Month: May 2014
Remember, no human condition is ever permanent. Then you will not be overjoyed in good fortune nor too scornful in misfortune.
If one hundred people thought about the good this cause is meant to perform and gave $ 10.00 we would at least be able to get all the paperwork done like 501C3 and C5 done and file for grants to pursue all the other needs to get this program in place for those who need it. We want to thank those that contributed in a huge way already, but our time is ticking. Please click the insignia to view our cause.
Helping the less fortunate in your community by giving them opportunities to provide for themselves is a form of philanthropy, the Greek word for love of mankind. Choose a service you want to offer to those in need. Food services help the needy enjoy a meal while a homeless shelter provides them with a place to rest while in transition. Sell used clothes and household items at a fraction of the cost of new ones. Opening a business that helps the less fortunate may not bring in much profit, but it may inspire other acts of philanthropy.
We are all born receptive to love, kindness and hope. As we grow up, we encounter the less hopeful, more challenging aspects of being human, including discovering that the things humans do at times can be hateful, calculating and unkind. Although this can turn us cynical or leave us feeling helpless, human beings are just as capable of the most incredible, amazing and wonderful kindness and love. And beyond the heroic and fearless acts that occasionally hit the headlines, it is really the everyday, often overlooked actions of deep kindness and caring that restore our faith in humanity––everyday kindnesses like caring words, a reassuring hug, a helping hand-up in times of trouble and the unquestioning acceptance of our worth by a complete stranger. If you’re feeling a little jaded about where humanity is headed, here are some active ways to restore your faith.
Spend time helping people less fortunate than you. A reality check can come in the form of looking at people who are experiencing things 10 times or 100 times worse than you are and yet manage to meet each day with passion and positivity, believing that being alive is its own reward. Rather than simply reading about such people, get involved through volunteering so that you can see face-to-face the hardships experienced by others. For example, you might consider volunteering at a hospice, a hospital for children with terminal diseases or in a disaster relief community where people have lost homes and livelihoods. However bad things may seem for you, seeing the pluck and determination of those undergoing severe hardships can help you to realize that human beings really are amazing, resilient and deeply profound. It can also help you to balance your own woes and keep them in perspective.
Ask people to tell you about the happiest moments in their life. How often do you ask people to recall the happy memories and what makes them happy now? People love talking about what they care about, what motivates them and what makes them happy and yet, it’s not always an obvious topic for general conversation. It’s really important to provide the space for people to open up about their happy moments––it helps them to articulate in front of an audience what matters most to them (and may thereby inspire them even further) and it will help you to see the lighter, brighter and happier side of the people in your life.
Read public gratitude journals available online (simply search for “online gratitude journals”). Reading about how other people find gratitude in everyday things can inspire you to feel more hopeful generally and to see that many, many people genuinely care for the beauty and awe of this world and its beings.
Changes in sentencing laws over the last 25 years have led to an era of mass incarceration with the prison population of the United States quadrupling since the early 1970s. In addition to America’s shift in sentencing policy, political and social forces in this country have led to a reduction in both prison rehabilitation and parole programs. As a result, more prisoners are completing full sentences while in prison, and being released with little or no legal supervision on the outside.
As Jeremy Travis states in But They All Come Back, the reality of mass incarceration has translated into a reality of reentry.
Because there are record numbers of inmates who are being released with minimal to no preparation behind bars or support services in their communities, criminal justice experts, academicians, policy makers, and practitioners have once again turned their focus to prisoners returning to society, or what has become known as prisoner reentry.
Prisoner reentry has become a lens through which to view the numerous issues related to the process of a prisoner’s release from incarceration and his or her reintegration into communities and society at large. It seeks to encourage the coordination of programs, services, and human resources–both inside and outside prison walls–in order to ensure the successful assimilation of prisoners into new lives, roles, jobs, families and communities.
The literature on prisoner reentry is considerable. Anyone looking into the subject of reentry might consider the wide array of issues subsumed under the prisoner reentry umbrella—probation, parole, prisoner deinstitutionalization, restorative justice, recidivism, crime victims’ rights, public safety, health, substance abuse, family violence, mental illness, housing, employment and economics. Questions of race, gender, and/or age are also of interest. Employ these words and/or phrases as key words in developing a successful research strategy for locating books in CUNY+ and/or journal articles in the periodical databases listed below. Reentry is sometimes spelled with a hyphen as “re-entry.” You may want to use both spellings.
