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Emmanuel Research Review

Resources for the urban pastor and community leader
published by Emmanuel Gospel Center, Boston
Issue No. 9 - May 2010

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In this issue: The Rise and Fall of "Coming Together, A Christian Youth Leadership Movement" and Its Implications for Ministry Today

The Emmanuel Research Review is a publication of the Emmanuel Gospel Center, and features articles, papers, resources, and information that we believe are helpful and relevant to urban pastors, leaders, and community members in their efforts to serve their communities effectively.

a foreword by Steve Daman
editor, Emmanuel Research Review

With a message of racial reconciliation, youth empowerment, and spiritual leadership training, “Coming Together, A Christian Youth Leadership Movement” bridged racial boundaries and united urban and suburban youth in Eastern Massachusetts in the 1990s. Now gone from the scene, the legacy of Coming Together continues in many forms as new programs emerge and as the climate of youth ministry in Boston has changed. Today, Christians recognize the essential role of urban churches in sponsoring full-time youth programs to reach urban youth, and there is a marked increase in inter-church collaboration in youth ministry on many fronts.

The roots of Coming Together go back 16 years, to 1989, when youth groups from Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, Trinitarian Congregational Church in Wayland, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Brockton, and Bruce Wall Ministries in Dorchester held a retreat at the Toah Nipi Christian Retreat Center in New Hampshire. Young people from different racial and economic backgrounds experienced, briefly but profoundly, the kind of reconciliation only possible in Christ. This retreat fired the imaginations of the youth, and one year later they organized and led their own retreat. From this small beginning was born “Coming Together, A Christian Youth Leadership Movement” that annually hosted a leadership retreat, a conference and rally, and a breakfast in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thousands of young people from over sixty different church youth groups around New England participated. For example, in 1995, over 3,000 youth attended a three-night Summer Evangelistic Rally sponsored by Coming Together, and co-led by a team of 20 youth.

From the beginning, Coming Together was concerned with empowering youth to lead their own movement, and with having adults available as resource people and mentors. Empowering the youth to lead helped to give them hope for their own future as they discovered their gifts and mobilized their peers in a movement for the Gospel. For Coming Together, this happened as part of the youth leaders’ retreat—held two months before the annual conference and rally—as well as in the context of individual church youth groups. The effect was a multiplication of leadership, ultimately resulting in young people reaching out to and discipling their peers as they themselves were being fed by others.

Rev. Dr. Craig McMullen, author or our lead article, is one of the founders of Coming Together, a former Minister of Children and Youth at Twelfth Baptist Church, and now the director of Gordon College’s Boston Urban Semester Program. Dr McMullen points to the personal relationships that young people developed with each other at that first retreat in 1989 as part of the original impetus for the whole movement. He believes that promoting these kinds of relationships is crucial to the on-going success of a youth movement.

In the article that follows, Coming Together, A Boston Youth Revival of the 1990s, Dr. McMullen takes a critical look at the rise and fall of Coming Together. His study is not only a good example of systemic analysis of a ministry, but his observations point readers to key strategies such as the value of training youth workers in systems analysis and the need for intentional pastoral care over youth workers for the assessment of their personal and spiritual growth. His experience with this movement also speaks to the importance of foundational relationships among Christian leaders which endure even when the structure for ministry changes—and even when good programs come and go.

Scores of resource links and references follow the lead article. First, we assembled a list of references and materials mentioned in the article. National and regional (Boston) organizations with resources for urban youth ministry are listed next. On our website, we have also posted a long list of resources for further study organized under several related topics. We hope you find these helpful.

You may also be interested in information about the Emmanuel Research Institute. Your feedback is always welcome.

(Historical data in this foreword was based on a previously published case study on Coming Together in Youth Ministry in Boston, A Collection of Reports, Case Studies and Resources. Emmanuel Gospel Center, 1996, page C-6.)

