BAKKE GRADUATE UNIVERSITY
FAITH-BASED MENTORING AND TRANSFORMATION OF AT-RISK YOUTH
A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE FACULT...
JUNE 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Bryan McCabe
All Rights Reserved
To Julie who is the love of my life
All men dream: but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds
wake in the day to find it w...
CONTENTS
TABLES..............................................................................................................
Rodriguez: Activism and Community Building..................................................34
Payne: Poverty and Classes....
Identifying the Research......................................................................................85
Questionn...
Global Mentoring..............................................................................................122
Shalom M...
Appendix G.
Expanded Answers to the Honduras Potential Mentee Interviews...................147
Appendix H.
Expanded Answer...
TABLES
Table 1. Significant ways to transform the lives of at-risk youth.............................107
Table 2. Key ways...
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Above all, I would like to thank God. Jesus Christ died for me, and today the
Spirit lives in me so that ...
Thanks to Dr. Eric Swanson, my dissertation supervisor, who is an example of the
kind of person I want to be some day. Peo...
Jones, Tim Parsley, John Vecchi, and Jason Gregg. You all provided much needed
encouragement at many points as I progresse...
ABBREVIATIONS
BBBS Big Brothers / Big Sisters
GFSC Gang Free Schools and Communities
HBCM Homewood-Brushton Community Mini...
GLOSSARY
Calling-based Mentoring. Calling-based mentors commit to spending time with a
mentee, despite the potential outco...
School-based Mentoring. School-based mentoring places one adult with one at-risk
youth. The mentor makes a one-year commit...
ABSTRACT
The world is rapidly becoming increasingly urban, and the complexities of
modern cities often lead to increasing ...
CHAPTER 1.
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM
Problem
I began studying faith-based mentoring because I wanted to discover and sha...
relevant to funders: individuals, foundations, churches, corporations, and government
agencies. The practical and transfer...
youth.”2
The youth practitioners reading this dissertation will be able to learn more about
the ways in which faith-based ...
The ever-increasing emphasis on accountability and standards-based education reform
has dramatically changed public educat...
applied properly to future faith-based mentoring matches, could lead to longer matches
and many more positive outcomes for...
practices in youth work, especially faith-based mentoring programs, is of greater
importance now because the window of tim...
community in a common effort to positively impact young lives.”10
PYIP includes four
initiatives: Gang Free Schools and Co...
urban schools, but in May of 2006 several suburban churches also began providing
mentors through LAMP.
The church I serve ...
LAMP students have demonstrated marked improvement in academic
performance, school attendance, and school behavior: all in...
four churches in the city of San Pedro Sula. Orphan Helpers has already translated the
Family Guidance, Inc. mentoring tra...
Education Mentoring Resources notes that mentoring “is founded on a strength-based
rather than deficit-based approach to h...
meaningful for the LAMP mentors. Based on the finding of this project, LAMP
mentoring program coordinators could adjust fu...
The report by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) became what might be the most
influential, most cited and most misused study ...
based, incarnational, reflective, servants-intensive, contextual, global, focused on shalom,
and prophetic.
Transformation...
Mentors exhibit many of the characteristics found in transformational leaders,
including what the Family Guidance, Inc. Vo...
CHAPTER 2.
OTHER PROPOSED SOLUTIONS
Overview of the Literature
There are many different approaches to transforming the liv...
troubled adolescents through reparenting, redirecting, reconciling, and redeeming. The
reparenting concept is defined as “...
My solution to transforming the lives of at-risk youth differs from the authors in
that they seem to write off schools as ...
must wrestle with forces that would strive to define and form them. That is the
only way to become what they were born to ...
Faith-based mentoring is similar to the solution offered by D’Ambrosio in that
faith-based mentoring relationships aim to ...
The book suggests that adults should focus on assets instead of needs, with an emphasis
on keeping an eye on the big pictu...
is given to fixing gaps in development. Faith-based mentoring differs from the Search
Institute’s approach to transforming...
Harlem Children’s Village, “Canada’s objective was to create a safety net woven so
tightly that children in the neighborho...
mentoring organizations, the faith-based mentoring approach does not incorporate as
many institutions or programs as the H...
can really harm young people while long-term, consistent mentoring matches “can serve
as a pathway out of the poverty that...
In Stand By Me, Rhodes leaves the door open for the future fusion of the various
mentoring models as long as the standards...
Many people and agencies have developed many policies for adolescents and
young adults in society, yet as Osgood finds, “U...
The safety net model for policy-making does not involve much of a focus on the
spiritual development of high-risk youth. F...
impoverished communities – do a generally poor job of connecting to parents.”26
The
lives of at-risk youth can potentially...
incarnational and enter into the context of people in need. Most parents and families
experiencing poverty must deal with ...
The book provides an extensive overview of the organization’s work, and it
covers such replicable topics
as understanding ...
Also, the author suggests that mentoring “is open to everyone, and people from all
walks of life participate in hundreds o...
ambition in place of powerlessness.”31
Indeed, both models have much to offer in
informing the other.
Rodriguez: Activism ...
work resides is its visionary, comprehensive, advocacy-based design; as well, the
multigenerational approach is crucial to...
Payne: Poverty and Classes
Dr. Ruby Payne consults in the education field to help educators understand how
to reach childr...
on task, irrelevant curriculums, an abundance of left-brain lesson plans, an individualistic
vs. communal student approach...
wounded over time. In The Way of the Wild Heart, Eldredge provides an initiation-
focused framework that can impact the li...
journey in the midst of complex urban environments. Healthy people can generally learn
how to successfully navigate throug...
communities upon which they depend fail them, they face the consequence of
becoming at risk.40
Olsen’s approach to transfo...
specific subgroups of troubled young people. There are people who have used the excuse
that all teenagers are at risk to a...
challenges the prescriptive methods that the church often utilizes when attempting to
reach troubled kids. He offers, “Ima...
Jesus said, when we have acted toward THE LEAST OF THESE, we have done
whatever we have done unto Him. Yet, not because th...
relationships to lead children to appropriate case management and counseling strategies
that provide a safety net for kids...
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  1. 1. BAKKE GRADUATE UNIVERSITY FAITH-BASED MENTORING AND TRANSFORMATION OF AT-RISK YOUTH A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF MINISTRY BY BRYAN MCCABE SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
  2. 2. JUNE 2012
  3. 3. Copyright © 2012 by Bryan McCabe All Rights Reserved
  4. 4. To Julie who is the love of my life
  5. 5. All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. -T.E. Lawrence
  6. 6. CONTENTS TABLES.......................................................................................................................x ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.........................................................................................xi ABBREVIATIONS...................................................................................................xiv GLOSSARY...............................................................................................................xv ABSTRACT.............................................................................................................xvii CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM.....................................................................1 Problem..................................................................................................................1 Audience................................................................................................................1 Background of the Project.....................................................................................6 The Outcome of the Project.................................................................................10 The Contribution of the Project to Transformational Leadership.......................12 CHAPTER 2. OTHER PROPOSED SOLUTIONS..........................................................................17 Overview of the Literature..................................................................................17 Larson and Brendtro: Addressing Spiritual Needs..............................................17 D’Ambrosio: Using Story to Connect with Adolescent Hearts...........................19 Search Institute: Developmental Assets..............................................................21 Geoffrey Canada: Large-scale Replicable Change..............................................23 Rhodes: Long Term Youth Mentoring Relationships.........................................25 Osgood, Foster, Flanagan, and Ruth: The Transition to Adulthood...................27 Furstenberg, Cook, Eccles, Elder, and Sameroff: Parenting...............................29 Dortch and Fine: One-to-One and Group Mentoring..........................................31 v
  7. 7. Rodriguez: Activism and Community Building..................................................34 Payne: Poverty and Classes.................................................................................36 Eldredge: A Crisis of Masculinity.......................................................................37 Olsen: Institutional and Systemic Reform...........................................................39 Ruthruff: Listening and Learning........................................................................41 Miller and Sowers: Fatherlessness......................................................................44 Anderson: Sociology of Youth Violence............................................................46 CHAPTER 3. THE CONTEXT OF MINISTRY..............................................................................51 Introduction.........................................................................................................51 Historical Background.........................................................................................53 Worldview...........................................................................................................56 Statistics...............................................................................................................57 Major Stakeholders..............................................................................................58 Other Current Issues............................................................................................61 CHAPTER 4. THE BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL BASIS......................................................67 High-risk Youth and Mentors in God’s Story.....................................................67 A Five Act Play...................................................................................................67 Act One: Creation................................................................................................68 Act Two: Separation............................................................................................70 Act Three: Israel..................................................................................................72 Act Four: Jesus....................................................................................................76 Act Five: The Rest of the Story in the New Testament.......................................80 CHAPTER 5. METHODS OF RESEARCH.....................................................................................85 vi
