~What’s Hindering Your Attendance @ Church?~

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The drive to church is too far when compared to what I leave church with. I am to busy with activities that bring me great gratification when measured to success. My wife takes too long to get ready and I am frustrated with the financial strain it places on me trying to keep gasoline. I can go on and on why I sometimes find it hard to be faithful at a church that’s a distance from where I reside or local. This church is too worldly, it resembles a night club. The pastor is a comedian and I need dogma that is teaching holiness and the excuses go on and on……

“What is this one trend? It’s that your most committed people will attend worship services less frequently than ever in 2015. [Emphasis added.]

“What does this mean? Simply that people who use[d] to attend 4 times a month may only attend 3 times a month. Members who used to come twice a month will only come once a month.”

Why are so many Christians choosing to spend less time with a community of believers on Sunday? Mancini suggests that there are many causes, but he specifically cites three:

  • Increased involvement in kids activities: parents eschew church to let their kids participate in club sports
  • More travel for work: more business “road-warrioring” means less time for church
  • Online church: people stay home and watch church on their tablets, Apple TVs, and phones

That doesn’t mean pastors and local churches should just go down without a fight. In particular, Mancini thinks this trend actually presents us with opportunities—if we know how to make an impact. He gives three pointers:

1. Add value not venues.

Instead of just adding more and more activities, find ways to beef up the value of what’s already there. Work with existing small groups to provide better training, for example.

2. Think training over teaching.

Your congregation can get inspirational teaching on the Internet. In fact, online churches often have better follow-up than some small congregations. What they can’t get is solid training that helps them grow in their faith on a personal level.

3. Design for ministry ends not means.

We have lots of programs, but not nearly enough discipleship. Doing more as a church doesn’t necessarily mean that people are growing. The trend toward less attendance may have much to do with us missing the point of what church is supposed to be about: helping people follow Jesus better.

On a recent post on ChurchPastor.com, Pastor Erik Raymond provided 3 keys for church survival that hit on the same notes as Mancini’s article:

“Jesus gave the command that ought to characterize everything the church does. This is her mission. Everything the church does is to promote people coming to know Christ and grow in him. As a result, the church must be intentionally involved in evangelism. This involves the church at large and the individuals within the church. The mood of the church needs to be evangelistic.“The church also must be a training church. People need to grow in their understanding and application of biblical truth. This comes in many shapes and sizes from preaching to classes to community (fellowship); but it must be there.”

Now, it’s your turn. Do you attend less frequently now days than you used to? If so, what made you stop going as much? Are you seeing less involvement? How has your church overcome this?

Here are just five measures of American religion reported annually by Gallup that each show the same thing: religion in America is on the decline.

One of the most important measures is the rise of the so-called “nones.” This is the growing segment of Americans you say “none” when asked what their religion is. Two decades ago, only one-in-twenty Americans said they weren’t part of any religion. Today, it is at least three times that level, with the “nones” becoming one of the largest religious groups in the country.

GallupAttendance

It’s tough to get Americans to accurately report whether or not they attend church. Regardless, even a measure that may over-report attendance is showing a decline. This graph shows the percentage who report attending more often then “seldom” or “never” (so, once a month or more). The average has moved from the low-60 percentages to nearly 50 percent (a twenty percent drop).

GallupMembershipupdate

Both the decline in people identifying with religion and attendance is related to membership. Even people who never attend church may be a member of a religious community. Twenty years ago, seven-in-ten Americans said they were members of a church or other religious group. Today, it’s less than six-in-ten.

GallupImportance

Ok, so maybe it’s not a decline of religion per se but a decline in “organized religion.” Gallup and other pollsters get around this by asking about how important religion is people’s lives.  As with the other measures, this measure of religion is moving downward. It, too, has dropped about ten points since the early 1990s.

GallupRelevance

How about this measure: is religion relevant for today’s problems or is it out of date?  The percentage of people who think religion is relevant for today is down from 80 percent to 70 percent.

GallupAverage

There are more sophisticated ways of combining these measures, but here is combination that puts them into one graph. This is simply the average of all the measures for each year.  In the early 1990s, this average was hovering around 78 percent. From 2000 onward, the measures have been in decline, reaching 69 percent last year.

~PTCS: Has The Church Cause You Discomfort?~

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ephesians_4_14_people_in_their_deceitful_scheming_powerpoint_church_sermon_Slide01

Do you or have you experienced discomfort at your place of worship? Has someone bruised you or denied you an opportunity to use your talents and gifts within the ministry? There are so many ways to take offence with the leadership or fellowship of a church. In my quest to be better equipped to minister and be an epistle to the world and the church I sincerely study the word of God and read relevant articles to increase my awareness of the “Bait of Satan”.Offence is his number one weapon to create discord. Although there is a spirit that tries to even use our becoming mature to his devices within a particular vessel against us that is practicing  denial or transference to deceive the elect.

