout Canada. The greatest learning for me has been this: when you offer something meaningful that serves a need or answers a question, you will likely be welcomed with open arms. You just need to step out, and in doing so, simply observe, listen, and connect with what God is wanting to do right where you are.
I am often reminded of what life was like for Jesus when He walked this earth. People of the world liked him. He listened while they talked. He sat down with them; He heard and valued their thoughts. He met their needs; therefore, their hearts were open to Him. Something as simple as creating Mpact, an organization that focuses on movement with a message, has opened doors for me into schools so I can connect with students, meeting them in their places of struggle. As doors open, conversations of faith follow. And those who join me in the journey from the professional world get to be part of interacting with the message of the kingdom.
People are searching for a real spiritual encounter—yes, even students. And the conversations I am having are incredible and life transforming for those who engage with their hearts. These conversations would never have happened had I not stepped outside of the church with this small and unique gift of movement. It wasn’t the norm in church circles as it just didn’t appear to look like “ministry.” I love living in this sweet spot where ministry and mission converge, and I’m excited with every new opportunity God brings my way.
If you are wanting to make an impact that goes beyond the walls of your church building and takes you out into the community, allow me to share three simple steps you can take to begin engaging those around you.
- Get curious.
What are the needs in your local school and community? What do school boards, principals and teachers care about? What are the real issues students are facing? Dive deep into the questions before you offer an answer. Research, observe and listen so you come with understanding rather than assumptions. The number one request I am getting these days is for help in the area of mental health and resiliency. Discover the struggles and ask God what you can do to make a difference.
- What’s in your hand?
Congregations are filled with hidden gems; people have abilities that may be perfectly fitted for outreach! Answers to needs in your schools and community may look a lot different from what we are used to in a church subculture. Pray and ask God to reveal what you can do or to give you boldness. Embrace methods that might look different. Test the waters and see where your talents take you.
- Go serve your world.
Kids and families in your neighbourhood may not be looking to be preached to, but they may be quite interested in welcoming you and your unique gift to journey alongside them. School principals and teachers may be asking for what you are able to provide. Show up. Get out of your comfort zone. Serve. Serving has brought me a whole new level of understanding and opened countless doors to be an influence, taking Christ with me into every setting.
Let’s talk about ways to creatively expand the kingdom right where you are. Resilience Through Urban Art is being widely received in our Canadian public schools. Find out what your school and community needs and let’s connect.
Connie Jakab is an urban Mission Canada worker living in Calgary, Alta., reaching into the hip-hop community. Connie is also intentional about reaching the next generation in creative ways through Mpact, using movement, music and messages based on biblical principles. For more information, or to partner with Connie to reach into your local schools, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.