Show lonely children that their parents in prison have not forgotten them
Angel Tree® has been a ministry of Prison Fellowship for 30 years. What began as a small outreach to prisoners’ children in a Birmingham, Alabama, mall has grown to be a ministry that brings Christmas gifts and the Gospel to thousands of children across the nation.
And the ministry is about more than gifts. It is about building redemptive relationships between churches and hurting families. But to really understand the value of the effort, it is important to understand the world of a prisoner’s child.
WHEN MOM AND DAD GO TO PRISON
No child is ever prepared for the arrest and incarceration of their father or mother. When a parent goes to prison, a child’s world is torn apart. Nothing makes sense and the child despairs for the survival of his family.
Loneliness is a huge issue. When Mom or Dad is arrested, the caregiver left behind must carry out the roles of both mother and father. Working long hours to make ends meet, the remaining parent typically has less time to spend with the kids. When they are most in need of support, most prisoners’ children are isolated and alone.
Imagine the impact of receiving a gift from an incarcerated father or mother! There is a knock at the door, and caring people from a nearby church announce they have brought you a Christmas gift from your dad or mom. They show you a note from your distant parent, and you realize you are still loved!
And yet, Angel Tree is about so much more than Christmas gifts. It is a powerful tool in God’s hands to reconcile broken families. It brings hope and comfort to children who desperately miss their incarcerated parent and it connects caring Christians with hurting families.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Angel Tree Christmas begins when a church member registers their church for the program with the support of their pastor or other church leader(s). Once your church is registered, the process works like this:
- Beginning as early as October, your Angel Tree coordinator will receive the names of Angel Tree children who were signed up by their mom or dad in prison.
- Your Angel Tree coordinator and other volunteers will contact each child’s caregiver to confirm permission for the child to participate and to discuss appropriate gifts.
- The church will set up an Angel Tree display with Angel Tree name tags for all the children, showing their ages and suggested gift ideas. Each gift must be new and valued at $15 to $25.
- Church members will hear about the Angel Tree program through their Sunday bulletins, pulpit announcements, etc. They will visit the Angel Tree display and select names of children needing Christmas gifts.
- Before Christmas, church members will work together to purchase, wrap, and deliver a gift for each child on behalf of his or her incarcerated parent—and in the process, share the Gospel.
FOR FURTHER ASSISTANCE
- To learn more about Angel Tree Christmas, visit angeltree.org.
- Preview the Angel Tree Church Coordinator kit
- To Register your church to participate in Angel Tree Christmas
- To speak to Prison Fellowship staff about your interest in Angel Tree, call 800-55-ANGEL
Part of this article was originally written by Mark Hubbell in Salem, Oregon.