Posts filed under TIPS

TIPS: LETTERS OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRISONERS

LETTERS OF ENCOURAGEMENT TRAINING

  • Be sure each writing team member has a saving faith, one who is born again and has a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Find out their testimony. Interview them so that the inmates hear from someone who truly knows Jesus. If they do not, this is a good time to share the Gospel with them. As they mature in their faith they can later return to this ministry.
  • Each team member needs to be continually growing in his or her faith through Bible Study, personal quiet time and prayer.You can only lead people as far as you have grown. This is not a ministry for new believers but someone who is mature in Christ.

PROCEDURES FOR PRAYER AND LETTER WRITING:

  1. In-Prison team members will return prayer request cards from the prison to the church. Completed prayer requests are placed in the folder to be divided up by the team leader.
  2. The prayer requests are divided up and bundled with a blank form placed on the top labeled with each team member’s name on it.These prayer requests are private and confidential!
  3. Please complete the form in the proper order.Initial and date the appropriate space and immediately pass it on to the next name on the form. Please place all completed requests, with completion date back into the ministry leaders folder so he/she knows when it was mailed and completed. They also will know how to preach according to the needs of the imates. **Please make every effort to complete within one week from the Prison date.This may be the few times the inmates feel valued and loved.
  4. There are stamps, envelopes and paper provided by the church. The church name and address is the return address on the envelope. Your personal information should remain private. This is all done through the church and its team members.

Tips for successful letter writing:

First of all set aside time to

Pray, Pray, Pray!

THE POWER IS IN THE PRAYER.

Pray

for each inmate and their request, don’t just write them without praying FOR them.

Pray

for wisdom

. Pray

for your words, that they come from the Holy Spirit and pray for the ministry team.

Allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you

before

you begin to put pen to paper.

***Important - Please do not write until after you have prayed for their request. Pay attention to what God puts in your mind during prayer.

Do not use fancy words or big theology. Keep it loving and simple using scripture. I recommend you do not use the King James Version of the Bible. Its wording is difficult for inmates to understand. If you were talking to a prostitute on the corner, or a thief or a murderer – how would Jesus relate to them? In love!

Mother Teresa once said:

“I am nothing but a pencil in God’s hand.”

Let God do the writing.

It helps to keep a notebook: listing each prisoner’s name on the top of a blank page so you can keep track of who you have written. Remember, this is confidential, use initials if necessary.

Keep track of the prisoner’s requests including date and the verses that you used to respond.

(Example) John Doe or John D.

Date:

Her/His Request:

My Response:

Bible Verse given:

9/27/14

Pray for his court hearing.

Trust in the Lord, he is not alone.

John 14:27

Write CLEARLY. Some inmates have difficulty reading and have bad eyesight. These cards most likely are first read by the officers for security. Keep it simple and loving, guiding them through scripture alone. DO NOT GIVE ADVICE!

Carefully print

the name and ID on the envelope.

  • Keep your letter brief, yet thoughtful.
  • Do not ever use a form letter, write each letter personally.
  • Do not lecture, scold or advise, only encourage them to seek the Lord.
  • Do not share any of your personal information about your family, address, city or phone number.
  • Do not let the inmates contact you personally. Tell them it is against policy.
  • ***Do not become emotionally attached to the inmate or let an inmate become attached to you. If you are a male writing to a female, we use a fake woman’s name as the author instead. Same for men. Use only your first name and use the same name each time.
  • Close each letter with a “positive attitude” encouraging them to trust God and close using ONLY your first name.

Tips on what to write:

Ask God to help you set time aside each week to serve God in this ministry.

Please do not rush this because of lack of time.

Please commit yourself to learning scripture, pick up a “quick scripture reference” book to help you locate appropriate scripture.

A “Topical Bible” is very helpful or you can look in the back of your Bible for page numbers by topic.

***

I cannot emphasize enough, you will learn of some of their crimes and sin,

PLEASE DO NOT teach, lecture or counsel

but let’s love them using only God’s Word. We want them to seek the Lord, rhey will find out soon enough in scripture.

We want to encourage them to attend prison church as well begin Bible Studies that may already be happening inside of the prison.

In some prisons, they can request a donated Bible from the Chaplain, Pastor or Director if they don’t have one. Ask the churches to donate Bibles.