Coming Together: A Boston Youth Revival of the 1990’s

Does its Rise and Fall Have a Message for Today’s Youth Workers?

by Rev. Dr. Craig W. McMullen
founding director of Gordon College’s Boston Urban Semester Program

On May 14, 1992, Pastor John M. Borders, III, presided over the funeral of yet another young man fallen victim to escalating urban violence. As the mourners gathered to pay their respects at Morning Star Baptist Church in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, another young man, Jerome Brunson, came crashing into the sanctuary. He bolted down the aisle toward Rev. Borders, and seconds later, fourteen others from a rival gang rushed in after him. Cornering Brunson near the coffin, they attacked him with chairs and knives. Rev. Borders threw his body over Brunson to save his life.

Days later, as clergy from throughout the Boston area gathered to strategize a response to the increasing violence (a strategy that eventually yielded the Boston TenPoint Coalition), six hundred Christian youth belonging to the “Coming Together, A Christian Youth Leadership Movement” mobilized for a public demonstration to call for an end of the violence.

They marched through the streets of downtown Boston to announce: “We will not wait to become the leaders of tomorrow; we are the leaders of today!” While the adult clergy debated the problems of youth, these courageous teenagers began to assert themselves, no longer to be seen as one of Boston’s major problems, but as one of the solutions to the rise in youth homicides.

Two years later, in July, 1994, several key youth ministers involved in the leadership of Coming Together (hereafter C2) met on two occasions at the Emmanuel Gospel Center (EGC) for a consultation to develop the principles of C2. (See previous articles in the Emmanuel Research Review on the topic of systems thinking.) At this first meeting, Jeff Bass, Executive Director of EGC, facilitated a hexagon session, which is a strategy for controlled brainstorming, around the question, “What key elements make Coming Together work well?”

As participants offered their insights and this information was systematically distilled into themes, four key answers emerged. From this session, the first draft of the C2 principles were identified as follows:

Coming Together:

    1. seeks to be motivated by the Holy Spirit
    2. is youth led
    3. utilizes a team approach to ministry
    4. seeks to build Christ-centered relationships.

The group further expanded and described these principles as follows:

    1. Holy Spirit Motivated: leads to a creative structure that is able to change and be sensitive to the times, yet remain Christ-centered.
    2. Youth-Led: leads to youth who are motivated to grow in Christ, and a desire to lead their own movement.
    3. Team-Oriented: leads to good communication between youth and other youth groups through a shared vision and resources.
    4. Relational: leads to Christ-centered reconciliation and adult-empowered networks where the needs of adult youth leaders can be met.

A final draft of this analysis also produced the mission statement and the five operating principles of C2:

The Mission of Coming Together:

Networking church-based youth groups for a ministry of racial reconciliation, youth empowerment, and Christian youth leadership development.

The Five Principles of Coming Together:

  1. a movement responding to the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit in youth.
  2. a Christian youth-led movement.
  3. utilizes a team approach in sharing, leadership, vision and resources.
  4. seeks to build and celebrate Christ-centered, interracial relationships among urban and suburban youth groups.
  5. seeks to provide a supportive network of adult youth leaders.

Using the preceding data, the team then created a causal loop diagram to describe the five principles of C2 as an interrelated system of five reinforcing loops:

Original Hexagon Project, July 1994, Emmanuel Gospel Center, Boston.
“What key elements make Coming Together work well?”

C2 was a movement of God for a particular season in the lives of Boston’s youth. The movement experienced many changes over its lifetime, and eventually died. Below, several models of “ministry life cycles” contribute to an analysis of the growth, expansion, decline and death of C2.

Using Life Cycle Models to Understand the Ten-Year Life Cycle of C2.

