The Jonathan Effect: Helping Kids and Schools Win the Battle Against Poverty, By Mike Tenbusch

The Jonathan Effect

Helping Kids and Schools Win the Battle Against Poverty

by Mike Tenbusch

The Jonathan Effect
  • Length: 191 pages
  • Published: September 22, 2016
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4477
  • ISBN: 9780830844777

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America may be called the "land of opportunity," but countless kids and teens are struggling like young Davids in the urban wilderness, attempting to fight the giant of poverty under insurmountable odds. What could make a difference? The presence of a "Jonathan" in their lives to offer them the life-giving support they need to survive and thrive.

The church is the best source of these Jonathans, as they partner with local schools and provide struggling youth with the relational connections that can help them overcome their circumstances. It's a strategy that works, as author Mike Tenbusch demonstrates through his own inspiring story.

A Detroit native and longtime advocate for youth education, he brings you into the classrooms of the toughest schools in America so you can see firsthand the hardships of surviving as a child in these settings. And he introduces you to many real-life Jonathans who are making a tangible difference.

The need is tremendous. If you have ever wondered how you, your company, or your church can be a part of the solution to the challenge of extreme poverty, this book will inspire you to take action. By coming alongside our nation's most vulnerable young people, you will help unleash the Jonathan Effect that will turn the tide in the battle against poverty.

"The Jonathan Effect is not only a blueprint for social action, it is a reflection of an author who does more than write: he lives his philosophies and employs his own call to action. With this book, Mike Tenbusch dismantles a current crisis with an age-old approach—begin with caring, trust your beliefs, get out to where the problem is, and never give up on children. I've seen it work, as I've seen Mike work. The world is a better place as a result."

Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie

"This is a moving, inspiring, and important book. Mike Tenbusch has a powerful message for anyone who despairs about the students struggling in our nation's worst schools: these students aren't doomed. But the best solution starts outside the school. With you, in fact. Read on and answer the call!"

Dan Heath, coauthor of New York Times bestsellers Switch, Made to Stick, and Decisive

"I'm very particular about how people write about Detroit, my hometown. As a fellow native Detroiter, Mike's book was a breath of fresh air. I was moved to tears as he described the violence in his community, as it rang all too familiar. But his message of hope about the role that churches have in helping to transform schools and communities will inspire all who read it. Beyond inspiration, The Jonathan Effect will help communities identify practical steps to becoming a part of the immediate and long-term solutions. This is a must-read for anyone who cares deeply about urban communities, poverty, schools, and our nation's children."

Nicole Baker Fulgham, founder and president, The Expectations Project, author of Educating All God's Children

"Mike Tenbusch lays out a beautiful and simple expression of the gospel at work in Detroit—churches mobilizing people to love and serve children by investing in schools. This church-school partnership piece is key to loving and serving our cities in Jesus' name, and this book and these stories will inspire more churches to get involved, believing God will change lives as a result."

Kevin Palau, president, Luis Palau Association, and author of Unlikely: Setting Aside our Differences to Live Out the Gospel

"The world has watched Detroit's rebirth into a thriving, vibrant city. Yet we risk losing it all if we leave our city's schools and children behind. Mike Tenbusch offers real solutions. As vice president of United Way, he has worked with teachers, administrators, and students to help reimagine and rebuild the city's education system. He showed me how businesses can help through a sustained commitment to partnership, personal connection, and putting students first. As a result, GM's partnership with Detroit-area schools to increase graduation rates achieved incredible results and rewards beyond measure. Mike's compelling, engaging book offers inspiration and instruction for companies and organizations to do the same, and I encourage them to do so."

Mark Reuss, executive vice president, Global Product Development, General Motors Company

"Mike Tenbusch expertly translates his enthusiasm and passion for youth into a practical book with direct application for educators, child advocates, policy makers, and the evangelical church. While set in Detroit, this story is universal. Tenbusch offers a line of sight to a faction of youth who feel forgotten and invisible in a world where your zip code defines your destiny. This book recounts how collective leadership can be transformational in unleashing the collective genius of urban youth. It shares how the caring capital of a community can be deployed and leveraged at the individual level, institutional level, and systems level to untangle the snare of underperforming schools, concentrated poverty, and unsafe neighborhoods."

Tonya Allen, president and CEO, The Skillman Foundation

"Mike Tenbusch encourages churches to partner with public schools, where most poor schoolchildren receive their educations. He highlights successful church/school partnerships, points readers to additional resources, provides tools to navigate the pitfalls that keep such partnerships from working. He also encourages individual Christians to form long-term friendships with economically challenged teens."

Susan Olasky, WORLD Magazine, January 21, 2017


1. Alone in the Wilderness
2. The Jonathan Commitment
3. The Church Awakening
4. Starting Steps for Building Church-School Partnerships
5. How You Can Change a Life
6. The Plan in Action
7. What to Watch Out For
8. Pushing Through


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Mike Tenbusch

Mike Tenbusch is the CEO of Uncommon Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm helping urban schools, churches, and impact organizations create strategies to improve conditions and outcomes for kids. Born and raised in Detroit, he has had a life-long calling to make Detroit a better place to be a kid and to raise a family, and he served as chief impact officer for United Way in Southeastern Michigan as part of his twenty years of leading change in the city.

A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Mike co-founded Think Detroit (now Detroit PAL), an organization that now serves 14,000 children each year. He also served on the Board for Detroit Public Schools, helped a charter school district graduate more than ninety percent of its first high school class, and created a plan and led the effort to turnaround the city's most challenged high schools. Named one of Crain's 40 under 40 in 2008, he launched a training center for young people in partnership with best-selling author, Mitch Albom. He and his wife, Maritza, live with their three children outside Ann Arbor, Michigan.