These days many governors face a conundrum that is taxing their cost-cutting creativity. State revenues are climbing steadily, but the top line growth is eclipsed by soaring Medicaid outlays, surging retirement obligations, declining state pension fund assets and, in some states, court-mandated increases in public school funding. The pressure is so acute that state officials are now thinking the previously unthinkable — releasing inmates early to trim their prison and jail population.
The war on crime launched two decades ago spawned a wave of tougher sentencing laws. This in turn triggered a steep surge in expenditures on prisons to accommodate the influx of offenders, even including nonviolent drug offenders and recidivists snared for minor crimes by the likes of California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law. As a result, the nation’s prisons are overflowing with nonviolent felons who languish behind bars many years longer than are necessary to see the error of their ways and pay their debt to society. And state expenditures on corrections have climbed by 24 percent alone in the past five years.
Excessive incarceration saddles taxpayers and government with housing, feeding and guarding prisoners well beyond the point when there’s any point at all. Once they’ve done their time, many inmates emerge from incarceration bereft of jobs, housing, money and hope. This marks them from the outset as prime candidates for recidivism. Ironically, the pressure to curb corrections expenditures has spurred state and federal officials to embrace prisoner re-entry programs, such as family assistance, housing aid, mental health services, education services and, of course, job training.
These welcome initiatives beg the question, though, of whether ex-offenders actually will be able to land jobs. To be realistic, they rarely leap to the head of the applicant queue in the eyes of employers. When the labor market is very tight, some venturesome employers take a chance on ex-inmates as a last resort. But they’re the laudable exception, seldom the rule.
The travails of ex-offenders trying to find jobs ricochet all over society. They’re in a miserable position upon release to support themselves and fulfill any child support obligations. Unable to secure jobs, they cannot burnish their credentials as trustworthy workers. Idle except for the shadowy underground economy, many eventually revert to criminality because there’s little where else for them to fit.
A soundly conceived transitional jobs program could help steer motivated ex-offenders down a constructive path and better position them to persuade employers that they’re a safe bet. But where on earth, would the money to finance it come from?
The answer may lie right under government’s nose, namely in the massive appropriations for the corrections system. The wages and supervisory costs for a minimum wage public service job total considerably less than the per inmate cost of incarceration. Voila! Releasing carefully screened inmates several years early to participate in a well-run transitional employment program could get them back on track and plow savings back to the government in the bargain. The program we are aiming to open will do this. I know there are several programs in effect and operating, but I feel the need to have one that tailors to the screened ex-offender and then start re-education and vocational training in prison. We want to have partners in certain industry to hire a certificated skill worker. We will house this candidate for six months all the while we will work on life skills and other skills needed to cope with being back into the mainstream of life. We are serious about this passion because we are the very people we want to help.
Who would they work for? I envision the corrections department contracting with other government agencies, like the highway, public works and environmental protection departments, and with reputable nonprofit groups that can provide credible training and supervision.
What kind of work would they do? To minimize static from unions understandably protective of their jobs, the ex-offenders could perform tasks that government clearly cannot afford, as evidenced by the fact that the work goes undone for years on end. Clearing, grooming and maintaining unsightly mass transit rights of way, viaducts and waterfronts are visible examples of unattended public work. The higher profile the assignments, the more taxpayers will value the debt to society being paid by the ex-offenders via their work and see the payoff from early release employment programs.
Our vision within our scope of outreach is to gravitate the young adults as well as the ex-offenders already in the system of corrections. Click the GofundMe insignia to view our passion. It will come to pass though it tarries…
- Relational. Effective ministry with adolescents was built on relationships. The central place of the Emmaus story in A Vision of Youth Ministry demonstrated the primacy of relationships and of discovering God within those relationships.
- Goal-centered. In articulating two primary goals for ministry, A Vision of Youth Ministry gave specific direction while encouraging leaders in local communities to create a variety of ways to reach their goals. There was no longer one way to minister to adolescents.
- Multidimensional. An effective ministry incorporated eight components with their program activities so that the needs of all the young people could be addressed and the resources of the community could be wisely used. This multidimensional approach was a needed response to social-only, athletics-only or religious education-only youth programming.
