You Came Unto Me
A Training Manual For Jail And Prison Ministry
Ministering To Inmate’s Families
“. . .and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Upon conclusion of this chapter you will be able to:
∙ Explain why inmate’s families are often in crisis.
∙ Identify ways in which you can minister to inmate’s families.
∙ Summarize guidelines for ministering to inmate’s families.
Thousands of families are directly affected each year by having one of their loved ones in a prison or jail. Most of these families are broken and filled with loneliness, anxiety, and feelings of rejection. Few of these families receive adequate attention from the church.
God told Abraham that through him, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As spiritual heirs of Abraham, we too can bless families. This chapter explores ways you and/or your church can be involved in ministering to the families of inmates.
UNDERSTANDING THE CRISIS
When a family member is arrested, it usually creates great anxiety, fear, and uncertainty for their mate, children, or parents. Imprisonment brings a double crisis to a family. The first crisis is that one of the family members has been arrested for breaking some law. The second crisis is that the family is split apart. Losing a family member to imprisonment is similar to the person dying.
Children face shame and loss when a parent is in prison. They may be displaced, having to live with relatives, friends, foster homes, or in institutions. Many do not get to visit the incarcerated parent--perhaps because of court orders, distance from the prison, or the financial situation of those keeping them which prohibits visiting (costs for transportation, food, housing).
HOW TO HELP INMATE’S FAMILIES
Here are some practical ways to minister to inmate’s families:
Transportation and hospitality: Provide transportation to and from the institution so the family can visit. If you live near a prison, provide a place for the family to stay overnight while visiting. Studies have shown that a family that stays together and keeps in touch with the member in prison have an important influence in helping that member readjust to society upon release.
Information: The family may not know how to get information--things like trial dates, when and how to visit, or how to obtain legal representation. You can be a help if you familiarize yourself with the system.
Social services: Share information on public and private agencies whose function is to provide employment, legal aid, housing, financial assistance, counseling, education, etc. The family may also need assistance in applying for these programs.
Employment: If the wage earner is incarcerated, the mate may need to find employment.
Housing, food, clothing, and finances: The family may need temporary or permanent housing, food, or finances to help get them on their feet. If you or your church provides financial help, checks should be used--if possible--and made out for the bills involved, directly to the landlord, utility companies, etc.
Counseling: The entire family or individual family members may need personal counseling in order to deal with the crisis.
Presents on special occasions: Christmas and birthdays are difficult for children and their incarcerated parent(s). One way you can help is to purchase gifts for Christmas and birthdays, wrap them, and present them to the child from the incarcerated parent. This cheers both inmate and child!
A church home: The most important thing you can do for an inmate’s family is to provide a loving, supportive, accepting church home.
HOW TO CONTACT AN INMATE’S FAMILY
There are two important things you must do before contacting an inmate’s family:
∙ Check with the chaplain or administration at the jail or prison where you are ministering. See if there are rules against this or an established procedure you should follow.
∙ Obtain written permission from the inmate so the family and institution knows you have his/her approval. The request also clarifies the purpose for your contact. You may use and/or adapt the following form.
Family Contact Request Sheet
We are happy to follow up your request for us to contact your family members in order to provide encouragement, counseling, Bible studies, and practical needs when possible--but we need your permission. Please complete this form. Please print:
Inmate identification number_________________ Dorm Information___________________
Name Of Address Telephone Relation Purpose For
Family Member To You Which You Want Us To Contact Them?
Approval by institutional chaplain or administrator:
We cannot contact relatives with whom the court has prohibited you from communicating.
A friendly telephone call or brief visit should initiate this ministry. At the culmination of the visit or call, offer a brief prayer. On the next visit, bring a copy of the same literature that the inmate is using for adult family members so they can progress spiritually together. If they are not interested in the literature, then continue visiting on a strictly friendly and supportive basis. Always try to channel the conversation towards the present conditions of the home, family, employment, and plans for the future. Discourage attempts to dwell on negative aspects of the past. On subsequent visits, the family may share personal problems with you. If a basic need is obvious, tactfully inquire if you may be of assistance in filling it.
Note: Husband and wife teams are ideal visitors. Men should never visit an inmate’s wife alone, nor should a woman visit an inmate’s husband alone.
When you are working with an inmate’s family, keep all personal matters confidential. Share only that which you have received specific permission from the incarcerated family member to reveal. Never get involved in legal matters or mention alleged problems between the prisoner and his/her family.
Inside A Russian Prison. . .
A Challenge For International Prison Ministries
By Patricia Hulsey
As we enter the prison, long, dark hallways with crumbling plaster and rusting pipes lead to even darker stairwells. We descend the stairs and cross a frozen yard with vicious guard dogs barking from behind their enclosures. We then enter the hallway of a damp cell block lined with heavy metal doors.
Crowded cells with fifteen prisoners and five beds are not uncommon. The inmates sleep in shifts because of lack of beds. Many beds lack sheets, blankets, or mattresses. There are no personal hygiene products. There is no privacy for the one toilet facility in the room. A dim electric bulb hangs from the ceiling. The stench is horrible. There is no fresh air. There are no televisions, radios, or books. There are no religious services. Inmates shower once a week and are only allowed out of the cells fifteen minutes a day. The cells are infested with lice. Lunch is a green looking broth served in tin bowls.
It was into these dismal surroundings that we went from cell to cell ministering the love of Jesus, distributing Bibles and study materials. Just before the heavy metal doors clanged shut behind us, one inmate--a spokesman for that cell block--commented, “We thank you for the things you have brought us, but what is more important is that you cared to come at all.”
A MINISTRY BIRTHED IN GOD’S HEART
By Dr. Bob Schwarz
Prison Ministry Director, State of Colorado, Full Gospel Business Mens’ Fellowship International
Jail and prison ministry is a supernatural ministry birthed in the heart of God. It is a ministry to which one must be anointed, appointed, chosen, called, and sent. It must be done in the realm of the Spirit in absolute obedience to God's will. When the Lord calls us to this ministry He gives us His very own burden, love, and compassion of His Holy Spirit. It is a special ministry and precious to Christ.
It is a ministry from which He gets much glory and to which He has committed all of His heavenly resources. He is drawing men and women and boys and girls to Him in prison. Often we preach to whole families. In some nations children are incarcerated along with their parents. Child evangelism classes are being conducted in these nations to reach these children for Christ.
It is a ministry very close to God’s heart and to be selected by Him to be part of His team is a real honor. It is the ministry of a servant performed by the power of God in the realm of the Spirit. A ministry in which we reap through revelation knowledge (Spirit-taught truth from the Spirit of God into our New Creation Man), from the heart of the Father to the heart of His children. It is a ministry of binding and losing, knowing through the Holy Spirit what spirits to bind, and what spirits to loose. It is a ministry of discipleship, where inmates are taught through revelation knowledge to be victorious in life, and then sent out to become fishers of men for Christ.
It is a ministry that brings much joy to the heart of God and to those whom we reach in the precious Name of Christ and through the glorious Gospel of our Lord and Savior.
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
(Hebrews 13:3 KJV)
SELF-TEST FOR CHAPTER SEVEN
1. Write the key verse from memory.
2. Why is an inmate’s family often in crisis?
3. What are some ways in which you can minister to inmate’s families?
4. What are two important things you must do before contacting an inmate’s family?
5. Summarize guidelines given in this chapter for ministering to inmate’s families.
(Answers to self-tests are provided at the conclusion of the final chapter of this manual.)
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