Robert C. Dale, in his work To Dream Again, demonstrates the correlation between the growth cycle of a ministry and the evolution of a ministry vision. In Dale’s life cycle, one moves from the initial dream to the development of core values or beliefs. These are actualized by setting goals and developing a structure to carry out the ministry. It is at this key point in tracking the growth of ministry that intervention with the proper assessment and evaluation must occur before placing the ministry structure in cement. Without the understanding of the factors that caused initial growth and their future implications on the ministry, the structure will become self-perpetuating and the dream will be forgotten. In time, as the passion of the dream fades, nostalgia sets in. Then the direction of the ministry is questioned, resulting in polarization among leaders until dropout occurs. (Models from Dale, pp. 14, 16.)

The initial dream of C2 was birthed through the experience of a group of black and white teens with a desire to live out a ministry of reconciliation that they could then demonstrate to the broken lives around them. It was from this core value that the five principles of C2 evolved, and a city-wide youth movement started. Through the investment of countless youth, a leadership team was developed, and a powerful ministry brought revival among youth in this city, until over the course of time and the graduation of youth group leaders, the dream became a nostalgic memory, and youth leaders came to question the intent of the movement and organizational motives. Then polarization of efforts set in and the dream was dropped. C2 clearly followed the pattern suggested by Dale’s model.

The rise and decline of the C2 movement also follows another typical life cycle pattern which Martin Saarinen of the Alban Institute describes in the eight stages of birth, infancy, adolescence, prime, maturity, aristocracy, bureaucracy and death. (Martin Saarinen, The Life Cycle of a Congregation, Washington, DC: Alban Institute, 1986, 5.)

Tracking the growth and decline of C2 using Saarinen’s model.

For lack of knowledge, C2 missed out on applying the needed intervention to continue the growth of this movement, and once structures were in place, it became difficult to make adjustments to the system.

The ultimate question that begs to be asked in this project is “What needed to happen to effect positive change in the C2 movement?” How could the dream have been passed on to leaders as the ministry grew over time? Maybe an even more difficult question should be asked first, “Can a movement that died be resurrected?”

The causal loop diagram of the original C2 hexagon project suggests that relational principles of C2, discovered in the 1994 C2 hexagon session, could have been the keys to leverage a change in the hindrances that eventually blocked partnerships and caused the decline of this movement. It is these principles that could create a renewed understanding of the many parts of youth ministry in this city, and for the youth ministers to operate as one body to win youth for Christ.

These principles would have had to be reintroduced, perhaps through the training and development of youth workers in the context of a learning environment. This would have allowed the C2 principles to be received and integrated afresh, not only through traditional forms of education, but by experiencing them firsthand as a systems organism. Perhaps the passion would have been kept burning. The C2 principles could have become a measure for personal growth and relational accountability, which would serve to increase resource sharing and the networking of ministry opportunities, both of which were successful in the original C2 movement.

The latter and more difficult question stated above, “Can a dead program be resurrected?” is addressed through the lifecycle research of this project when it suggests that new life can spring forth from a dead movement. Taking a cue from John 12:24, if the movement is allowed to die as a kernel of wheat, then it will produce many seeds. The decision to allow C2 to die released the adult youth leaders from succumbing to the typical burnout that usually accompanies efforts of sustaining programs long after a movement has died. Ministries that exist for the sake of their events, lacking the foundational relationships that hold them together, will burn out staff who strive to continue to operate from a high motivational level.

Life from death.

The death of C2 opened the doors for renewed vision and opportunities for many of the youth workers who participated in the movement.

With the benefit of hindsight, history has demonstrated that out of the death of the C2 movement sprang forth a multiplication of youth ministry in this city that could not have been realized otherwise. Many current city-wide youth ministries, such as the Youth Ministry Development Project, the Street Workers Certificate Course, the Operation Make A Difference (among Haitian American youth), and the Massachusetts Urban Youth Ministries Network (formerly the Christian Fellowship of Urban Youth Ministers), would not have been developed without the relational foundations that were laid over a decade ago by the C2 movement.

