Erin Batchelor | May 5, 2016, 07:44 AM
How church-planting in inner-city Detroit is changing the face of a campus church.
I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2008, and joined staff with New Life Church in Ann Arbor as a campus missionary. My desire was to see student’s lives transformed by the gospel, and in turn become ambassadors for justice and mercy in a broken world. After marrying my husband, Steve, we felt the Lord leading us to do ministry in Detroit. Detroit is arguably one of the poorest, most segregated, and corrupt cities in America.
Students are choosing to serve their neighbors rather than engage in the party scene.
New Life Church was also considering planting a church in Detroit. After two years of praying and exploring the city, New Life Church Detroit was planted at Wayne State University. Our heart is to see Detroit college students become fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, sending them into Detroit as leaders and catalysts of love and justice in a city that desperately needs God’s love and transformation.
My role at New Life Detroit is the Justice Advocate and Community Partnerships Director. I actively help our church become a community that truly notices some of the greatest needs in Detroit (and the world), guiding students as they wrestle with how God wants them to respond.
We have started a partnership with the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation (CDC) as a commitment to a culture of serving our neighbors. The CDC works to reach families and individuals in the poorest zip codes in the city, just north of Wayne State’s campus. We started a new thing called “Serving in the City” on Friday nights, in which we take our students to serve with the CDC’s Restoration Warehouse, a warehouse that receives donations of home goods and sells them ten cents on the dollar to people in the neighborhood. Our students go to the warehouse on a Friday night, and spend two hours cleaning and sorting through donations to make the warehouse a store for people to shop in.
On average we see twenty students come each Friday, a normal party night on a college campus. This is incredible! Students are choosing to serve their neighbors rather than engage in the party scene. Not only that, we see students bringing their friends who do not know Christ, and their friends are able to see and experience a loving community that reaches out to others as well.
It has been the greatest joy to see that as we have started to reach out to our poorest neighbors in the city, it has changed and enhanced the way we do ministry. As we reach out to orphans, widows, and the poorest of the poor, we are seeing our student’s lives transformed as well. As a new church plant, this is an innovative way to reach the campus and connect them to the city at the same time.
I am hopeful to see how God blesses our desire to serve and love the poor in Detroit while also building a new church on the Wayne State University campus. Please keep us in your prayers for our church to continue to grow a heart for the city!