Detroit has gained an awful reputation over the years for its financial struggles and skyrocketing crime rates. But after years of what felt like a downhill spiral, the city is on the mend. While the government and large corporations will be given most of the credit for the rebuild, such a drastic turnaround wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of local community leaders and nonprofits.
“Good News Gang” is an inner-city ministry whose mission is to rebuild some of Detroit’s roughest neighborhoods.
Matt Cripps, the pastor of Metro Life Church, started Good News Gang in 1989, when he realized how much the community around him was hurting.
Cripps grew up in and out of foster homes in Detroit and has had a passion for Jesus and the city since he was young. He empathizes with the kids he works with because he knows “from his own experience that the emptiness and pain could only be filled by the love of Christ.”
The Good News Gang is “committed to equipping the children of Detroit to become leaders of the next generation,” part of the mission being to revamp the city with a population of Jesus loving children.
The organization’s website cites its three main functions:
Helping children encounter the hope and love of Christ through our weekly Saturday program, summer camps and personal mentorship.
• Investing personally in the lives of the children we serve through consistent one-on-one relationships, weekly home visits and child sponsorship.
• Meeting physical needs that hinder personal and spiritual growth, such as school supplies, coats and food.
But how do they get these children to their weekend programs? They pick them up in 10 vans they call “soul-winning machines.”
In a recent interview with CBN News, Cripps gave an inside look at the daily operations of his ministry.
Even on the days where it takes extra prodding to get kids to go to the Good News Gang, the pastor said it is still more than worth it for him.
“We want to see their lives radically transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Cripps told CBN. “And throughout the week, we’re knocking on their doors; we’re praying with their families; we’re inviting them to Good News Gang, and most importantly, we’re establishing a relationship.”
“That’s the most important thing is that they see Jesus in us ’cause for most of them, for most of these children, we’re the only Jesus they’ll ever, ever know,” he explained.
CBN also interviewed parents whose kids attend Good News Gang, all of whom speak highly of Pastor Cripps and his crew.
“Pastor Matt has a nice way of working with the children, and I had a great experience when I was with Pastor Matt, so I just feel like it’s a fun and a good experience to get the children out on Saturdays and away from all of the violence and crime that’s in the neighborhood,” Elsie Wilson, whose kids have been part of the Good News Gang for 5 years, said.
Edward and Sharlita Martin explained how when they first let their kids join the Good News Gang, they received a lot of pushback from people in their community.
“When I first met Pastor Matt … a lady down the street was like, ‘You let your kids get on the bus with that man? You know that’s a white man, right?'” Edward stated.
“I said, ‘That don’t have anything to do with it. He’s a Godly man,'” Edward added. “That’s what I look at; I look at the Godliness. I don’t care about what color you are.”
“That don’t have anything to do with church, Christ, and Jesus ’cause we’re all the same in the eyes of God,” he said.
While the kids are at Good News Gang, they partake in various camp-like activities including dance contests, videos and games.
But the focus of the Good News Gang is to share the gospel with the 200-plus children that come each weekend.
The organization shows Christian videos like the Superbook series each week. Following the video, CBN Field Ministry Rep. Ken Schad leads the children in a salvation prayer to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
“If you really believe what you just said, you’re ready for resurrection power. And I want you to repeat after me: ‘Jesus, give me resurrection power!'” Pastor Schad said during the prayer one week.
While the main focus of the club is spiritual, children are also encouraged in other important areas of their life, such as school.
“How did you get to go to the A and B party?” Cripps asked one girl.
“If I’m getting A’s and B’s on my report card,” she responded.
When asked about how they like the Good News Gang, the kids gave the ministry a good report.
“I think all of my friends and any other kids that see this should come here,” attendee Kiera Robinson told CBN. “It’s fun; you’ll have a good time; you’ll learn about the Lord, and altogether, it’s just really fun.”
“My favorite thing about Good News Gang is worshipping God and learning great things about him,” Decondi Clifton, another attendee, said.
Their days at the Good News Gang frequently end with a pizza party and prizes.
The ministry is for children ages 4 to 12, and has been around for almost 30 years now.
“I just want everyone to know that we love Jesus – that’s our motivation is to share the love of Jesus to the city of Detroit, a city that’s labeled as hopeless, and everyone has written off,” Cripps said.
“But we know that God has not written these people off,” he continued. “He has a plan and a purpose for their lives, and he uses his Church to bring that hope to these people, to these families.”
“Many of them come from homes that are filled with despair and hopelessness, but we know that through Jesus Christ there is hope,” he said.
(H/T: CBN News)