What is Urban Ministry: Its Roots, Purpose, and Challenges

Discover what urban ministry is from the unique approach of World Impact, where we invest in leaders to build healthy churches in every community of poverty.

As cities continue to grow and evolve, urban ministry has become an increasingly important component of creating lasting change in underserved communities. Urban ministry is a form of ministry that is focused on serving people living in urban areas, many of whom are dealing with issues related to poverty, inequality, and social injustice. Urban ministries are a vital and common staple in many urban neighborhoods across the world.

What are some examples of urban ministry, and why is it so important? In this blog post, we’ll explore the roots and purpose of urban ministry and explore some of the core values and strategies that are integral to this work. By examining these key factors, we hope to shed light on the importance of urban ministry and how it can create lasting change in under-resourced communities. 

A Brief History of Urban Ministry

Urban ministry has its roots in the early Christian church when leaders were called to serve their communities. Throughout history, urban ministry has expanded and evolved as the world around it has changed. In the 19th century, urbanization and industrialization led to the growth of urban areas and the need for ministries to address the social problems that arose. From the 1950s onwards, urban ministry expanded to address issues such as civil rights, poverty, and affordable housing. Today, urban ministry is more important than ever as cities continue to grow, and social and economic inequality persist. 

Spreading the message: Moving Forward to Multiply

Urban Ministry Set Apart Through World Impact

While urban ministries strive to make a difference in their communities, World Impact has a unique purpose of equipping church leaders and workers to serve the urban poor. In addition to providing help and assistance, we aim to create sustainable change specifically by empowering leaders with the training they need to build healthy churches and help individuals, families, and neighborhoods flourish. 

When leaders have the tools, resources, and support they need to effectively address the unique challenges facing those in urban environments, communities are changed for the better. 

Ultimately, we are driven by a belief that urban ministry is vital because impoverished communities need access to the transformative power of the Gospel. 

Core Values of Urban Ministry

At the heart of urban ministry are a set of core values that guide those who are called to this work. These values include:

  • Compassion
  • Justice
  • Empowerment
  • Community
  • Partnership

By embracing these values, urban ministry leaders can create lasting change that addresses the root causes of poverty and social injustice, rather than simply treating the symptoms.

At World Impact, we also hold these core values at the center of our work. But what sets us apart is our ultimate vision to see a healthy church in every community of poverty. We firmly believe that God’s church is the true source of hope and transformation for those in need. It’s through the church that we can develop the most effective compassion, justice, empowerment, and community, creating lasting change and building a better future for all.

To that end, our programs are designed for the urban context and empower leaders to build healthy churches in communities of diversity and poverty. When urban church leaders are empowered to own and lead their own ministries, individuals, families, and neighborhoods flourish.

Strategies Used in Urban Ministry

There are many different approaches used in urban ministry, including community development, education, job training, and advocacy

Our unique strategy in urban ministry is to partner with local churches, ministry networks, and denominations to help them train leaders to expand the Kingdom. Our core programs include Church-Based Seminary, Urban Church Planting, Trauma Healing workshops, and Prison Ministry. It’s through these core programs that leaders are trained and empowered to build healthy churches and help individuals, families, and neighborhoods flourish. 


Effective community engagement is a vital component of urban ministry, as it enables leaders to understand and address the unique needs of each community collaboratively. A prime example of this approach can be seen in the story of Mt. Salem-New Wave Fellowship Church in South LA. When a neighborhood homeless man, who was a friend to the church, was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident at a dangerous intersection, the church rallied together with local residents to advocate for a safety light to be installed. 

Through their unified efforts, the community succeeded in its fight to make the intersection safer, demonstrating the power of community engagement in creating lasting change. This inspiring story highlights the importance of listening to and working closely with the community to address its specific needs and challenges. And in their case, the church was able to demonstrate the power of love in action and made a tangible difference in the lives of local residents. Here is the powerful story from the church’s pastor, Patricia Strong-Fargasone:


Successful urban ministry programs often involve collaboration between churches, community organizations, and government agencies. One example of an effective urban ministry collaboration is World Impact’s Trauma Healing workshops. 

The workshops are made possible through a partnership with the American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute. Among other benefits, the Trauma Healing workshops provide training that will help church leaders to recognize and address the trauma that their community members are experiencing, whether they are in an urban environment or not. Once trained, churches can offer workshops to promote healing in their congregation, neighborhood, and among their leaders. 

Helpful resource: 6 Ways Trauma Healing Workshops Will Benefit Your Ministry

What is Urban Ministry From the Church’s Perspective?

The church plays a critical role in urban ministry by providing support, resources, and a sense of community to those in need. Different models of church involvement in urban ministry include community partnerships, outreach programs, and even church-based seminaries. Church involvement in urban ministry has many benefits, including increased community engagement, enhanced community development, and stronger relationships with neighbors.


Let’s explore another one of World Impact’s urban ministries: the Church-Based Seminary program. Many leaders in under-resourced urban areas may not have access to the same quality of theological education as those in more affluent communities, which is why World Impact has established The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) centers for learning, which provides a comprehensive theological and practical education to prepare emerging leaders for ministry in urban contexts. 

Pastor Bernard Emerson, who serves in an urban setting, described the benefit of church-based seminaries this way:

“A lot of times we find ourselves in trainings and seminars and conferences that don’t speak directly to our context. And what happens is we end up learning something that we either have to translate into our context or—to help an instructor find out and under who we are—we have to translate our context to them.”

The Church-Based Seminary program takes a unique approach to teaching by tailoring the entire curriculum to fit the needs of urban communities. Every lesson is designed with practical application in mind, ensuring that students are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to make a positive impact in their urban setting.


Here’s a quick breakdown of World Impact’s church-based seminary model:

  • Partner with local churches, organizations, or denominations to identify emerging leaders
  • Establish training centers for learning
  • Provide certification upon completion
  • Support graduates as they champion renewal and spiritual growth in their communities

In this video, we meet Lincoln Montgomery, who describes the value of receiving a pastoral education from TUMI. 

In this case, urban ministry took on the role of preparing and equipping the leaders to help those in need, in contrast to some urban ministries that provide direct service to those in need. 

Unlock the power of urban ministry! Discover how World Impact equips leaders to build healthy churches, revitalize communities, and create sustainable change.  Click To Tweet

A New Generation Of Urban Ministry Leaders

We believe that by investing in local leadership, we can create a ripple effect of positive change that extends far beyond Individual acts of service. By prioritizing leadership development through urban ministry programs like Trauma Healing, TUMI, and others, we aim to create a new generation of leaders who are equipped to build healthy churches in every community of poverty.

Get more info on urban ministry and the powerful impact of servant leaders in How Lay Leaders Can Change Your Church For The Better.