  8. 8. Identifying the Research......................................................................................85 Questionnaire.......................................................................................................85 Interviews............................................................................................................86 LAMP Mentor Interviews............................................................................87 LAMP Mentee Interviews............................................................................88 Global Perspective: Interviews in Honduras................................................89 Policymakers and Mentoring Program Coordinators in Honduras..............95 Pastors in Honduras......................................................................................96 Potential Mentors in Honduras.....................................................................96 Potential Mentees in Honduras....................................................................97 Parents of At-risk Youth in Honduras..........................................................99 Personal Journals.................................................................................................99 LAMP Data Analysis........................................................................................100 CHAPTER 6. FINDINGS AND RESULTS....................................................................................102 Evaluation of the Methodology.........................................................................102 LAMP Mentor Questionnaire.....................................................................104 Interviews...................................................................................................106 Personal Journal.........................................................................................109 LAMP Data Analysis.................................................................................110 Desired Outcomes.............................................................................................111 Calling-based Mentoring...................................................................................111 Incarnational Mentoring....................................................................................113 Reflective Mentoring.........................................................................................115 Servant Mentoring.............................................................................................117 Contextual Mentoring........................................................................................120 vii
  9. 9. Global Mentoring..............................................................................................122 Shalom Mentoring.............................................................................................123 Prophetic Mentoring..........................................................................................127 Transformational Mentoring.............................................................................129 CHAPTER 7. CONCLUSION.........................................................................................................132 Principles Learned.............................................................................................132 Applications.......................................................................................................137 Recommendations.............................................................................................139 Other Final Conclusions....................................................................................141 Church and School Partnerships................................................................141 Urban and Suburban Partnerships..............................................................142 Cross-Cultural Relationships......................................................................143 Incarnational Leadership and Faith-based Mentoring................................144 Final Thoughts...................................................................................................146 APPENDICES..........................................................................................................132 Appendix A. Expanded Answers to the LAMP Mentor Questionnaire..................................132 Appendix B. Expanded Answers to the LAMP Mentor Interviews.......................................137 Appendix C. Expanded Answers to LAMP Mentee Interviews.............................................139 Appendix D. Expanded Answers to Honduras Policymaker Interviews................................141 Appendix E. Expanded Answers to Honduras Pastor Interviews...........................................143 Appendix F. Expanded Answers to the Honduras Potential Mentors Interviews..................145 viii
  10. 10. Appendix G. Expanded Answers to the Honduras Potential Mentee Interviews...................147 Appendix H. Expanded Answers to the Honduras Parent Interviews....................................151 BIBLIOGRAPHY.....................................................................................................153 VITA.........................................................................................................................153 ix
  11. 11. TABLES Table 1. Significant ways to transform the lives of at-risk youth.............................107 Table 2. Key ways to mobilize faith-based mentors.................................................107 Table 3. Obstacles to faith-based mentoring............................................................108 Table 4. Hopes and dreams of at-risk youth.............................................................108 Table 5. The voice of at-risk youth...........................................................................109 x
  12. 12. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Above all, I would like to thank God. Jesus Christ died for me, and today the Spirit lives in me so that I can play some small part in advancing the kingdom of God. I cannot wait to spend eternity with the Savior! To my wife, Julie, I want to say thank you for being so supportive throughout the process of earning a doctorate degree. This dissertation would not have been possible without you. You were present during many of my courses, but you also served me sacrificially in many ways that people did not see. You proofread every single one of my projects. You understood when I stayed up late to write or read. Family plans were put on hold until daddy graduated. You believe in me and you inspire me. Thank you! Much thanks to my daughters, Kyra and Sierra. Half of the time I think that you are better at urban ministry than I am. You make me laugh. You are the greatest blessings that God could possibly ever give a father. My hope is that you will be able to understand the incredible adventure that God has planned for your lives. I have been blessed with an amazing family. Mom and Dad, I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done for me. Shannon, you are a great sister. Early on in your adult life, you set an example of adventure with God that I wanted to follow. Cameron, you are also an incredible sister. God is doing great things through your life. Jim and Sandy, thank you so much for supporting me throughout this journey. I would like to thank all of my friends at North Way Christian Community in Pittsburgh. In particular, I would like to thank Dr. Jay Passavant and Pastor Scott Stevens for supporting me and advocating for LAMP. xi
  13. 13. Thanks to Dr. Eric Swanson, my dissertation supervisor, who is an example of the kind of person I want to be some day. People follow you because you are genuine and intentional about giving yourself away to others. Your encouragement and advice has been very meaningful. Much thanks to the people I interviewed and surveyed for this project. I was warmly invited into the life experiences of many LAMP mentors and people living in Honduras. Thank you for being transparent about your lives. To the LAMP mentees and their families in Homewood, I want to say thank you for sharing your lives with me. I learn a lot from you about courage, resilience, and persistence in the face of tremendous adversity. You have taught me much about how the world really operates, and how we can all respond to adversity. To Dr. Randy White and Dr. Ray Bakke, thank you for mentoring me. I read your books before I met you, and when I met you I realized that both of you are the real deal. You live out what you talk about in your books and lectures. Thank you for blazing trails for those of us who are following you. Much thanks to my neighbor and friend, Dr. John Stahl-Wert, for serving as my second reader. Your advice has been very helpful, and I have benefited tremendously from your prayers and support. Thank you for blazing a trail in Pittsburgh. Much thanks to my LAMP colleagues, Joanne Galinowski, Lee Solomon, Janet Blair-Raible, Corrie Passavant, Del Howze, Deb Dilliplaine, Kelly Phillips, Mark Zabierek, Arleen Braun, and Raquel Branchik. It is a privilege to serve with such amazing leaders. I also want to thank my personal learning community, Errika Fearbry- xii
  14. 14. Jones, Tim Parsley, John Vecchi, and Jason Gregg. You all provided much needed encouragement at many points as I progressed through the program. Much thanks to my friends, family, and colleagues who have encouraged me throughout the doctoral journey that I have not mentioned. I appreciate your friendship and support. xiii
  15. 15. ABBREVIATIONS BBBS Big Brothers / Big Sisters GFSC Gang Free Schools and Communities HBCM Homewood-Brushton Community Ministerium LAMP Learning and Mentoring Partnership NGO Non-governmental Organization P/PV Public/Private Ventures PYIP Pittsburgh Youth Intervention Project SZP Safety Zone Partnership YMCA Young Men’s Christian Association xiv
  16. 16. GLOSSARY Calling-based Mentoring. Calling-based mentors commit to spending time with a mentee, despite the potential outcomes of the relationship, because mentoring is something God has called them to see through to the finish. Contextual Mentoring. Contextual mentors respect a mentee’s life and culture as they seek to help mentees experience meaning according to God’s purposes, not from the perspective of a mentor’s own limited worldview. Faith-based Mentoring. For the purposes of this project, Faith-based Mentoring describes the intentional placing of a caring adult from a congregation into a mentoring relationship with a high-risk young person. Faith-based Mentors make at least a one-year commitment to see their mentee for several hours at a time each week. Family-to-one Mentoring. Family-to-one Mentoring provides the same kind of mentoring as One-to-one Mentoring, except that a mentor’s spouse and family are often deeply involved in the mentoring activities that take place at the mentor’s home or out in the community. Global Mentoring. Global mentors intentionally expand a mentee’s worldview by teaching about the complexities of the modern world. Group Mentoring. Group Mentoring encompasses a group of caring adults who spend intentional and consistent time mentoring a group of at-risk youth. Incarnational Mentoring. Incarnational mentors intentionally spend a significant amount of time with a mentee in the mentee’s neighborhood or environment. One-to-one Mentoring. A One-to-one Mentors spends three or four hours each week with one at-risk youth. One-to-one Mentors make a minimum one-year commitment in which they will interact with a mentee out in the community, not in a school setting. Prophetic Mentoring. Prophetic mentors provide mentees a voice by advocating for them consistently over time. Prophetic mentors take-on broken systems in a way that will help clear the barriers to a mentee’s development. Reflective Mentoring. Reflective mentors move beyond programs and activities and focus their mentoring experiences in a way that will allow them and their mentee to find meaning within the context of their relationship. xv
  17. 17. School-based Mentoring. School-based mentoring places one adult with one at-risk youth. The mentor makes a one-year commitment to spend at least two hours once a week with a mentee inside a school building rather than out in the community. Servant Mentoring. Servant mentors initially become involved in mentoring because they want to serve God; however, as a result they come to be of service to a mentee. Shalom Mentoring. Shalom mentors are bridge-builders who encourage reconciliation between a mentee and the world around them. Transformational Mentoring. Transformational mentoring comprises intentional, long- term relationships between mentors and mentees that can lead to a process of transformation over time. Transformational Mentoring relationships are calling-, servant-, and shalom-based; incarnational; reflective; contextual; global; and prophetic in nature. xvi
  18. 18. ABSTRACT The world is rapidly becoming increasingly urban, and the complexities of modern cities often lead to increasing numbers of at-risk youth. Most societies struggle with developing effective interventions for children growing up in the midst of strained or even broken families, institutions, and systems. This dissertation represents the culmination of a project examining faith-based mentoring as a potential means of transforming the lives of at-risk urban youth by building life-changing assets. Chapter 1 evaluates the problem of at-risk youth living in complex urban environments; delineates the audience, the background, and the outcomes of the project; and the potential contributions of the project to transformational leadership. Chapter 2 offers a literature review that examines alternative solutions to faith-based mentoring. Chapter 3 looks at case studies of faith-based mentoring in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in the country of Honduras. Chapter 4 examines the theological foundation for faith- based mentoring by examining biblical mentoring relationships. Chapter 5 outlines the research methods utilized for the project, including a questionnaire, interviews, personal journals, and quantitative data analysis. Chapter 6 presents findings supporting the concept of transformational mentoring. Chapter 7 concludes the project by presenting the principles learned, applications, recommendations, and other final thoughts about church and school partnerships, urban and suburban partnerships, cross-cultural relationships, and the impact of incarnational leadership on faith-based mentoring programs. xvii
