Next Level Update (Nov. 2022)
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Since we communicated last, we have experienced some changes. Because of the demands of Covid and the restrictions placed on our program working with teens, our main focus has shifted. The good news is, doors have opened wider allowing us to work with young men in prison with much freedom to introduce them to some exciting truth principles. We still continue to work with teens one-on-one as opportunities are presented and referrals are received.
Because of the structured nature of prison life, inmates are left with few options outside of their normal routines. And, because of their circumstances, many are eagerly ready to participate in programs that help improve their lives and bring hope to whatever their future may bring.
For most inmates, early on in their incarceration history, sobriety was the top priority. Programs like AA or NA and weekend church services, along with drug and alcohol counseling programs, consumed most of their “personal improvement” time. However, most have been clean and sober in the last decade or more. New programs that help the men face their future are needed to help them reframe their outlook on life and change their future possibilities. One of the keys to their future is learning how to have healthy relationships. And for most, this takes a renewed mindset.
As you may know, Next Level has been working with Teens using a proven curriculum known as REAL ESSENTIALS, which provides relationship education skills, designed to improve their relationships and their lives. Now, working with inmates, we’ve also incorporated another program that works perfectly in the prison environment.
Sponsored by the Whitherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, Next Level is partnering with a program called CanaVox which provides online courses to students from middle school age through high school, equipping them to boldly face the challenges that today’s culture and social pressures present. Something they won’t learn in public education. Now, we are bringing the CanaVox courses to men in jail. The results are most encouraging! At first, I was terrified, but the men were so receptive and even hungry for the truth, and CanaVox set me up for success!
In the last year and a half, Next Level has facilitated fundamental life discussions with more than 100 men, usually in groups of 3-6! Since all of our curricula is aimed at resourcing discussion groups, it works hand in hand with other inpatient and outpatient drug, alcohol, and behavioral programs. The facts embedded in the materials support philosophies and treatment approaches offered in the other legacy programs. And it’s not hard to talk about truth when all the men are facing the natural consequences of their decisions.
“I enjoyed the (Next Level) treatment techniques far more than the traditional bookwork we received while in the Correctional Facility. The materials were simple and far more effective in my opinion. What I enjoyed and thought was effective were the discussions. Subjects like, the simple yet effective keys to communication, moving forward in relationships especially intimate ones, controlling our emotions, and setting healthy boundaries. And honestly, I'm a pretty smart guy, but there were some ah-ha moments that I believe others had as well.” - Zack, inmate.
Although challenging our pride and “masculinity”, the guys love discussing the fall-out of a culture that no longer demands maturity from men. We never allow people to use shame in the groups, and it’s never needed because the truth is, every guy will agree that it’s easy to be a sh***y father and husband. 90% of homeless teens, 70-85% of inmates, 63% teen suicide, 71% of pregnant teens, and 71% of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. Fatherless children are 4 times more likely to live in poverty and twice as likely to struggle with obesity. As we discuss these realities, men open up about their kids and past relationships. Most of these men are naming things for the first time in their lives.
These group discussions then open the doors to private one-on-ones - where I am at liberty to discuss almost anything, as long as the client initiates. The simple, yet profound truths discussed in group sessions often serve as pre-evangelism, and I wait for the Lord to open opportunities to share about the hope within me! Over the last year and a half, four or more men have surrendered their life, future, and fears to Jesus Christ!
While I write this, I am preparing to head to the jail, and I’ll admit, I’m still a bit nervous - as usual, but I cannot hide when I have the keys to talking about hard things, real life, and discovering the lost art of communication. So here I go again, pray for our success! If you can, pray for me on Wednesdays.
Again, a heartfelt thanks for your prayers and continued financial support. Your partnership makes our job easier and our load lighter.
Next Level Education