The first task of the ministry group is to build trust, both with the prison administration and with the inmates to whom they are assigned. As the chaplain and administrators observe the work of your team enriching the lives of inmates and developing relationships, they can ascertain what other projects are best suited for your group and decide the best direction for your ministry as a whole.
Take time for personal reflection on prison ministry, especially if you are not accustomed to setting aside your own agendas. Consider the following questions carefully, both individually and with your group, before starting to form a prison ministry:
- How well do I really understand prison systems and culture? Have I already made assumptions and judgments that I may need to question?
- Do I understand how important it is to be covered appropriately in prayer before entering a prison?
- How willing am I to ask for help and power from the Holy Spirit to avoid the pitfalls of flaunting my own agenda?
- When was the last time I truly confessed my own sins to God and others?
- Am I willing and able to ask for forgiveness for those sins, thoughts, and past judgments; and am I humble and teachable enough to allow God to remove my defects?
- How well do I let go and let God in most situations?
- Can I truly listen to and love all inmates unconditionally — even child molesters, murderers, or rapists?
- Will I have difficulty refraining from asking details about an inmate’s particular crimes, especially when driven by assumptions about him/her or negative feelings?
- Am I able to help a rapist, murderer or any other type of sinner (in prison or not) feel as special as my other church brothers and sisters?
- Can I look a prisoner in the eye and truly smile at him or her?
- When speaking one-on-one with an inmate, can I listen to him or her as if s/he is the most important one in the room?
- How willing am I to allow an inmate to pray God’s will over me?
- Am I truly ready to love the prisoner through God’s love in me?
- In what ways am I unprepared for this ministry, and how will I get ready?
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17