  19. 19. CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM Problem I began studying faith-based mentoring because I wanted to discover and share how to transform the lives of at-risk youth in a way that readers might come to understand how to build life-changing developmental assets. Most faith-based mentoring initiatives are designed to impact at-risk urban youth. Christians from both urban and suburban churches mentor children living in poor urban neighborhoods that experience high levels of crime, violence, gang activity, and school dropout rates. The mentees in these faith-based mentoring initiatives often demonstrate increases in academic performance, school attendance, and improved behavior at school. Beyond that, however, improved school performance, little is known about how faith- based mentoring relationships might contribute to the holistic transformation of children’s lives. This project seeks to show how faith-based mentoring makes a whole- life transformational impact beyond improved academic performance. Also, the project introduces the concept of transformational mentoring as a framework that could guide others to do more research. At-risk urban youth have many needs, but they also have many developmental assets that faith-based mentoring programs can build upon to help transform lives. The church should have a transformational role in society, and long term faith-based mentoring relationships can help to transform the lives of at-risk youth. Audience Faith-based mentors, youth practitioners, churches, schools, and mentoring organizations comprise the general audience for this project. The findings will also be 1
  20. 20. relevant to funders: individuals, foundations, churches, corporations, and government agencies. The practical and transferable research can help people and institutions serving at-risk youth to design the kinds of programming that leads to transformation. Faith-based mentors are volunteers, and just like most volunteers they want the valuable time they give to serving to be effective. Don Simmons notes that people “will be attracted to service if they can see that it will have results, build community, meet a real spiritual need, and help them grow in faith.”1 Mentoring is not just some random way to give away time to young people. Mentoring is a seed-planting ministry that generally produces results over the course of a number of years, or even a lifetime There are strategies that can help mentors be more effective and I anticipate the findings from this project will help both to increase their effectiveness and to greatly encourage the faith-based mentors in my audience. Indeed, mentoring has not only a positive impact on the at-risk youth being mentored, it conversely transforms the mentors when they see the transformation occurring in the lives of the at-risk youth. Practitioners who work with at-risk youth are also an important sector of the audience because they are familiar with the strategies that support the transformation of troubled youth. Youth practitioners are not simply satisfied with isolated programs that do little to impact children and youth. An expanded community-wide, partnership-based approach to reaching young people requires youth practitioners to be thoroughly trained and equipped. Francisco Villarruel and the team with whom he works offer, “Given the growing acceptance of this community-wide approach, practitioners, public policy professionals, the public, and researchers are trying desperately to understand what it takes to create environments that promote the positive and healthy development of all 1 Don Simmons, “Equipping Saints or Pulling Teeth?” Rev! July/August 2006, 60. 2
  21. 21. youth.”2 The youth practitioners reading this dissertation will be able to learn more about the ways in which faith-based mentoring can aid in the transformation of at-risk youth. Churches are part of the audience because, generally, they want to make a difference in their communities; however, they often either do not know how or they settle for short-term programs that cost little relationally and do little in terms of long- term transformation. Ronald Sider, Philip Olson, and Heidi Unruh posit: Living out the gospel in our churches means modeling God’s concern for the total well-being of people and communities. It means an incarnational lifestyle of integrity, compassion, and invitation. It means loving neighbors both far and near, especially those who are most needy and least lovable, with the same joyous abandon that Jesus displayed.3 Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson add that the church is a key component of transformation because one of the most effective ways to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ today is through real and relevant acts of service. Honest, compassionate service can restore credibility to the crucial message we have to share. To tell the truth, we must show the truth. It’s the model Jesus used. He served. He met needs. People listened.4 Externally-focused churches offer a key component for effective faith-based mentoring initiatives. Schools are another key segment of the audience for this dissertation because they face the very difficult challenge of reaching and educating today’s American youth. Student test scores are available online, adding pressure on educators at failing schools, who are expected to meet the needs of all students regardless of socioeconomic status. 2 Francisco Villarruel et al., Community Youth Development: Programs, Policies, and Practices (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003), x. 3 Ronald Sider, Philip Olson, and Heidi Unruh, Churches that Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 60. 4 Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, The Externally Focused Church (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, Inc., 2004), 11. 3
  22. 22. The ever-increasing emphasis on accountability and standards-based education reform has dramatically changed public education over the past decade. Faith-based mentoring can have an important role in the best practices noted in the findings from The Central Valley Educational Research Consortium, who offers that the “social, spiritual, and economic costs of incarceration, unemployment, disenfranchisement, and alienation make the notion of social justice in the application of best educational practice of extreme importance to the future of all citizens.”5 The search for best practices has led schools across the United States to open their doors to partnerships with churches and organization in their efforts to respond to the needs of struggling students. The benefits of engaging in such partnerships usually outweigh the downsides if the partnerships are formed correctly. Nonetheless, faith-based mentoring can go a long way to help struggling schools better educate their students. Mentoring programs are yet another vital component of the audience for this dissertation because effective research can lead to better outcomes for mentoring matches. Dubois and Karcher have noticed an imbalance between research and practice in the field of youth mentoring, in which developments in practice have outstripped the research community’s ability to keep pace and provide sufficient guidance. This imbalance can be traced to the explosive growth in youth mentoring programs of all kinds and across diverse contexts in recent years, contrasted with the much more slowly evolving status of corresponding scholarly work.”6 The research findings from this project offer one step to bridge the gap between research and practice, especially with regard to faith-based mentoring. Good research findings, if 5 Central Valley Educational Research Consortium, API What Works: Characteristics of High- Performing Schools in the Central Valley (Fresno: California State University, Fresno, 2002), 11-12. 6 David DuBois and Michael Karcher, Handbook of Youth Mentoring (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005), 10. 4
  23. 23. applied properly to future faith-based mentoring matches, could lead to longer matches and many more positive outcomes for mentees. Funders are a crucial part of the audience for this dissertation because they are most likely to give to projects that are making a real difference. Their desire to give correlates directly with good data, and good data aligns with good intentions when faith- based mentoring initiatives strive to be worthy of expanded support. There are many great causes and charities in the world to which funders can give. Bill Clinton has pointed out that “China has almost 280,000 NGOs registered with the government, and perhaps twice that number unregistered. India, a democracy born out of Gandhi’s citizen activism, has more than 500,000 working NGOs. The United States has more than one million charitable organizations.”7 Historically, people with access to financial resources often fail to steward effectively those resources. Fikkert and Corbett add, “Despite an estimated $2.3 trillion in foreign aid dispensed from Western nations during the post WW2 era, more than 2.5 billion people, approximately 40 percent of the world’s population, still live on less than $2 per day.”8 Due to current worldwide economic struggles, funders have been forced to become much more selective when it comes to causes that have a transformational impact. Faith-based mentoring may be just as likely as any other cause to receive funding from individuals and organizations, but solid evidence of the value of mentoring needs to be presented if programs are going to be sustainable and grown. The issue of best 7 Bill Clinton, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 9. 8 Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Ourselves (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 141. 5
  24. 24. practices in youth work, especially faith-based mentoring programs, is of greater importance now because the window of time to proactively impact children is limited. Background of the Project Over the past twenty years, mentoring has become a popular way to connect with at-risk youth. As Cavell and others point out, mentoring relationships are quite important: Young persons who lack a strong relationship with a caring adult while growing up are much more vulnerable to a host of difficulties, ranging from academic failure to involvement in serious risk behaviors. Research finds that resilient youth – those who successfully transition from risk-filled backgrounds to the adult world of work and good citizenship – are consistently distinguished by the presence of a caring adult in their lives.9 Many organizations and schools have implemented mentoring programs that help to provide support for children who struggle developmentally. At the same time, many churches have been searching for ways to impact people in their communities. A lot of churches have identified at-risk youth as a group of people they can impact with their outreach programs. As a result, churches have started to launch mentoring partnerships with public schools and mentoring organizations. Some mentoring programs are effective and some are not, depending on how they structure those programs. In 2003 Pittsburgh Public Schools administrator Errika Fearby Jones launched the Pittsburgh Youth Intervention Project. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency recognized the work of PYIP as “one of four such projects originally funded by the United States Department of Justice Project and is a combination of Board of Education-led strategies designed to bring all available resources together in the 9 Timothy Cavell et al., “Policy Brief: Strengthening Mentoring Opportunities for At-Risk Youth,” http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_1233.pdf” (accessed August 29, 2011), 1. 6
