“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”
Colossians 1:28 (NIV)
Prison ministry, like all ministries, is not a single event but a process. The Church is called to make disciples, not simply converts. And that takes time.
Evangelism and discipleship, preparing for release and reentry ministry—these are all required to disciple incarcerated men and women. These ministries help new Christians become rooted in Christ, grounded in His Word, and equipped to live a new life in the community.
A recent development in Alaska’s Department of Corrections highlights one of the great challenges that we all face in prison ministry. Due to shortfalls in revenue, the state has been forced to shut down the Palmer Correctional Center—a 500–bed prison located about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage.
The men previously housed in this facility have been transferred to other prisons. This means that the relationships they had with volunteers and churches while they were housed at Palmer have been disrupted.
It doesn’t take the closure of a prison to create this dilemma. Prisoners are regularly transferred from institution to institution. And whenever that happens there is the potential for believers to be disconnected from ministry.
If the Church is to effectively disciple prisoners in the midst of a system that moves them around, it is important that we learn to be nimble in serving them wherever they may be sent.
By establishing ministry teams around all the prisons in a state and in key communities, we have the ability to provide a continuum of ministry to prisoners. It allows us to be available to them through each step of the corrections system.
Ultimately, we want to help each prisoner God entrusts to us to find a church home where they can grow and serve after they have been released from prison.
Prison Fellowship’s goal is for every man and woman to be complete in Christ!
Establishing relationships with prisoners is one way we can be the Church for our incarcerated brothers and sisters. To find out how you can be a part of Prison Fellowship, visit our Volunteer section.
Mark Hubbell is Prison Fellowship’s northwest area director serving Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Alaska, and Utah. He has served on staff with the ministry for 30 years.