Two areas for consideration, learned from the rise and fall of C2, are 1) the implementation of training youth workers in systems analysis, coupled with 2) the need for pastoral care over the youth workers. Pastoral care is needed for the assessment of the youth workers’ personal and spiritual growth, through caring accountability, so that their personal lives are in balance and their relationships are in order. In recent years, the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative has provided systems analysis training among a majority of the youth leaders who participated in the C2 movement, as well as other emerging youth leaders in Boston. Over the past eight years, pastoral care of youth workers was modeled through the Youth Ministry Development Project, co-sponsored by the Emmanuel Gospel Center and the Boston TenPoint Coalition, which holds as one of its key values the paramount need to develop and support the relationship between the youth worker and the pastor. When this relationship is not properly pursued, there is a high likelihood of burnout and of failure in church-based youth ministry.

The ideal would be for a high level of training and support of the youth worker to come directly from the pastor. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that the normal work load and pressures of the local pastor have prevented this for the majority of youth workers. The pastor’s plate is most often too full to add the immediate concerns of their youth pastor, who is naturally affected by the difficult and violent generation among whom he or she ministers.

While one of the priorities of a local church in an urban context might be stated as an honest concern for youth, the work load of pastors keeps them from building relationships with their staff that are crucial to this process. Many urban pastors are operating in a crisis mode rather than a proactive stance. It would appear that various kinds of capacity building for the local pastor are needed to help him or her overcome burdens so that the pastor can enter into active support of the youth worker.

The reality is that most youth workers and pastors don’t have a significant medium for communication. New disciplines need to be introduced. Add to this the fact that in the city of Boston, full-time youth pastors in local churches are a new development in only the past eight years. According to research from the Emmanuel Gospel Center, the number of full-time church-based youth workers in Boston has grown from just one in 1995, to about 20 ten years later, among 500 churches in Boston. The supervision and support of a youth pastor by the local pastor is a relatively foreign concept. Based on the real lack of senior pastor support of youth work, it would appears that the Christian community is challenged to provide the same opportunities for systems learning and relational growth needed among youth workers to senior pastors as well.

As Christian leaders in Boston gather to consider the future and current needs of the Christian church community, this monumental and long term task must be on the agenda.

This article is an excerpt from “The Rise and Fall of Coming Together: A Christian Youth Leadership Movement in Boston 1989-1999” by Rev. Dr. Craig W. McMullen, founding director of Gordon College’s Boston Urban Semester Program, a residential program located in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston for students studying about complex urban issues while serving in various internships throughout the city. Its mission is “to develop the next generation of urban leaders.” Reprinted here by permission of the author.

Dr. McMullen is available to dialog about the article. You can reach him at 617-287-9777, email: craig.mcmullen@gordon.edu. For more about the Gordon in Boston semester, visit: www.gordon.edu/geo/boston.


Reference list of resources mentioned in the lead article, and additional resources for further study

This section lists resources on the following topics from our lead article:

Ministry Life Cycles, print resources cited in our lead article

Dale, Robert C. To Dream Again: How to Help Your Church Come Alive. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1981.

Saarinen, Martin F. The Life Cycle of a Congregation. Washington, DC: Alban Institute, 1998. (downloadable report: http://www.alban.org/BookDetails.asp?ID=862).

The Boston Miracle, online resources

In the mid-1990s, with an extraordinary display of institutional cooperation, the city of Boston achieved a dramatic reduction in youth homicides and all gang-related gun violence.

The Boston Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence (http://www.bostonstrategy.com/default.html)

Of particular interest on this site, see:

Ten-page story on the Boston Miracle.

http://www.bostonstrategy.com/pressroom/globe_rivers_oped.html Reprint of an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe, Tuesday, October 5, 1999, “ Boston Can Lead The Nation In Saving High-Risk Youths” by Rev. Eugene Rivers III.

The Boston Miracle, print resources

Benien, Jenny, Omar McRoberts, and Christopher Winship. “Religion and the Boston Miracle: The Effects of Black Ministry on Youth Violence,” in Who Will Provide?: The Changing Role of Religion in American Social Welfare, ed. Mary Jo Bane, Brent Coffin, and Ronald Thiemann. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000.

