Project Documents

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Romulus Chelbegean

Third Advisor

Walt A. Williams

Abstract

Problem. With a history of almost 70 years of Adventist presence in Marion County, Illinois, the church had gradually shifted from a church growth focus to a survival focus. The Adventist traditions had been kept faithfully, but the people in the church suffered because their witnessing didn’t impact their community and neighborhood anymore. While they were ready for new outreach tools they were hesitant to try such a new approach that challenged the status quo and ultimately created a demand for spiritual renewal in their personal and church life. Prison ministry to a population group the church had previously not ministered to was introduced as an avenue to break out of this pattern of self-absorption.

Method. The task of this project is to describe the prison ministry strategy we employed to inspire and motivate members and non-members attending our church as an active factor of refreshing their spiritual life. The theological foundation along with a literature review provided the framework for developing and implementing a prison ministry to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Salem, Illinois. In addition, four training sessions were developed for the church leaders interested in implementing the prison ministry strategy in their own context. Finally, the impact of this ministry on member involvement and its influence on the congregation were evaluated.

Results. The 10 participants who accepted to be part of the implementation training for prison ministry were very positive about their experience. The perceived impact of the jail and prison ministry in the Salem Adventist Church was assessed with a survey given to a group of 12 members who volunteered to participate in the survey. These 12 included five members who did not participate in the jail and prison ministry project. The survey assessed the spiritual satisfaction of the church members, based on two essential Christian values: evangelism and community outreach. Overall the evaluation showed a clear difference in the level of satisfaction members reported in their spiritual life when participating in jail and prison ministry compared with those who did not participate. Direct involvement seemed to improve or keep the level of spiritual satisfaction high. This spiritual satisfaction score not only reported personal growth, but also extended a beneficial influence into the entire local church. Thus the implemented ministry reported in this study can be considered as the catalyst for the refreshing of the spiritual life of the church.

Conclusions. Prison ministry can be a successful way to lead a church beyond its crippling focus on self to practical engagement in a world disabled by dysfunction. This ministry results in transformed lives. Prisoners residing in correctional facilities today touched and transformed by the power of God experienced through this ministry returned to their families as role models, to the church as a gift to the Body of Christ, and to the community as evidence of the love, power, and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although I need to emphasize that prison ministry is not for everybody and not for every church, I am confident that the present model can be a source of inspiration for many churches. A jail and prison ministry can empower any pastor, educator, or lay leader to do effective ministry. Prison life provides a ready-made context in which the story of our salvation fits well and is often welcomed by those seeking for a change in their lives. For this reason I recommend to the Seventh-day Adventist church and its leaders, from the local to the national level, to support and encourage every initiative of believers for starting a jail and prison ministry in their local churches. Rediscovering evangelistic success and finding fulfillment in outreach will provide vision and empowerment in mission to any church who experienced failure in the past. In this way I sincerely hope that this project will make a cherished contribution to the church I love and to its members preparing themselves and the world for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Subject Area

Church work with prisoners--Seventh-day Adventists, Church renewal--Illinois

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