Welcome to My Borough

borough friends

Teen life is an inherently tumultuous time. Bodies change and hormones start raging, even as teens begin to confront life's big questions -- the very same questions many adults have yet to figure out, like: "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "Where do I belong?"

Greetings from Brooklyn, the most populous borough in New York City. Birthplace of Jay-Z. Home of the integration of Major League Baseball. And site of the largest battle of the Revolutionary War. If Brooklyn were its own city, it would be the fourth largest in America.

My name is Jeremy Del Rio, and I’m an addict — if you can call ministry to young people an addiction. Or if you can call city life addicting. Either way, I’m hooked.

I’ve lived more of my life in Brooklyn than anywhere else, with pit stops in Manhattan (the glitzy borough), Staten Island (the forgotten borough), and the greatest of NYC suburbs, New Jersey (sometimes called the Sixth Borough). My wife has lived nowhere else. Nor have our sons, both of whom were born here.

Our boys will soon discover the ABC’s of City Living. Multifaceted and textured, Brooklyn is:

• Altruistic, artistic, and adventurous.
• Boisterous and beautiful.
• Cosmopolitan, creative, curious, conflicted, communal, and even cliquish.
• Diverse and occasionally dangerous.
• Energetic.
• Fun.
• Grandiose.
• Hyper.
• Inspired and invigorating.
• Jubilant and joyful.
• Kind.
• Loud.
• Maturing and sometimes mean.
• Neighborly or nasty.
• “Over it.”
• Passionate.
• Quite charming.
• Restless, rowdy, and relevant.
• Smart, sophisticated, and sometimes sullen.
• Typecast.
• Unbuttoned.
• Vulnerable.
• Wide-eyed and occasionally wild.
Xenos friendly but sometimes xenophobic.
• Yours to love (or not).
• Zestful.

So, too, are young people.

You may quibble with my list, and its applicability to youth ministry, but that’s part of the allure of cities. It’s OK if you disagree. We can still get along. We can still build community despite our differences.

Like many urban neighborhoods, mine is in perpetual flux, transformed for generations by successive waves of immigrants. For the last decade or so, Bay Ridge has evolved into one of the largest Arab communities in New York, with Halal meat markets and Hookah shops now lining the streets. Sometimes the newer arrivals make the long-timers uncomfortable. And vice versa.

So, too, our youth ministries.

Youth ministry is an inherently transitory time. No matter how we define the youth in our ministries, they are bound by age, grade, or some other time constraint that ensures that they will move on, leaving empty spaces or replenished pews. How we build community with them while we can determines, in part, whether they leave behind a vacuum or a legacy.

Do we attempt to conform them to our standards of decorum and decency, or do we empower them to flourish in the uniqueness endowed to them by their Creator? Does our community celebrate their differences by loving them sincerely, without an agenda?

Teen life is an inherently tumultuous time. Bodies change and hormones start raging, even as teens begin to confront life’s big questions — the very same questions many adults have yet to figure out, like: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Where do I belong?” But the uncertainty, curiosity, and ambiguity bring with them opportunity for exploration, adventure, and discovery. Do we embrace the unknowns that faith requires, or chase after the safety of what’s familiar?

When the transience and change feel overwhelming, I take comfort that Jesus gives youth workers an extra year with high school students than he had with his disciples. Even more comforting: his prize student, Peter, still needed anger management after three years by his side. Jesus’ ragtag collection of unlikely followers included a political terrorist (the Zealot), a crooked bureaucrat (the tax collector), and a prostitute — among other “ignorant and unlearned” devotees notable only for their least likely to succeed credentials. Each of these people had to be at least as conflicted and petty as the teens in my youth group.

They were certainly (almost) as diverse as my neighborhood.

Why I Believe in Multicultural Ministry

Eugene Cho

Eugene Cho

Ministry has its up and downs. Such is life. But one of the joys of planting and pastoring Quest Church is that it’s one of the most unique and diverse communities I have ever been a part of.

This isn’t meant to be a slam against homogeneous churches. In fact, I believe that every community is multicultural on some level (hint: think beyond race). While I very much miss the uniqueness of my experiences in Korean American churches — food, generations, languages, etc. (and still am involved in Korean American/Asian communities) — I now understand why God called my wife, Minhee, and I to venture out from our homogeneous suburban church into the city to plant Quest and Q Cafe.

While we have a long way to go, we’re thankful that Quest Church is growing as a multicultural, multigenerational, and urban faith community — with a desire to be an incarnational presence both in the city of Seattle and the larger world — teaching and living out the gospel of Christ.

Question: What are ways that you encourage your community to grow in diversity, community, and uniqueness?

These are my encouragements to fellow leaders and pastors:

• Know the diversity of your community. Simply, do you know your people’s stories? They may “look” the same but they represent different “cultures” — if not ethnicities. We all have diverse stories. And if you know their stories, are you making them known? For what it’s worth, this is my story.

• Nevertheless, have a vision of the larger kingdom and the “future church” and consider what it looks like to take “one step closer…” Even if your church community isn’t ethnically diverse, how are you personally building friendships and encouraging your congregants to live in friendship with neighbors and the larger community? How is your church serving “other” churches and communities — especially those that don’t look like yours? You don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket and think that “worshipping together” is the only expression. Think outside of Sundays and outside the building box.

• Be committed to the truth that each person is uniquely created in the image of God. Consider the lessons learned from the story of Susan Boyle of Britain’s Got Talent (whose inspiring performance has become a phenonmenon on YouTube) and meditate on this quote from C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal , and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat — the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

Why did God call us to plant Quest Church? It’s hard to put into words, but the images below illustrate some reasons why. We do ministry in hopes of loving and serving people so that we may all be drawn to the Gospel of Christ.

I’m thankful for the beauty of diversity, community, and uniqueness of each person because they give me a glimpse of a larger, deeper, and fuller God and Kingdom. When I exclusively hang with those that look, think, and view the world just like me, I’m prone to live with blind spots … In short, I see what I see and what I want to see. This is why I need others and, yes, why others need me.

Much thanks to Leo Chen Photography for these great pics during a recent Sunday service.










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