  25. 25. community in a common effort to positively impact young lives.”10 PYIP includes four initiatives: Gang Free Schools and Communities (GFSC); the Safety Zone Partnership (SZP); an after school program called Project Promise; and the Learning and Mentoring Partnership (LAMP). GFSC involves outreach workers managing cases of young people between the ages of twelve and twenty-five in gang-prone neighborhoods in the city of Pittsburgh as part of a collaborative effort with police, school, and community officials to reduce gang activity. The aforementioned Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency recognizes SZP as “a community-mobilization effort that develops individualized safety plans covering a 1,000 foot radius around schools in areas with high crime rates.”11 Project Promise employs academic intervention and creative programming to impact children living in the Homewood and East Hills neighborhoods of Pittsburgh during crucial after-school. LAMP matches churches with public schools to provide mentors for at-risk youth between the ages of eight and fifteen. The vision of LAMP is to impact the city of Pittsburgh one student at a time. The Pittsburgh Public Schools, a large urban school district with over twenty-five thousand students, first partnered with a mentoring organization called Family Guidance, Inc. in 2005. The goal of this partnership was to recruit mentors from Pittsburgh area churches and match them with at-risk students from schools with underperforming student populations. The original vision for LAMP involved matching only urban churches with 10 Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, “The Commission,” http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/the_commission/5384/hide_- _errika_fearby_jones/516737 (accessed August 31, 2011). 11 Ibid. 7
  26. 26. urban schools, but in May of 2006 several suburban churches also began providing mentors through LAMP. The church I serve as a pastor, North Way Christian Community, was one of the first suburban churches to participate. North Way is now a multisite church with over three thousand adult members spread out over four locations, including two urban campuses. When North Way first joined LAMP the model of matching suburban churches with urban schools was somewhat innovative because heretofore cultural and geographical barriers had prevented many church and school partnerships involving blighted inner city neighborhoods. At that time, efforts tended to focus on matching only local urban churches with the urban children in the schools from participating. When suburban churches were involved, it was only in a financial-support role but rarely in a direct relational role with the children. Several additional urban churches from the Homewood-Brushton Community Ministerium (HBCM) began participating in LAMP in 2010. Today, LAMP regularly matches mentors from both urban and suburban churches with high-risk youth who mostly reside in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Over 250 individual mentoring matches have been made since LAMP began in 2005, and the number of matches continues to grow each year as more churches enter into LAMP partnerships. School-based mentors visit their mentees at the Pittsburgh Faison K-5 school or Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 school once a week for one or two hours at a time during the regular school year. One-to-one mentors visit their mentees outside of school once a week for three or four hours at a time. 8
  27. 27. LAMP students have demonstrated marked improvement in academic performance, school attendance, and school behavior: all indicators of positive outcomes that are very important to the mission of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. LAMP has the potential to eventually impact every public school in the district. While academic improvement is important for all children, much remains to be known about how faith- based mentoring partnerships like LAMP can build other assets in high-risk youth. During the first three years I was involved in leading North Way’s LAMP efforts in Homewood, I lived in a suburban area about thirty-five minutes driving distance from Homewood. I recruited mentors from the church, and I intentionally built relationships with kids in Homewood who might be potential mentees by going into the public schools during the school day. I enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at Bakke Graduate University after my second year of LAMP involvement in order to learn more about how to be effective at urban ministry, and when I was introduced to the perspectives on incarnational leadership I decided to move my family to Homewood. By moving into the neighborhood and becoming a neighbor with LAMP mentees and their families, I have been able to be much more effective at building relationships and supporting the development of the faith-based mentoring efforts. For the purposes of this dissertation, my incarnational leadership experience provides more details about the urban context of the research. The LAMP mentoring model from Pittsburgh has caught the attention of organizations serving high-risk youth in Honduras and El Salvador. The Orphan Helpers organization works in Honduras and plans to implement faith-based mentoring by matching the children they serve in orphanages and youth homes with adult mentors from 9
  28. 28. four churches in the city of San Pedro Sula. Orphan Helpers has already translated the Family Guidance, Inc. mentoring training materials into Spanish, and program coordinators are in place. Mentoring should begin in that context shortly. I traveled to Honduras in June of 2011 to collect data for this dissertation about faith-based mentoring programs in a second cultural and socioeconomic setting that are in the development stage. If the faith-based mentoring model works well in Honduras, Orphan Helpers plans to promote and implement the model throughout the countries that partner with in Latin America. John and Danielle Snyder serve high-risk youth in San Salvador through Youth With A Mission. When they noticed a gap in relational work with the poor, John and Danielle began taking the initial steps toward starting a faith- based mentoring program between local churches and children living in the orphanages and youth detention centers in San Salvador. The Outcome of the Project The intended outcome of this project, which encompassed studying faith-based mentoring, is to build developmental assets for faith-based mentoring that transforms the lives of at-risk youth. The Search Institute recognizes that assets “don’t just happen as part of growing up. They are built for and with children through all of the caring relationships they have at home and in their communities.”12 When churches build long- term mentoring relationships with at-risk youth, great things can happen. Another intended outcome of this project is that faith-based mentors and mentoring program stakeholders will learn more about how to intentionally build assets in young people through the context of long-term relationships. The U.S. Department of 12 Search Institute, Mentoring for Meaningful Results: Asset-Building Tips, Tools, and Activities for Youth and Adults (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 2006), 18. 10
  29. 29. Education Mentoring Resources notes that mentoring “is founded on a strength-based rather than deficit-based approach to helping young people realize their potential, focusing on assets rather than problems.”13 As a result, mentees build up resilience in life. At-risk youth often look for love, and through faith-based mentoring they can find that love in God because “the story of scripture is not a story of power, but a story of love – genuine love, overflowing love for the world God made.”14 Another intended outcome of this project is the transformation of Christ-centered mentors. Many mentors experience transformation much earlier than their mentees do, and that shift is often what keeps matches going. Mentors want to experience increasing life change and mentees are more than willing to receive the consistent, ongoing attention mentors provide. The Bible promises that if a mentor cares for the poor, their light will break forth like the dawn, their healing will quickly appear, their righteousness will go before them, and the glory of the LORD will be their rear guard (Isaiah 58:8).15 Mentoring is difficult, and one of the most significant outcomes of this project can be that more Christians in Pittsburgh and around the world will be encouraged and equipped by this research and get to experience the joys of mentoring that come with being stretched by God. The best outcome of this project is that the research will strengthen the existing mentoring matches in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Mentees will benefit more from transformational mentoring, and the mentoring experience will be much more 13 U.S. Department of Education Mentoring Resource Center, “Mentoring Fact Sheet: Putting Youth Development Principles To Work in Mentoring Programs,” (February 2007), 1. 14 N.T. Wright, “The Bible for the Post Modern World,” Latimer Fellowship (1999): 13. 15 All Scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (Biblica, Inc.: 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011). Used by permission of Zondervan, all rights reserved worldwide, (www.zondervan.com). 11
  30. 30. meaningful for the LAMP mentors. Based on the finding of this project, LAMP mentoring program coordinators could adjust future training sessions and ongoing match supervision. In the general Pittsburgh region, my hope would is that more churches and more schools will want to get involved in faith-based mentoring through LAMP so that the lives of hundreds or even thousands more at-risk youth can be impacted. Another intended outcome of this project is to provide helpful research that advances the efforts of the several national faith-based mentoring initiatives underway in the United States. Starting new mentoring programs can be very intimidating for organizations such as churches and schools that are not ordinarily in the business of formally mentoring children. This project could help to encourage new organizations across the United States and even beyond to get involved in mentoring. As LAMP is implemented in places like Honduras, El Salvador, and potentially throughout Latin America, this dissertation has the potential to advance the cause of faith-based mentoring globally as a means of transforming the lives of at-risk youth through intentional relationship-building. The Contribution of the Project to Transformational Leadership Sometimes programs, including faith-based mentoring programs, seek to keep themselves in business instead of fulfilling their mission of transformation in people and places. Many mentoring programs fall into the trap of doing mentoring without utilizing best practices such as high standards, training, and support for matches. An organization called Public/Private Ventures did a major longitudinal study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters in the 1980s and 1990s, republishing a report in 2000 that emphasized how powerful the BBBS mentoring model is for impacting young people: 12
  31. 31. The report by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) became what might be the most influential, most cited and most misused study in youth work… But mentoring researchers lament that the study has been used in ways that actually harm youth work, fueling a rush to expand mentoring that produced a flood of cheap copycats whose impact is unclear. In the popular culture of the youth work field, the study has morphed into a generic cornerstone to support anything called ‘mentoring,’ with countless organizations citing it as proof that mentoring works.16 Rushed or watered down mentoring programs are ineffective because they lose focus on the hard work that leads to transformation. Effective faith-based mentoring should lead to transformation in people, the mentees and mentors, as well as in complex urban environments. Most of the world now lives in cities, and with millions of people moving closer together all over the world problems are bound to result from the brokenness that people carry with them. Intentional building authentic, long term relationships through mentoring can be an amazingly effective way to bring about the transformation of urban places. Randy White says that the city needs a growing cadre of young leaders – both college and graduate students as well as those already in the marketplace – who will link their skills, their privileges and their sense of well-being to the well-being of the city. In today’s globalized world, to shape the city is to shape the way people experience life itself.17 Transformational leadership principles are crucial whenever a Christian chooses to mentor a child. Mentors can apply the eight perspectives on transformational leadership at Bakke Graduate University to the concept of “transformational mentoring.” Transformational, faith-based mentoring can be even more fruitful when it is calling- 16 Patrick Boyle, “The Study that Ignited (or Diluted) Mentoring,” Youth Today, December/January 2007, 1. 17 Randy White, Encounter God in the City: Onramps to Personal and Community Transformation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 17. 13
