Often it is in the dark and lonely times that we find God to be especially near and present in our lives. So these recent statistics from the Pew Research Center didn’t surprise me, but it did challenge me:
- 73% of state prison chaplains consider religious-related programs in prisons “absolutely critical” to successful rehabilitation of inmates.
- 61% of prison chaplains say participation in such programs has gone up.
- 78% of prison chaplains consider support from religious groups, after inmates are released from prison, to be absolutely critical in successful rehabilitation and re-entry into society.
- 73% of prison chaplains say that efforts by inmates to convert other inmates are either very common (31%) or somewhat common (43%).
This survey is particularly unique because the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics rarely reports on the religious affiliation of inmates, and independent surveys are seldom permitted. Therefore, this poll offers a rare glimpse into the lives of inmates through the eyes of prison chaplains.
So should your church participate in a prison ministry? I think this data screams yes. Prison chaplains seem eager for the assistance of churches, and several ministries and churches are already answering the call, some in very creative ways. A Wisconsin church recently began an “adults only” service to allow convicted sex offenders an opportunity to worship. They selected a time in which no children would be at the facility and several regular members attend. An established prison ministry in Kentucky, run by Agape Service Foundation, has weekly and monthly services at facilities across the state. Volunteers spend one-on-one time with prisoners sharing the gospel message and then invite them to a group service. They say hundreds of volunteers have ministered to thousands of inmates in the last several decades through their program. Kairos Prison Ministry International has local chapters across the United States, operating in 350 prisons. On their website they shared a letter by an inmate who attended one of their events. This young man called the volunteers angels and said, “I pray that God keeps sending us angels that can show us the right things about life, and I pray that we keep learning more about You every day, Lord Father. I hope and pray that these angels You sent us, You will send back to us again one day. This is a big blessing, Lord Father. You are letting me know that You haven’t forgotten me.”
The Church has an opportunity to be a light in a dark place. There are many existing prison ministries across the United States and if the Church partnered with their efforts, providing much-needed volunteers, the impact could be powerful.
If you liked this article, here’s another powerful story you might like: From Prison to the Pews.
- Article Tags:
- Pew Research Center
- Agape Service Foundation
- Kairos Prison Ministry International
- Prison Ministry