In today’s society, we generally do not have the kind of relationships God ordained – relationships that foster our growth, hold us accountable, and encourage us to press toward healthy goals. The primary reason Christian mentoring is desperately needed today is to supply positive relationships that are lacking in our culture.
Effective mentors focus on building supportive relationships, not fixing people. Research conducted in 2001 by the National Resilience Resource Center at the University of Minnesota highlighted this important principle.
God has called every Christian to “make disciples.” However, every Christian is not called to be a mentor to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. Mentoring this population is a special calling and is one of the most demanding ministries within Prison Fellowship.
The sooner you start getting ready -- the better things will go when you’re released. This section has information on gathering necessary documents, arranging for transportation, finding short-term housing, and getting counseling for drug and other addictions.
The moment ex-prisoners leave the prison gate, they face many critical decisions: Where they will live, where to look for a job, how to get from one place to another, what to eat, and how to pay for all these necessities. But this isn’t all.
Reentry ministry requires getting to know each ex-prisoner’s specific needs, including their fears and doubts, parole requirements, family situation, current housing, level of education, history of substance abuse, and many other things.
The goal of reentry ministry is to provide a continuum of care that helps ex-prisoners succeed in life on the outside. Needs in all areas of life must be addressed in order for returning citizens to be whole again.
The challenge for reentry ministry volunteers is to be prepared to support returning prisoners during their long journey home. This journey actually begins months before they walk out of the prison gate.
James 2:14-16 instructs us to show our Christian faith by meeting the needs of others. When those “others” are the families of the incarcerated, we often need to help first with physical and financial needs – and then meet their needs for emotional and spiritual support.
When fathers go to prison, mothers often become the sole caregivers of the children. Many of these mothers are single heads of households, while some live with their own parents in multigenerational households.
Children of prisoners mourn the loss of their incarcerated parent. Some mourn the loss of the parent who was previously available to care for them. Others mourn the loss of the parent who “could have been,” if only the parent hadn’t made that mistake or hadn’t gotten caught.
Are you excited about prison ministry, but feeling a little skittish about going inside a prison? That’s totally understandable. To help you prepare, we’ve put together a two-page list of general safety guidelines for in-prison volunteers.