Please direct them to read the Bible, but they don’t have to start at the beginning. They will become frustrated if they do. Have them start with John or Mark then move on to Acts in the New Testament. They can begin to share now with other’s what God has done for them in their life.

I believe

you have been hand picked

by God

to carry out this important ministry.

By taking this responsibility seriously, we are reflecting our “high view” of God.

These inmates wait daily for a response to their request, many feel rejected and alone.

They are in desperate need of prayer and a friend. Lets not keep them waiting any longer!

Matthew 25: 36, 40

Tells us working with prisoners is really serving Jesus himself…

“You visited me…you did it for me.”

This should motivate us to stay faithful and consistent, to write notes joyfully, and to keep healthy boundaries emotionally.

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR PRISON MINISTRY


When I came to you... my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with demonstration of the spirit's power. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4




AS A LEADER - IS IT ALL ABOUT GOD AND NOT ABOUT YOU? ARE YOU SURE?

This thought is against the grain of society isn't it? Don't assume prison ministry is for you. It saddens me to see individuals and teams lose their focus of who they are serving... Jesus Christ. They cannot figure out why their teams are falling apart, disintegrating before their eyes and losing impact for God's Kingdom. 

I have seen team members bring suggestions that fall on the deaf ears of arrogant prison ministry leaders. Team members become frustrated and feel useless and unwanted if they have suggestions that are not considered. At times God prompts improvements or excellence through the team. We are the body of Christ. Are you the leader who prefers the "same ol' same ol" method of doing things that you've always done? My friends, be in prayer for how God is molding your ministry. Remember, we are to shepherd, lead and encourage team members as well as the inmates.

A true leader surrenders to God in prayer, listens for feedback (it is your friend) and trusts the Holy Spirit's leading to do what is right for the prison ministry.

Too often misguided people are all too consumed with whose names appear on the ministry title? Who are the team leaders? Who gets to teach and who is in charge? Some of them want to be up front and center, yet their spiritual gifting is behind the scenes helping one-on-one. PRIDE comes before the fall.

First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall!   Proverbs 16:17-18 (Message)



DYSFUNCTIONAL TEAMS CAN KILL A MINISTRY:

When I coach ministry teams my go-to phrase is... "Have you prayed specifically on this?" Prayer is the beating heart for any ministry. Remove prayer and I promise you pride and self-ambition start growing like a weed in the ministry.  Through prayer, it is amazing to watch God naturally "weed-out" and frustrate the people whose intentions are self-focused instead of God-focused. My prayer is that you are able rise up and shepherd them correctly so their divisiveness doesn't become contagious choking off and killing the ministry.

God assigns places of spiritual ministry and leadership in His sovereign will. When we become empty of self and dependent on God the Holy Spirit will use us.

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. Mark 10:43-44




HOW NOT TO JUDGE CRIMINALS WHO HAVE ALREADY BEEN JUDGED:


"Let's talk God!" Before my first trip into a women's prison, God and I had to have a serious conversation. Some of these women have committed acts I couldn't even imagine.


"God, you have called me to this ministry. Please give me your heart and enable me to see them the way you do. Show me how to love these women unconditionally. I cannot do it alone without your help."

I have interviewed over 250 female inmates in various correctional facilities. I asked them what they need to see, hear and experience at a prison church service in order for the majority of the prison to want to attend?  One of the top requests was:  To send in people who do not judge them or talk down to them.

One inmate's perspective: 
"I feel like I have a sign on my forehead with big letters that says CONVICT". "Even church people make me feel unwanted." "One preacher used to talk down to us and get up in our face, telling us to shut up."


Heart attitude test question:
If Jesus were standing in front of you, how would you treat Him? Are you treating these women the same way? What is your real heart attitude before you attend and when you leave? We should be treating these women the same way we would treat our Lord. With our very best!


The following are a few suggestions that have been helpful for our teams before entering prison


  1. To refrain from judgmental thoughts and actions you must be bathed in prayer.
  2. Confess your own sins privately to God.
  3. Ask for forgiveness for your own sins, thoughts and past judgements.
  4. Ask for help and power from the Holy Spirit, not to judge but love all who enter. (This is impossible in our own power.
  5. Love them unconditionally with God's love.
  6. Allow them to feel special. Greet them individually, thanking them for attending.
  7. Smile and look at them in the eye. (It might be the only one they receive all day.)
  8. Have some fun and laugh together.
  9. When speaking one on one with them, listen to them intently like they are the only one in the room.
  10. Be prepared! - God wants to "love 'em up" - through you!


