This dissertation explores socio-cultural and theological dynamics related to the quickening of leadership capacity among at-risk youth within urban underclass communities. By examining the ethnography of at-risk youth, the nature of urban mission, motivational theory and adolescent leadership capacity, and drawing on 30 years experience serving youth in northeast Denver’s greater Five Points community, I shall explicate and propose a construct for transformational urban youth ministry. This construct is a synthesis of four missional concepts: (1) mission as the identity and purpose of the church, (2) urban youth as a focus of neighbor love and missionary discipleship, (3) the image of God as a source of motivation, exploration and societal contribution, and (4) leadership as the activity around which mission, discipleship and the divine image coalesce in the adolescent experience.
This dissertation includes a Media segment: a book entitled Transforming Urban Youth: Unleashing Leadership Potential. The project blends academic findings with stories and insights derived from my 30-year experience as an urban youth minister. The book – soon to be published – is a document that both explores the significance of urban adolescent leadership animation to church-based city ministry, and provides a starting point for urban youth leaders and pastors seeking to establish a transformational youth ministry within their churches and communities.