Benien, Jenny, and Christopher Winship. “Should We Have Faith in the Churches? The Ten Point Coalition’s Effect on Boston’s Youth Violence,” in Guns, Crime and Punishment in America, ed. Bernard Harcourt. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

Winship, Christopher. “Crime, Faith, and the End of a Miracle? Crime, Faith, and Partnership in Boston in the 1990s.” March, 2002. For a list of articles and papers written by this author on The Boston Miracle and related issues, see: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/soc/faculty/winship/

Organizations/Programs mentioned in our lead article:

Morning Star Baptist Church (http://www.msbc-bos.org/)

Morning Star Baptist Church has become one of the fastest growing churches in greater Boston. It is a diverse community of people with different backgrounds, races, personalities, ideas and visions, united by a desire to form a relationship with Jesus Christ. The church was founded on June 14, 1965, by a handful of parishioners who held their initial worship services in the home of its first pastor, the Rev. James Meadows. From its humble beginnings, the church has grown to be a well known, highly regarded, full gospel assembly of over 1800 members.

Twelfth Baptist Church (http://www.tbcboston.org/)

Twelfth Baptist Church is a direct descendant of the First African Baptist Meeting House on Beacon Hill, founded in 1805. In 1840, a band of dissenters from the church felt led of the Holy Spirit to become involved in the Underground Railroad, an organized means of smuggling slaves from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. Today, Twelfth Baptist Church meets in Roxbury as an evangelical congregation committed to evangelism, Christian education, and global missions. Twelfth Baptist seeks to be a microcosm of the Church of Jesus Christ, a church where people of every tongue and nation are welcomed to celebrate the joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Emmanuel Gospel Center (http://www.egc.org/)

The Emmanuel Gospel Center works to build and multiply urban churches and urban ministries. EGC provides resources to nurture urban churches and urban ministries and to encourage ministry in urban and ethnic communities.

Youth Ministry Development Project (http://www.egc.org/ministries/youth_ministry/)

The Youth Ministry Development Project (YMDP) provides training and systemic support for church-based youth ministry to thrive over the long term in Boston and Cambridge. YMDP builds the capacity of churches in Boston and Cambridge to serve youth, including at-risk youth and youth who do not attend church. The Project was initiated by a wide coalition of churches and ministries, and has been co-led by the Emmanuel Gospel Center and the Boston TenPoint Coalition since 1997.

The Street Workers Certificate Course (http://www.gordonconwell.edu/boston/)

A training program for urban youth ministry started by the Youth Ministry Development Project and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education in Boston.

Operation Make A Difference (http://egc.org/research/issue_1.htm)

Read about the recent Haitian youth movement in Boston. See the section on New Generation Era.

The Christian Fellowship of Urban Youth Ministers (http://www.egc.org/ministries/youth_ministry/)

This was a regular monthly meeting of Boston area Youth Ministry leaders which eventually merged with the Youth Ministry Development Project. They have met recently under the name Massachusetts Urban Youth Ministries Network, or MUYministriesNET. See http://www.muyministries.net/.

The DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative (http://www.dvuli.org/)

By investing in emerging leaders who share the belief that Jesus Christ is the foundation for sustainable change in a young person’s life, the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative hopes to strengthen the scope and effectiveness of urban youth ministry in local communities. Through high quality, relevant leadership training, the program creates a learning environment that builds trust among participants, develops skills, and helps them develop a shared vision in how to most effectively address the needs of their community’s at-risk-youth.

Youth Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast. See http://www.boston.com/ for the following articles and search for other related Boston Globe articles:

“Call to action marks MLK Day gathering legacy cited to deplore violence,” published on January 18, 1994. Brian McGrory and Matthew Brelis, Globe Staff.

“MLK day observers hope for new commitment,” published on January 19, 1993. Author(s): Don Aucoin, Globe Staff.