Prisoner's sins are no worse than ours...  just illegal. We all need God's love and forgiveness.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much...
Then Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."     Luke 7:47-50





Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS: THIS IS A SPIRITUAL WARFARE! Is Your Dysfunctional Team KILLING Your Ministry?

DYSFUNCTIONAL TEAMS CAN KILL A MINISTRY:

When I coach ministry teams my go-to phrase is... "Have you prayed specifically on this?" The more specific your prayers, the more specifically God answers.

Prayer is the beating heart for any ministry. Remove prayer and I promise you pride and self-ambition start growing like a noxious, choking weed in the ministry.  Through prayer, it is amazing to watch God naturally "weed-out" and frustrate the people whose intentions are self-focused instead of God-focused. 

Satan always comes up where we least expect it. He will come up through the middle of the ministry. Infighting, jealously, suspicion,  usually working through trusted sources and when you least expect it. 

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Be on guard and train up your teams to come to you first if they have an issue. Be open, thankful they approached you and listen. If they have an issue, recommend that they come with a suggestion on how to fix the problem as well. 

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause and defile many. 

An evil root can grow up quickly inside of a team. Train your team members to deal with and confront bitterness immediately. You should be prepared to deal with it confidentially if needed and with love!

My prayer is that you are able rise up and shepherd them correctly so their divisiveness doesn't become contagious, choking off and killing the ministry. Satan then has you right where he wants you. Forgive and love each other quickly and deeply.

God assigns us in places of spiritual ministry and leadership according to His sovereign will. When we become empty of self and dependent on God, the Holy Spirit will use us mightily for his noble purposes.

You are not only leading a prison ministry, you are shepherding your team as individuals with biblical excellence. Don't waste the experience of suffering and trials as you do prison ministry. Learn from it.

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Need leadership help? Just ask...

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS: THE THREE P'S OF PRISON MINISTRY - How To Embrace Who You Are?

KNOW AND EMBRACE YOURSELF:

I love to tell the inmates that God has created each one of them perfectly. They are not a mistake nor are they an accident. God does not make mistakes nor does he make copies. We should all embrace the three P's of how we were created.


  1. YOU have a perfect PERSONALITY:  Are you shy? Are you quiet? Are you bold? Are you loud? Embrace who you are for God has made your personality perfect. Why? To go with your...
  2. PASSION:  When you close your eyes and dream BIG... what do you see? I always get energized with crowds of people. The more people the better. Others enjoy smaller groups or one on one. Which are you? God places a passion on your heart to glorify Him. This is not a passion for yourself, but a passion (almost like a burden) for others in a certain area. My passion is Prison Ministry. Yours may be children, teens, medicine etc. We now know your Personality goes perfect with your Passion... to fulfill your...
  1. PURPOSE: God has given each one of us a purpose in life. This purpose at times has a season or time-frame to it. perhaps he is training you during this season of life for the next grander purpose he has for your life. Do not rush God, for he has a plan and a purpose for your life. God has trained me through decades for a "time such as this." Allow God to train you now for the next season of your life. Pray you will fulfill His purpose for your life by using your God given PERSONALITY, PASSION AND PURPOSE.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS: ARE YOU GIVING THESE INMATES YOUR VERY BEST?

SEND IN YOUR VERY BEST! 
Prison ministry is not a place to practice but to sharpen your people and your message.

Incarcerated men and women are hungry for God. Maybe for the first time they are sober, alert and ready for the Good News of Jesus Christ. I've seen firsthand, inmates frustrated and never return to a church service because they cannot relate to or understand the speaker.

I was in a prison where the speaker didn't know a common childhood Bible story. She had a heavy accent and was very difficult to understand. If the teacher has substantially less Bible knowledge than the inmates, THIS IS NOT the place for him or her.

