Men and women who work in harsh, brutal environments often need a special kind of care that those who aren’t familiar with the conditions they work in can’t understand. Prison ministry is one of these areas. Prison ministries reach out to the prisoners themselves, the guards, and the staff, supporting their spiritual and religious needs and providing a sense of peace and calm to often troubled souls. These ministries even provide support for those who are not religious in any way by providing a kind word and a caring heart.
What can a prison minister do?
The spiritual needs of someone in prison greatly differ from someone who lives their day to day lives in freedom. Prisoners often have problems that the average person cannot understand due to the crimes they have committed, the trauma they have undergone, and the very fact that they live in a heavily regulated environment. Prisons often have an ‘every man for themselves’ atmosphere which make it difficult to form any sort of meaningful relationship with other inmates. This lack of friendship and care on a day to day basis can wear down even the toughest of souls.
Prison ministers are able to provide this care to the prisoners. Ministers can even reach out to family members and speak with guards who struggle to deal with the environment they spend their days in. Prison ministers commonly speak with inmates on death row, helping them come to terms with their lives and what will happen, offering them love and forgiveness when they need it most.
Why would someone want to become a prison minister?
There are many reasons someone may become a prison minister. Because it requires a special kind of person to work in those conditions, those with troubled pasts or experience inside the prison system often want to give back and help others in the same situation. Sometimes people feel they could make the most difference in the prisons. Whatever their reason for becoming a prison minister, a person needs to have the right heart.
How to Get Involved With the Prison Ministry
If you are already an ordained minister, then you can speak with the warden of the prison and volunteer through numerous agencies to work inside the prison. On the other hand, if you are not an ordained minister, there are several things you must first do.
To become a minister, someone must first attend a seminary school. These schools are special institutions that train a person in the ministry of their respective religion, guiding them through how to teach, preach, and counsel those in need. There are a number of seminary schools all over the country. Each has a different time commitment to finish, similar to how the college system works.
Seminary often takes anywhere from two to four years to complete. After someone has finished their seminary training, they must then be ordained as a minister by the church. After this entire process has been completed, someone can then take the steps to work with prisoners.
Becoming a minister takes time, but the rewards are often well worth it. After ordination, attending prison ministry training can often be beneficial in order to prepare yourself for the type of conditions that lie ahead. It is then possible to be placed as the chaplain of a prison, providing 24/7 support and care. If you would prefer to work elsewhere, it is still possible to volunteer on a regular basis at the prisons.
What You Need to Know
As a prison minister, you have the power to make a difference in the lives of these people. Roughly two-thirds of prisoners will be arrested again after they’ve been released, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Those who wish to truly make a change in their lives and turn things around can do so. You can help them.
Working in a prison offers its own rewards. Watching the men and women who have been imprisoned for their crimes seek redemption and turn over a new leaf is an experience unmatched by anything else. Although the conditions can be rough and many prisoners will refuse to listen to you, those that do will need your guidance more than ever. Make sure you’re there for them.