Guide to Youth Ministry Organizations

Local and national organizations with resources for urban youth:

Boston Ten Point Coalition (http://bostontenpt.users2.50megs.com/index.html)

The Coalition’s goal is not to replace the local church, but to make the local church more effective in the work of rebuilding communities. It seeks to build partnerships with community-based, governmental, and private sector institutions which are also committed to the revitalization of the families and communities in which our youth must be raised. The Coalition’s activity includes: street outreach programs; court advocacy and mentoring programs; economic development; health center partnerships; neighborhood crime watch support; male and female gang interventions programs; suburban and downtown to inner city church partnerships.

Critical Incident Response (http://www.youthworkers.net/index.cfm?fuseaction=resources.crisisresponse)

This coalition of crisis responders coordinates specialized training and resources to help prepare youth workers and local Networks to meet needs when crises strike, such as a teenage suicide, fatal car accident, school shooting, or other trauma.

Hispanic Ministry Center (http://www.urbanministry.org/wiki/youth-resource-kit-hispanic-faith-leaders)

Developing a new generation of urban latino leaders.

National Network of Youth Ministries (http://youthworkers.net/index.cfm)

The National Network of Youth Ministries links youth workers for encouragement, spiritual; growth, and sharing resources in order to expose every teenager to the gospel of Jesus Christ, establish those who respond in a local church, and disciple them to help reach the world.

National Ten Point Leadership Foundation (http://www.ntlf.org/)

NTLF’s primary mission is to help provide African-American Christian churches with the strategic vision, programmatic structure, and financial resources necessary to save at-risk inner-city youth from child abuse and neglect, street violence, drug abuse, school failure, teen-age pregnancy, incarceration, chronic joblessness, spiritual depravity, and hopelessness about the future.

Straight Ahead Ministries (http://www.straightahead.org/)

To see Jesus Christ transform the lives of juvenile offenders. To create a national movement whereby every juvenile offender has the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel and grow in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ.

The King Center (http://www.thekingcenter.org/)

Established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the King Center is the living memorial and institutional guardian of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.

Urban Youth Workers Institute (http://www.uywi.org/)

To restore faith, hope, and love to the cities of America by partnering with urban churches, developing, networking, and resourcing their leaders and mobilizing emerging leaders as vital change agents into those high-risk communities.

URBNET (http://www.urbanyouthworkers.com/pages/)

Our Mission is: To equip, empower, and encourage Urban Youth Leaders by linking relationships and providing relevant  URBAN Youth Ministry resources (John 17:21).

Vision Youth (http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/getinvolved/baprograms-youth)

World Vision programs for youth in the USA.

Young Urban Black Ministries (http://www.yubm.org/)

Bridging the gap between the church and hip-hop culture.

Youth For Christ (http://www.yfc.net/Brix/yfcusa/public)

The vision of Youth for Christ is, as a part of the body of Christ, to see every young person in every people group in every nation have the opportunity to make an informed decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ and to become a part of a local church.

Youth Specialities (http://www.youthspecialties.com/)

Youth Specialties is committed to providing quality resources, training, and encouragement for youth workers in churches and other youth-serving organizations throughout North America and the world.


The Emmanuel Research Institute

Who we are:

The mission of the Emmanuel Research Institute (ERI), an applied research and consulting service of the Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston, is to make information available that builds the capacity of urban churches and organizations to make decisions for effective action. Through research, training, and consulting, we equip urban churches and the organizations that support their work to better understand their urban community systems and serve them more effectively.

The Emmanuel Research Institute offers:

ERI is working to strengthen and enhance its capacity to provide the following categories of products and services, some of which are already available and some of which are in development:

We look forward to working with your church or organization. Please contact us if you have specific questions, if you wish to discuss a project proposal, or if you need information.


Emmanuel Research Review, copyright © 2004-2011, Emmanuel Gospel Center. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint any or all of this newsletter, contact , Senior Researcher, by e-mail or write to us (address below).



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