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Showing posts from January, 2009

The Redemptive Drug Test

In most businesses, a positive test for drug use results in termination. I think it’s possible to create a safe work environment while also running a redemptive drug-testing program. Such a program seeks to balance personal safety while facilitating long-term life change. For a faith venture business that creates opportunity for individuals rebuilding lives from addiction or prison, this type of drug-testing policy is an absolute necessity and involves techniques to discern a person’s willingness to change.

One of the most helpful tools in this quest is regular random drug-tests. These are performed in an environment where it’s communicated in numerous ways and settings that it’s better to reach out for help if one is using drugs than to attempt to hide such use. In the face of an imminent drug tests, we then observe an employee’s willingness to admit to use across a spectrum of four possible approaches.

The person who is most likely to succeed at overcoming an addiction is the one who…

Of Thrift Stores and Vacuum Cleaners

When you work in an old warehouse from the early 20th century, dust and grime become your constant companions. We wage a daily battle trying to keep our workspace clean often with very little success. One weapon in our arsenal is the trusty vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, Belay seems to be a place where vacuum cleaners come to die. I was reminded of this fact this afternoon when my assistant let out a yelp after the vacuum she was using started spewing dust like an erupting volcano.

A few years ago, I remember purchasing a new vacuum cleaner from the local Target store. I returned to Bud’s Warehouse and spent the next hour putting it together. I then left for a meeting. About an hour later I returned. As I was walking through the parking lot, I noticed a customer carrying out my brand new vacuum cleaner.

“Where are you going with that?” I asked.
“I just bought it.”
“But it’s not for sale.”
“Yes, it was and I have a receipt for it right here.”

I kindly explained to her that the sale was a mis…

Following the Bread Crumb Trail

In my experience, leadership is more of an art than a science. This is especially true when you examine leadership in the context of the different constituencies of a nonprofit agency. The various stakeholders invested in a charitable mission--from the board of directors to the management staff, from volunteers to program participants—are emotionally invested in past decisions and future outcomes. Leadership will not discover its full potential when it doesn’t make room for the artful accommodation and careful cultivation of these various invested voices.

Over the last ten years, when my own leadership style has been too authoritative and not collaborative enough, I have not seen the level of positive results as opposed to when it has been more of a shared journey. This has become especially true as our organization has grown in size and matured from its start-up phase. I have come to see that process of achieving certain leadership aims is more a task of breaking the goal into little …

A Place to Call Home

A person rebuilding a life after an addiction, homelessness, or prison has the double needs of employment and housing. These both have to be in place in order to increase the odds of successful outcomes. It goes without saying that housing without a job or a job without housing are not scenarios that are destined for success.

Over the years, Belay’s various faith venture businesses have partnered with transitional housing organizations such as Providence Network in order to serve the housing needs of our program participants. One of the benefits of such a partnership is that individuals receive 24 hours of services during a very difficult time of transition. Then, a natural step down from services occurs as people remain in our program and graduate from the transitional housing program into their own apartment. Individuals do not lose all of their program support at once as this slow progression allows them to return to full self-sufficiency in a more natural progression.

We have recent…

Learning to Listen....Again

We live in a culture that likes to be heard. And our society has forgotten how to listen. These two tendencies are very much at odds with each other. So we end up with a community where lots of people are talking and no one is really listening. Or even worse, we have a bunch of individuals talking about stuff that no one’s interested in.

I have found that in ministry settings this can be especially true. The great danger is that we are missing the connection points with the people we are trying to serve in our particular ministry.

In urban ministry, I think this is a rather common occurrence. The person trying to teach doesn’t connect with the participants because they have forgotten how to listen. This may be the result of a false paradigm where the leader sees the ones they are teaching as “broken” and in need of being “fixed” rather then as fellow sinners on a common path of redemption. We do our ministries well to actively seek out questions and to create an environment where people…

Mystery of the Incarnation

I learned of this quote by Andrew Sullivan in a recent wonderful sermon, "In the Beginning Part II - This Time its Personal" by Rob Bell. I don't know much about Mr. Sullivan's theology--I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't agree with it all-- but his writings beautifully capture the mystery of the incarnation and the love of Jesus.

