Church members may simply “adopt” an inmate and become their friend. This new friend writes letters, sends birthday and holiday cards, and visits at least once a month. Call the chaplain of your local prison to discuss what you have in mind and the number of visitors you have available. Ask the chaplain to select a matching number of inmates, such as those people who get no visitors but would like to make connections.
Pen Pal Program
Pen-and-ink correspondence is a vital ministry that is possible for a single disciple or everyone in your congregation. Have everyone agree to these basic precautions at the beginning of this ministry. Do write carefully; prayerfully consider the impact your friendship and words have on an inmate. Discuss some family matters, for example, births, parties, birthdays, and graduations. You may do a scripture study with your pen pal, selecting passages and discussing them just as you would with a friend at home.
A church service in a prison operates somewhat like any service of worship in a local church. These services are usually interdenominational, so you should not emphasize the doctrinal distinctiveness of your denomination. There is a wealth of scriptural material that you can use without having to go into areas on which different denominations disagree. The members of the Christian community in most prisons get along with each other much better than those on the outside, and many consider the service to be “their” church. You are considered a welcomed visiting minister.
Regular classes for scripture study offer another opportunity to minister. Study with offenders about restorative justice. Classes usually take place on weekday evenings for one or two hours, and while attendance will be considerably smaller than for Sunday services, most of the inmates attending will be seriously interested in scripture study. Another option is to share in one-on-one correspondence centered in scripture studies.
For more information on operating a prison ministry, please visit: