I love this story of how New City Church is intentionally caring for children…
As Lead Pastor of New City Church, Nate Bush regularly asks himself two questions: 1) “Thirty years from now, how will Albuquerque, New Mexico, be different because of New City Church?” 2) “What can we do together that we can’t do on our own.”
New Mexico, known as the setting for Breaking Bad, has Nate regularly confronting the truth of statistics. New Mexico is the poorest state in the country and is touted as the “worst state to be a kid.” Contributing to that are lowest test scores in 4th grade reading and only a 60% high school graduation rate. “For New City, the bad news is obvious,” says Nate. “We have a bad news problem of education, poverty and crime that needs a good news solution.”
Nate believes the church needs not only to share the good news, but also to be the good news. Nate says, “At New City we recognized that poverty and education are big issues in our community, but knowing where to begin was a huge challenge. We had to get out into our community and start serving alongside other groups who are doing good things, whether they are Christian or not.”
He tells about a woman he met who had moved with her family eight years ago into a section of Albuquerque known as “the war zone. The area lives under the oppression of prostitution, drug abuse and gang violence. Laura had created an after-school program that cared for children in her neighborhood. About 80 kids are involved in her program weekly. Most of the mentors she uses are kids who were mentored in her program.
“We met Laura and fell in love with what she is doing,” Nate explains. “The only problem is, there is only one Laura. So I asked God, How can we clone Laura in other parts of our city? The answer is found in the name of Laura’s ministry, Juntos. In Spanish, Juntos means “together.” Togetherness is essential to mission.”
Nate explains that an important part of being good news is to move from serving (what we “do to” people) to being on mission(what we “do with” people). You can serve people you don’t know and don’t necessarily love, but you cannot do mission without knowing and loving your community.
They started serving Mission Avenue Elementary School, providing backpacks, conducting food drives, cleaning the school, hosting parties for the teachers and caring for specific needs of families. They did a lot of good things but still needed to move beyond service to mission. When it came time for New City’s annual Easter offering, they decided to give it to the public school and let them decide how to spend it.
Nate recalls, “We asked, ‘What do you need?’ After a few minutes the principal said, with tears in her eyes, ‘We need a mentor program.’ She shared a few stories of kids’ lives that were clearly heavy burdens she had been carrying. And then she paused and said, ‘What’s your angle?’
“I replied to the principal, ‘We have been loved with a love we cannot repay (Psalm 116:12). We simply want to love the school and don’t expect anything in return.’
With the creation of the mentoring program and a transition to total school care, being the good news opened up good news sharing opportunities for New City. The church was recently approached by the Albuquerque Public School System about replicating the mentorship program throughout their school system.
Pretty exciting answers to the questions of how will the community be changed and what can we do together!