(March 11, 2001)
Volunteers from Southside Tabernacle A/G in Chicago are partnering
with police and teachers to build a stronger community. During the
day volunteers from the church encourage students and assist teachers
in classrooms; at night they join other residents and police in an
effort to reduce crime.
"We want to be involved in our neighborhood because that makes
the community strong, which in turn makes the church strong,"
says Spencer Jones, pastor of Southside Tabernacle. "Working
with the police is a link to reaching our community."
The community policing program, known as Chicago Alternative Policing
Strategy, is a crime-fighting strategy where residents, the police
and other city agencies work together to identify and solve neighborhood
Jones is a beat facilitator and helps lead his neighborhoods
beat meetings on a regular basis. "In many big cities the police
and residents do not have good relationships," he says. "Thats
not the case here. Rather than fighting one another we have come together
to fight the criminal."
Since getting involved with C.A.P.S., and working with the public
schools, Jones has prayed for and counseled many police officers,
teachers and their families. One officer, he says, made a commitment
to Jesus Christ.
Southside Tabernacle volunteers also minister at several public schools.
There, they pray, counsel, encourage and tutor students. William Morris,
26, a former Baltimore Ravens football player, now youth pastor at
Southside, works in several schools weekly. "We are building
relationships with the schools to let them know that we support them,"
he says. "It also lets students know we care for them by meeting
their friends, praying with them before class and working with them
in the classroom. Our goal is to take ministry out of the church and
into the community."
In doing so, says Morris, students see men and women of God who care
about them. Many of the students Morris works with are troubled or
at-risk. "We tell them we believe in them, but we also let them
know that we will not tolerate any disrespect toward the teachers,
students or building," he says. "We go to the schools because
we believe as Christians we are mandated to reach out to our community."