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome- have you heard of it? I hadn’t, until I read Reba Riley’s post on Patheos describing her own struggle and eventual self-diagnosis of this spiritual condition. What is PTCS?

According to Reba, PTCS is “a severe, negative — almost allergic — reaction to inflexible doctrine, outright abuse of spiritual power, dogma and (often) praise bands and preachers.” She lists both emotional and physical symptoms, such as withdrawal from all things religious, failure to believe in anything, depression, anxiety, loss or desire to walk into a place of worship. Physically, sufferers of PTCS may have sweats, nausea, heart palpitations—as she notes, “the symptoms are as varied as the people who suffer them.”

In her article, Why I Stopped Going to Church, Jennifer Maggio echoes these ideas. She felt judgment from her Christian community after having two children outsidemarriage, and the pain she felt drove her away. She writes:

My excuses were many:

The church is full of hypocrites.

I don’t fit in. There’s no one else like me.

I have a close relationship with God and don’t need church.

I study the Bible on my own at home.

The church will judge me.

The longer I stayed away from church, the easier it was for me to continue to do so. And the truth is, my journey back into God’s house was a long, hard one. It was only after examining my life at a very dark and lonely time that I made the decision to return. Even then, the urge to withdraw was strong.”

Eventually, Jennifer did make her way back to the Church and now has a thriving ministry for single mothers.

So, what should you do if you think you suffer from PTCS? I appreciate Thabiti Anyabwile’s thoughts in his article, Should We Stop Saying, ‘The Church Hurt Me’? He counsels those who have been hurt in the church to remember that it is sinful, flawed people who have hurt them, and to not give up on God and his plan for the Church. He writes, “Do realize that not every church hurt you and people are not “all the same.” Find a local church you can join. Start slow if you need to. But let the Lord’s manifold grace come to you in the fellowship of His people. That’s normally how He comforts us in our trouble and pain (2 Cor. 1:3-5).”

Reba Riley is hoping that the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: the primary text used by doctors to diagnose psychological conditions) will officially pick up her idea and recognize it in the latest addition. Do you think PTCS should be a recognized disorder? Lets have a conversation about it…….

Are riches deceitful? Mammon rules the world and unfortunately, much of the church. The word ‘mammon’ refers to wealth and riches — but the word is rooted in deceitful self-reliance and on the unredeemed soulish accomplishments that leads to a false or man-made reputation (idolatry).

When Jesus told the disciples not to serve God and Mammon (Mat. 6:24), He was not telling them to be poor, but rather, instructing them to not place their trust or allegiance in mammon (self reliance and self accomplishments can be deceitful). God opposes you when you TRUST in money as your SOURCE or objective of life.

“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth (mammon), who will entrust the true riches to you? (Lk. 16:11). Those NOT faithful in unrighteous wealth (mammon) will not be entrusted by God to use righteous wealth!

~Best Practices Pursued In Private are Good For Public Change~

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I never imagined my struggles as an ex-offender would one day be used as a way to adopt Best Practices in the calling of offering re-entry services to a disenfranchised populous of individuals. I never imagined I would be before a room of professionals speaking on this topic. If God could use anything, let it be me is my prayer this afternoon.

The adoption of these five elements will increase the chances of successful inmate reentry:

• Standardized Objective Assessment,

•  Appropriate Classification

• Programming,

• Community Service

• Research

Research on Reentry and Correctional Programming Based on literature reviews of reentry research and correctional programming the key components of effective reentry initiatives include the following components: Standardized Assessment. Research indicates that standardized assessment can help with the referral of inmates to appropriate programming (Serin 2005). Assessments that identify inmates’ needs help administrators understand which types of programs to offer inmates and therefore promote the chances of more successful reentry to the community.

Work Release/Job Training. Several studies have looked at the benefits of work release and job training for inmates. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that job training, vocational education programs, and work release produce modest but statistically significant reductions in recidivism (Aos, Miller, and Drake 2006).1 In a descriptive study of reentry participants in Baltimore, Visher, LaVigne and Travis (2004) of The Urban Institute cite how inmates who took part in work-release jobs, received job training, and worked as a condition of supervision are more likely to have a job post release. Educational Programming. Research shows that educational programming has demonstrated lasting positive effects on inmates. Research finds if classes improve inmates reading and language skills, they are less likely to be rearrested after release (Piehl 2002). A report by the Reentry Policy Council recommends that correctional facilities teach basic skills and literacy to inmates who are cognitively capable of learning. The Council states that it should be a goal to enable most inmates to read at a minimum of an eighth grade level, and correctional facilities should make GED programs available to interested inmates (Reentry Policy Council 2006). The Washington State Institute for Public Policy states that inmates involved in education programs have reduced rates of recidivism (Aos, et al. 2006). 

