Category Archives: Youth Ministry

Juvenile Justice Ministry: Returning Home After Incarceration


A juvenile offender’s home environment is often not helpful for encouraging adherence to pro-social behaviors. Ministry partners would benefit greatly by seeking to understand the family dynamics of the individual you are trying to impact. Negative family dynamics take many forms. The juvenile offender may be the scapegoat for family problems, making his or her return to the home counterproductive. Also, other family members may be actively using drugs or involved in criminal activities.

Domestic violence and child abuse situations present additional issues, including the personal safety of family members. Training on handling abuse situations, including sign of abuse and mandated reporting laws in each state should be required of all who serve in ministry to youth.

Other areas of support that will require attention are basic needs such as education/vocational support, housing, substance abuse treatment, identity development, financial concerns, and peer social networks.

Youth ministries and the church as a whole are equipped to address all these concerns and more when they are connected to the community, invested in families, and are willing to take Spirit led risks to do ministry outside the box.

What ways have your ministries been creative in meeting the needs of juvenile offenders who are trying to turn their lives around?

Juvenile Justice Ministry: Meeting Them Where They Are


Anyone who has worked with you learned very quickly that unless the young person wants to change they very likely won’t change. At best you might get some shallow compliance with whatever expectations we have for them but the change is not real and is short lived. This awareness is a key factor when working and ministering to juvenile offenders. Our efforts are likely to be ineffective until the individual accepts the need for real transformation to occur.

A juvenile offender’s motivation to participate in programs perceived to be trying to “change” the individual will be seen as not trustworthy and they will be skeptical that our intentions are good. Too often this population is motivated by fear of consequences (i.e., jail, sanction, threats, loss, etc.) and not compelled by grace and love. In reality, both are needed to bring about transformation. It was God’s wrath and subsequent grace that compels us in our own transformation, empowered by the indwelling Spirit.

Motivation for help changes over time, and offenders can often cycle through predictable stages of change during their engagement with our programs. The Stages of Change was developed by Prochaska to describe the various stages of motivation, and includes the following:

  • Precontemplation (unaware of problems – denial)
  • Contemplation (awareness of problems)
  • Preparation (decision point)
  • Action (active behavior change)
  • Maintenance (ongoing preventative behaviors)

Juvenile offenders who are in the precontemplative stage of change have little awareness of the problems they are facing and have little intention of changing their behavior. Awareness of problems grow in later stages often leading to intrinsic motivation to change, However, due to the high rate of recidivism and environmental and pro-criminal influence the young person may not move in a linear manner through the various stages, often returning to an earlier stage before eventually seeing a more permanent change in attitude and behavior.

So what does this mean for us serving juvenile offenders in ministry settings? It means that sometimes our expectations are not realistic for the stage of change that the youth is in. If we were able to recognize there level of motivation and meet them where they’re at we may be able to influence them towards the next stage. Imagine this, on a scale from 0 – 5, zero = criminal behavior and 5 = pro-social/God-honoring behavior, do we not expect the young person to jump from 0 – 5 immediately? How realistic is that? In reality most people change like this, 0 – 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 3 – 2 – 4 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 4 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 5…You get the point.

Meeting a young person where they are at means having a long view. It means that for the moment, we may find ourselves tolerating certain attitudes, language, and behaviors until real change can occur. This allows grace to have its way in the heart of the offender.

Take a moment and think of the student your working with and try to determine what stage of change they might be in. Now ask yourself if you need to adjust your strategies to meet him/her where they’re at.

 

Thoughts?

Juvenile Justice Ministry: Evaluating Risk-Factors for Juvenile Offenders


Evaluating your ministries role in addressing recidivism among juvenile offenders is of critical importance to those attempting to reintegrate into the community. Characteristics and environmental factors used to estimate the likelihood of future criminal behavior are called “risk factors”.

