Have you been looking for a way to gently ease your church into prison ministry? A way to involve others who might not yet be ready to volunteer inside a prison or work directly with released prisoners?
A way to give others just a taste of reaching out to prisoners that may whet their appetite for more?
A Christian book drive might be just the way to go!
Christian Library International—a collaborator with Prison Fellowship in Operation Starting Line—distributes Bibles and Christian books free of charge to more than 900 prisons and jails across the U.S. These materials are shipped directly to chaplains, who distribute them to prisoners through various means: adding them to the chapel’s lending library, rolling a book cart cell-to-cell or dorm-to-dorm, offering a carefully chosen book to a prisoner with specific questions.
And these books definitely impact lives! Here’s what an inmate named Christopher wrote:
I had reached a time of my life where I was very depressed and in the throes of alcoholism and drug addiction. I was suicidal, and the police were dispatched to my home. Unfortunately, I charged them with a gun and was shot down by the officers . . . Eventually I found myself alone in a concrete cell in the jail hospital. I had no possessions—no books or even a toothbrush, and I was without God in my heart.
The jail chaplain brought me a Bible and D. L. Moody’s The Overcoming Life. These I read carefully, and I gave my heart to Jesus in the jail cell. I have experienced a profound healing in my gunshot arm as well as have been given a second chance by the judge. So long as I stay with God, I will stay clean and sober . . . Thank you for reaching out to inmates, those in jail are in tremendous spiritual agony and really need organizations such as yours.
A lot of people in your church probably have books on their shelves they would love to give away. And those books might provide just the message that other inmates like Christopher so desperately need to hear.
Christian Library International (CLI) seeks donations of new and “lightly used” Bibles and good quality Christian books in both English and Spanish—including Christian fiction, inspirational and teaching books, Bible studies, devotionals, or as CLI says, “most books normally found in a Christian bookstore.”
CLI’s website walks you through how to organize a book drive at your church, and provides promotional materials you can download. Your church must pay shipping charges to send the collected books to CLI (no COD shipments). But CLI in turn covers the cost of shipping thousands of materials to hundreds of prisons and jails.
CLI stamps all books with its address, and many prisoners write back. Every letter is answered personally, and inmates are invited to sign up for a free correspondence Bible study to aid in their spiritual growth.
So if you want to recruit others to prison ministry, but need a gentle lead-in—consider a book drive in partnership with CLI. It might be just the hook for deeper involvement as a Prison Fellowship volunteer. And it could help reach prisoners across the country with the redemptive, healing truths of Jesus Christ.