Community Component. The Reentry Policy Council advocates that correctional staff allow for and encourage inmates to participate in community service. Community service that helps inmates build or improve productive skills is ideal (Reentry Policy Council 2006). Continuity of Programming Pre- and Post-Release. Research points to the important link between programs offered during incarceration and follow-up programs recommended for inmates after release. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) article, initial studies of The Delaware Key/Crest Program3 state that the link between therapeutic programs during incarceration and follow-up programs in the community may be the most important piece of that program (Mathias 1995). In an article on correctional treatment where the principles of correctional programs are discussed, Gaes, Flanagan, Motiuk, and Stewart (1999) talk about the importance good coordination between correctional programs and aftercare programs. Researcher Involvement. As part of their guiding principles of effective correctional programming, Gaes, et al. (1999) highlight researcher involvement with program development and implementation. Researchers can play a valuable role at translating national best practices for the specific reentry needs of a local jurisdiction

Key Principles of Correctional Programs A literature review of research articles identified principles of effective programs. Based on a review of research articles, Gaes, et al. identified eight key principles of correctional programs. The following is a brief summary of those principles. 1. Criminogenic Needs. Programs should address such things as pro-criminal attitudes, pro-criminal associates, impulsivity, weak socialization, below average verbal intelligence, risk seeking, weak problem solving and self control skills, early onset of antisocial behavior, poor parental practices, and deficits in educational, vocational, and employment skills. 2. Multimodal Programs. Ideally, programs should treat all the criminogenic deficits of an inmate. Inmates often have multiple deficits and therefore are at an increased risk of recidivism. Addressing only one or two deficits for inmates with many deficits reduces a program’s effectiveness. 3. Responsivity. Program administrators should consider the learning styles of inmates and match those with the teaching styles of the staff. 4. Risk Differentiation. Programs should target the higher-risk inmates, who have the most criminogenic needs because they are more likely to benefit from programs than lowerrisk inmates. 5. Skills Oriented and Cognitive-Behavioral Treatments. Programs should teach social learning principles and skills that help individuals resist anti-social behavior. 6. Implementation and Continuity of Care. There should be coordination between correctional programs and aftercare programs. Programs that started in a correctional facility will be more effective if they are continued after release. 7. Dosage. Although there is limited research that specifically addresses the issue of dosage (i.e., exactly how much programming is the right amount of programming), it is generally agreed that programs should be of sufficient duration. 8. Researcher Involvement. When researchers are involved in program development, implementation, and evaluation, programs have been found to be more effective. Examples of how researchers can be beneficial include designing programs that are based in best practices, enhancing the integrity of implementation, tracking progress to help make mid-course corrections, and evaluating whether the programming is working as intended. Targeting dynamic risk factors should be the focus of programming that attempts to follow best practices.

~Education For Liberation of Black America~

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Now’s the Time for a National Black Education Agenda

Sisters and Brothers in Education,

We all know the dire state of Black Education in every sector: preK-16, public and private. We all may not agree on how we got into this state of education emergency. We all, therefore, not agree on how we can stop this downward spiral. But we all can agree that we gotta do something NOW!

I suggest that we have an opportunity to start on that hard, bumpy spiraling road to victory with a set of unprecedented historical convergences: Obama becoming president of the US, the economic crisis, the environmental crisis and the national educational team assembled under Sister Prof. Linda Darling Hammond.

Obama’s presidency has inspired millions of Blackfolk to come out of a decades long political slumber. Among these millions are millions of young Blacks 35 and under who are directly or indirectly inspired to see themselves in a more positive light. It may not be an immediate effect, but positive effect it will be. Hence, over the next few years, there will be great opportunities to recruit more Black men and women into the education field.

The economic and environmental crises are hiliting the need for the US to take bold economic steps in the field of public works on rebuilding the US infrastructure and new forms of producing energy. The fallout from the US auto industry will also bring new industry- but not as labor intensive as auto production. President-elect Obama has proposed a 2.5 million jobs producing economic stimultant that will require thousands of educators in all education levels.

