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How to help

April 1st, 2011 at 6:47 am

It has come to that point in the month where I want to share with you a few resources that I have found for prison ministry.

One of the best resources for volunteers, ex-offenders and families of offenders is the Restorative Justice Ministry Network. This site and ministry is a wonderful portal to more than 60,000 individuals, ministries and churches in the U.S. and Canada who deal with all types of ministry to those touched by the prison system. The ministry sorts resources by topics such as aftercare, criminal justice professions, correspondence, families, juvenile outreach, prison/jail ministry, residential programs, victim services, helping you know just how to connect to the needs you see or feel called to address.

One this site, you can also find a recommended reading list for prison ministers, offenders and offender’s family and friends. The books on the  list can also be purchased through RJMN.

Interested in learning how to start ministering to officers who live in your area? Have a chat with David Valentine, pastor of Covenant Fellowship in Huntsville and prison ministry leader at a couple of faith-based dorms in that area. To reach him, visit Covenant Fellowship’s website.

Also, there are 12 hospitality houses connected to Baptist prison outreach across the state. This is an excellent way to volunteer a few hours and show families who are in a tough situation a little love and the hope of Christ. Though they are not in prison themselves, the spouses and children of offenders have an extreme adjustment to life once a loved one is incarcerated. Hospitality Houses are a way to connect with these families to begin relationships with them with the goal of offering the hope, help and encouragement they need to survive this difficult time. Click here for a list of hospitality houses.

Also, Texas Baptists is here to help. Restorative justice ministry is an important component of the Advocacy/Care Center within Texas Baptists. Ferrell Foster, the associate director of Advocacy/Care and the director of restorative justice ministries, is available to help you and your church discuss ways to get involved with sharing hope  with the one-third of our state that is linked to the criminal justice system. To get connected with Texas Baptists restorative justice ministry, visit the Texas Baptists Advocacy/Care webpage.

If you are feeling called to minister to the men and woman who are behind prison walls, whether that be the offenders or the correctional officers, you will need to contact the chaplain at the prison unit near you. To find out more who you need to contact, e-mail the Texas Department of Criminal Justice volunteer office at volunteerservices@tdcj.state.tx.us or call 936-437-4975.

Once you do this and get connected with the chaplain in your area, you will need to fill out a volunteer application and go through a background check. If you have a felony on your record, typically you will not be able to volunteer within the prison, although the chaplain can make a case to the warden if he or she believes that it is important for your to help with ministry at a particular unit. Once you have gone through this clearance, you will go through a training session on prison protocol and volunteer opportunities that will last about four hours and be held by the chaplain. After you do this, you will be begin ministering to offenders through the volunteer opportunities established by the chaplain’s office. These opportunities will vary depending on the unit but typically each will at least include mentoring and Bible study options. To view the TDCJ volunteer handbook or to see specific volunteer requirements, visit the TDCJ volunteer webpage.

Also each year, Texas Baptists Chaplaincy Relations endorses chaplains to work in restorative justice settings. To become a chaplain is a much more involved process than a volunteer must undergo. Each chaplain must have a Master’s degree and have at least one unit (about 400 hours) in Clinical Pastoral Education from the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. To learn more about ways to get connected to chaplaincy endeavors in Texas, contact Bobby Smith, director of Texas Baptists Chaplaincy Relations.

 

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