Urban Family Ministries reaches out
Every Thursday night, a group of local teen girls gather at Urban Family Ministries (UFM) for an evening of fun and fellowship, playing games and studying the Bible together.
The Bible study, which began meeting in 2003, has played a vital role in the
development of local girls’ lives. For many, it is the only place where they can connect with other Christians.
“I love Thursday nights at Urban Family,” said group participant Deshownna
Kirkland. “We have a lot of fun together, and also we get to learn about God.”
The Bible study is led by UFM’s school enrichment coordinator Heidi Chinn and
volunteers Melissa Kersjes and Linda Howorth. The leaders strive to create a welcoming atmosphere and to help the girls grow in their relationships with God and with each other.
“We try to provide a safe place for teen girls to develop in their faith and to become the people God wants them to be,” said Chinn.
In recent years, several Calvin students have joined the volunteer team that helps run the weekly group. This opportunity helps Calvin students who are passionate about youth development and urban ministry understand and relate to the urban community in Grand Rapids.
Those involved have found that they have just as much as to learn from the girls as they do to teach them.
“I first got involved with the Urban Family Bible study a year ago, and I’ve really enjoyed interacting with teen girls in Grand Rapids,” said junior Ellie Price. “Their experiences are so different from my own. It’s a joy to get to talk to them about life and to try to answer any questions they have about faith.”
Each meeting consists of dinner, discussion about a specific Bible verse and theme and getting to know one another better, both through organized games and unmediated hang out time.
According to Price, that free time together is crucial to the overall goal of the Bible study.
“The most meaningful time I spend with these girls is when we get to just talk about life, one on one,” she said. “The more time we spend like that, the better we know where everyone is coming from. It makes all of us more willing to open up during group time, to ask questions and see how God is working in our lives.”
The girls range in age from 13 to 17 and all attend different schools, but despite these differences, the girls have been able to bond and establish lasting friendships.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends that I would never have met otherwise,” said
Kirkland. “We have a special relationship because we talk about deep things instead of just hanging out all the time.”
Many of the girls have been involved in UFM for years through other programs,
especially its popular Super Saturday events.
Super Saturday, UFM’s outreach program for Grand Rapids children of all ages, brings a large group together on Saturday nights for dinner, games, singing and worshipping in Calvary Church’s gymnasium.
The impact of Super Saturday on children early in life is evident through the continued participation of teens who began coming to events in early elementary school. Being able to see the children grow in age and maturity has been one of the biggest rewards for Chinn.
“I’ve known a lot of these girls for years,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see them grow up and become such lovely young women.”
In addition to the girls’ Thursday night Bible study and Super Saturday, UFM has
ministries for teen boys, women in the neighborhood and families in the community. They also offer tutoring and mentoring programs for children, as well as opportunities for them to attend camp in the summer.
To find out more about UFM’s mission and volunteer opportunities, visit