In order for us Blackfolk not to repeat history and continue to be on the edges of major social and educational reform, we a need to put together a bold vision of we can be at the very center- and, at times, its leadership -of the educational developments needed to support this economic and environmental challenge.

It is in this context that I offer an outline for us to discuss and build upon to present to our Good Sister Prof Linda Darling Hammond and her transition team. She knows, like you and I, there are many great Black minds out here who have thought thru and implemented brilliant educational policies. I think in this historical moment (and that’s all we have- a moment) we can find a way to maximally tap into those great Black minds and deliver a proposal from national united body of Black Educators to her transition team who would have no option but to incorporate all or major parts of our proposal into the nation’s challenge to make education relevant to reversing the economic and environmental crises and to bring antiracist reform directly into US education policy.

What we should present to Prof. Linda Darling Hammond (and I’m sure you have many other proposals!);

•  Repeal the NCLB Act

•  Education is a Human Right. Have US policy abide by the International Declaration of Human Rights mandates around education

<http://nesri.org/fact_sheets_pubs/Right%20to%20Education.pdf&gt;

•  Create an African American Education Commission/Dept/Working Group that would create and oversee policy relevant to the education goals and needs of people of African Descent in the US. It would be a distinguished group of scholars, education activists, students, public school teachers and administrators. This would be a permanent and fully funded group within the US Dept of Education (Obviously, this implies a Latino/Asian/Native American groupings as well- even tho Native Americans already have theirs)

•  Mandate the teaching of Black History/Latino History a central curriculum core from PreK to 16

•  Create a Black History/Latino History Teacher Training & Curriculum Development Department that links to Education schools (public and private)

•  Institutionalize and fully fund the Urban Teacher Residency Effort over the woefully inadequate and racist Teacher for America program

•  Create a national Urban Science & Technology Department that:

(a) institutionalizes the recruitment and retention of Blacks/Latinos from preK to 16 to join the teaching and/or industry sectors of science and technology

(b) brings skilled science and technology jobs and training to the Black and Latino neighborhoods

•  Fully support the HCBUs with more federal funding and policies that guarantee their continued existence

•  Guarantee that our HBCUs get First Call on all of the above efforts by having them represented at all levels of the National Program (the “Devil’s in the Details” here)

Like I said, there are obviously a lot more national proposals we can and should add on. And there are a lot of complex details that need to be worked out. We have the Black Talent to do this. I am suggesting that we submit to Prof. Darling Hammond a proposal that has the necessary skeleton to be fleshed out within the US Dept of Education.

Our time is very short. We need to submit our proposal while the Transition Team is still working. This means we have about two or three weeks of deliberation to do among ourselves. Then, by the first week in January, have it in the hands of Prof. Darling Hammond with signatures of all those individuals and organizations who support this proposal.

No matter who is the next Secretary of Education, we need this proposal. Even more, OUR Children need to know that we progressive Black Educators came together, discussed, argued, united and created a powerful National Black Education Mandate for the First Black President.

http://www.bnyee.org/blackhistorymaterials.htm

White House Initiatives

A number of committees and other groups assist and advise the U.S. Department of Education in carrying out its mission. Comprised of individuals who are knowledgeable of education in elementary and secondary schools or postsecondary and adult education institutions, these groups provide valuable guidance to the Department on policy and program issues. The President appoints Commissions to advise him on matters of national importance, including education. Additionally, the Secretary of Education establishes Commissions that advise both the President and the Department of Education.

Center Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

White House initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education

In 1972, the Federal Advisory Committee Act (Public Law 92-463, 5 U.S.C., App) was enacted by Congress. Its purpose was to ensure that advice rendered to the Executive Branch by the various advisory committees, task forces, boards, and commissions formed over the years by Congress, the President and Government Agencies, be both objective and accessible to the public. The Act not only formalized a process for establishing, operating, overseeing, and terminating these advisory groups, but also created the Committee Management Secretariat (MS), an organization located within the General Services Administration (GSA) whose task is to evaluate and monitor Executive Branch compliance with the Act.

For detailed information on budget, charter, members, accomplishments, meetings, and reports on all government advisory committees, go to the GSA FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act) Database

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~N-Word~

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The n-word is unique in the English language. On one hand, it is the ultimate insult- a word that has tormented generations of African Americans. Yet over time, it has become a popular term of endearment by the descendents of the very people who once had to endure it. Among many young people today—black and white—the n-word can mean friend.

Neal A. Lester, dean of humanities and former chair of the English department at Arizona State University, recognized that the complexity of the n-word’s evolution demanded greater critical attention. In 2008, he taught the first ever college-level class designed to explore the word “nigger” (which will be referred to as the n-word). Lester said the subject fascinated him precisely because he didn’t understand its layered complexities.


