Recently I was privileged to attend the Justice Declaration Symposium hosted by Prison Fellowship. Many people assume that prison ministry extends only to those currently incarcerated in our jails and prisons. The reality is that prison ministry extends much deeper because crime and incarceration impacts so much more than those who have commited crimes. Here are five key aspects of a holistic prison ministry:
1. Prison Ministry – This is what most churches think of and rightly so, because there is a massive need for churches and parachurch organizations to share the message of the love and hope of Jesus. Prison can be a hopeless place for millions of prisoners in the U.S. But it can also be a place of transformation. Discover Hope 517 is a great example of an organization directly ministering to those in prison.
2. Victim Care – As Christians, we have a responsibility to share God’s concern for those harmed by crime. Victim care works with those who have been affected by crime to help them toward healing and wholeness in Jesus. This includes the victims themselves as well as family members of the victims of crimes. Bridges to Life is an example of an organization offering hope to victims of crime.
3. Post-Release – Every year, hundreds of thousands of prisoners are released and return to society. Many former prisoners fail to thrive in society because they’ve never been taught the skills needed to succeed in life. Soteria Community Development Corporation is a great example of a ministry that works with those released from prison through their reentry into society.
4. Family Care – Prisoners’ families “do time” right along with their loved ones. Churches can come along families and walk through the challenges that families face and help those struggling with the pain and loss of having a family member in prison. Seek His Face Ministries is an example of a group that is coming alongside the families of those in prison.
5. Justice Reform – Our responsibility as Christians is not just to minister to those in prison or even the families of those in prison, but to diligently work to change the environments that feed the prison system. Justice reform impacts the role that higher education plays in our nation’s prisons and how churches and communities can play a role in advancing justice that restores. Craig DeRoche lead’s Prison Fellowship’s efforts to advance restorative criminal justice reform at the state and federal levels.
For more information on how to develop or engage in prison ministry, visit prisonfellowship.org.