- Holistic and developmental. A Vision of Youth Ministry proposed an approach that attended to a wide spectrum of adolescent needs and that was attuned to the distinct developmental, social, cultural, and religious needs of adolescents.
- People-centered and needs-focused. A Vision of Youth Ministry focused on young people. It encouraged an approach designed to address the particular needs of young people in their communities. A Vision of Youth Ministry did not recommend program models or specific activities, recognizing that the day had passed when one program structure could respond to all the needs of youth.
e, Sr., has a tremendous passion for God’s WORD coupled with agape love for all God’s people. He has a contagious spirit of generosity that flows through every facet of his ministry.
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.
The emerging consensus of research shows a growing percentage of young adults are not connected with any religion, although many younger Americans express an interest in spirituality. This reality raises concern about young adult participation in religious communities.
What is the involvement of young adults in local congregations of all faiths across the United States? And how are faith communities with significant proportion of young adults distinctive?
For these resources, a congregation is considered to have significant young adult participation if 21% or more of its participants were 18 to 34 years of age. Across all faiths, a total of only 16% of all congregations were in this category.
The resources below explore patterns and practices of churches and other congregations with significant young adult involvement.
A narrative review of current literature on the topic of young adult participation (PDF). This review was authored by LiErin Probasco, a PhD candidate in sociology at Princeton University. She has been involved in young adult ministry and taught the subject at seminaries in Virginia and New England. She is currently engaged in community research in East Palo Alto, California.
And finally, ten case studies of churches and other faith communities with significant young adult involvement. These cases were chosen to capture to diversity of American religious congregations today. They vary in size from a group as small as 50 to a megachurch and are from multiple faith traditions. In each case the case study involved one or more on-site visits with the local group and interviews with key leaders and some of the young adult participants, as well as gleaning information from working documents and Web sites.
A few years ago, one of us (Ken) was part of an ongoing study group with a profoundly ecumenical mix of clergy.
Ranging in age from the late 20s to the early 60s, the members were from the United States, Canada and Ireland and represented a variety of faith traditions: Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Jewish, United Methodist and Presbyterian.
As Ken and his colleagues reflected on their experiences leading people of faith, they came to an unexpected epiphany: none of their congregations placed much value on ministries with youth.
The large Roman Catholic parish always assigned youth ministry to the newest priest. Two of the mainline congregations hired staff from other denominations to lead their youth groups. And a couple of the other churches had simply abandoned the field to parachurch organizations.
That conversation opened Ken’s eyes. He realized for the first time that mainline churches in the United States have essentially outsourced ministries with youth.
The reasons for this development are varied. Youth are rarely in positions of power in local churches and often have no strong advocate on church governing boards. Clergy who have studied and trained in theological schools often prefer to preach and teach among adults — the typical and most rewarded career path in ministry. And given the very nature of adolescence — a sometimes chaotic and messy season in life — youth ministry is inherently challenging work.
As a result, many congregations have all but walked away from the field, allocating minimal resources to youth programs and hiring people with little theological training to lead them.
To borrow from the work of Clayton Christensen, this is a classic “bottom of the market” scenario in which disruptive innovation occurs. As Christensen might argue, overlooked youth ministries operating out on the margins — just like small steel mills making low-grade rebar — do not remain marginal. Youth ministers mature and develop; the most effective ones are not content simply to lead small groups in abandoned church basements.
While mainline churches were looking the other way, many youth ministries transitioned from small groups to larger gatherings with sophisticated music and technology to entire alternative worship services. It is not an accident that many of the most effective and visible megachurch pastors in the United States (Adam Hamilton and Bill Hybels among them) began as youth ministers. At the same time, many parachurch organizations such as Young Life discovered new ways to engage youth directly, bypassing congregations and connecting their ministries to high schools and other contexts.
And so, in the same way that Toyota entered the American auto market with the low-end Corona (which eventually morphed into the Land Cruiser and the entire Lexus line of luxury cars), marginalized youth ministries became laboratories for innovation. And like 1970s-era General Motors, mainline Protestant denominations largely ignored them. Like GM, we stayed too long with established models even as they declined in numbers and quality.
