The BIG IDEA
JULY’s BIG IDEA
For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners. – Psalm 69:33
In the 21st century, nearly 1 in 9 Americans is incarcerated at some point during his or her lifetime. Nearly two-thirds of those who are released from prison will be rearrested within three years. Without support such as stable housing, adequate healthcare, or job skills, ex-inmates are more likely to revert to criminal activity. St. James Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Salinas, California, is seeking to address this issue. Under the leadership of Pastor Darrell Wesley, this church, which is located less than 30 miles from the Soledad State Prison in Soledad, California, is ministering to inmates and helping them transition back into mainstream society. St. James, which boasts an average Sunday attendance of 85 people, recognizes the need to help those who are incarcerated.
The St. James prison ministry began when eight women in the church discovered how many members of the church had family members that were incarcerated. Realizing that they needed to reach out to those who were in the prison system, church members began sending inmates personal letters, devotional materials, and greeting cards. While the church began this outreach to people who were related to members of the church, this ministry has grown to include people who are not affiliated to St. James. The church receives names from community members and recommendations from the correctional facility and makes weekly contact with these people. Moreover, the church is also expanding its prison ministry by assisting inmates in their housing and employment searches once they are released from prison.
Currently, St. James CME Church funds its prison ministry through donations and offerings. In the future, however, St. James hopes to partner with community agencies and other churches to provide a wide array of services to those who have been incarcerated so that they may help decrease the recidivism rate in its community. St. James is proving that a small church can make a BIG difference in its community. This small church with a BIG IDEA is choosing to answer the call to minister to those who are often overlooked
ResourcesIf your church or community is interested in developing a prison ministry and/or transitional care ministry, the following national and community organizations may assist with your project:
Churches with prison ministries: