Best practices are specific, discrete ministry activities that measurably increase program scale, effectiveness, and/or efficiency, and can be replicated by other National Ministries. Best practices should be supported by evidence (data).
Sensitizing churches to the needs of prisoners and their families is discipleship. Hebrews 13:3 reminds us to, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Jesus’s ministry on earth focused on the marginalized, the forgotten. That is the prisoner and their family. When we invite the church to open its arms and heart to the prisoner and their family, we are reminding them of the call of the body of Christ. The church is called to bear the light of hope, and prisons are often places of abandonment and fear.
Having churches engaged in visiting and contacting prisoners in the areas where prisons are located creates sustainable, effective ministry. The time spent building relationships with prisoners can be redemptive and lay the groundwork for reintegration when a prisoner is released.
Another benefit is that many hands make light work. The more people engaged in caring for prisoners and their families, the more the work can expand — and the deeper the work can go, as well.
Looking beyond someone’s sins and offering mercy, love, and friendship — this is what Christ did for all of us.
1. Human Resources
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Psalm 23:4-5
Our featured Best Practice to help you sensitize churches to the needs of prisoners and their families features this reminder: The more people are engaged in caring for prisoners and their families, the more the work can expand — and the deeper the work can go, as well.
As I watched our featured video of Ukrainian boys with family members in prison – at risk in ‘normal’ times, and surely at risk now – sending thanks for the help they are receiving from PF Ukraine, I was struck by their resolute words. Even though I had to read a translation to learn they were introducing their social center in Kiev and thanking PF Ukraine for supporting them, the spirit of what they were saying does not need translation: They have grateful hearts. They are united. They feel supported though they walk in the valley of the shadow of death.
I do not know how long they have been involved with the social center, or how many church volunteers have helped them over the years at the center, but surely this is the just the type of work that churches can expand, in order to deepen relationships and strengthen family members of prisoners – just like these young men.