Meanwhile, new laboratories in congregations and parachurch organizations flourished, offering young people significant opportunities to experience Christ. Over the years, as mainline Protestants settled for weaker forms of youth ministry, many of these laboratories became their own vibrant institutions — with real consequences for mainline Protestants.
As a result of our neglect of youth ministries, mainline Protestants have lost young people who might otherwise have grown up to become adult leaders in our congregations. Even more important, we have also lost an untold number of gifted young people who might have considered a call to ordained ministry.
Fortunately, Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation also tells us that solutions are possible. Hand-wringing despair is not mainline Protestants’ only option. Rather, we can learn from the best insights of these laboratories and develop our own skunk-works experiments.
Duke Divinity School has already developed one such experiment, the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation, which has had a profound impact on many of its participants — not only the teenagers who attend the academy every summer but also Divinity School faculty and alumni. Many other seminaries have developed similar academies, most with the visionary support of Lilly Endowment Inc. And some mainline congregations are investing more resources and talent in ministries with young people.
At the same time, we need to remember that the growth of youth ministry laboratories has not been an unequivocal success. Clearly, youth ministries still have room for improvement — much of which the mainline is uniquely positioned to achieve. The lack of theological education among those who serve and lead adolescents going through one of life’s most developmentally important seasons is a travesty. Approximately 70 percent of full-time youth ministers have no theological education, according toone recent survey.
Already, experiments to help address this challenge are emerging from within mainline Protestantism. Building on the Youth Academy, Duke Divinity School now offers a master of arts in Christian practicedesigned for active youth ministers in partnership with their congregations. The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church offers a youth director cohort that provides skills training, vocational support and spiritual formation for persons serving in youth ministry programs.
When we recall Ken’s conversation with ecumenical clergy, we might be tempted to avoid the subject — and the challenge — of youth ministry altogether. After all, Christensen called this kind of change “disruptive” for a reason.
It will be no small task for pastors and judicatory leaders to rethink our practice of outsourcing — or worse, ignoring — youth ministry. But it will be equally challenging to allow new forms of worship, music, technology and community to reform us.
The future of mainline Protestant witness will depend on whether we can incorporate disruptive innovation into our identity for the sake of ongoing faithful Christian witness.
When we were in seminary, one of our professors published a book entitled “Will Our Children Have Faith?” In the light of the disruptions of the past several decades, the question we need to ask ourselves now is, “Will our faith have children?”
Pastor Kendall B. Goslee, Sr., has a tremendous passion for God’s WORD coupled with agape love for all God’s people. He has a contagious spirit of generosity that flows through every facet of his ministry.
Pastor Kendall B. Goslee, Sr., has a tremendous passion for God’s WORD coupled with agape love for all God’s people. He has a contagious spirit of generosity that flows through every facet of his ministry.
Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.
I did an interview today and was asked about how I make decisions regarding helping others. I told the interviewer if I encounter somebody in need but don’t feel like helping them, I usually don’t. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But I explained the reason I don’t is because there are plenty of people I actually do feel like helping. And each of us only has so much time and so many resources, so I can’t choose both.
If I help the people I want to help, I’ll actually follow through, they will sense my sincerity, and the whole experience will be more enjoyable for both of us.
Not only this, but if I help the other person out of a sense of duty, I’m not so much helping them as I’m trying to get rid of my negative feelings of guilt or responsibility. My reasons are marginally selfish: I want to stop feeling guilty.
Are there times when we should do something because we feel guilty? Sure. But I don’t think there are as many as we think. I don’t want to be driven by guilt, I want to be driven by love.
In the work I do, I’m constantly asking people for help. All kinds of help. But my friends help me, I hope, because they like me, because we are friends, and because they believe in the projects I’m working on, not because they feel guilty. I don’t want anybody to help me because they feel guilty.
So, here’s how I choose where to serve, based on trying to serve for the fun of it and the love of it rather than the “ought to” of it.
- I try to contribute by offering the kind of help that fits my skill sets, talent and passion. For me, this means either writing advice, blogging advice, marketing help and so on. I could easily go volunteer at my local homeless shelter, but honestly, I’d be much better helping somebody who actually needs my skill and experience and I’d make a much bigger difference in their life. Why wouldn’t I choose to help where I could be the most help?
