Off to prison (ministry)

Matthew 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

See the follow up to this post here.

I’ll be volunteering at a Kairos Ministry weekend at a Texas prison next month.   It is sort of like a Walk to Emmaus or Cursillo event for prisoners. 

Well-organized and well-trained volunteer teams of men and women from the communities surrounding an institution present an introductory 3-day weekend, described as a short course in Christianity.  This inter-denominational team of volunteers — both clergy and laypersons — works in cooperation with the Chaplain who carefully selects up to 42 inmate leaders to attend.  A well-organized follow up program is part of this ministry. 

There is a huge benefit to society from this program.  The recidivism rate is inverted for those who go through the program.  Instead of 80+% of the inmates returning to jail within three years of their release, less than 30% of those attending just the weekend program do so and less than 10% do for those who attend the program and follow up sessions. 

My first thought upon hearing those statistics is that perhaps they were cherry-picking inmates who were more likely to go straight anyway.  But that isn’t the case.  They “rotten cherry pick,” so to speak, and try to bring in negative leaders as well as positive from the prison population, including those that appear to be unlovable.  They know that if the leaders are changed it can have a huge impact on the rest of the population. 

The training is very thorough and well done so you can be equipped to make a difference and not cause problems.  The rules are taken quite seriously.  For example, accidentally taking a mobile phone in the jail is a federal offense.  There are strict guidelines on what can be brought in.  Apparently these fellows are quite creative and can make alcohol or drugs from just about anything. 

Several friends from church are passionate about this ministry, so I have been eager to give it a try.  I talked to several ex-convicts when doing volunteer counseling at CareNet Pregnancy centers and enjoyed getting to know them and encouraging them with the Gospel message. 

Some people may initially balk at this ministry because of a traditional “Lock ’em up and throw away the key” attitude.  But Kairos isn’t soft on criminal justice.  It doesn’t advocate for the prisoners, it just advocates for Christ. 

The church reaches out to these inmates with Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness.  Many of the people we encounter on the outside of these jails just have one difference with the inmates: They didn’t get caught.  Yet. 

I’ll be an assistant table leader, helping facilitate discussions after various talks.  I’ll be giving a talk on how to develop your relationship with God.  I’ll also be playing guitar with the music team.

There are all kinds of special things done for the inmates to help them know that people still care, and there are many powerful exercises they go through during the weekend.  There are monthly follow up visits as well. 

This is an ecumenical (non-denominational) organization – in the good way (unashamedly united on the essentials of the faith and that Jesus is the way), not the bad way (watered down theology). 

Please pray for the whole team and the 42 inmates we’ll be serving.  I’ll follow up with more information as I go through the process.

Also see Kairos of Texas and Prison Fellowship

To find ministries in your area, check out the links below (or just call your local prison – they may have other ministries going as well)

Kairos locations in Texas

Kairos national ministry map

Prison Fellowship Field Offices

9 thoughts on “Off to prison (ministry)”

  1. God bless you. I will keep you and the group in my prayers. I know some people who are involved in this ministry and I have heard good things about it.

    I believe that only the Holy Spirit can truly help these people, and I pray that many of them will receive him.

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  2. Sounds like a really good program. I’m retired now and am thinking that this would be a great ministry. There are two prisons within 25 miles of my home. I especially like the fact that it is not tainted with ideological doctrine, just the truth of the gospel message. How do I find out if this specific program is available in my area? May God bless your efforts and that many will find forgiveness and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. Herm

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  3. Thanks for the interest and support!

    Herm, I added links to the original post that contain contact information for Kairos and Prison Fellowship organizations throughout the country. I hope you find something for the prisons in your area. My guess is that they have some type of visitation ministry going even if it is not with Kairos or PF. Let me know how it goes!

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  4. Thanks for the links Neil. I checked but no Kairos activity shown for Oregon. I’ll take your advice and contact the prison authorities at both prisons. I just liked the idea that the program your involved with appeared so well structured and included some training which would be of great value. I suppose there is some type of ministry on going at prisons located here, just need to find some contacts. I hope others will be inspired as I was by your posting. Keep us posted on how it progresses for you. God Bless, Herm

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