The Urban Challenge•III

January 28, 2008

In the last of three short articles, YWAM’s International Director of Urban Missions, Tim Svoboda, challenges the mission’s leadership to strategize for effective urban outreach. His challenge can be adapted by other missions and denominations.
Tim led the YWAM urban work in Chennai, India, where he pioneered city-wide networks and diverse ministries. He recently received a Doctor of Ministry degree in urban missiology.
Tim: Cities are where a large mass of the people are living. The trend is continuing that way with more and more people moving into cities. If we are going to be strategic in our missionary focus then cities have to be kept in our strategic planning. Here are a few recommendations that I would like to make.
1. YWAM needs to be located in the city. That does not mean that those who are now having properties in rural areas need to close down and relocate! But the new centers we start should consider the strategic nature of locating in cities.
St. Ignatius, in the 16 th century, wrote 6815 letters to his Jesuit followers during his lifetime. Approximately 2300 of those letters were on the strategic positioning and acquiring of properties in cities. He once wrote, Take special care that you obtain a good and sufficiently large site, or one that can be enlarged with time, large enough for house and church, and if possible, not too far removed from the conversation of the city, and having bought that, it will be a good beginning for all that follows.
Thomas Lucas in his book Landmarking: City, Church and Jesuit Urban Strategy says, ‘Ignatius found his vineyard not on the terraced slopes of the Pincio but at the busy corner of Piazza Alberti, in downtown locations all over Europe, and ultimately in crowded cities all over the globe.’
In contrast, many of our YWAM bases are located in such a way that conversation with people is difficult. We have therefore developed a ‘Theology of Going/Theology of Outreach.’ Mission for many of us is ‘over there’. However the city is the place where the people are and we are finding the unreached more and more in our own backyard. Ignatius gave birth to Loyola Colleges which today are strategically placed in cities around the world.
2. YWAM needs to continue to develop a ‘Theology of Place’. A Theology of Place helps us to focus on reaching the people within walking distance of our own living space. It also helps us to make sure we are living where it is strategic rather than living where it is cheap rent or cheap real estate. While it is financially smart to buy cheaper land, such property is often not strategic for engaging the people in our cities.
I am finding around the world that students in our DTS’s and other training programs are excited when they are being taught in locations that have hell in their front yards. In one such base that I know you literally walk out their front door and are slapped in the face by drug addicts, derelicts, homeless and the lost. The DTS students have to struggle with not only facing their own problems but are interacting each day with those outside their door who are in much worse conditions than themselves. Location in cities gives us proximity for engagement but location does not always motivate our hearts to reach the people around us.
3. We need multiple oplocs (operation locations) in cities. One base is not enough for cities with the kind of populations we are experiencing today. Can you imagine cities such as Paris, Calcutta, Tokyo, Penang, San Francisco, Toronto and others with multiple YWAM long term teams that are each with a specific focus? One team may be doing church planting while another is doing business-as-mission; yet another is focused on suicide prevention, while another may be working with the artist community. Possibilities for ministry in cities is vast.
4. The University of the Nations needs to consider appropriate curriculum for the Urban World. Church planting, primary health care, counseling, world view, performing arts and community development need to be looked at through the lens of cities. While perhaps small adjustments, they are nevertheless ones that need to be considered.
5. Every YWAM region of the world needs an Urban Advocate who helps us strategize towards effective ministry into the cities of their region. I would encourage these advocates to be part of the regional leadership team to provide regular input. They need to be people who can interface with Mercy Ministries, Frontier Missions, Kings Kids, Impact World Tour and the University of the Nations so cities are opened up in our regions to the All of YWAM.
If you have recommendations or responses to these past emails, please send them to me at: tks61 at yahoo dot com – Tim Svoboda
Thanks, Tim, for these provocative and timely thoughts! (And for helping me relax while in New Zealand!)
• To register for the YWAM International Urban Missions conference in Vancouver, Canada, from April 21-25 of 2008, with Dr Ray Bakke as main speaker, go to
• For resources, articles and an urban mission booklist, see the YWAM International Urban Website,
Till next week, when I return to the keyboard myself,

Till next week,

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