‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ John 8:36
If an ex-prisoner walked into your church, what would you do?
Graeme was sentenced to 10 years in prison for armed robbery. While he was inside, a Prison Chaplain introduced him to Jesus and he experienced freedom for the first time. He attended a weekly bible study and was encouraged to grow in his faith. When Graeme was released from prison, he was dropped off in his old neighbourhood, surrounded by his old ‘friends.’ Last time, he ended up straight back in jail. But this time it’s different. Because this time, he’s been transformed from the inside out. And this time, he’s already been connected with a local church, before he even left prison, through Inside Out Connection. Fast forward 2 years and Graeme is leading a bible study at his church and sharing the gospel in his old neighbourhood. That’s the power of connection.
What we do at Inside/Out Connec†ion
Just about every day, a Prison Chaplain from Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy goes ‘inside’ to meet with prisoners. Each Prison Chaplain is passionate about introducing prisoners to Jesus – Because they realise that’s the only way to see real transformation from the inside out and to break the cycle of crime. But it doesn’t end there.
When a prisoner accepts Christ as their saviour, the Prison Chaplain continues to guide them through their faith journey. Then as their release date approaches, the Chaplain gets in contact with Inside Out Connection to find a suitable mentor for the prisoner.
This mentor makes contact with the prisoner and develops a positive relationship when them, so that upon release, instead of returning to their old, bad habits, the prisoner goes to church, with their mentor in tow for moral support. But they don’t just show up unannounced.
Church leaders and a few select members have been preparing for this moment and the ex-prisoner is welcomed into their congregation with open arms.
Many prisoners have a Christian faith. Yet the stigma of prison and issues of guilt and shame make it difficult for them to cross the threshold of a church door. While inside, the prisoner receives emotional and spiritual support from a chaplain, but what happens when they’re released? If this support isn’t available, they’re likely to return to their old social circles and addictions (which may cause them to re-offend), sometimes within weeks or months of being released.
What can I do?
If you have a heart to see prisoners’ lives transformed and to integrate an ex-prisoner into the life of your church and your community, you may consider becoming a mentor.
Attending a new church for the first time can be daunting for anyone, and especially when you’ve just been released from prison.
As a mentor, your role is to ensure an ex-prisoner feels welcome and not judged when they come to church. The whole church doesn’t need to know their story, unless they want to tell it… and what a powerful testimony of the life transforming power of Jesus!
By showing the love of Jesus to an ex-prisoner, you’re igniting a spark. Where once there was darkness, now there is light and life… and hope.
What can my church do?
Jesus was the first ever Chaplain to prisoners. Nailed to the cross and breathing his last, he preached the gospel to two prisoners, one on either side, guiding one of them to heaven.
Jesus came to ‘seek and save the lost’ – Luke 19:10. And that’s His heart for the church.
Your church can actively live out this mandate through partnership with Inside Out Connection. Finding suitable mentors from amongst your congregation and welcoming ex-prisoners into the life of your church is such a rewarding ministry.
Your church can help break the cycle of crime and addiction… and truly ‘set the captives free’ (Luke 4:18).
Get your church to Pray for the ministry of Inside Out Connection. You can find out prayer calendar at insideoutchaplaincy.org.au
Consider adding Inside Out Connection to the ministries your church supports financially.
Partner with Inside Out Connection as a church committed to welcoming ex-prisoners into your congregation.