I call myself a Christian because I believe that, in a way I cannot fully
understand, the force behind everything decided to prove itself benign by
becoming us, and being with us. And as soon as people grasped what had
happened, what was happening, the world changed forever...And the world as
it was--as it still is--was unable to tolerate this immense occasion; and so
Jesus was executed and the life more in touch with divinity than any other
life was ended abruptly, when it was still achingly young. The existence of
such a life was both so wondrous that it changed everything; and also so
terrifying it had to be
snuffed out.
From 'The Conse…

Homeboy Industries

About two years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Father Greg Boyle, who is one of the most inspirational faith venture leaders I have ever met. There’s a good chance you’ve heard his story because he is a sought our expert on the issue of gang intervention strategies and makes many media appearances. I was even watching an international travel show on PBS this past year where Father Greg appeared as part of Globe Trekkers’ dining recommendations for Los Angeles.

Father Greg is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. He gave the keynote talk to a Faith and Enterprise seminar that I organized at the 1997 Social Enterprise Alliance Gathering in Long Beach, California. Father Greg shared with us many wonderful stories of life-change that have come about through his faith venture businesses and community programs.

Homeboy traces its roots to the 1988 formation of the Jobs for a Future program after the Los Angeles riots when the community was seeking solutions to gang…

Faith Based Paradigm Shift

(As with all posts on this blog, these thoughts reflect my opinion and not necessarily the views of my organization.)

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives just released a final report on its performance as the Bush administration prepares to leave office next week. The report makes a convincing argument for the continuation of this program under the Obama administration. I think President Bush’s emphasis on breaking down barriers between government and the faith-based community has translated into real benefits for society.

Though Belay Enterprises has never directly sought out funding from government agencies, we indirectly have been beneficiaries of this shift in philosophy. Over the last 8 years, I have seen a definite growing willingness of government agencies at local and national levels to work with faith organizations. President Bush’s initiative gave permission for agencies to move dollars and to collaborate with the programs that were having the most …

Baby Clothes as Hazardous Waste

Last week, we found out some surprising news from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. On August 14, 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was signed into law. This federal legislation arose from the recent discovery of imported toys with high lead content. The law mandates that starting on February 10, 2009, it is a criminal offense to sell children’s products with lead content higher than 660 parts per million. This level drops to 300 parts per million after August 14, 2009. In effect, such children’s products are considered hazardous waste and can result in criminal and civil penalties. Also, as part of the act, it becomes immediately unlawful to sell products that have been recalled.

Last week, as the ramifications of this act sank in, a number of news stories (9News and Wall Street Journal.com) appeared in local and national news outlets. They warned about the possibility of this legislation having the unintended effect of closing numerous chil…

Points of No Return

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for
the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good
man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us
in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… For if, when we were
God’s enemies, we were reconciled through the death of his Son, how much more,
having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:6-8,10,NIV

There are some choices in life that will permanently alter the path of one’s life. At Belay Enterprises, we exist because of society’s unwillingness to give individuals with felony convictions a second chance. Bud’s Warehouse and Baby Bud’s hire individuals for our job-training programs who are unable to get a job elsewhere because they are rebuilding a life from addiction, felony conviction, or homelessness.

We’ve always strived to make our programs a place about grace… living examples of God’s willingness to die for us i…

Showing Up

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave,
where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor
wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 9:10, NIV

The key to success at work is showing up. And at the various businesses of Belay Enterprises, we teach individuals rebuilding lives from addiction or felony conviction that showing up is more than just occupying space at work. It’s deciding to be fully present at work and applying your best effort towards your tasks. Rising stars in different jobs are those people who know how to show up on a daily basis even when they don’t feel like it. And the reality is that we will all not feel like it at times. On those days when I don’t feel like giving my best, I find it helpful to find some space to thank God for the ways he has blessed me and then ask for some direction on the most important tasks that I should focus on that day. A time of refocusing and recommitting helps me to show up.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 reminds u…

Back in the Saddle

I hope you had a relaxing and fun holiday season. Now, bring on the New Year! I like New Year's day because it feels like grace...a time to start-over. I am trusting that God will provide new faith venture opportunities for individuals and communities rebuilding lives in 2009.

I have been taking some time off from regular blogging in December but I'm excited to restart the conversation about faith ventures in the coming days. I look forward to learning more together.

Blessings-

James Reiner