big boy pants (doing hard things)

i have a full time job. for most of my marriage to rene, i haven’t been able to say that. but it’s finally true! on august 2, i start in a position as a “youth specialist” at a facility in lawson, mo. it’s a treatment program for delinquent youth committed to the custody of the missouri division of youth services with the department of social services. i will be involved primarily in group therapy and other forms of treatment.

uncropped photo uploaded to flickr 2.10.2007 by thomas hawk

the past few weeks have been a flurry of highs and lows as i have awaited the final offer. i had also interviewed for a similar (or perhaps parallel is a better word) position in olathe, but ultimately it was the program in missouri that looked to be the best fit for me in the long run. let me tell you, the process of making my decision (since i had a fairly good idea i was going to be offered the position for several weeks) was not one i want to repeat any time soon. i have grown, though, and anticipate much more growth as the next few months hit full force.

the missouri program, sometimes called “the missouri model” (this is a  30-minute youtube clip) and even “the missouri miracle,” is a nationally recognized, innovative way to treat delinquent youth. representative from 30 other states have visited the missouri facilities to see how they have achieved such extraordinary success. chris cuomo and a team from good morning america spent a year with nearly unfettered access to the program and its clients (not “inmates”). in short, the predominant model of all juvenile offenders in the entire state being shipped to a huge facility “upstate” where they were treated the same as adult prisoners was replaced with a decentralized system in which kids stay in small cottages, college campuses, or converted schools. the facilities are located near most of the youths’ families, and family is considered a critical part of treatment. there are no bars on the windows. only the most secure facilities have metal detectors or fences. instead of solitary cells, kids sleep in dorm-style bunkrooms adorned with pictures and personal items from home. they wear their own clothes, not prison jumpsuits. instead of guards or corrections officers, the staff are college educated and focus on treatment, not correction (which often means little more than sitting and doing your time). where some states see a recidivism rate of 30% or even 40%, missouri sees fewer than 10% reenter the program as youths once they “graduate.” this also saves the adult corrections system a chunk of money as fewer of these kids offend as adults.

where some states see a recidivism rate of 30% or even 40%, missouri sees fewer than 10% reenter the program as youths once they “graduate.”

suffice it to say that i couldn’t ask for a better environment to learn from the best and take on some very effective techniques. i even think i might learn a thing or two that could help me as a youth leader. most of our kids will never see the inside of the juvenile justice system, but kids are kids. what works for one group can be tweaked to work for another.

that does, however, bring up a difficult aspect of this transition. because the schedule will mostly have me working nights on whichever weekdays i’m scheduled (a weekday shift will go from 4 to midnight), i will not be able to serve as a small group leader with the same consistency i am used to. i confess it’s been a point of selfish pride for me that when co-leaders have had to miss for work or family commitments, i’ve always been there. now i have to trust that God is big enough to handle my lack of control over my schedule. nevertheless, that issue alone was a pretty big hurdle to get over. it will also be a 75 minute drive. i will often be arriving home after 1 in the morning.

these barriers (in my mind at least) almost caused me to pass on the best opportunity i’ve been given in a long time. i even sought out professional counsel, which this super-independent guy doesn’t do often. i was confronted by what author janet a. beverley calls “the profound question” (supported by but not directly quoting her book creating loving relationships, available via my amazon associate link or by emailing the author). ms. beverley developed this rubric for evaluating tough decisions in which we must figure out “what is God’s will for me in this situation?” with her permission, i share it here:

what is the most difficult action for me me to take right now, something that i absolutely do not want to do, yet it is healthy, respectful of self and other, responsible (for self and to other), and given the bigger picture, the action will cause the least amount of harm to self and other?

it’s as if she had a microphone to my thoughts that night i kept my exhausted bride up until the wee hours, talking, fussing, crying, and flip-flopping so much both our heads spun. the Scriptures are brimming with stories of folks who had to make a really tough decision to obey God even when it may have been the last thing they really wanted to do. our pal jonah is the most famous example of how not to respond when God calls you to obey. as i wrote a couple weeks ago, the path of least resistance is boring. far too long have i lived a life that was comfortable to the point of laziness. it’s time for me to put on my big boy pants and do the hard thing. i trust God to help me grow and thrive where He has called me.

i will also keep building the innovideo creative brand and portfolio.

some other things will also be changing, or could change in the not-too-distant future. i will no longer sub in olathe. between now and october 1, i will be transitioning out of my role as student ministry webmaster and video editor. turns out that would have happened regardless of other job scenarios, but God’s timing and sense of humor are, as always, impeccable. i may be involved on the volunteer team that creates video content for the church at large, but the details are uncertain as i navigate the goofiest schedule i’ve ever worked. i will also keep building the innovideo creative brand and portfolio. in fact, the day before i got the final job offer in missouri, i also got an email confirming a project that will put my videos in front of perhaps thousands of eyes. i need to delay announcing any details until the project is ready to release.

we may move when our lease is up in april. depending on whether the position in lawson looks to be a good fit long-term, we’ve talked about renting (an apartment, townhouse, duplex, maybe even a single-family home) in the north kansas city or liberty area. that would place us within about equal drive time to lawson, rene’s work, and church. we will still attend christ community (sunday service times will depend on my schedule, but i can just make it to the five o’clock service if i work the day shift from 8-4), and we will serve as best we can with the youth. other big, exciting changes will include the ability to make solid progress toward our goals of getting out of debt and working toward the purchase of a home. we would also love to start seriously thinking about a family.

i could be jumping the gun, but it really feels like i’ve grown up a lot the past couple of weeks. i’ve had more ups and downs than an adrenaline junkie on the mamba at worlds of fun, but given “the bigger picture,” i am encouraged by the direction i’m pointed and the progress i will make.

Treatment program for delinquent youth committed to the custody of the Missouri Division of Youth Services with the Department of Social Services.
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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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