Prison ministries are reaching out to those behind bars to bring Jesus to them and share the good news.
There are several ministries that are specific to preaching to prisoners in the U.S. today. One of them is God Behind Bars, a ministry that helps inmates find freedom in Jesus Christ by leading them in prayer and praise.
"By inviting God into prison and showing His love in tangible ways, God Behind Bars is restoring lives, building faith, fighting addictions, reconnecting families, and giving thousands of inmates hope for the future," the ministry's website read. God Behind Bars began in 2009, which established a three-step approach that addresses the physical, spiritual, and relational needs of prisoners and their families.
According to the ministry, 92% of all incarcerated people will be released into society eventually, but up to 75% will return to prison in just 36 months, or three years. God Behind Bars' three-step approach involves teaming up with local churches and faith-based organizations to live-stream worship experiences into prisons through an app called Pando, which allows access to messages, devotionals, worship music, podcasts and more.
God Behind Bars also began a program called Family Matters, which assists inmates in reconnecting with their families and loved ones through Jesus Christ. They also offer the Celebrate Recovery program that aids inmates in combating their pain and habits. Furthermore, God Behind Bars makes it easier for inmates to return to society in a better shape than when they were going into prison. The ministry assists in finding employment, housing, and educational opportunities and also helps inmates with reconnecting with family and friends for better support after incarceration.
Ministry for Prisoners Baptizes Hundreds of Female Inmates
God Behind Bars, which began its first workshop experience at a correctional facility in Nevada 13 years ago, is now reaching out to more and more prisons across the U.S. In fact, the ministry's founder and CEO Jake Bodine told CBN News that during that first service, inmates began to "pour into the room" and started singing and dancing with God's love in their hearts.
"Our team began to dream, what if we were able to reproduce this in 5,000 prisons around the world," Bodine remarked. After that Nevada experience, the ministry did the same in Oklahoma, where 90% of inmates in the prison took part of the experience. Now, the ministry hopes to do the same in other locations across America.
Bodine reported that they were able to minister to prisoners in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, and Texas and have received positive feedback. He said that wardens would report to them that the culture in the prison would be "changing every single day" and that inmates were "improving their outlook on self-worth." He added that his team would often hear comments about how the inmates did not feel like they were in prison even just for an hour.
Most recently, God Behind Bars headed to Denver Women's Correctional Facility, where up to 265 female inmates were baptized. Christian artist Kirk Franklin and Maverick City Music, together with an all-inmate choir, performed the hit song "Jireh" from a south Florida correctional facility.
Another Ministry Caters to Youth Behind Bars
In light of the recent Father's Day holiday, a ministry called Youth for life has reached out to youth behind bars to share the message of Jesus. According to the Christian Post, a whopping majority or 92% of parents incarcerated in a U.S. prison or detention facility are fathers.
Youth for Christ, which is geared towards fostering Christ-sharing relationships with high-risk youth that includes juvenile offenders to teen parents, has made it their mission to reach those behind bars. Its Juvenile Justice Ministry travels to detention centers, probation, correctional facilities, and more to share the good news.
Youth For Christ executive director Alex Mathew said that for Father's Day this year, they focused and reflected on the "earthly fathers" of prisoners because "so many of them have been disappointed or they're even modeling the negative choices their fathers are making."
Mathew said that they wanted to "break that cycle" of fatherlessness, which often includes incarceration as a rite of passage. They also use Scripture to show examples of good and bad fathers and help inmates define their idea of a good father, even if they may not have experienced having one.
Mathew also reported that for people who have been institutionalized, there is often a lack of a community to "receive them and build them back up" when they come out. The goal of the youth ministry is to assist them in resettling into the community and having "a safe place where they can come, even if they slide backward, to encounter God."
Youth For Christ's program also aims to put "father in Christ" figures around young people who are struggling with "relational trauma, racial trauma, community violence, and lack of access to basic needs," to demonstrate what fathering is.