Once these risk factors are identified, research leads us to believe that structured and concentrated strategies can help individuals who have offended previously. Researchers have identified several potential interventions based on these following risk factors:

  • Developing and nurturing life management, problem solving, and self-leadership skills
  • Developing networks with or relationships and bonding with pro-social and anti-criminal peers and with pro-social and anti-criminal mentors
  • Enhancing closer family feelings and communication
  • Improving and strengthening positive family systems to promote accountability
  • Managing and changing anti-social thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.

What a tremendous opportunity for the church to step up and be the incarnate Christ to a population of people who are largely discarded as useless and of no value, irredeemable.

What ministries exist in your church that addresses the needs above?

What ministries need to be created to address the above needs?

Urban Youth Workers Institute National Conference 2014 #360LA


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I’m looking forward to heading out west to join thousands of other youth workers for a time of rest and training.  These are some of the best people I’ve ever met in ministry.  Working under hard conditions, with a lack of resources and support, in the trenches every day.  Their work is tireless and often thankless.  But they press on, believing that the Jesus they serve will show up in the lives of the kids and ministries.

I’m privileged to be facilitating a workshop on working with juvenile criminal offenders.  Here’s a quick look at what we will cover during this workshop:

  • We will explore how God has wired us and what He wired us for as well as the intrinsic longings He placed in us to direct our behaviors.
  • We will learn about the pro-social vs. pro-criminal spectrum and how one becomes a criminal and disengages morally.
  • We will also discuss the criminogenic needs individuals have and how recidivism occurs when those needs aren’t addressed.
  • We will explore what developmental assets are and how they are related to criminality and how we as a church can participate in increasing the numbers of assets young people have.
  • We will explore how to develop a community network to address the various needs an individual has, such as; employment, housing, mental health, etc.
  • We will discuss mentoring and family ministry strategies that are proven to reduce recidivism and provide hope for individuals coming out of a criminal lifestyle and moving into a Kingdom lifestyle.

If you’re unable to attend the conference you can purchase MP3s from the website on any of the sessions offered.  I’ll post a link to this workshop here after the conference.

 

Privilege And Oppression In The American Church


CotF Admin:

Been having a lot of discussion about class, race, and religious privilege recently. Remembered this post written a couple years ago and was struck by it’s relevance to these conversations.

Originally posted on Conversations on the Fringe:

There’s no denying that there are a handful of Evangelical churches that largely shape and control the American Christian culture.  You can probably think of a handful of them right off the top of your head.  Those churches have contributed much to the Kingdom and this post is not an attempt to argue whether their success is God-driven or marketing-driven.  Regardless, many necessary issues/concerns have been addressed by churches like this and they honored and glorified God in the process.

The focus of this post is the danger of having too much dominance over a culture and how the systems that govern many of these churches may be contributing to a larger problem that will impact our faith for a long time to come.

When any group rises to the top it is often accompanied by a sense of privilege.  It’s the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” mentality.  And, it often happens without its…

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Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013


 

Top-10

So 2013 was an amazing year for our ministry.  Some of the highlights we increased speaking and writing opportunities, new partnerships and more importantly, new friends.  Below are the TOP 10 blog posts of 2013.  Thanks so much for support CotF.  We believe in the work we are called to do and hope to continue that work into the new year.

 1.   Engaging Resistant Students in Youth Ministry

 2.   The Importance if the Imago Dei in Youth Ministry

 3.   Sex: A Little Porn Never Hurt Anyone

 4.   Sex: Porn Zombies

 5.   Sex: There’s An App For That

 6.   Youth Ministry and the Glee Effect

 7.   Moral Disengagement: Bombers, School Shooters, and Bullies

 8.   Incarnational Ministry to LGBTQ Students

 9.   Credibility in Youth Ministry

 10. Trauma Stewardship in Youth Ministry

 Honorable Mention:   The Power of Permission in Youth Ministry

 I’ve also been given the honor of blogging on one of the most popular youth ministry blogs morethandodgeball.com on the topic of Soul Care.  This is a recent partnership with Group Publishing (SYMC and KidMin) and part of my new job is to coordinate their ministry to pastors/workers called The Shelter.  I’ll be blogging over there periodically and there are some other really great bloggers there so give it a look.