What happens when you give a high school student $100? Many will go buy a new outfit, video game or go to the movies. But for a group of junior high and high school students in San Diego, they multiplied the $100 given to them through Project 25. Founded by Nate Landis of Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), Project 25 challenges students to see who can make the biggest difference with $100. The results range from raising money to support cancer research, designing community murals to supporting teachers facing lay-offs. Some projects even help international causes like the Japanese tsunami victims and funding schooling for students in Malawi, Africa. Risen interviewed Nate Landis five years ago, and talked with him about how he started UYC and what surprised him the most about how kids responded to Project 25.
Landis reflects on what prompted him to start Urban Youth Collective (UYC).
“I started UYC because God began showing me how many of San Diego’s middle and high school kids are never in church. We did a survey of churches in San Diego Unified School District a few years back and found that 90 percent of kids have no regular or meaningful connection to a local church. God wants his kids back. We’ve developed a strategy for getting local churches linked with campuses where they can do meaningful work, both spiritually and in holistic ways. It all came to a head for me one day at a stop sign in front of San Diego High School. I was getting ready to pick up the football players for the pregame meal and chapel service that we hosted for them every Friday. Suddenly, the bell rang and this multi-racial sea of 3,000 faces came pouring out of the school. My car was surrounded by students who had little chance of knowing Christ if nothing changed. Plus, the football team had 18 academically ineligible players that year and many students in poverty. As I looked out at the students walking by, I thought to myself, ‘These kids are never going to come to church unless we find a way to go to them first.’ Then almost audibly, I heard God say, ‘Whom shall we send? Who will go for us? Who will reach these kids?’ I started to cry, raised my hand in my heart that day, and said, ‘Here I am, Lord send me.’
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” Matthew 25:14-18
Landis shares what surprised him the most about the way kids responded to Project 25.
“I was blown away by the creativity and significance of the projects our kids came up with. We live in a culture where the media mainly offers negative images and stories of young people. We wanted to challenge students and provide opportunities for them to showcase all the good that they are capable of. They rose to the occasion. Kids will rise to whatever expectations we place on them-whether high or low. As a team, our kids leveraged their $100 with non-material assets, creativity, relationships and hard work to meet needs around them. For kids with fewer material resources, this project taught them to harness all the other assets available to them in their communities. Altogether, our kids learned that ‘life to the fullest’ comes from what we give away, not from what we take or keep. That’s what Jesus meant by saying, ‘Those who try to save their life will lose it but those who lose their lives for me will find it.’ I think our kids learned this firsthand through Project 25.”
Use your resources to help others. It doesn’t matter if you have $1 or millions of dollars. God has given each of us time, talent and treasure to bring glory to him. Pray and ask God how he wants you to be using the things he has entrusted you. Be willing to be obedient even if it does not make sense.
Be resourceful. Helping others doesn’t have to be limited to donating money to a cause. It can be rallying your friends and family for a cause. If you hit a wall or a roadblock, ask for advice from someone who is doing something similar. They might be able to introduce you to other people that can help with your cause. Take time to pray this week committing what you are doing to God and seek his direction and purpose.
Pray for students. Pray for groups like UYC, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and local church groups to reach students for Christ. Many students will never step foot inside a church, but many groups are committed to doing outreaches with students. Consider helping host a group at your home or supporting it through buying food or supplies they might need. Pray for teachers that are believers and youth workers that God would give them open doors on the campus to have spiritual conversations with students. Pray for the students that are believers that they would be bold about their faith and invite their friends to outreaches and church.
To read our entire interview with Nate Landis of Project 25, click here.