“This is a great mission of The United Methodist Church in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city.”
– Pastor Charles Harrison
Neighborhood youth play basketball during Club Hope on Friday night at Barnes UMC.
Barnes’ volunteer Zendra Jenkins prepares to sign kids into Club Hope after Jesse Doss, a uniformed security guard, searches each one for drugs and weapons.
INDIANAPOLIS – With a concern for 80 percent of African-American youth in the inner-city being raised in single-parent female homes without father figures leading to boys joining gangs, selling drugs and dropping out of school, seven of the city’s predominately black congregations united to form a coalition to improve the destiny of youth.
They were backed by the 80-member City of Peace coalition which represented black ministerial groups across the city. The center of this near northwest side neighborhood is Barnes United Methodist Church and its newly expanded facility.
What was originally dubbed at Barnes as a Family Life Center has become more of a community center directing teens and young adults off crime-ridden streets into the church at 900 West 30th Street. During the past two-and-a-half years, a top priority for the center has become Club Hope, which ministers to between 50 and 100 neighborhood youth every Friday night.
Club Hope takes its lead from more than 20 dedicated volunteers under the direction of Barnes Pastor Charles Harrison. It meets from 7 to 10 p.m. and provides basketball in the church’s full-size gymnasium, dance, video game room, pool and a variety of activities for kids who wish to hang out. The church’s fellowship hall becomes a snack area providing light meals. Club Hope realizes many of the kids come from lower income or no income homes that may not have food.
Club Hope also provides 15 minutes of conversations about what’s going on in their lives, an opportunity to direct the kids to Barnes’ sanctuary doors. During the past two years, seven Club Hope attendees have professed their faith in Christ and have joined Barnes. Four now attend college.
According to Harrison, “Working with Barnes also is Indianapolis’ 10-Point Coalition which provides a mentoring program for both boys and girls. The coalition is a faith-based group which addresses violence in the community and holds faith walks. Coalition members are available to kids both on the streets and on Friday nights at Club Hope.
“This street outreach coalition is made up of former gang members, drug dealers and prostitutes, (who have turned their lives around). Many have spent time in prison. They can relate to young people on the streets today. They also help youth get summer-time jobs and help with GED (General Equivalency Diploma) and job training programs.”
More than 50 youth have gone back to school to get their GED.
In addition to Club Hope, Barnes also hosts Wednesday night and Saturday morning activities, a Saturday morning basketball league and a Wednesday hip-hop dance class.
Commenting on his commitment to Club Hope on Friday nights, Anthony Neal, Barnes’ lay leader, told Together, “Club Hope gives the kids a place to go as well as to deter crime. What makes Club Hope good is that kids come from all sides of town.”
Neal said, “this is my way of giving back. I feel I am contributing as both a coach and as a mentor.” Neal also helps with the church’s basketball program.
Harrison said because Barnes hosts kids between 7 and 10, the police say they see a significant decline in crime during this time in this neighborhood.
Teens coming to Club Hope are met at the door by another volunteer, Zendra Jenkins, who signs kids in after Jesse Doss, a uniformed security guard, searches each one for drugs and weapons.
Doss says he meets lots of kids and has a good relationship with many of them. He is pleased to be helping keep kids off the street.
Another Barnes volunteer, Deborah Mays, says she has been with Club Hope since it began. As another volunteer working with the kids, she says she appreciates giving back to the community and helping children with needs. Mays also is a candidate for ministry. After serving in the medical field for several decades, she now feels called to family counseling and is enrolled at Indiana Wesleyan University. About her call, she said, “It’s like a rebirth. This is an opportunity God has given to me.”
Partnership in ministry
Barnes doesn’t go it alone with Club Hope and other ministries at the 700-member church. In addition to the six other neighborhood churches, Barnes receives substantial support and volunteers from Plainfield, Avon, Brownsburg Calvary, Castleton, St. Luke’s and North United Methodist churches.
“This is a great mission of The United Methodist Church in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. As a denomination, we have done a tremendous job. I think it has changed many African Americans’ opinion of The United Methodist Church because of the United Methodist presence,” said Harrison.
He estimates that since Club Hope opened its doors on Friday nights more than two years ago, between 800 and 1,000 kids have come here. Through all the programs at Barnes, the congregation touches the lives of more than 15-hundred children, youth, young adults and their parents each year.
This has made a significant impact upon the neighborhood. Harrison said in 1993 more than 90 percent of the church’s members did not live here. Now, half of the church’s members also live in the neighborhood.
“Most (members) are committed to the neighborhood because they grew up here,” he said.
For more information about Barnes United Methodist Church, write to 900 West 30th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208, call 317-923-9197 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.