©Jason Millstein

“When I first started talking about the idea of the course,” Lester recalled, “I had people saying, ‘This is really exciting, but what would you do in the course? How can you have a course about a word?’ It was clear to me that the course, both in its conception and in how it unfolded, was much bigger than a word. It starts with a word, but it becomes about other ideas and realities that go beyond words.”

Lester took a few minutes to talk to Teaching Tolerance managing editor Sean Price about what he’s learned and how that can help other educators.

How did the n-word become such a scathing insult?
We know, at least in the history I’ve looked at, that the word started off as just a descriptor, “negro,” with no value attached to it. … We know that as early as the 17th century, “negro” evolved to “nigger” as intentionally derogatory, and it has never been able to shed that baggage since then—even when black people talk about appropriating and reappropriating it. The poison is still there. The word is inextricably linked with violence and brutality on black psyches and derogatory aspersions cast on black bodies. No degree of appropriating can rid it of that bloodsoaked history.

Why is the n-word so popular with many young black kids today?
If you could keep the word within the context of the intimate environment [among friends], then I can see that you could potentially own the word and control it. But you can’t because the word takes on a life of its own if it’s not in that environment. People like to talk about it in terms of public and private uses. Jesse Jackson was one of those who called for a moratorium on using the word, but then was caught using the word with a live mic during a “private” whispered conversation.

There’s no way to know all of its nuances because it’s such a complicated word, a word with a particular racialized American history. But one way of getting at it is to have some critical and historical discussions about it and not pretend that it doesn’t exist. We also cannot pretend that there is not a double standard—that blacks can say it without much social consequence but whites cannot. There’s a double standard about a lot of stuff. There are certain things that I would never say. In my relationship with my wife, who is not African American, I would never imagine her using that word, no matter how angry she was with me. …

That’s what I’m asking people to do—to self-reflect critically on how we all use language and the extent to which language is a reflection of our innermost thoughts. Most people don’t bother to go to that level of self-reflection and self-critique. Ultimately, that’s what the class is about. It’s about selfeducation and self-critique, not trying to control others by telling them what to say or how to think, but rather trying to figure out how we think and how the words we use mirror our thinking. The class sessions often become confessionals because white students often admit details about their intimate social circles I would never be privy to otherwise.

What types of things do they confess?
In their circles of white friends, some are so comfortable with the n-word because they’ve grown up on and been nourished by hip-hop. Much of the commercial hip-hop culture by black males uses the n-word as a staple. White youths, statistically the largest consumers of hip-hop, then feel that they can use the word among themselves with black and white peers. … But then I hear in that same discussion that many of the black youths are indeed offended by [whites using the n-word]. And if blacks and whites are together and a white person uses the word, many blacks are ready to fight. So this word comes laden with these complicated and contradictory emotional responses to it. It’s very confusing to folks on the “outside,” particularly when nobody has really talked about the history of the word in terms of American history, language, performance and identity.

Most public school teachers are white women. How might they hold class discussions about this word? Do you think it would help them to lay some groundwork?
You might want to get somebody from the outside who is African American to be a central part of any discussion— an administrator, a parent, a pastor or other professional with some credibility and authority. Every white teacher out there needs to know some black people. Black people can rarely say they know no white people; it’s a near social impossibility. The NAACP would be a good place to start, but I do not suggest running to the NAACP as a single “authority.” Surely there are black parents of school children or black neighbors a few streets over or black people at neighboring churches. The teacher might begin by admitting, “This is what I want to do, how would you approach this? Or, how do we approach it as a team? How can we build a team of collaboration so that we all accept the responsibility of educating ourselves and our youths about the power of words to heal or to harm?” This effort then becomes something shared as opposed to something that one person allegedly owns.

How might a K-12 teacher go about teaching the n-word?
At the elementary level, I can imagine bringing in children’s picture books to use in conjunction with a segment on the civil rights movement, because students talk about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Look at some of the placards [held by white people at 1960s civil rights] protests and see if some of them have been airbrushed or the messages sanitized. Talk about language, about words and emotion, about words and pain. Consider the role of words in the brutal attacks on black people during slavery, during Jim Crow, during the civil rights movement. Consider how words were part of the attacks on black people.

