Highlights of the National Jail & Prison Ministry Workshop

June 17, 2009

Aside from spending four days with my dad . . .

1.  Freddie Anderson.  Amen, lights!

2.  Hearing from chaplains, especially Jim Burrus.  Those folks do hard work and, for the most part, do it well.

3.  Getting to see some of the “innards” of NLB.  Knowing how something is supposed to work goes a long way in making it go.

4.  Running into the Pelhams at U&I.

5.  The boat.

6.  The bridge.

7.  The class on “Relapse Prevention.”  Probably the best and most useful class of te entire weekend.

8.  The history lesson on Prisons and Corrections Ministry.  It’s amazing how many approaches to crime and criminals have been implimented down through the years.  It’s equally amazing that, when it comes to crime prevention, not much has worked.

9.  The material on dealing with people post-release, epsecially when they show up at church.  There’s a lot of ground to cover there that is so far unplowed.

10.  Ron and Thomas’s classes on what to look for in a volunteer and how to train them.  Jail ministry isn’t for everybody, but those with the right skills and personality can do well.

Ways it could be better:

1.  Podcasting.  Corpus Christi, Texas is a long way from just about everything.  Granted, it’s not Anchorage, but still.  I doubt that the availability of podcasts would keep anybody away who would have come otherwise.  Likewise, those who did come sometimes ran into schedule conflicts.  There were a couple of classes I had to miss because I was in the other room.  I suppose I could buy the DVDs (see #3), but listening to a podcast would be much simpler (and cheaper).

2.  Feedback forms.  Planners scheduling speakers for next year and the year after would almost ceetainly benefit from hearing what the people in the classes thought of the presentations and the speakers.

3.  Pricing/Merchandising.  Cutting back on some of the frills might have allowed the organizers to lower the registration fee.  There also seemed in some classes to be a bit of “hard sell” put on for the NLB stuff.  I get that nothing is free, but in tough times when money is tight anyway and people have already shelled out quite a bit just to get there, offering more stuff for sale in classes seemed a bit over-the-top.  The time and place for selling things was after class in the display room, not during the presentations themselves.

4.  Classes on “The Rest of the Story.”  Thomas Snow made the point that crime prevention, youth involvement programs, benevolence, aftercare, and family ministry all play a part in jail work.  Even thogh most of the people there are inside-the-facility workers, it’s also important to know what we should and shouldn’t do in these other areas.

4a.  One aspect of this I would like to see somebody explore someday is how churches minister to prison and jail guards.  It’s a fairly well-established sociological fact that while the poor often find themselves in jail, the near-poor often find themselves working there.  Jails and prisons are typically built in areas where construction and labor costs are low, and they often get their staff from people who live in those areas and can’t find work elsewhere.  Since churches in such areas tend to be small anyway, the dynamics of having a significant fraction of the membership working in jails and/or prisons can sometimes make trust an issue within the congregation.  I’d be curious to hear from preachers and elders who have dealt with this to see how they handle it.

5.  More from correctons professionals.  We heard from chaplains.  I’d like to hear from wardens, probation/parole officers, even guards about what they do and how we can help.  At the Chaplaincy Training School I attended in Fort Wayne, Indiana many years ago, one of the best resource people they had was the warden of a facility in Charleston, South Carolina.  He showed us some of the ins and outs of running a jail.  Knowing that made it a lot easier to understand some of what administrators have asked of us since.


Prisoners for Christ

June 16, 2009

I just returned from the National Jail & Prison Ministry Workshop in Corpus Christi, Texas.

There is some seriously powerful ministry going on behind bars, some of which is even happening in Todd County.


The Truth About “Youth Ministry”

June 3, 2009

Interesting numbers:

Churches with youth ministries and churches without them lose kids at about the same rate.

Churches that offer VBS, camp, Bible classes, etc., lose kids at the same rate as those without them.

Big churches lose kids as rapidly as small churches. The same rule applies to worship styles, demographics, even geography.

That’s right. “Youth ministry” as traditionally conceived in Churches of Christ makes NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in the retention rate of kids who grow up in it.

In fact, the only real predictor of youth retention is the marital status of the parents.

If Mom and Dad are committed to God AND TO EACH OTHER, their kids are far more likely to stay faithful as adults than kids whose parents are separated either by death or divorce. Even then there’s no guarantee, but as ministers it’s the best we can do.