Indianapolis’ Inner-City Innovator

by | Nov 30, 2002 | Charisma Archive

With his unique educational program, Kenneth Sullivan is helping troubled kids find a way out of poverty and crime in a neighborhood known for drive-by shootings and drug deals.

In 1968, when he moved from a small rural town in Tennessee to Indianapolis, Kenneth Sullivan became part of the problem. A bored high-school dropout, Sullivan was like many other young African American men in the area. He spent most of his time partying, hanging out and moving from one job to another.

“My life was very unstable,” Sullivan says. “I was looking for something to do, wandering aimlessly.”

Thirty years later he has found something to do, ministering to 100-plus youth who are much like he was. He now oversees a campus that houses Charity Christian Center Family Church where he pastors, Little Ducklings day care, North Star Christian Academy for grades K-6 and Nehemiah Christian College, which trains people to be teachers and to plant churches with day-care centers and schools.

At North Star Christian Academy, an urban Christian school serving approximately 170 children, the mission is clear. “The parents, the teachers and the students understand we are not just Christian in name,” principal Alexia Ellis says. “We are Christian in the way we do business. We are Christian in how we teach the children. God is the head. We are training them so that they can grow up and be all that God has created them to be. We teach them that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives, but it’s up to them what they do with that.”

In the midst of an educational system that is understaffed, under-equipped and sometimes unwilling to deal with children who do not fit nicely into the classroom mold, North Star is often a welcome refuge for desperate parents. The staff makes a point of seeing potential where others see problems.

“A lot of times special talents come with special needs,” says Sullivan’s wife, Joyce, referring to the core group of difficult children who receive ministry at North Star. “We try to recognize those [students] and channel them to be productive.”

Seeing the progress students make is what motivates them forward, both on an individual and global level. Take Justin, for example. In just one year, he had been in four different schools. Admittedly, the 13-year-old was a handful; teachers say he had a temper, got into fights, was disrespectful and lacked self-control.

“My life has changed so much,” says Justin, who left North Star to begin seventh grade this year. “I am on a basketball team and in the Sea Cadets. I am a Christian. I did not expect that to happen. My mom and I get along way better now. The pastor, my teacher and my principal are, like, my best friends. Everybody here I love and respect.”

He wants to go on to college and now has big dreams. “Miss Ellis and Pastor Sullivan said they would both come see me when I go on to seventh grade and see how I am doing,” he says. “I really want to do well.”

When he first came to North Star, Robert was much like Justin. “My mother sent me here because I was getting in a lot of trouble,” the 13-year-old says. “If I stayed at that school I would have been expelled. I used to not want to be around anybody and would talk back to the teachers. Here they let you express yourself as long as you respect people.

“Teachers are more patient here. The school I came from had 46 kids in the class. Here I only have nine [classmates], so it’s easier for the teachers and us.”

Robert wasn’t looking forward to going to public school to begin seventh grade, but he was hopeful that he would make good choices. “Teachers here taught me to be patient,” he says. “I don’t have to worry about the same things any more. I’ll just respect the teachers and not talk back. Just do what they say no matter what they say, even if I don’t like it, because it’s the right thing. I have God in my life now. That helps.”

Sullivan can relate to the turnaround the boys experienced. In 1970, two years after his move to Indianapolis and his subsequent wandering, Sullivan answered God’s call and immediately became part of the solution. Wanting a stable family, he prayed that God would send him a wife. In 1972, Sullivan married Joyce, his partner of 30 years.

The Sullivans believed that in order to be effective in ministering to families, they had to be faithful within their own household and then extend that outward. Observers say the couple lead by example. “They really love each other,” says longtime friend Marita Gordon. “I have never seen them be anything less than totally supportive of one another. It truly is amazing.”

Sullivan, the high-school dropout, eventually returned to school, this time as a teacher. He spent 12 years in the Indianapolis Public School System, but soon realized that children in the traditional school setting were not getting the nurturing necessary to help them become successful, particularly youth in the urban neighborhoods.

“Kids need spiritual and moral instruction,” Sullivan says. “The public school system tries to educate them in a values-free environment. We have a tremendous opportunity to impact these kids since they are at school such a large part of the day.”

The Sullivans have taken their love of children, Jesus and each other into a troubled community known as Brightwood, where Joyce says drugs, alcoholism, drive-by shootings and broken families were rampant.

