Matthew Chapter 25 calls us to visit persons in prison. In response, members of St. Matthew’s UMC of Valley Forge have initiated a prison ministry program. The team is working with staff at Chester County Prison to help transform the formerly rather stark visitor waiting room area into a more welcoming space for children and families. The photo above shows a portion of the team with a recently purchased bookcase, containing books donated through the outreach committee’s alternative giving program. A bulletin board to display a welcoming message and sources of assistance and baby changing stations for both rest rooms have been purchased and delivered to the prison. Plans are underway for a spiritual resources corner and magazine subscriptions for children.
The team is also exploring and learning about additional options for prison ministry. Representatives attended a Conference-sponsored prison ministry training session in September and a training session for Thresholds. This non-profit group trains volunteers to teach a course on decision making to interested inmates through group and one-on-one meetings.
Marilyn Schneider, the prison ministry team facilitator, shared that throughout her life, she had always assumed that chaplains and other professionals would be responsible for prison ministry. Her current involvement results from her growing realization that ordinary people should be involved in prison ministry, just as in other forms of outreach.
St Matthew’s prison ministry team has found this effort to be highly educational and rewarding, and would like to encourage other congregations to join in finding ways to minister to this often forgotten segment of our society. If you or your church would like to become involved with the prison ministry team at St. Matthew’s, or would like more information on how this ministry was started, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-688-7055.
Prison ministry is a rewarding ministry. You have an opportunity to preach, counsel, and visit those in prison. Gary Spiecker is the coordinator for prison ministry for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. We have prison ministries in nearly every county of the conference. They need help to reach out and share the love of Jesus Christ with those in prison. Individuals interested in prison ministry or churches that would like to set up a prison ministry should please contact Gary Spiecker at email@example.com.
by Dawn Taylor-Storm