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The Gang Line Series Part Eight
by Mike Ramey
09/14/08
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Tip From The Old School: Do NOT seek to ask your Pastor or Church to be involved with your child’s appearance before school, court, or other authorities UNLESS you and your child have developed MORE than a “Hi/Bye” relationship with your house of worship.


A few years back a pastor and I were talking about juvenile justice issues. One of the families in his congregation were going to have to attend an expulsion hearing, and they wanted the pastor as a ‘character reference’ concerning the child. The pastor was more than happy to be involved. I, on the other hand, was a little suspicious.

I am going somewhere with this.

I spoke up. “Did the mother provide you with paperwork on the hearing, or did she just ask you to attend?” I was greeted with a quizzical “No,” as by his facial expression the pastor seemed puzzled. “I’m not trying to get into your business, preacher…but if you do NOT have ‘full disclosure’ from this family on the incidents leading up to the expulsion, you may hurt your reputation by being so ‘quick’ to testify.”

Now, I don’t know if he testified--or if he did not. In truth, we are living in the ‘deceptive’ days of our society. Folks will go out and do wrong on a grand scale, then--as they are about to face the consequences of their actions--they run to get their own ‘posse’ of friends and experts in order to explain away their actions. All the posse gets to know is that the person whom they are supporting ‘got’ into trouble. After the dust has cleared, the money spent, and the time and emotions invested, it is ‘learned’ that the person involved had more to do in starting the trouble than previously believed.

There is a biblical admonition for those of us who wear the Christian label to ‘count the costs’ of our actions and involvements. The Bible warns us not to be quick to ‘co-sign’ onto the trouble of others. If folk are not forthcoming about the extent of their troubles, you are not obligated to provide resources.

THE FAMILY CAME FIRST:

These next few items may shock more than a few groups and churches, but I’ll state them anyway. First, the Bible does give people the power to judge, along with the power of individual choice. When Jesus sees people deliberately not noticing legitimate ‘red flags’ (such as the Pharisees), His solution was to rebuke them loudly, and in public.

Second, God created the institution of marriage first, and the family unit second in the Book of Genesis. Those in the courts, law enforcement, and even the church who attempt to develop programs or to secure grants in order to form a wedge between parent/guardian and child are making mistakes of biblical proportions. One can not successfully break up the spread and impact of gangs without empowering the family.

This may sound ‘simplistic’ to some. Needless to say, I am a person who believes more in solutions and less in ‘wishful’ talk as I have seen the problem and the damage up close and personal.

GRANTS, TAXES AND RECESSION:

Parents/guardians BEST know the capabilities and talents of their own children. This is why THEY are best to know when their kids are turning towards gang activity, because they recognize the ‘red flags’ of troubled youth. Developing treatment and intervention programs for juveniles WITHOUT the consideration OR involvement of their parents/guardians is just a waste of resources.

Nevertheless, society continues is drive to proudly skirt parental authority.

As I have mentioned before; suppression and detention of gang members only will only work in certain circumstances, and over a limited span of time. Gang members change street tactics roughly every six to twelve months. It takes--by my estimation--some three to five YEARS for local authorities--including churches and schools--to respond with plans to alert the public to gang dangers and try to contain gang activity in their own locales…provided those in these authority positions AND in the community are willing to admit that they have a gang problem in the first place.

In many cities, the denial continues and the crime rate increases.

I’ll repeat this next item again for the record: There are many institutions and agencies that make money off of the gang issue through various grants and funding sources. As I was putting this column together, a high-ranking federal law enforcement official was the subject of an article about the ‘reality’ of what grants could and could not do in putting more local cops on the streets. In short, this official noted that the current recession, coupled with local and state governments having to hold the line on taxes and expenses would NOT be able to count on federal grants to add more local cops.

But wait, there IS more.

A few weeks earlier, another article came forth pointing out that more and more cities were going to hire more civilians to handle lesser crimes, freeing up more cops for street duty. Lastly, because of the fuel price crisis, another well-written article on law enforcement issues came forth, explaining how police agencies were investing in bicycles and other ‘gas friendly’ vehicles to save money on gas costs.

UNDERSTANDING THE RED FLAGS:

What does this all mean? As I read these articles, MY take was the following: local law enforcement agencies--including the courts--are going to be ‘prioritizing’ their handling of certain crimes. Mr. And Mrs. Taxpayer are going to have to do more about fighting crime themselves--at the ROOT!

Thus, it is time for the ‘meat’ of this column…recognizing the red flags of gang activity from the home to the street. Parents, you DO have the power to blunt much of the negative activities of YOUR OWN children, contrary to the ‘PC’ crowd.

IF you coddle them; indulge them, and take their side over legitimate authority, your child will wind up either on TV or in the morgue. Teach them the value of hard work, staying crime free, the need for church & faith in God through Jesus Christ, the benefits of a good education--including graduating and going on to trade school or college--and you will have a successful child.

Why does it rest with the home and/or the parent or guardian?

Simple. A child is blessed with the internal ability to love and follow their parents--both of them--into right, or wrong behavior. Three immediate red flags involve the activity of parents. Should one--or both--of them have criminal records, be on probation/parole, or have been or are spending time in jail or prison, you have the potential of the child wanting to ‘follow’ in their footsteps. It gets worse if the child is being raised by a custodial parent who has done their level best to ‘slam’ the non-custodial parent--especially if that parent is incarcerated.

Two other red flags are parent/guardian controlled. These revolve around who your child ‘hangs out’ with, and whether or not your child is regularly attending school.

I’ll make these sweet and simple. If your child sees you hanging around shady characters; if your child sees you not continuing your education or even ‘keeping up’ with current events through the newspaper, magazines or books, your child will be inching ever closer to truancy problems, school suspensions and/or expulsion. Waiting for them on ‘the street’ will be those older juvenile delinquents who will be happy to use your child as a ‘toy’. Some of these older juveniles are of the opposite sex, and have no problem in training your child to be a liar, cheat, criminal and gang member.

The advice for summer now that school is letting out? Even for the fall when school goes back into session? Get to know your child and recognize potential red flags and address them at home. It is better for a parent/guardian to get involved with their children now, than sitting in a courtroom later having to explain their inaction--to a judge.

MIKE RAMEY is a Street Gang Specialist, consultant, trainer and Lead Instructor of THE GANG LINE, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you have questions, comments, or would like to have him speak at your school, church or facility; OR train your group, ministry or agency on how to spot/stop gang activity, email RameysGangLine@yahoo.com ©2008 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.



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