Sullivan’s passion now is to work with other pastors around the country to help them establish similar ministries. “There is a great need to perpetuate the vision and impact the country, particularly in the urban areas,” he says. Sullivan works with the Urban Christian School Coalition to help spread information about how to offer children in urban communities a Christ-centered education.

He’s convinced these restless youth can be reached. He’s living proof because God turned him around.


Carol Shepard is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis. Daneen Colligan also contributed to this report.


For more information about Charity Christian Center, write 5330 E. 38th St., Indianapolis, IN 46218. Send tax-deductible donations to Christian Life Missions, P.O. Box 952248, Lake Mary, FL 32795-2248.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

This Coach Can Help You Destroy Your Addiction to Pornography

This Coach Can Help You Destroy Your Addiction to Pornography

Let’s talk about a subject most people want to avoid. Let’s talk about pornography. According to Covenant Eyes, statistics show that 28,258 users are watching pornography every second, and 20% of mobile online searches are for porn. Among Christians, 20% of youth...

The Real Truth About the Marriage of Politics and Faith

The Real Truth About the Marriage of Politics and Faith

As I look back, I realize that God has given me a career path with some rather unique experiences. I have built bridges at the intersection of faith and government my whole life, and I have learned that serving people through a role in government can be just as...

Joyce Meyer: Winning the Battle Against Satan in Your Mind

Joyce Meyer: Winning the Battle Against Satan in Your Mind

If you have received Christ as your Savior, then you have an enemy. Did you know that? I know some people feel uncomfortable talking about the devil, but he is real and it’s important for us to face the truth about him so we can have a victorious life in Christ. Now,...

It’s Time to Rebuild Love and Unity in the Church—Part 2

It’s Time to Rebuild Love and Unity in the Church—Part 2

Note: As we move towards Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, Grant Berry, a Messianic believer, speaks about the deeper repentance needed in the Messianic part of the family. As you have read part one of this article during the month of Av and are now reading part two in the...

Will Many of the Elect Really Be Deceived by the Antichrist?

Will Many of the Elect Really Be Deceived by the Antichrist?

The most sobering and troubling statement in the Olivet Discourse is where Jesus says, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). This statement cries out for an...

Prophetic Lessons in the Hurricane-Force Storms of Life

Prophetic Lessons in the Hurricane-Force Storms of Life

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qe34pxhddd4 With Hurricane Ian slamming Florida, it's a time to reflect on the storms of life. As I was preparing for the hurricane, I documented some thoughts about standing strong in the storms of life. Whether you're dealing with a...

RECENT ARTICLES

Why God Cares About Your Physical Health

God doesn’t care if I am fat. He wants me to enjoy my life. He wants me to live, love and be happy. Food makes me happy so I’m just doing what He wants me to do. That was just an excuse and at its...
Mario Murillo Sends Special Urgent Message to Kingdom Leaders

Mario Murillo Sends Special Urgent Message to Kingdom Leaders

Attention. Several hundred leaders are registered for our special brunch on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 10 a.m. Seats are filling up and we must give our host a final number of meals to prepare. Please do not wait. Make your reservation now for this free brunch. I have a very...

How to Position Yourself to Receive the Issachar Anointing

How to Position Yourself to Receive the Issachar Anointing

The key to being positioned to receive the Issachar anointing has to do with timing and seasons. Those who carry the Issachar anointing understand the times and seasons we are in. They have discernment and knowledge, enabling them to lead well. They seek the wisdom of...

An Unborn Baby’s Heart Is Beating—Stop Denying It

An Unborn Baby’s Heart Is Beating—Stop Denying It

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams turned heads last week in Atlanta when she defiantly announced during a political event that an unborn baby doesn’t have a heartbeat at six weeks gestation. “There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks,” said...

Prophecy: We Are in a Season of Blessings

Prophecy: We Are in a Season of Blessings

We are kingdom citizens, and not of this world. We don’t abide by this world’s economy and the natural things that happen. Repeatedly, over the last four weeks, I’ve been hearing not to look at the circumstances of this world. We are not of this world. Get your eyes...

What Praises of Thanksgiving Mean for Your Soul

What Praises of Thanksgiving Mean for Your Soul

We tend to think of gratitude as an obligation as opposed to a weapon of warfare. A nicety, not a ferocious force for transformation. We are wrong. From our earliest days we are trained that polite people say “thank you.” Certainly, this is true and proper. Those of...

Pin It on Pinterest