Work with other volunteers to provide a supportive atmosphere for recovery.
It takes time to recover from the dehumanization and the loss of decision-making skills that occurs in prison. That’s why supporting ex-prisoners through their transition into freedom is so vital. If you have a heart of genuine compassion for ex-prisoners, leading or assisting with a mentoring support group may be the perfect volunteer opportunity for you.
Lyman Coleman, a specialist in small-group ministry, describes a support group as “the primary place where broken people can be reconstructed, equipped, and released for God’s work in a broken world.” Members of a healthy support group know that whatever comes their way, they don’t have to face it alone.
As a volunteer in the mentoring support group ministry, you will have the privilege to see God at work transforming ex-prisoners who are reentering society. In the process, you can’t help but be transformed as well.
Mentoring support groups are for ex-prisoners who have expressed a commitment to live successfully on the outside and realize their need for help. These individuals must be willing to:
- Be honest and open in their communications
- Faithfully attend weekly support group meetings
- Set specific reentry goals to work toward
- Allow others to hold them responsible for their progress
- Encourage and support others in the group
Most mentoring support groups are operated by local churches or Christian organizations that provide oversight for the group, as well as a place to have meetings. The hosting organization may also provide assistance with reentry resources needed by ex-prisoners, such as food, clothing, transportation, parenting classes, or family counseling.
A supportive, understanding group that can help one another during stressful times can make the difference between a person returning to prison or successfully building a new life. Volunteers leading the mentoring support group need to be able to:
- Build healthy relationships with ex-prisoners who join the group
- Provide a safe, nurturing environment for spiritual and emotional growth
- Hold themselves and all group members accountable for their actions
- Confront one another in love and find peaceful solutions to conflicts
- Provide ongoing follow-up to see that members are working toward their goals
- Help ex-prisoners find their place of service in the body of Christ
It takes a special person to fill the role of mentor, guide, friend, and leader. And it requires a long-term commitment. But if God is calling you to this ministry, He will provide everything you need. Here are some next steps you can take:
- For more information about the need for a mentoring support group in your area, call 800-251-7411 to connect with local Prison Fellowship staff. Or fill out our online interest form by clicking here.