On the other extreme, I have heard speakers talk way over the inmate's heads. Using theological terms without explanation - terms such as "propitiation, sanctification, justification" - these are important terms if we explain them. We only have a short amount of time to concentrate our words to make an impact in their lives.  If you don't use these terms everyday, ask yourself if it is necessary? Then I'd advise you thoroughly explain it as you teach. Keep the message simple, easy to understand, with scripture broken down and explained.

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS: IS GOD CALLING YOU TO PRISON MINISTRY?

PRAYER... ARE YOU LISTENING TO GOD? 

Is God calling you to Prison Ministry? Prison ministry is not a place of "that's good enough" warm bodies, but "hand-picked servants."

Often times God calls us to prison ministry years before it actually happens. I remember God calling me to preaching years before my training and first opportunity. Sometimes I think (I know in my case) he calls us and matures our character during the years of waiting... he puts us in places of training for future ministries. Don't waste a moment in serving where you are at - it is building upon your character for greater kingdom impact.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you. John 15:16



Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS: ARE YOU THE RIGHT LEADER FOR PRISON MINISTRY?

AS A LEADER - IT IS ALL ABOUT GOD AND NOT ABOUT YOU. 

This thought is against the grain of society isn't it? Don't assume prison ministry is for you. Remember, God has a plan for your life. It saddens me to see individuals and teams lose focus because of pride. Who are they serving? Themselves or Jesus Christ? They cannot figure out why their teams are falling apart, disintegrating before their eyes and losing impact for God's Kingdom. Turn around, is anyone following you?

I have seen prison team members bring suggestions that fall on the deaf ears of arrogant prison ministry leaders. Team members become frustrated and feel useless and unwanted if they have suggestions that are not considered. At times God prompts improvements or excellence through the team. We are the body of Christ. Are you the leader who prefers the "same ol' same ol" method of doing things that you've always done? Is it easier? Is it less work? My friends, be in prayer for how God is molding your ministry. Remember, we are to shepherd, lead and encourage team members as well as the inmates.

A true leader surrenders to God in on-going prayer. Listens for feedback (it is your friend) and trusts the Holy Spirit's leading to do what is right for the prison ministry. 

Leaders of excellence are open to God massaging the ministry into HIS vision and then they act on it. Prison ministry needs a leader who is a visionary. The team should be built on a grand vision to accomplish God's goals. If the leader is a task oriented leader, more interested in the details, then he or she should remain on the team but trust God to pull forth the visionary for the broad large spectrum picture. A visionary leader is always looking for new horizons on God's vision. Then builds the team with task oriented people to go forth to do what needs to be done to accomplish this vision. 

Be patient, it may not happen all at once. But God will build according to His purposes. Pray, trust and obey.

Too often misguided leaders and team members are all too consumed with whose names appear on the ministry title? I want to lead something? I want to teach!  I want to be in charge! Some want to be up front and center, yet their spiritual gifting is really behind the scenes helping one-on-one. God has a special purpose for each of our lives... are you sure it is prison ministry?

This is God's ministry. Some of the best leaders are humble, servant leaders. Pride comes before the fall, so we each better look honestly at ourselves before God humbles us himself.

First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall!   Proverbs 16:17-18 (Message)

Pray for God to bring the right leaders and team members to come into your prison ministry. If you pray for this, trust me, God will provide.
Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS: YOUR GOSPEL MESSAGE-Hell's Best Kept Secret?

KEEP IT SIMPLE, BOLD AND FULL OF LOVE! 

I will never forget what the director of a large USA Christian rehabilitation center for addictions said to me. He was introducing himself to me for the first time and he viewed me as this petite, little blonde woman. "Shug, I cannot emphasize enough, we need to speak directly and boldly to our clients. We have little time to reach them - the more direct the better." I had to chuckle to myself, because little did he know that is exactly how God has wired me.

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.  Ephesians 6:19 

I have "method" for sharing the Gospel message that I have given many times in many different countries. It is not mine, I have borrowed it from a wonderful evangelism source. It is called "Hell's Best Kept Secret?" by Way of the Master founder Ray Comfort. www.wayofthemaster.com  Feel free to Google it and study it. They have video to watch, audio to listen to and a pdf file of the words they use. It also is available in a variety of languages. It is a simple and easy way to share the Gospel... the same way Jesus did it in the Bible.

