Welcoming a member who has been absent or scarce for a while back to church can be challenging in many circumstances, but especially if the person has spent time behind bars. The person trying to return to society in general and to one’s church family often has a barrier of shame. If addictive behaviors were a factor in the conviction, avoiding people or environments that trigger these behaviors is particularly difficult, which leads to a staggeringly high re-arrest rate.
Our efforts to welcome home members of Jesus’ flock that have wandered can demonstrate great love at a time of great need. Focusing these efforts on a specific Sunday can create needed urgency and encouragement to prompt us to act. But some wandering and lost sheep will take extra love and multiple invitations. Let us not grow weary of doing good.
WELS Prison Ministry has resources that are helpful for paving the road for released inmates to join or rejoin the family of Christ. Go to csm.welsrc.net/prison-ministry-resources to find:
- Samples of the “Water of Life” Bible studies specifically designed for returning citizens. The entire set of Bible Studies is available free for ministry use using the linked order form.
- Congregational Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Offenders. These guidelines are downloadable.
- A link to a Forward in Christ article describing the mentoring program for struggling individuals initiated by congregations in the New Ulm, Minn., area.
If you have any questions regarding ways your congregation can show love to released inmates in helpful yet careful ways, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth (email@example.com).
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