There is great need behind bars, but also great opportunity to see the Gospel transform lives. Getting involved with a prison outreach is one of the most effective ways you can directly impact the lives of incarcerated men and women. Here are five ways that you and your church can start your prison outreach ministry:
VOLUNTEER WITH ANGEL TREE
You can play a vital role in reaching out to children with incarcerated parents through volunteering with Angel Tree®. Prison Fellowship®'s Angel Tree program ministers to prisoners' families year round. Angel Tree has strengthened family relationships and has led many children, caregivers, and incarcerated parents to faith in Christ. It is a unique outreach that cares for some of the most overlooked members of our communities.
Year-round Angel Tree volunteer opportunities include camping and events that you and your church can host to reach out to families with incarcerated loved ones.
To donate to the Angel Tree Camping® program, click here.
BECOME A MENTOR
Many incarcerated men and women come from fragmented families, and as a mentor you can provide a positive relationship in their life. God created us with the need to know and be known as well as to have relationships that foster our spiritual growth, hold us accountable, and encourage us to press toward healthy goals. As a mentor, you can be a loving friend to an incarcerated man or woman. And you can demonstrate Christ-like living while offering them accountability and honest feedback.
An important aspect of mentoring is remembering that your goal is to build a relationship with your mentee, not trying to fix or change them. Your responsibility as a mentor is to be wise and loving while establishing appropriate boundaries with your mentee that do not encourage them to be passive, become dependent on you, or manipulate you for gain.
To get more information about volunteering as an in-prison mentor, call Prison Fellowship at 800-251-7411 or fill out our online interest form.
SUPPORT PRISON CHAPLAINS
Chaplains are responsible for facilitating programs that provide spiritual and emotional needs for the almost 2.2 million incarcerated men and women in the nation. They often need to be supported themselves in order to effectively serve incarcerated men and women. Since they are also the main contact allowing faith-based groups to come into the prisons and minister, it is good practice to cultivate a good relationship with them.
You can invest in their lives and build a relationship with them by volunteering to help set up for events or do clerical work. You can also invite chaplains to attend your prison ministry events. Encourage prisoners to pray for their chaplain, and write notes of appreciation to them.
To get more information on how you can bless prison chaplains, call Prison Fellowship at 800-251-7411.
LEAD A PRISON BIBLE STUDY
Leading a prison Bible study gives you the opportunity to directly impact prisoners' lives through meeting with them regularly to explore the Word of God. Bible studies can last anywhere from 6-8 weeks or all year long. A range of topics can be studied, such as how to receive Christ, how to pray, and how to forgive others as well as yourself. Prison Fellowship recommends leading a Bible study with a team so that you can share the commitment of weekly studies and preparation.
The goal of each study is to help the participants come to know Jesus Christ personally and learn how to apply His Word to their lives. Your challenge as a leader is to make your weekly study practical, interesting, and relevant. Through prayer, fellowship, and worship, you can encourage participants to grow closer to God. Be practical in your approach. Include thoughtful discussing questions that go deeper than the level of a Sunday School class. Remember, spiritual growth for the prisoners is not guaranteed. However, you can still create an impact in their lives. Leading an intentional study will challenge them and teach them about the Word of God.
To learn more about becoming a prison Bible study leader, call Prison Fellowship at 800-251-7411.
FACILITATE A SKILLS-BASED CLASS
Many people behind bars lack the basic life skills such as financial literacy, healthy relationships, parenting, employability soft skills and anger management. Lack of basic life skills contributes to high recidivism rates by making it harder for prisoners to access resources, rebuild relationships and find jobs. By teaching a life skills class in a prison, you can change prisoners' lives. Teaching a skill-based class within prison is a practical way to help incarcerated men and women build better lives for themselves and their families.
Contact your local Prison Fellowship staff at 800-251-7411 to inquire about existing programs or about starting a new program at a nearby facility.