I have used this simple method, mixed with my own message from far away places such as Italy - Israel - Africa and the USA. It works! Feel free to combine this simple method of evangelism with your own stories and illustrations. If you are speaking to someone for the first time one-on-one on the street. this method works. If you are in prison in front of thousands of people, this method works. In prisons, I like to role-play and bring inmates up so we can all get involved. I cannot emphasize enough, to laugh and have fun with sharing the Gospel. Chuld be contagious and full of joy. Laughter is rare to find in prisons. Christianity should be contagious and full of joy. 

Double check with the local prison pastor or director that this method of evangelism has not been used in your area. You can always use the main thought and mix it in with your own custom message like I do.  Most of all, keep it fun, simple and full of God's truth for all to understand.


You may have only one chance to reach someone for Christ. Be prepared and ready to share the Gospel in a fun and engaging way.

I would now like to address some forms of preaching that I have seen that go over most people's heads. To be in prison preaching is not our chance to show how much theology we know. Instead, be like Jesus Christ, who kept it simple, using common everyday illustrations and full of love. 

Ask yourself: "If this one inmate, only came once to listen to the Gospel message, would this one theological term help transform their life?" I believe in preaching the whole truth of God's Word - but in simple easy to understand everyday terms. Simply said... the simpler the better.

I once saw a Bible teacher in a USA prison get up into one of the inmates faces for talking and begin yelling at her.  Did we forget that there are gangs with dignity to be kept amongst the inmates? Is that what Jesus would do? Whoa... I can tell you as a woman, do not ever talk down to or embarrass us...  Have you ever heard of the phrase "Speak to the hand!"... done.

Remember, God deserves our best. Jesus calls us to love each other. Here is a quote that we all should live by: "LET'S GET THE LOVE THING RIGHT." We don't want the inmates to stumble over us on their way to Jesus. I urge you to only be full of God's truth and full of His love.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God; and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

God calls us to love one another. If we are putting God first in our lives, loving others will naturally pour out of us through His Spirit.

When I came to you... my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with demonstration of the spirit's power. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4
Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.

TIPS: HOW NOT TO JUDGE CRIMINALS WHO HAVE ALREADY BEEN JUDGED?

HOW NOT TO JUDGE CRIMINALS WHO HAVE ALREADY BEEN JUDGED?

"Let's talk God!" Before my first trip into prison, God and I had to have a serious conversation. Some of these inmates have committed acts I couldn't even imagine.

"God, you have called me to this ministry. Please give me your heart and enable me to see them the way you do. Show me how to love these individuals unconditionally. I cannot do it alone without your help."

I have interviewed hundreds of inmates in various correctional facilities. I asked them what they need to see, hear and experience at a prison church service in order for the majority of the prison to want to attend?  One of the top requests was:  "To send in people who do not judge them or talk down to them."

One inmate's perspective: 
"I feel like I have a sign on my forehead with big letters that says CONVICT". "Even church people make me feel unwanted." "One preacher used to talk down to us and get up in our face, telling us to shut up."

Heart attitude test question:
If Jesus were standing in front of you, how would you treat Him? Are you treating these people the same way? What is your real heart attitude before you attend and when you leave? We should be treating them the same way we would treat our Lord, with our very best!

The following are a few suggestions that have been helpful for our teams before entering prison

  1. To refrain from judgmental thoughts and actions you must be bathed in prayer.
  2. Confess your own sins privately to God. Your sins are not worse nor no better than their own. A sin is a sin in God's eyes. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
  3. Ask for forgiveness for your own sins, thoughts and past judgements.
  4. Ask for help and power from the Holy Spirit, not to judge but love all who enter. (This is impossible in our own power.
  5. Love them unconditionally with God's love.
  6. Allow them to feel special. Greet them individually, thanking them for attending.
  7. Smile and look at them in the eye. (It might be the only one they receive all day.)
  8. Have some fun and laugh together.
  9. When speaking one on one with them, listen to them intently like they are the only one in the room.
  10. Be prepared! - God wants to "love 'em up" - through you!


Prisoner's sins are no worse than ours...  just illegal. We all need God's love and forgiveness.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2


Christ calls us to love one another unconditionally... Nothing more, nothing less.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.   John 13:34-35
Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under TIPS.