  32. 32. based, incarnational, reflective, servants-intensive, contextual, global, focused on shalom, and prophetic. Transformational mentors who engage in the lives of high-risk youth can be more effective by integrating transformational leadership principles into their mentoring. A good faith-based mentor will have a strong sense of calling; otherwise, the mentor is more likely to give up when the match becomes difficult. Mentors often enter into broken environments that are different from anything they may have ever experienced culturally, so incarnational and contextual activities are important. Mentors who are servants spend a great deal of time investing in kids who are not often as appreciative as mentors might prefer. Good mentors reflect on their mentoring relationships, and they have a solid understanding of the appropriate role they play in a young person’s life. Faith-based mentors can help their mentees have a more global worldview when the mentees experience the isolation that comes with poverty. Mentors may also be able to help their mentees work toward the shalom of their communities, and mentors can definitely speak prophetically into the lives of their mentees. Faith-based mentors are ordinary followers of Jesus that take a risk by engaging in the life of a young person in need. Most would not think of themselves as heroes. Sometimes the mentoring makes a huge difference in the lives of the mentees, and sometimes it does not seem to make much of a difference. Regardless of the outcomes, mentoring is a heroic endeavor that is more about the journey than it is about the destination. In the words of Ken Fong, speaking to an Overture I class, “When ordinary people go on a [sic] heroic journey, they are transformed by the process along the way whether or not they beat the foe.”18 18 Ken Fong, Class Lecture, “Organizational Transformation,” [lecture, Bakke Graduate University, Overture I, Seattle, WA, January 21, 2009]. 14
  33. 33. Mentors exhibit many of the characteristics found in transformational leaders, including what the Family Guidance, Inc. Volunteer Training Manual presents as the ability to readily see potential in a person, the capacity to tolerate mistakes, flexibility in responding to people and circumstances, the ability to be patient – knowing that time and experience are needed for development, the ability to see down the road and suggest the next step, and the capacity to encourage and build up others.19 Mentors are bridge builders and reconcilers. They are stewards of resources for the sake of vulnerable people. I cannot think of anything more than faith-based mentoring that can contribute to the literature about, and the practice of, transformational leadership. 19 Family Guidance, Inc., Learning and Mentoring Partnership: Volunteer Training Manual (Sewickley, PA: Family Guidance, Inc., 2011), 10. 15
  34. 34. CHAPTER 2. OTHER PROPOSED SOLUTIONS Overview of the Literature There are many different approaches to transforming the lives of at-risk youth. Some models focus on changing the behaviors of young people, while others focus on changing societal systems and institutions that may generate the problems that cause adolescents to struggle. After reviewing a wide variety of literature for this dissertation, the following fifteen reviews represent the diverse cross-section of perspective on the subject of at-risk youth. The perspectives are theological, biblical, comprehensive, relational, psychological, and sociological. Some authors focus on relationships while others focus on programs. Some focus on individuals while others focus on systems. Some focus on spiritual dynamics while others focus on policy reform. Each review focuses on the author’s approach to the problems, strengths, and weaknesses of the approach and how the particular approach compares to faith-based mentoring as a method of transforming the lives of high-risk youth. Larson and Brendtro: Addressing Spiritual Needs In their book Reclaiming Our Prodigal Sons and Daughters, authors Scott Larson and Larry Brendtro suggest that most traditional approaches to serving at-risk youth are ineffective because they do not address the spiritual needs of children. Larson and Brendtro believe that high-risk young people must be reclaimed, and they provide strategies for churches in particular to be able to transform the lives of at-risk youth by meeting their spiritual needs. The authors clearly outline the concepts of reclaiming 17
  35. 35. troubled adolescents through reparenting, redirecting, reconciling, and redeeming. The reparenting concept is defined as “providing a youth who is not closely attached to adults with bonds to a positive adult.”1 That definition describes what is at the heart of faith- based mentoring. Spiritual development is important, but one weakness of the authors’ argument is that they deemphasize the need for institutional support of children through such places as schools and social service agencies. It is true that at times many institutions that serve children are ineffective, but traditional institutions still can play a role in serving the needs of troubled youth. When Christians withdraw their attention from traditional institutions and only focus on what can be done by Christians within their own church buildings, they fail to help at-risk children at the systemic level. The authors’ argument strongly highlights the need to develop courage in young people so they can strive in society. The authors rightly point out that “disadvantaged youths may actually have an advantage when it comes to developing the attribute of courage – as long as they have access to someone who can instill in them some of the essential building blocks for healthy development.”2 I agree with the authors about working with youth at the level of faith, because, in their words, interventions at this level help youth understand how their theology – their view of God – informs every other area of their lives and gives meaning to their existence. This has been the missing element in youth work in recent years. Yet there is no deeper belief that any of us can hold than our personal understanding of God.3 1 Scott Larson and Larry Brendtro, Reclaiming Our Prodigal Sons and Daughters: A Practical Approach for Connecting with Youth in Conflict (Bloomington, IN: National Education Service, 2000), 99. 2 Ibid., 72. 3 Ibid., 178. 18
  36. 36. My solution to transforming the lives of at-risk youth differs from the authors in that they seem to write off schools as incapable of supporting the spiritual needs of troubled youth. They write, “Modern youth are suffering from a deep spiritual hunger. Yet most schools are so narrowly preoccupied with academic achievement and superficial behavior that they fail to meet the most basic emotional and spiritual needs of their children.”4 While it is true that standards-based education reform has focused on the development of reading, math, and testing skills, many schools do still attempt to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of their students. My solution differs from these authors in that I will attempt to show that mentoring, not necessarily reclaiming, leads to transformation. D’Ambrosio: Using Story to Connect with Adolescent Hearts Jay D’Ambrosio suggests that the key to transforming the lives of at-risk youth lies in utilizing story and myth to connect with their hearts. “Schools today put forth a heroic effort in developing and teaching a student’s mind. Likewise, opportunities for the body to be conditioned and trained abound in the form of physical education and athletics. However, more energy needs to be channeled toward the hearts of the young.”5 D’Ambrosio further suggests that myths and stories “can help people place their own personal narrative and those of others into the proper context.”6 Young people must learn to take risks and take on challenges in life. In the words of D’Ambrosio, young people 4 Ibid., 173. 5 Jay D’Ambrosio, Rethinking Adolescence: Using Story to Navigate Life’s Uncharted Years (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006), xii. 6 Ibid. 19
  37. 37. must wrestle with forces that would strive to define and form them. That is the only way to become what they were born to be. They are shaped by the trials that come their way. By making a stand for what is good and right in the midst of great evil, they become noble, they become greater, and they become the heroes and heroines of this life.7 D’Ambrosio observes that almost all adults can connect with youth by intentionally using stories; this is one of the strongest points of his approach to reaching at-risk youth. He writes, “The adolescents in our lives need us to fill the role of mentor, counselor, confidant, and friend. They need someone to believe in them, to see them mythically. They need someone to know that they have what it takes to be heroic in the tale that is being laid out before them.”8 Adults can help orient young people in God’s Story as they experience the ups and downs of the life journey. A weakness of this approach is that many adults who work with young people in a professional capacity are unwilling or unable to get to know children at the heart level. D’Ambrosio points out that we “will never be able to engage adolescents on more than a surface level if [we] don’t spend the time getting to know them.”9 Many teachers, however, are unable to focus on the heart of a child because academic standards focus pressure on job performance. An educator may have to separate head knowledge from heart connection for the sake of efficiency, or it may be that getting to know youth at the heart level requires too much relational capacity. Leaders who supervise professional educators and youth workers often require them to reach hundreds of children on a daily or weekly basis, so logistically the capacity to build relationships is simply not there. 7 Ibid., xiii. 8 Ibid., xviii. 9 Ibid., 11. 20
  38. 38. Faith-based mentoring is similar to the solution offered by D’Ambrosio in that faith-based mentoring relationships aim to connect with kids at the heart level in a world where many adults are unwilling or otherwise unable to do that. Some mentors, however, may not be able to connect with at-risk youth through the use of story or myth. Many kids do not open up to their mentors. It can be difficult to have meaningful conversations with kids who have experienced abuse or neglect. Intentionally using stories to reach kids may turn into a prescriptive relationship. Mentors should instead focus on building a developmental friendship with their mentees, which may or may not involve the use of story. Story could be integrated into the relationship, but not with the goal of trying to fix the problems of the youth. Mentors connect with kids in many different ways, and they can do so without the use of stories or myths. Search Institute: Developmental Assets The authors of A Fragile Foundation understand that modern youth have many needs, but they suggest that youth workers should focus on building on assets to transform the lives of at-risk youth. The Search Institute surveyed a large group of adolescents and determined forty developmental assets that are important to the growth of all young people. The authors take these developmental assets and suggest a comprehensive approach to impacting children: One wouldn’t necessarily reach the conclusion that virtually all young people are building their lives on a fragile foundation by looking just at isolated areas of their lives. Nor would you notice the power of many assets if you focused on just a few of them. The power and impact become evident as you put all the pieces together in a mosaic of young people’s lives, and then step back and look at the big picture.10 10 Peter Benson et al., A Fragile Foundation: The State of Developmental Assets Among American Youth (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 1999), vi. 21
  39. 39. The book suggests that adults should focus on assets instead of needs, with an emphasis on keeping an eye on the big picture of youth development instead of on the isolated problems kids face. The focus on assets is a strong point of the authors’ argument. They would argue that mentors should be able to focus on assets instead of needs. If enough adults are on board with the building of assets, transformation can occur in the lives of at-risk youth “By focusing attention on ensuring that all young people experience the developmental assets, individuals, families, organizations, and communities can begin to transform a fragile foundation into a solid foundation for life.”11 A weakness of this approach is that it may be too comprehensive as it underestimates the role that many institutions could offer in the process of transforming the lives of at-risk youth. As an example, the authors state that the “fact that most youth in all communities lack many of the assets represents a disturbing critique of American society. The lack is so widespread and common that it is fruitless to expect families or schools to repair the developmental web on their own.”12 Schools that seek to educate students who are severely at-risk can still educate children in spite of the children’s environment or life circumstances. Too often schools use the excuse that they cannot effectively educate at-risk kids because of the breakdown of American society, family dysfunctions, or illegal activity and blight in the local neighborhood, yet many other schools are able to effectively educate at-risk youth in spite of environmental issues. Mentors may be able to build assets in at-risk youth over time, but the mentors can also create other problems for the relationships with their mentees if too much focus 11 Ibid., vi. 12 Ibid., xii. 22
