Reaching youth takes day and night shifts
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___SAN ANTONIO--Churches need to provide 9-to-5 programs for youth--9 p.m. to 5 a.m., that is, if teens are on the streets at those hours.
___That's the advice of Nathan Anguiano, director of a gang intervention program.
___If churches don't show love to at-risk youth, troubled teenagers will seek acceptance from gangs, Anguino told youth ministers during a seminar on "How to Deal with Teen Violence" at the Texas Baptist Youth Evangelism Conference.
___"We need to go where the kids are," he said. For Anguiano, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, that means spending five nights a week at a recreation center in south Fort Worth, supervising about 40 teens and running midnight basketball games. He directs "Comin' Up," a gang intervention program of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth.
___Anguiano's work is more than fun and games. It includes breaking up fights, sitting by the hospital bedsides of wounded gang members and participating in "too many funerals."
___But it also includes involving at-risk young people in meaningful service. Last year, Anguiano took 11 gang members to Del Rio to help flood victims clean their homes and reclaim their belongings--a ministry project initiated by Hispanic Texas Baptists.
___He came to the social service agency after serving as youth pastor at Fort Worth's Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor.
___He relates to the at-risk youth from his own experience. He was a "preacher's kid," the son of a Baptist pastor in South Texas, and never participated in a gang. Even so, he went through his own rebellious stage, locking a junior high school teacher in the janitor's closet and spending far too much time hanging out on the streets and fighting, he said.
___While he works for a non-religious social agency now, Anguiano believes churches can do something that is impossible for any other people-helping organization. Churches can reach young people with the life-changing love of Jesus Christ.
___"Who better to make a difference in their lives than us?" he asked.
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