Depending on how old the students are, a teacher might talk about the violence that involved lynching and castration, and how the n-word was part of the everyday discourse around race relations at the time. Then bring in some hip-hop, depending again on the age. If these are middle school students or high school students, a teacher can talk specifically about hip-hop and how often the n-word is used and in a specific context. … There are many ways that a teacher can talk about the n-word without necessarily focusing on just one aspect—like whether or not Huck should have used the n-word when he references Jim [in Huckleberry Finn]. Any conversation about the n-word has to be about language and thinking more broadly.

What should teachers keep in mind as they teach about the n-word?
Remember the case of the white teacher who told the black student to sit down and said, “Sit down, nigga.” And then the teacher is chastised by the administration and of course there is social disruption. He said, “I didn’t say ‘Sit down, nigger,’ I said ‘Sit down, nigga,’ and that’s what I hear the students saying.” I’m thinking, first, you are an adult, white teacher. Secondly, do you imitate everything that you see and hear others doing or saying? At some level, there has to be some self-critique and critical awareness and sensitivity to difference. Just because someone else is doing it doesn’t mean that I do it even if and when I surely can.

In my courses, I’m more interested in raising questions than in finding answers to them. I think the questions lead to potential self-discovery. It’s not about whether or not a person uses the n-word. I try to move the class beyond easy binaries—“Well, blacks can use it, but whites can’t.” That line of thinking doesn’t take us very far at all. What we are trying to do, at least the way I have conceptualized and practiced this discovery, is so much more. The class strives to teach us all manner of ways to talk about, think about and to understand ourselves, and each other, and why and how we fit in the rest of the world.

~Work That Pays Off In Human Life Restoration: It’s Worth It!!!!~

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MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization based in New York City and Oakland, CA. MDRC mounts large-scale demonstrations and uses randomized controlled trials to measure the effects of social and educational policy initiatives.

Former Prisoners

The driving force behind MDRC is a conviction that reliable evidence, well communicated, can make an important difference in social policy.

People who have spent time in prison often have difficulties finding work and establishing independent lives after their release. MDRC is testing the effectiveness of programs to help former prisoners overcome barriers to employment and reduce their chances of rearrest.

MDRC is committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation — from reducing poverty and bolstering economic self-sufficiency to improving public education and college graduation rates. We design promising new interventions, evaluate existing programs using the highest research standards, and provide technical assistance to build better programs and deliver effective interventions at scale. We work as an intermediary, bringing together public and private funders to test new policy-relevant ideas, and communicate what we learn to policymakers and practitioners — all with the goal of improving the lives of low-income individuals, families, and children.

Today’s blessings are the opportunities we embrace while in hot pursuit of performing ministry and acquiring full alignment with partners and other organizations who are caring about ex-offenders and their families. The many veterans who are displaced and substance abusers are apart of our focus groups as well. We are happy to share with you that Second Chance Alliance is not an all knowing entity, but we are a humble wanting to gain leverage in our approach to effective re-entry solutions in our present community. We are in a work group for the next two weeks called (CHAMPS)

Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees (CHAMPS) Evaluation

Project Overview

With 750,000 people released from prisons each year, there is a pressing need for rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of reentry strategies. Former prisoners face a range of challenges to successful reentry into the community, including low levels of employment and substance abuse problems, all of which impact recidivism rates. Although the prisoner reentry issue has attracted substantial attention and funding in recent years, very little is known about the components of effective reentry programs. It is unknown what in-prison activities are best able to prepare offenders for the return to the community, what works best to stabilize people after they are released, and what long-term efforts are needed to help former prisoners become productive citizens. One avenue for affecting outcomes may be through parole, but little is known about what parole practices are most effective for whom and how additional services aimed at improving offenders’ cognitive and behavioral functioning can complement the work of parole officers.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance, in a collaborative effort with the National Institute of Corrections and the National Institute of Justice, is implementing an innovative parole-based intervention with a well-known cognitive behavioral therapy program as part of a Demonstration Field Experiment on prisoner reentry, known as Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees (CHAMPS).

The National Institute of Justice has selected MDRC and its partner, George Mason University, to conduct a multisite random assignment study to test this reentry model intended to: (1) improve offenders’ motivation to change; (2) address cognitive and behavioral functioning regarding crime-prone thoughts and behaviors; and (3) address core factors that affect offender performance while under community supervision following release from prison.