  40. 40. is given to fixing gaps in development. Faith-based mentoring differs from the Search Institute’s approach to transforming the lives of at-risk youth in that faith-based mentoring relationships do not focus on simply building developmental assets in youth. Assets may be built as a byproduct of spending time together consistently over a number of years, but asset-building is not necessarily the goal of the mentoring relationship. Even though the approaches are different, the forty developmental assets can provide a good framework for mentors to be able to understand how their mentees are growing and changing over time. Again turning to A Fragile Framework: The asset framework attempts to more broadly define what is possible and to motivate people to take steps toward making the possible real. It is easier to visualize doing something positive than preventing something negative. So, by describing the positive things youth need, the framework gives typical residents more tangible and concrete ideas about what they personally can do.13 More effective possibilities and motivations take more than developing assets. Geoffrey Canada: Large-scale Replicable Change In the book Whatever It Takes, author Paul Tough describes Geoffrey Canada’s approach to helping poor children in America. Canada has become relatively famous in America for developing a model for transforming the lives of at-risk youth through comprehensive, holistic initiatives that impact children from before they are born all the way through when they graduate from college and move into the adult world. The model seeks to empower the parents of poor children in addition to a wide variety of programs that impact kids. First implemented in late 1990s through a broad initiative called the 13 Ibid., 8. 23
  41. 41. Harlem Children’s Village, “Canada’s objective was to create a safety net woven so tightly that children in the neighborhood couldn’t slip through.”14 The approach works to establish strategic partnerships aimed at impacting children through education, parenting classes, counseling, early childhood intervention, tutoring, after school programs, and much more. Canada’s model asks the question, “What would it take to change the lives of poor children not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles, but in a programmatic, standardized way that could be applied broadly and replicated nationwide?”15 The strength of this approach to transforming the lives of at-risk youth lies in its large-scale, replicable focus on impacting the lives of thousands of children in meaningful ways. A weakness of Canada’s approach is the relative lack of emphasis on the spiritual transformation of children. This approach is definitely not a Christ-centered approach to building assets in poor children. Although Christians may be highly involved in efforts to impact high-risk youth and the model can inform those efforts, the model could seemingly be implemented in any city with little regard for whether or not churches or Christians are involved. The faith-based mentoring model is comparable to Canada’s approach in that both models seek to move beyond individual programs toward relationships that transform the lives of many children. Admittedly, faith-based mentoring has a narrower focus on transforming one child at a time, although that might be converted to a broader scale as the mentoring movement continues to grow. While faith-based mentoring usually involves partnerships between institutions such as churches and schools or churches and 14 Paul Tough, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America (New York: Mariner Books, 2008), 5. 15 Ibid., 19. 24
  42. 42. mentoring organizations, the faith-based mentoring approach does not incorporate as many institutions or programs as the Harlem Children’s Zone model does. Canada’s model also focuses much more attention on meeting the educational needs of children than on mentoring. This dynamic may have positive academic outcomes that are not the sole focus of the approach. In the end, both approaches seek to intervene early in the child’s life; continue to intervene throughout adolescence; give him extra time in school and extra support outside of school; involve his parents if possible but be prepared to compensate for their absence; focus on improving his cognitive skills but also nurture his noncognitive, social, and emotional skills.16 These common goals seem to lead to transformation. Rhodes: Long Term Youth Mentoring Relationships Mentoring programs for at-risk youth come in many different forms and sizes. Some programs focus on one-to-one mentoring, while others focus on school-based, group, vocational, and even e-mentoring. Regardless of the type of mentoring being done, Jean Rhodes, a prominent researcher in the field of mentoring, strongly contends that “vulnerable children would be better left alone than paired with mentors who do not recognize and honor the enormous responsibility they have been given.”17 Rhodes advocates for mentoring programs to ensure high standards for mentoring recruitment, training, support, and supervision by placing the quality of matches over the quantity of matches. With so much money available to mentoring programs, the temptation is for program directors to put quantity over quality. Mentoring matches that end prematurely 16 Ibid., 282. 17 Jean Rhodes, Stand By Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 3. 25
  43. 43. can really harm young people while long-term, consistent mentoring matches “can serve as a pathway out of the poverty that often extends across generations.”18 The emphasis on research and quality are definite strengths to Rhodes’ approach to impacting at-risk youth through mentoring. Mentoring is a field filled with anecdotal evidence, but little research-based evidence. In other words, policymakers can often tell if a child is being helped or hurt from mentoring relationships based on stories, yet, with good research now available on mentoring programs, there is no longer any good excuse for any child to be matched in a harmful mentoring relationship. A weakness of this approach is that Rhodes tends to downplay the significance of both faith-based and school-based mentoring as effective approaches to transforming the lives of at-risk youth. Good data is helpful to assure high quality relationships, but much of the magic of mentoring remains difficult to quantify. Even Rhodes admits, “There will always be some degree of mystery in determining what makes two people click.”19 Transformation in the lives of mentors and mentees often happens at the heart, or spiritual level. Many of the high expectations of faith-based mentoring matches are based upon Rhodes’ work on increasing excellence in the field of mentoring, so the faith-based mentoring approach to transforming the lives of at-risk youth compares greatly with hers. The approaches differ, however, in that Rhodes emphasizes community-based mentoring while the other fuses community-based, school-based, and faith-based approaches together in a comprehensive mentoring effort. 18 Ibid., 127. 19 Ibid., 104. 26
  44. 44. In Stand By Me, Rhodes leaves the door open for the future fusion of the various mentoring models as long as the standards for the programs are high. She points out that although there are constraints to school-based and career-focused mentoring, These constraints, although considerable, should not discourage what could be a promising response to the infrastructure problems facing community-based programs. A challenge will be to determine how to meld the flexibility, intensity, and enduring nature of successful community-based approaches with the structure and support of school-based approaches.”20 Osgood, Foster, Flanagan, and Ruth: The Transition to Adulthood American society places a great deal of emphasis on meeting the needs of high performing young people who attend college and generally make successful transitions to economic opportunities. Society, however, often overlooks and under resources the population of young people who struggle to successfully make the transition to adulthood. The authors of On Your Own without a Net suggest that American society needs to be more proactive when it comes to supporting the large percentage of young people that struggle to make the transition to adulthood. They note, The critical step is creating public will. Thus, the starting point for any reform is changing the public’s awareness and image of the population. The public and policy makers at the local, state, and federal levels must conclude that society has an interest in helping, and an obligation to help, these youth through the transition to successful adulthood.21 This approach seeks to develop a comprehensive system for intervening in the lives of at- risk youth, similar to the safety nets that have been developed over the past couple of decades for children between birth and five years old. 20 Ibid., 113. 21 D. Wayne Osgood, On Your Own Without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005), x. 27
  45. 45. Many people and agencies have developed many policies for adolescents and young adults in society, yet as Osgood finds, “Unfortunately, all of the authors find that current policies often impede, rather than facilitate, the transition processes for these youth.”22 This concept comes down to the idea of the process of transformation versus the transaction of services in reaching struggling youth. Just because programs are in place to reach at-risk youth does not mean that the services lead to a process of transformation. One of the strengths of the authors’ recommendations is the advocacy for including young people in the decision-making process when it comes to designing policies. “With more thoughtful policy we have the potential of gaining not only the economic contributions of these youth as productive workers, but also their contributions to families, friends, and communities as supportive and engaged citizens.”23 Indeed, systemically changing the nature of public policies could be helpful in transforming the lives of at-risk youth; however, a weakness in their approach is the lack of relational and incarnational presence in the lives of troubled youth. Increased awareness on a wide scale is wonderful, so long as that awareness leads to real change and relational involvement as opposed to much debate based upon relatively little interaction with young people. This approach differs from faith-based mentoring in that it is much more focused on policy than on interpersonal relationships as a means of transforming the lives of at- risk youth. Mentoring programs, however, should be based upon sound policies and research in order for the long-term relationships to be more transformational for the mentee and the mentor. 22 Ibid., viii. 23 Ibid., 388. 28
  46. 46. The safety net model for policy-making does not involve much of a focus on the spiritual development of high-risk youth. Faith-based mentoring is Christ-centered and focuses on mobilizing churches to make a difference in the lives of young people. Mentoring can be a bridge that links adolescence to young adulthood. The author pays particular attention to the need to impact young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, yet effective faith-based mentors generally maintain their relationships with their mentees far beyond the time the formal mentor-mentee relationship is designed to end (when the mentee turns eighteen). Furstenberg, Cook, Eccles, Elder, and Sameroff: Parenting Family structures play a crucial role in youth development, and the authors of Managing to Make It have researched the impact parents have on transforming the lives of at-risk youth experiencing urban poverty. The researchers have also examined the impact that neighborhood environments play in adolescent development. Based on a study of five hundred families in the inner city of Philadelphia, the authors point out that the “objective of our project is to identify a strategic site – the interface between the family and community – that influences the course of adolescent development for disadvantaged youth.”24 The researchers have determined that “Family management practices can be cultivated to children’s advantage. Parents can become more knowledgeable about the social world in which their children are situated.”25 Still, many high-risk youth struggle because their parents often do not know how to help their children gain access to resources, and “institutions – typically outside 24 Frank Furstenberg et al., Managing to Make It: Urban Families and Adolescent Success (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999), 7. 25 Ibid., 227. 29
  47. 47. impoverished communities – do a generally poor job of connecting to parents.”26 The lives of at-risk youth can potentially be transformed if institutions are able to more effectively connect their resources to the children and their families. Many organizations serving high-risk youth tend to ignore the parents and family structures that play such an integral part in youth development. A strength of this research project is its intentional focus on empowering young people and their parents to gain access to resources so they can build assets and resiliency. The faith-based mentoring research counters the stereotypical idea of lazy parents in the inner city mooching off the government and instead brings to light the great potential that lies in the power of effective family management. The parenting approach tends to be based on strengths instead of deficits; however, a weakness is that although the authors present a lot of valuable data, they could have gone much further in explaining recommendations for how parents and institutions could more effectively bridge the resource divide. Their discussion seems relatively transactional in nature, as if they could simply address the problems of high- risk youth by ensuring that a transaction of resources occurs between families and resources. For example, the authors write, “If the places at the front of the line are always purchased in advance by those with means, then parents with limited economic resources will not have much success in gaining a favorable position for their children, regardless of how hard they try.”27 Transformational leadership is absolutely essential to the process of bridging the gap of resources. Leaders from institutions with access to resources must be willing to be 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid., 231. 30
