By Ryan Northcutt
Do pastors care about ex-offenders and their families? It’s a legitimate question to ask given that only about 14% of churches have any formal ministry to this often-neglected people group.
This is true despite the fact that Jesus talked about ministering to this people group as being a vital part of kingdom ministry (Matt. 25:31-46).
The writer of Hebrews even goes so far as to say that we should remember those in prison as if we were one of them (Heb. 13:3).
So why don’t more churches have a formal ministry to ex-offenders and their families?
Is it simply because pastors don’t care?
The answer is: NO.
Pastors care greatly!
In fact, a recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research found that 95% of senior pastors believe that churches should minister to ex-offenders and their families.
But if this is true then why do only about 14% of churches have a formal ministry to meet this need?
As someone who has spent the last 17 years in pastoral ministry I believe I've come across 3 main reasons why ministry to ex-offenders and their families is missing from most of today’s churches.
Most pastors never receive training for this specific kind of ministry. In seminary they learn how to preach, teach, and counsel from God’s Word. Hours are spent learning how to read the original Hebrew/Greek texts and develop those findings into culturally relevant sermons. And we’re all thankful for this because it helps us grow in Christ.
But seminary students DO NOT take a class called “How to Run A Ministry to Ex-Offenders & Their Families.” So most pastors feel ill equipped to do this kind of ministry because they’ve never received any formal training for it.
This reason goes hand-in-hand with the first. If pastors have never received training for this kind of ministry then it goes without saying that they don’t know how to equip or train volunteers for it either.
Although pastors might have some willing volunteers in their congregation desiring to do this kind of ministry, it’s hard to manage something you know very little about. One of the biggest jobs of the pastor is to cast vision. But how do you cast vision for something you don’t understand?
Pastors can feel embarrassed, ashamed, and awkward admitting they know nothing about this kind of ministry. So when willing volunteers come to a pastor saying they want to minister to ex-offenders and their families it becomes easier to say, “No,” than to say, “I know nothing about this.”
It’s an understatement to say that most church budgets are stretched. With a desire to steward God’s resources well, most pastors keep a careful eye on the finances of the church. Adding new ministries to a church always comes with a cost.
When we talk about adding a ministry for ex-offenders and their families it’s natural for a pastor to automatically wonder about the cost. This concern over finances can keep a church sidelined from starting this kind of ministry because they’re not sure how they’ll fit it into an already tight budget.
If you are a pastor and these reasons perhaps describe why you haven’t started a ministry for ex-offenders and their families then let Mercy Heart help.
Let us provide all of the training for your church’s pastors and staff.
Let us provide all of the training for volunteers.
Let us provide all of the curriculum you'll ever need.
And we’ll provide all of this at a cost that fits even the leanest of church budgets.
Are you one of the 28 million family members caught in the crisis of incarceration?
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Do you need some help?
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