We are elated to be apart of this training group because it solidifies our platform to be successful model that will be in position to offer a comprehensive focus group of professionals to assist us in our vision objectives at Second Chance Alliance.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The overarching goal of this study is to test the effectiveness of parole supervision strategies and a targeted cognitive behavioral intervention to improve outcomes and reduce recidivism for parolees. The evaluation will use a random assignment research design to measure the impact of the following interventions:

  • The National Institute of Corrections’ Next Generation relationship and desistence model, which is designed to improve the techniques used by parole officers in supervising and interacting with offenders. The model stems from a relationship theory as well as risk-need-responsivity framework where services are recommended to address risk factors that may create problem behaviors for offenders. Selected parole officers will deliver this model after receiving training.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy consisting of Motivational Enhancement Therapy sessions followed by Thinking for a Change sessions. Treatment providers, not parole officers, will deliver this intervention.
PARTNERS
Ralph Serin, Carlton University
Caleb Lloyd, Carlton University
Boosting the Life Chances of Young Men of Color
Despite progress on many fronts, young men of color still face many obstacles to success in American society and suffer disproportionately from economic and social disadvantage. In recent years, foundations and state and local governments have launched major initiatives to address this pressing issue. For example, in 2011, the City of New York created the Young Men’s Initiative, a $42-million annual program, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundation, to invest in the success of the city’s young men of color. In February of this year, the Obama Administration announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a multimillion-dollar push by the government, foundations, and businesses to “build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.”
In light of the momentum building to improve the fortunes of young men of color, Second Chance Alliance is engaged in taking a look at what is known about this population and highlight programs that are shown by rigorous research to be making a difference. Our research will first examine the special challenges and struggles of young men of color in the labor market, including problems related to their disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system and their experiences in the educational system. Young men of color have become increasingly disconnected from the positive systems, institutions, and pathways designed to help people achieve success — high school diplomas, enrollment in and completion of postsecondary education or training, and ultimately career ladders leading to well-paying jobs. Given these facts, the natural next question is: What can be done? Does this group of young men constitute, as some have labeled them, a “lost generation”?2 Or are there interventions that can provide real hope and real results? Is there, in fact, a way to move away from deficit-focused characterizations of young men of color to ones that recognize and build on their resilience and strengths?3 Policy interest in assisting young men of color has waxed and waned over the years, and not enough has been learned from past efforts to build better policies and programs. For instance, in the late 1970s, the Department of Labor funded the Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects (YIEPP), which guaranteed part-time and summer jobs to all young people in particular neighborhoods or cities as long as they stayed in or returned to school. The results were very encouraging: YIEPP virtually erased the large gap in unemployment rates between white and black youth.4 But the program was cut short in the early 1980s, when policy interest in this topic receded, and there was little follow-up. It is hoped that current efforts to improve outcomes for young men of color will include a robust documentation and learning agenda to ensure that the knowledge base of successful strategies grows larger. This stands the reason of our attempts to forge alliances and gain knowledge from all who are in this field of study so we can formulate best practices into information and models for our “YOUTHS”.
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~ Beware of the Spirit of Complacency~

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“Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is rejection of things as they might be. ‘Good enough’ becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new. Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course — downhill. They draw false strength from looking back.”

The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.

Benjamin E. Mays

Sometimes Christians entertain very foolish and dangerous thoughts such as;

Don’t get too concerned, keep things as they are, let someone else take care of it, set back, relax, and see what is going on. After all God will work things for us, or don’t get to involved if you can avoid it. When life is good, easy, and comfortable. God becomes a God of last resort.

When we are in need, we usually take God more seriously. But when we are comfortable, and at ease, and prosperous, it is easier to become complacent about God and his kingdom.Satan is more than willing to keep us complacent, to keep us lazy.

An ancient story recalls how Satan once summoned his top three aides to plan how to stop a group of dedicated Christians from effective missionary work.

One of the lieutenants, Rancor, said to Satan, “We should convince them that there is no God.” Satan sneered at Rancor and replied, “That would never work. They know that there is a God.”

Another of Satan’s aides, Bitterness, spoke up. “We’ll convince them that God does not really care about right or wrong.” Satan toyed with the notion for a few moments, but rejected it because he knew that too many Christians know that God does care.

Malice, the third satanic helper, came up with his idea. “We’ll let them go on thinking that there is a God and that He cares about right and wrong. But we will keep whispering that there is no hurry, there is no hurry.”

Satan howled with glee. He advanced Malice higher in his malevolent organization. Satan knew that he would find this stratagem successful with many, many Christians.

Zeph 1:12-13 NKJV
12 And it shall come to pass at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
And punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart, ’The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.’Zeph 1:12 NASU
12 “It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ’The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Zeph 1:12 TLB
12 “I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to find and punish those who sit contented in their sins, indifferent to God, thinking he will let them alone.