  48. 48. incarnational and enter into the context of people in need. Most parents and families experiencing poverty must deal with isolation as their biggest issue, and transactions do not do much to ease the isolation on a sustainable basis. The parenting approach differs from the faith-based mentoring approach in that parenting deals less with families than with building relationships with at-risk youth. Parents are still an integral part of the faith-based mentoring process because without the support of the parents the quality of the matches goes down. Parents must be supportive of the mentoring, ensuring that the mentees are where they are supposed to be when the mentoring time is scheduled and also encouraging mentees to stay the course with the relationships when matches experience difficulties. An important part of effective mentoring programs rests in the power of mentoring organizations to provide support to parents (such as links to resources) without that responsibility falling on the mentors themselves. When mentors become too caught up in helping parents get out of poverty, they tend to lose focus on the main goals of the match that focuses simply on building a long term relationship with a child. While supportive parents help the process of transforming the lives of at-risk youth, mentoring is not necessarily a field that focuses on parental intervention. Dortch and Fine: One-to-One and Group Mentoring One can see there is a wide variety of mentoring approaches that can impact the lives of children. The Miracles of Mentoring uses The 100 Black Men of America, Inc. to demonstrate how an organization can use the one-to-one and group mentoring approaches to reach hundreds of thousands of high-risk youth. 31
  49. 49. The book provides an extensive overview of the organization’s work, and it covers such replicable topics as understanding the do’s and don’ts of successful mentoring; building the mentoring relationship; choosing a mentoring program that is right for you; developing programs for young people in schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces; and partnering with businesses, corporations, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations to expand the mentoring experience.28 For a long time the only focus of The 100 Black Men was one-to-one community-based mentoring, but they expanded to offer group mentoring in an effort to reach more children. The author’s presentation of this effort is as inspirational as it is important for mentoring practitioners to understand. A strength of this mentoring approach rests its practicality. Businessmen and community leaders across many segments of society should be able to step easily into this type of mentoring to begin the process of impacting the lives of at-risk youth. Even though these mentoring principles are transferable, the author is quick to point out that mentoring is not simple. “Mentoring is an art. The relationship grows and matures, and you and your mentee grow with it. As you journey forward, you’ll need to call on different abilities, and hone your understanding and your skills.”29 A weakness is that organizations can at times dilute mentoring standards in order to utilize mentoring to reach a larger number of high-risk youth. It is great that the author has big goals to reach many children, but sometimes activities such as group mentoring or career-focused mentoring are not as transformational for mentees as long term, one-to- one relationships. 28 Thomas Dortch, Jr., The Miracles of Mentoring: How to Encourage and Lead Future Generations (New York: Broadway Books, 2000), 14. 29 Ibid., 177. 32
  50. 50. Also, the author suggests that mentoring “is open to everyone, and people from all walks of life participate in hundreds of diverse and interesting mentoring programs throughout the country.”30 Effective mentors are called to be mentors, but neither is everyone called nor can very person serve as a mentor. There are many adults who should not be mentoring children because they will either quit the match early or destroy matches by being overly prescriptive while interacting with their mentees. It is important for mentoring programs to have high standards and not just let anybody become a mentor. This approach differs from faith-based mentoring in that Dortch and Fine do not explicitly focus on faith-based mentoring. Another difference is that it includes group mentoring. While group mentoring can be effective when the matches are organized in a one-to-one fashion, there are several examples in Pittsburgh where group mentoring has proven to be ineffective. Dortch and Fine also focus on making matches within the same race, specifically matching African American mentors with African American mentees. While both mentors and mentees have much to offer one another when children are matched with mentors of the same race, there can be an advantage to cross-cultural and cross-racial mentoring, not the least of which is such matches can be very effective. The Dortch and Fine mentoring approach and the faith-based mentoring approach are similar in that they focus on impacting and casting new vision for the next generation of young people. Dortch offers that mentoring “is about the future. It is about changing the world by opening it up for young people. Help a child to dream and to believe in his or her dream, and you help create hope in place of fear, self-esteem in place of doubt, 30 Ibid., 5. 33
  51. 51. ambition in place of powerlessness.”31 Indeed, both models have much to offer in informing the other. Rodriguez: Activism and Community Building Luis Rodriguez argues passionately that when it comes to transforming the lives of at-risk youth, culture must move past solutions that do not work to focus on dialoguing around innovate solutions to youth violence and gang-related activity. “To consider truly innovative responses in meeting the needs of young people, we must start with real assessments of what their situations consist of – away from the political spin doctors, sensationalist headlines, and generational fear mongering going on today about children and youth.”32 Rodriguez’s approach focuses on empowering young people and encouraging them to work together to improve the lives of the young people who are struggling. His approach is multigenerational and comprehensive because “we must reorient our thinking on how young and old are joined in the political and social matrix of the land – where the people are fully activated and their dreams, aspirations, and strivings are central to what makes up community.”33 Rodriguez suggests that people should do much more than meet needs of high-risk youth, but that leaders need to engage the entire community in the process of changing violent youth culture. Rodriguez has earned his credibility from many years of working at the street level with troubled young people in Los Angeles and Chicago. One of the strengths of his 31 Ibid., 7-8. 32 Luis Rodriguez, Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001), 17. 33 Ibid., 18. 34
  52. 52. work resides is its visionary, comprehensive, advocacy-based design; as well, the multigenerational approach is crucial to the development of young people. Children are able to band together to make the world a better place, but they need adults to come alongside them to implement the change across a broader span of the culture. Rodriguez also moves the discussion past the inner city and into mainstream society. A weakness of his approach is that it deemphasizes the traditional approaches to transforming the lives of at-risk youth that have proven to be successful over time. While far too many young people have been incarcerated in ineffective youth detention systems or completed ineffective community service programs, institutions such as schools serving high-risk youth still play a critical role in their development. Reform is definitely necessary in institutions, but the institutions should not be abandoned. Rodriguez’s approach differs from the faith-based mentoring model in that activism and community building focus is much more comprehensive, where faith-based mentoring relationships focus on impacting one child at a time. As well, Rodriguez seems to be a very spiritual man (he points out the need to connect with young people at a spiritual level) and although he mentions Jesus’ teachings as helpful tools for reaching kids, he also mentions a wide variety of other spiritual paths. Most of the transformation in the lives of high-risk youth is not merely spiritual, it is Christ-centered. The approaches do share a passion to reach every single struggling child. Rodriguez says it this way: “The social erosion stops at our door. To build from there, we’re going to need a different ethos in this country. Not ‘kill or be killed,’ which some youth take literally, but one that values and nurtures every child. One that teaches us to work for the decent survival of all, for therein lies our best chance for survival.”34 34 Ibid., 322. 35
  53. 53. Payne: Poverty and Classes Dr. Ruby Payne consults in the education field to help educators understand how to reach children living in poverty. Her approach involves training adults who directly impact children to understand the general traits associated with poverty. Her practices suggest that once adults have a proper understanding of the root causes of behaviors associated with poverty they can plan ways to appropriately respond to the unique needs for which they previously may not have had a proper framework. Essentially, Payne seeks to transform the lives of at-risk youth by helping youth work practitioners, most of whom come from a middle-class background, to be able to understand poverty. She asserts that at-risk youth are capable of making choices that can lead to success in life, but “it is the responsibility of educators and others who work with the poor to teach the differences and skills/rules that will allow the individual to make the choice. As it stands now for many of the poor, the choice never exists.”35 Since many adults working with high-risk youth come from a middle class background, a strength of this approach is that it equips practitioners practically to interact effectively with children across all socio-economic classes. Her framework is very user-friendly, so it has a broad appeal that may lead to quick results. One of the weaknesses of Ruby Payne’s approach is its focus on deficits, namely poverty, instead of assets. One of Payne’s biggest critics, education consultant Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, points out that instead of poverty or the educational level of the mother being the key indicators of why schools are failing children living in poverty, the “usual culprits are as follows: poor school leadership, low teacher expectations, low student time 35 Ruby Payne, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, (Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc., 2003), 148. 36
  54. 54. on task, irrelevant curriculums, an abundance of left-brain lesson plans, an individualistic vs. communal student approach, and coed classrooms.”36 Payne’s theory appears to be based more on her own experiences as a middle-class educator than on research that has been done on best practices that lead to transformation in the lives of at-risk children. A deficit-based approach to poverty can only yield limited long-term results. Payne’s approach is similar to the faith-based model in that faith-based mentoring mobilizes many adults to interact cross-culturally with high-risk youth who often come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. The techniques for impacting children across classes can be very helpful in equipping mentors. Cultural proficiency training is a crucial component of mentor training; however, the approaches differ in that mentors are encouraged to focus more on building assets in Payne’s model than on understanding deficits, as it is in the faith-based model. When mentors focus too much on needs and deficits, which can be plentiful with at-risk youth, the desire for mentors to overcompensate or focus too much on fixing the circumstances of the mentees tend to sabotage mentor-mentee matches. Solutions that transform the lives of high-risk youth should take needs into consideration but should also be built upon developing assets in young people. Eldredge: A Crisis of Masculinity Christian counselor, author, and speaker John Eldredge suggests that a crisis of masculinity in modern culture has led to a wide variety of problems in society. He suggests that most outward signs of trouble can be traced back to heart issues, so solutions to life’s problems involve allowing God to heal broken hearts that have been 36 Jawanza Kunjufu, An African Centered Response to Ruby Payne’s Poverty Theory (Chicago: African American Images, 2006), ix. 37
