WELS Prison Ministry works to reach those impacted by incarceration with the saving message of God’s grace. It does this through a vigorous ministry-by-mail program that has two components. One is mailing Bible studies to inmates that include a test to complete and mail back; it then gets reviewed by volunteers and sent back with words of encouragement. The other is an active pen pal program, composed of WELS volunteers who correspond with inmates via letters to share Christ’s love.
In addition to reaching the incarcerated, WELS Prison Ministry also seeks to equip members and congregations to help those who have been released from prison or jail. Through the faithful and generous support from WELS members in addition to a generous grant, Prison Ministry has a range of resources that were recently released or are in the planning stages.
Mentoring a Returning Citizen is a video-based training resource that helps church leaders prepare their members to mentor people returning to the community from incarceration. It can be found at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen.
Two resources to help promote awareness of Prison Ministry’s work are also available. Worship planning resources for a Prison Ministry Sunday include suggested hymns, psalm, and prayers together with a sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:16,17. A few stories and comments from inmates who have benefited from Prison Ministry’s Bible studies are included at the end of the sermon sheet.
A Sunday school/Lutheran elementary school lesson based on Onesimus and Philemon emphasizes the importance of welcoming those with troubled backgrounds into God’s family. The lesson contains student and leader sheets for four grade levels (PreK- Grade 6). These resources can be found online at welscongregationalservices.net/prison-ministry-awareness.
Looking ahead, the WELS Prison Ministry committee is examining ways to reach inmates as communication methods change. “Methods used to deliver the gospel to inmates are changing. Inmates are communicating less frequently via U.S. Mail. More inmates are being given access to electronic communication (similar to e-mail) as well as other services such as book or music downloads to tablets that the inmates own. Our ministry needs to adapt to this new environment. Frequent opportunities to share law and gospel with many more inmates nationwide are available if we can adapt our efforts to this new reality,” explains Mr. Dave Hochmuth, WELS Prison Ministry administrator.
There are three components to this new effort:
- Produce devotions that support outreach to people with little if any biblical knowledge.
- Implement a system for distributing the devotions using electronic messaging services to inmates.
- Test and implement a system using electronic messaging services to collect Bible study tests, return corrected tests, and exchange pen pal letters with inmates.
Hochmuth says, “With changes in the environment of our ministry, we are grateful that the Lord continues to provide generous gifts from donors and organizations to meet the new opportunities for outreach right now.”
Learn how to support or get involved with WELS Prison Ministry at wels.net/prison-ministry.