Preparing for Ministry

Church Barriers to Prison Ministry

LifeWay Research Survey

Karen Swanson, the director of the Institute for Prison Ministries at Wheaton College, suggests that those pastors who do not think prison ministry is something that affects their community or congregation might need to look more closely.  “The mission field is in your backyard,” she says. “Almost every county has a jail. And almost all prisoners are going to return home.”

“When half the pastors haven’t had someone from their church sent to jail, then prison ministry isn’t on their ministry radar,” says Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.

When asked what factors were the biggest hindrances to starting a prison ministry, the most cited reason was a lack of volunteer leaders (65 %). Other reasons included a lack of specific training for prison ministry (62 %), lack of finances (48 %), not knowing where to start (40 %), and having too many other outreach ministries already in place (29 %). One in five does not see a need for such a ministry.

Understanding the Mission Field

1. Offenders and Family

  • Incarcerated 210,000+

  • Parole 70,000+

  • Probation 300,000+

2. Crime Victims and Family

  • At least 1 victim family per offender

3. Officers and Family

  • Corrections, Law Enforcement, Courts, First Responders