Juvenile Justice – Spiritual Fatherhood
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
By: Jake Rogers, Former Juvenile Justice Ministry Director
I can only imagine the love a father has for his children. I’ve always been an only child and don’t yet have any children of my own. But recently, through the Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM), God blessed me with a whole slew of high-risk teens. I get to be their mentor, a male role model, the encourager they never had, a father to the fatherless. Each week I spend a few hours inside the Juvenile Detention Center talking with these teens. Once released, many of them are calling to continue our conversations and get connected to the JJM Next-Steps Aftercare Group.
So, as trust is built these teens lower their guard and risk being open and vulnerable. They allow me to see what’s beneath their masks.
They have learned to protect themselves from feelings of insecurity, pain, and confusion by wearing a mask, and preventing others from knowing them. These masks are built of many layers, with a new one added with each disappointment, failure, and let down they’ve experienced. Still, deep down they long to be recognized and known. So, as trust is built these teens lower their guard and risk being open and vulnerable. They allow me to see what’s beneath their masks. Some are learning to trust for the very first time, removing layers they’ve never shared with anyone before. What a humbling honor and privilege it is to be trusted with this!
I feel a fatherly pride and joy as I watch these teens grow, trying new things, accomplishing what they previously couldn’t imagine doing, seeing them step out of their comfort zones, and watching them become the men God created them to be. This must be the same excitement a parent feels while watching their children grow.
In the past, I didn’t understand why a parent would get so excited about seeing their kids playing a sport. Or why it was so important to spend an entire day at a graduation ceremony, just to watch their child walk across a stage and be handed a piece of paper. But I understand now. It’s not about those few seconds; it’s not even about the diploma. It’s the culmination of all the sweat, blood, and tears of helping their child grow and develop and accomplish new things. All those sleepless nights and agonizing prayers were not in vain.
The Apostle Paul referred to himself as the spiritual father of the Corinthians in his first letter (4:15), affirming his genuine concern for them.
Similarly, the Apostle Paul referred to himself as the spiritual father to the Corinthians in his first letter (4:15), affirming his genuine concern for them. In several of his letters, Paul gives thanks to God for his spiritual children before praying for them. He described times of anxiety, fear, and concern for them. Paul knew them well. He had seen and heard reports of the good work God was doing in them and had been watching the Spirit transform their lives from the inside out.
What a privilege it is to be a part of God’s redemptive work as He is shaping teens in the Juvenile Justice System into His masterpieces. It’s because of your investments, through prayer and financial resources, that I’ve been sent to be more than just a mentor or role model to these youth, but a spiritual father, a father to the fatherless. Is there anything more exciting than to be a part of God’s redemptive work in the lives of high-risk youth? I don’t think so. Thank you, Jesus!
A national study revealed that, 2 years after being released 28% of the youth in a mentoring program reoffended, compared to 62% for those who were not. Mentors, spiritual fathers, and mothers, are critical for high-risk youth to break free from a cycle trapping them in the system. Would you consider sponsoring a teen who’s involved in the Juvenile Justice System, through a monthly investment?
What’s more, a 2015 report revealed it cost taxpayers over $111,000 to incarcerate just one youth for a year. Could there be a greater return on investment than mentoring these teens?