Leadership Summit 2008 | CATHERINE ROHR: Risk Taking, Barrier Breaking, Bold Leadership

Posted on August 8, 2008

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SESSION 7. Summit Page. Prison Entrepreneurship Program site.

“It’s not easy to gain the respect of hardened criminals. But that’s what Catherine has done.”

THE COST OF THE CALL

I believe that God put me on this earth to land me in prison. There is nothing that I wouldn’t give up for God. My favorite prayer is, “Bring it on, God. Bring it on!” We went all in, financially, and then we moved to Texas.

WHERE DID YOU FIND THE COURAGE?

Ignorance is bliss. One little act of obedience at a time. I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. The last four years have been the most gut-wrenching, painful time of my life. I just need to chill-out and let Him take control.

THE PROBLEM OF PRISON

The highest failure rate industry that I know of. 1 out of 15 Americans go to prison and 50% return. And while we look at David, not as murderer, but as a man after God’s own heart, we look at these criminals and say “talk to the hand.”

What we do in prison:

1. We scour the system to find the best former leaders and recruit them
2. Prison boot camp and training and classes.
3. Graduation.
4. The hard work of reintegration.

We have the lowest recidivism rate of any prison program out there.

One thing I’m really proud of is that these guys have been takers their whole lives. 70% of the graduates now give back to the Prison Entrepreneurial Program (P.E.P.), and support the efforts.

TELL US ABOUT THE NEAR FATAL BLOW

God doesn’t really need me. He just needs me to follow instructions. Her pastor, Keith Zafren says, “Just show up for the day and follow through in obedience.”

DANCE LESSONS WHILE YOU’RE LEADING UP

It’s easy to see this big institution and authority, but it’s really a collection of people and potential relationships. All of my organizational eggs are in one basket, but not all of my relational eggs have to be in one basket.

HOW DO YOU INSTILL CHARACTER IN A FOUR MONTH PERIOD?

Well, it can be done, because we do it. We start the process on day one. We do a personal character assessment. We can be broken and still be lovable and loved. Then we have peer driven confrontation with each other.

CRITICISM

I can’t think of a day when I don’t get personally criticism or when I don’t hear it about the program. I don’t let my emotions get in the way of taking care of business. The way I evaluate it, “Is this legit feedback?” If it’s legitimate, then bring it on. I want to fix it. I actually pursue that kind of feedback. I seek it out. For the most part, I let the rumors go.

GENDER

I think, “What’s it like to be a woman leader” is just odd to me. I make no excuse for being a girl. I don’t carry myself like that, as a female, or according to my age. There are always going to be obstacles, but just leave it all behind. In prison, obviously I have to deal with being a girl, but I just lay down the law.

PACE OF LIFE: SELF-LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY

This will always be a struggle for me. When I rest, it’s at someone else’s expense. But, if I don’t take care of myself, then the whole thing suffers. I have a great fear of inadequacy. I have a personal assistant that schedules “down-time.”

MONEY

100 % is donation based. I ask people to connect their hearts to the mission. Come to prison, and see our work. Your wallet will follow your heart, and I know that. I try to model the behavior that I would like out of everyone else. So, I give sacrificially to P.E.P. People also like to give out of success, and they like to be a part of something. They like to own it. Then we do good follow up after that.

FUTURE – IS P.E.P. A ONE GENERATION PROGRAM?

We wrestle with that question all the time; can it be replicated? If we want to be good at what we do, we need to be strategic. We’re not in the business of spreading junk. My board feels that I have a special anointing to do this right now, so for someone to start in California, then they would need to be anointed too. And, it would probably be one of my graduates.

[Find the leaders, then start the ministry.]

HIRING FROM WITHIN

Hiring from our graduates is putting my money where my mouth is. 9 of our 20 staffers are graduates. It wasn’t until a year ago that I hired a non-felon. So, this organization is built on felons. They understand what it means to be willing to die for something, and they’re willing to die for P.E.P. We hope that we’re not about pity, but about compassion; suffering with people to help them get to the next level. I’m not here to look down upon you, but to see you as gentlemen that are respectable that will become someone. I modeled this from Jesus.

100,000 LEADERS AND PARTING WORDS

What I really want to leave you with is that many people are wowed by my story. But why? I’m just a person who had a skill set that gave it up for God. How come “giving up everything for Jesus” doesn’t happen more? I can’t imagine what I’d be missing out if I was doing $100 million deals in New York? Reconnect with the vision to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. And we can do that, we just need to follow in obedience. I dare you to pray “Bring it on God” and watch out!

CLOSING

The platformed gentlemen at the end were in jail for drugs, possession of marijuana, drugs by fraud, drinking and driving, organized crime, manufacturing and distribution of crack cocaine, first-degree murder, methamphetamine, aggravated robbery, attempted murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon… and now they’re business men, leading positive and productive lives, and returning to the system to inspire others to do the same. In other words, they’re making disciples.

VIA:

A bit of a spit-fire and a bit feisty, but a fantastic session and extremely inspirational. I bless God for Rohr, her work, and the difference she is making, bringing the Kingdom of God here.

Her frustration is similar to what my wife and I have discussed (see my post on “Criminal Justice – The Corrective System’s Oxymoron.”)

In addition to the Economist, Rohr was on MSNBC’s “Making a Difference.”