Prayer:
A “stagnant, indifferent, complacent Christian” is an abomination to Christ. He calls upon the God for a self-righteous satisfaction. He calls upon God for blessings, and in times of trouble. But he has no intention of making Jesus the lord of his life, the purpose of his life, his way of life.

Our Lord said He would rather a man be cold, utterly without profession to be Christian, rather than medium, lukewarm, “moderate.”

* Remember that “average” is simply the best of the poorest and the poorest of the best.

Being settled in complacency leaves us weak for Satan’s evil, immoral attacks

A parable told by a Haitian pastor to illustrate to his congregation the need for total commitment to Christ.

A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn’t afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So first the owner went out found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor’s conclusion: “If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ’s habitation.”

Complacency is that Peg!

Dale A Hays, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 2.

WHEN WE HAVE SETTLED INTO COMPLACENCY, IT BECOMES A CANCER THAT NOT ONLY WEAKENS BUT DESTROYS IN TIME

1. Lowers your determination

Judg 16:16-17 (NLT) day after day she nagged him until . . . Samson told her his secret.

Samson had become so complacent about his God-given responsibility as a leader that he gave in and told Delilah the secret to his strength. He thought it wouldn’t matter; he thought everything would still be just fine. Samson’s complacency was a sin, because he disobeyed God’s command not to let his hair be shaved, and he let down his entire nation.

2. Lowers Gods standards

1 Kings 11:1-4 (NLT) Now King Solomon loved many foreign women . . . The LORD had clearly instructed his people not to intermarry with those nations . . . Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway . . . And sure enough, they led his heart away from the LORD . . .

Solomon’s complacency toward God and God’s commands led him into sin and its devastating consequences.

3. Lowers your morals, and behavior

2 Sam 11:2-5 NKJV 2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”

David’s complacency toward him to sin, caused him to tolerate the very thing he ounce knew better to do.

4. Lowers are level of personal expectation

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, told a story about a goose who was wounded and who landed in a barnyard with some chickens. He played with the chickens and ate with the chickens. After a while that goose thought he was a chicken.

One day a flight of geese came over, migrating to their home. They gave a honk up there in the sky, and he heard it. Kierkegaard said, “Something stirred within the breast of this goose. Something called him to the skies. He began to flap the wings he hadn’t used, and he rose a few feet into the air. Then he stopped, and he settled back again into the mud of the barnyard. He heard the cry, but he settled for less.”

5. Lowers our thinking; no responsibility, that it will be O.K.

Zeph 1:12-13 NKJV

12 And it shall come to pass at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
And punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart,
’The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.

6. Lowers our relationship with God

Rev 3:15-17 (NLT) I know all the things you do; that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Hell is the result

7. Lowers our spiritual power in life

Complacency is robbing God, and his church of many energetic and consecrated, sanctified servants.

What causes us to grow complacent?

1. When the danger is past, we often forget the God who helped us.

Hos 13:5-6 (NLT) I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. But when you had eaten and were satisfied, then you became proud and forgot me.

2. Not only forgetting the past, but forgetting God’s warning.

A warning not to forget Deut. 6:10-13 NKJV

10 “So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant–when you have eaten and are full– 12 then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

3. We don’t like to move out of our comfort zone

4. We are self sufficient

Wise is the person who remembers God daily in times of both need and prosperity

Overcome complacency with a complete surrender, with praise and thanksgiving, and humility

Understand the importance the scripture play in you life:

1 Thes. 5:18 KJV

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1. In giving thanks to God we receive us an understanding our own identity, and responsibilities.

2. In giving thanks to God we gain a greater incentive to live our lives in holiness and consecration, and sanctification.

3. In giving thanks to God we grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God and His purposes.

4. In giving thanks to God we gain a greater glimpse of God’s will, way and word.

5. In giving thanks to God we gain a greater maturity in all the dimensions of life

A well driller found water at 95 feet but insisted he ought to drill deeper because there was not enough water. He found water again at 120 feet. He was not satisfied and wanted to drill deeper. There was plenty of water at 120 feet, but it was not pure enough. He drilled deeper still until he found water that was both abundant and pure. Are our lives too shallow?

Have you settled for just enough to get by on?

* The mature believer is a searching believer.

* Maturity is pressing toward the mark; and seeking Gods will, where as immaturity is complacency and self-satisfaction.

* Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself

A vessel that grows as it is filled will never be full. If a bin able to hold a cartload grew while you were dumping your load in it, you could never fill it. The soul is like that: the more it wants, the more it is given; the more it receives, the more it grows.

To overcome complacency read 2 Chron 7:14: (NIV)

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Come let us Pray up, reach up, and wise up, so God can build us up!