Are You And Your Church Acting Like Sheep? An Invitation To Correctional Ministry
Our biblical mandate requires us to care for the marginalized, including those impacted by crime.
I cannot be more thrilled that the September issue of Christianity Today is dedicated to correctional ministry. You can read the main article here. Correctional ministry is often omitted or marginalized; however, it is a ministry which impacts everyone touched by crime—offenders, victims, families—through the transforming message of the gospel and holistic care which is grounded in love.
In my first 39 years of life, I really didn’t think about prisoners or criminal justice issues. My only prison experience was seeing prisons from my car while traveling on family vacations growing up.
But that all changed when a friend asked me to go with her and teach in a faith-based program at a men’s maximum security division at Cook County Jail in Chicago. That one visit changed my thinking, career, and life. God hooked my heart and gave me a growing passion for the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and their families.
At the time, my husband (an assistant pastor) and I attended a church where a congregant was sent to a federal prison for a few months. The pastoral staff and members of the congregation came alongside him and his family throughout his incarceration and release. The church was also supportive of me starting a reentry program for adult males and welcoming them into the church family, even when there was strong opposition from the community.
As the years have gone by, this primarily white, middle-class congregation of 500 has experienced juvenile and adult congregants who have been found guilty of crimes such as drugs, child pornography, and murder. The church as had to decide how to balance welcoming a sex offender while putting protections in place for its children.