- I normally try to serve people I like and respect. This makes serving easy because you just get to hang out and partner with good people. Helping people you like and respect makes helping fun.
- I try to contribute to projects I believe in and want to see succeed. This doesn’t mean the other projects aren’t good for the world, it just means they don’t light me up. I’m not excited about all sorts of amazing things. I’m excited for the people who are excited about them, but for whatever reason, I’m just not feeling it with them. Why? Because we are all different, and different things light us up. If I’m going to contribute several hours a week to something, I want it to be toward something I can get behind, daydream about and help into existence. I don’t want it to feel like work, I want it to feel like fun.
So, an obvious question you might have is: Where’s the sacrifice?
I’ll answer that question in the form of a question: Why do we assume a sacrifice has to feel negative?
People sometimes comment about this point by saying Jesus made sacrifices in the garden. Specifically, some people say Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross, He did so out of obligation or duty. I disagree with this idea, at least in part.
I believe the reason Jesus didn’t want to be crucified is because He was sane! Nobody in their right mind would want to be crucified. In fact, He asked His Father if He could somehow get out of it. Who could blame Him? But to say He was crucified even though He didn’t want to be crucified is to take the idea too far. He wanted to sacrifice on our behalf, He just didn’t want to feel the torture and the pain. A mother wants to give birth, but she doesn’t want to feel pain either. Still, if you tell her it’s going to hurt terribly, she’s not going to back out of it, she wants to have the baby. A dad wakes up and takes care of his crying child, even though he doesn’t want to get out of bed. Are they doing these things out of a sense of duty or obligation? Hopefully not. Hopefully they are making sacrifices because they want to.
God does the loving thing all the time, even when the loving thing will bring Him pain, pain He’d rather avoid. And He does the loving thing because He wants to, because He loves His creation, and because He is love. God is not motivated by guilt, shame or even a sense of duty. He is only motivated by love.
Jesus isn’t in an army, He’s in a family. He’s in a trinitarian relationship in which each member loves the other. They’re not raising the trinitarian flag every morning and saying a pledge, they just love each other. Love is the only motivation God has for anything He does, including acts of justice.
So what does this have to do with you? A lot. I think doing things because we want to, out of a loving motivation, is better than doing things out of a sense of duty. In fact, I think dutiful motivations are closely akin to pride, while loving motivations are not.
I know I’ve just lost half of you. But stick with me and think about these ideas. Answer a few questions for me in your mind:
Do you do acts of kindness out of a sense of duty, or out of a sense of enjoyment and love? Do you do acts of kindness to be right, or because you enjoy doing them and are motivated by love? And here’s an even tougher question: Do you enjoy the sacrifices you make for others? And would it be harder to call those sacrifices sacrifices if you genuinely enjoyed the work? Are you getting some kind of martyr complex by doing stuff you don’t want to do? Does it make you proud that you made such a sacrifice? And if you are getting a sense of pride for your sacrifice, is it really a sacrifice by your definition? After all, you’re kind of getting paid for it …
If you asked your dad why he sacrifices so much for you, which answer would be more affirming: an answer in which he stated it was his duty as a father, or an answer in which he just said, “Because I love you.” Which answer seems more selfless?
And let me ask you a final question. Think about it for a while, maybe for a few days. Can you imagine a life in which you were no longer motivated by guilt, shame or a sense of duty? Can you imagine a life in which you served God out of love and enjoyment and even fun? Would you feel OK with God if you were actually happy? If not, I want to suggest you’ve fallen into a religious kind of trap that may be far removed from the joy of loving and knowing and serving God.
If you’d like a more joyful life, start serving in the ways God has gifted you to serve, and cut out all the duty and obligation and pride crap. If you are teaching Sunday school out of a sense of obligation, stop. Literally stop as soon as you can. Instead, find something that gets you fired up. Who knows what that something is—maybe it’s plumbing or carpentry work, maybe it’s counseling executives, maybe it’s walking people’s dogs or planting a community garden. Who knows, but serve in a way God has wired you to serve. He actually wants you to enjoy it, not offer it to Him as some sort of sad sacrifice. Can you imagine your earthly father wanting you to be miserable all the time? Why do we imagine God would be so dysfunctional and, well, mean?
Make the kinds of sacrifices that you LOVE to make. In other words, be like God.