We share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration.
Our mission is to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are serving time in jails and prison. We provide Bible correspondence courses, Bibles, and other printed spiritual materials for inmates free of charge. We also provide leadership training for lay Christians and pastors who are interested in beginning or expanding a jail or prison ministry.
WELS Prison Ministry is active on a number of fronts. Through a central office at New Ulm, Minn., a small staff utilizes the services of hundreds of volunteers to manage a ministry-by-mail program that has reached more than 80,000 inmates. Volunteers are needed to accomplish a variety of services: preparing regular mailings; correcting Bible correspondence tests returned to our office by inmates; and serving as pen pals to inmates.
WELS Prison Ministry is mission work. Most inmates are unchurched and many are searching for answers to spiritual questions. Opportunities to witness for Christ abound in prison ministry.
Ministry to those in prison has always been part of church work (Hebrews 13:3). Our prison ministry became organized during the twentieth century when churches began to find ways to share the ‘love of Jesus’ with those confined to institutions. In Wisconsin, this cooperative effort grew into Wisconsin Lutheran Institutional Ministries (WLIM).
What started as a ministry to church members who were in prison quickly came to include outreach with the gospel to other prisoners as well. In 1993 our efforts to minister to prisoners took a great step forward when the Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) assisted WELS Special Ministries in launching a nationwide ministry in providing religious material to prison chaplains and inmates. This effort was carried out by hundreds of volunteers. Bible correspondence courses and Bibles were distributed, and a pen pal program was started. Due to rapid expansion of the program, the WELS voted at its 1999 convention to call a full-time administrator. WELS Prison Ministry has produced and distributed materials to over 1,300 facilities throughout the United States.
WELS Prison Ministry now also prepares mentors for released offenders and trains church teams to conduct ministries for inmates of local jails. We continue to share Jesus with these troubled people through our Bible study correspondence courses, our pen pal program, face-to-face ministry, and mentoring. Today the WELS Prison Ministry and WLIM work together in providing material, training, and support in reaching souls serving time in prisons and jails throughout the United States.