  55. 55. wounded over time. In The Way of the Wild Heart, Eldredge provides an initiation- focused framework that can impact the lives of at-risk youth when parents, youth workers, and mentors intentionally move young men through the stages of a masculine journey. Initiations help people to reframe their lives. According to Eldredge, the “reframing begins when we see that a man’s life is a process of initiation into true masculinity. It is a series of stages we soak in and progress through. And as for God, I believe that what he is primarily up to at any point in a boy’s or a man’s life is initiating him.”37 In this approach, men experience initiation through several stages of masculinity: “Boyhood to Cowboy to Warrior to Lover to King to Sage.”38 Caring adults carefully guide at-risk youth through the Boyhood, Cowboy, and Warrior stages by serving as bridge-builders to the adult stages of Lover, King, and Sage. A strength of Eldredge’s approach lies in its focus on intentionally healing deep wounds by guiding young people through the life stages. Many approaches for transforming the lives of at-risk youth focus on treating symptoms associated with destructive behavior as opposed to treating the root causes of outward behavior. Entire institutions and systems have been built in the United States to address problems with young people once crimes or destructive behaviors have been committed, but few institutions have been set up to intervene in the lives of troubled youth proactively. One weakness to Eldredge’s approach is that at times he has a rural bias. He is quick to point out that God is found in nature and that much of the initiation involving young men should happen in the context of nature. While it can be very helpful to connect with God in nature, it is also very possible to be initiated into the masculine 37 John Eldredge, The Way of the Wild Heart (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2006), 10. 38 Ibid., 11. 38
  56. 56. journey in the midst of complex urban environments. Healthy people can generally learn how to successfully navigate through life, whether that navigation occurs in either an urban or a rural environment. Eldredge’s approach to transforming the lives of at-risk youth is comparable to the faith-based approach in that both approaches emphasize spiritual development as a crucial component to human development. Eldredge points out, “All masculine initiation is ultimately spiritual. The tests and challenges, the joys and adventures are all designed to awaken a man’s soul, draw him into contact with the masculine in himself, in other men, in the world, and in God, as Father.”39 In this regard, faith-based mentors are very well suited to help high-risk youth navigate through the various stages of the masculine journey. The faith-based mentoring matches that lead to transformation are much more structured and supervised than the informal mentoring relationships Eldredge emphasizes. When it comes to intentional initiation, some components may be transferable to formal mentoring relationships while other components might lead to the relationship becoming prescriptive and therefore harmful to the relationship. Olsen: Institutional and Systemic Reform Successful development can be extremely difficult for young people. In Youth at Risk, author Peter Christian Olsen points out that all adolescents are at risk regardless of their behavior or life circumstances: Being at risk is a condition common to all adolescents. They are born that way. Each one of them is dependent on the society in which they grow up to provide for their needs; when that society, that culture, those parents, those schools, those 39 Ibid., 287. 39
  57. 57. communities upon which they depend fail them, they face the consequence of becoming at risk.40 Olsen’s approach to transforming the lives of at-risk youth focuses more on changing the institutions that impact young people in society than focusing on fixing the young people themselves through counseling and additional personal interventions. One of the main institutions Olsen challenges is the Church: “No more significant task confronts serious Christians and the communities to which they belong than that of ministry with teenagers. They must be willing to take responsibility.”41 It is true that ineffective institutions play a huge role in the path to destructive behavior for teenagers, so this part of this model’s strength comes from its focus on systemic change for transforming the lives of high-risk youth. If society can reform broken institutions, the efforts will go a long way to increase the levels of shalom in cities and in the lives of adolescents. If leaders always focus on meeting the needs of struggling kids, people may miss out on ways to relieve the pain of hundreds or thousands of children. Another strength of this approach resides in its focus on God’s unwavering and relentless pursuit of all of his people: Our God is a God of lost causes. God seems to thrive and show the most compassion when resolving our blunders, undoing our mistakes, or fixing the messed-up situations into which we get ourselves. Jesus relates countless stories and parables in which God is constantly bailing us out, rescuing us, or retrieving us when we are lost. To God, every individual is worthy, each person is important.42 An argument can be made that all youth are at risk; however, a weakness of this approach is that it does not focus enough on contextualization and building unique assets in 40 Peter Olsen, Youth at Risk: Ministry to the Least, the Lost, and the Last (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), ix. 41 Ibid. 42 Ibid., 2. 40
  58. 58. specific subgroups of troubled young people. There are people who have used the excuse that all teenagers are at risk to abdicate their responsibility to care for the poor and to act justly for the transformation of children who are really struggling in life due to their circumstances. Indeed, there is a danger in making a blanket statement about all young people. The faith-based mentoring approach to transforming the lives of at-risk youth involves Christians who intentionally build relationships with young people regardless of the outcomes or changes in adolescent behavior. The faith-based approach is favorably comparable to Olsen’s in that both agree the church should be building community with high-risk youth who may exhibit inappropriate behavior. Again turning to Olsen, “Exclusion from community cannot be a consequence of failure. The message we need to send to teenagers is that if we are going to encourage them to try new things, take on responsibilities, attempt new experiences, stretch their potential, they must be assured that they can fail in these ventures without rejection.”43 God is always on mission to redeem the world. If Christians are to live into that mission, it will be important for followers of Jesus to be able to build effective relationships with high-risk youth. If people intentionally reject troubled teenagers, then the followers of Jesus will be far from living out that mission. Ruthruff: Listening and Learning If adults want to be able to have a greater impact on at-risk youth, it is important for those adults to be able to listen and learn from vulnerable kids when engaging the process of intervening in the lives of at-risk youth. In The Least of These, Ron Ruthruff 43 Ibid., 21. 41
  59. 59. challenges the prescriptive methods that the church often utilizes when attempting to reach troubled kids. He offers, “Imagine a community of faith that listens and learns from each other. Imagine a missiology that revolves around listening and learning as much as teaching and speaking. What would it mean if we listened and learned as we served the widow, orphan, and stranger?”44 Ruthruff answers that question by pointing out that all vulnerable children have a recoverable treasure within them regardless of the painful situations they may experience on the streets or in dysfunctional homes. According to Ruthruff, youth practitioners participate in “an effort to find that treasure. Not only treasure that is buried with the kids whose lives have been hidden behind the rough exterior necessary for street survival. I hold strongly to the belief that kids on the street see God in amazing ways simply because God is close to those who suffer.”45 Relationships with at-risk youth are absolutely critical to their process of transformation. With many years of experience in serving street-involved youth, Ruthruff notes, “The kids have taught me that any strategy to deliver services to them must be highly relational. Programs don’t save kids; relationships, connection, and community do.”46 A main strength of Ruthruff’s approach for transforming the lives of at-risk youth lies in its bottom-up, incarnational, and relational emphasis as opposed to the top-down, prescriptive approach that many programs take in their attempts to reach troubled youth. Any youth development model that emphasizes relationships first has figured out the key that most often leads to transformation. The bottom-up method is very effective: 44 Ron Ruthruff, The Least of These: Lessons Learned from Kids on the Street (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2010), 19. 45 Ibid., 20. 46 Ibid., 46. 42
  60. 60. Jesus said, when we have acted toward THE LEAST OF THESE, we have done whatever we have done unto Him. Yet, not because the least are a problem to be solved, but because they reveal the brokenness and the faith found in all of us. They reveal US to ourselves and, in some strange way, they reveal the flesh and blood of Jesus among us – who loves us, heals us, and asks us to bear witness to a good God who wants to tell the world it’s loved.47 It is difficult to find weaknesses in Ruthruff’s approach to at-risk youth because he incorporates a relational approach that is mixed with solid, evidence-based programs that are contextualized to the unique environments that high-risk youth experience. As for the relevance of Ruthruff’s approach to that of the faith-based model, Ruthruff may be the most relevant of the literature review. One weakness of Ruthruff’s approach is that it focuses a great deal on his experiences of interacting with youth who have experienced severe trauma in their homes and while living on the streets. Many educators and youth ministry practitioners working with children may not be experiencing as high level of risk as the children with whom they work. As such, they may not be able to resonate with this model. This approach reflects the faith-based approach in that it is highly relational, developmental, and incarnational. Too many programs in America aimed at impacting high-risk youth focus on fixing kids through cold systems or institutions instead of really getting to know the kids relationally and then designing programming around those relationships. Faith-based mentoring is a great way to impact kids through meaningful, long term relationships that focus on listening and learning. The two approaches differ in that Ruthruff’s model also includes more prescriptive methods built on years of experience in working at a drop-in center for street-involved youth. His approach moves beyond the intentional mentoring 47 Ibid., 196. 43
  61. 61. relationships to lead children to appropriate case management and counseling strategies that provide a safety net for kids. Miller and Sowers: Fatherlessness Several initiatives are underway in America to address the issue of fatherlessness. The leaders of these initiatives point out that dysfunctional family situations generate many of the problems facing at-risk youth, and they add that the lives of troubled youth can be transformed by addressing the specific issues related to fathers who abdicate their role in society by being either physically detached or emotionally disengaged. In his book To Own a Dragon author Donald Miller takes up the cause of demonstrating how Christians can make a difference in the issue of fatherlessness. Miller is a strong advocate for Christian men stepping up to become mentors to the next generation of young people who are experiencing an explosion of fatherlessness that transcends class, race, or any other cultural identifiers. With regard to the need for mentoring, Miller notes, “People assume when you’re swimming in a river you are supposed to know which way you are going, and I guess some of the time that is true, but there are certain currents that are very strong, and it’s when we are in those currents we need somebody to come along, pull us out, and guide us in a safer direction.”48 Miller also emphasizes the importance of God intervening in the lives of fatherless young people if they themselves are to become spiritual fathers. “Even though some of us grow up without biological fathers, none of us grows up without our actual Father. That is, if we have skin, if we have a heart that is beating, and if we can touch and 48 Donald Miller and John MacMurray, To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), 27. 44

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