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Prison Ministry
Nearly two in five Seventh-day Adventist local churches (38%) are involved in prison or jail ministry. This is significantly more than the 31% of congregations of all faiths involved in the same thing.

There is also a significant difference in the way prison ministry is organized in Adventist churches as compared to other religious groups. Congregations of other faiths are three times as likely to be involved in prison or jail ministry in collaboration with another organization, while Adventist congregations are 70% more likely to directly provide prison or jail ministry on their own.

The net effect of these facts is that although Adventist churches are more involved in prison ministry than are most other religions, the Adventist efforts are quite limited. Many local churches have only one or two individuals who regularly volunteer in prison ministry. Often these ministries go into the institutions only once a month. Some programs involve only the mailing of literature to prisons instead of actual, face-to-face ministry.

A collaborative approach, at least among Adventist churches, can assure a more dependable, regular and fully staffed ministry. Effective models of collaboration in prison ministry among Adventist churches exist in the Allegheny East Conference and Florida Conference.

With 2.2 million people behind bars in America today, prison and jail ministry has become very important. These are people who cannot be reached through other methods and who have extraordinary needs.

Discussion Questions:

1. Does our congregation provide a prison or jail ministry?

2. If so, how often do volunteers go into the institution(s)? How many volunteers go in each time? What activities are provided? How many inmates participate? How can we expand this ministry?

3. If not, is there a Federal or state prison in or near our community? How far is our church from the county or municipal jail? How many people are incarcerated in these institutions?

4. Shall we appoint an individual or task force to explore the possibilities for prison or jail ministry and report back to us?

For more information:  Adventist Congregations Today book and CD-R or Faith Communities Today (FACT) research.

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, May 31, 2006, Center for Creative Ministry