Header image



Prison ministry is not just a place to practice being a minister or for those who can't find a place to minister. Specialized training and spiritual preparation are necessary. All the principles of personal evangelism, discipleship, and Christian counseling will be used in prison ministry. God cares enough to send the very best.


The type of personal attire worn does not only affect the Christian witness, but is a factor in the respect of the inmates and the institutional officers. Clothing that is worn should give the impression that you are a professional and can be respected as a jail or prison minister, but not flashy or materialistic so as to provoke a feeling of unworthiness by the inmates to hear what you have to say or a feeling that you are some celebrity. The inmates need to see you as a caring person who lives as you believe.

Women entering a correctional facility which houses men should be especially cautious in their dress and actions so as to not attract unnecessary attention. This is VERY important. We have found that simple friendliness of a women toward a male inmate can been taken as a romantic interest. The same cautions apply to the male entering a correctional facility which houses females.


The jail or prison minister should remain a neutral party to all accusations against the established authority. It is just as necessary to build positive relationships with the authorities as with the inmates themselves.


Whatever guidelines are given by the chaplain are to be strictly adhered to. These are given to protect security within the correctional system and your security as well. In this area, the Christian should be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Remember, the chaplains have had more experience then the average jail/prison minister in dealing with the inmates and the authorities as well. The chaplain has to walk a thin line. When the officers look at the inmates, they see the chaplain between them. When the inmates look at the officers, they see the chaplain as a part of the institution.


The jail/prison minister looks at the inmates as an opportunity for the Gospel to be shared as a solution for a life of crime. Truly, that is the purpose. However, the courts, the judges, the legal system, the wardens, and the guards see their primary concern to be security. As an approved volunteer, you must also be aware of the need for security. The rules and procedures of the institution also are for your personal security.


The main three problems in the lives of people come from the three roots of sin - rebellion, selfishness, and lust. Also included should be a message of repentance, love, and hope along with submission to God and earthly authority. It is important that they learn not to blame others for their circumstances, but take responsibility for their own sin. Be aware that there will be inmates who already know the Lord. They do not need a message of salvation, but are in need of pastoral care and for growth and encouragement. Ministry to this type of inmate should be considered pastoral in nature.


As with any ministry, the goal is to build relationships so that we can effectively speak into their lives. However, there are cautions to be observed in this area. We have found that it is extremely necessary for females to minister to females, and males to males. This eliminates any misunderstandings as far as romantic interests which frequently occur when this guideline is not followed. Correspondence can be a continuing form of communication and minsitry. It is recommended that a post office box or ministry address be used instead of a personal address and that correspondence be limited to those of your own sex.


Jail house religion, appearing to be a Christian to volunteers or only while incarcerated, is a reality. However, there are genuine conversions and discipleship in the lives of prison inmates. God can call inmates into the ministry while serving their time. They can use their cell as a prayer room and bible college. The volunteer or ministry needs to be careful in giving great reports of outstanding results. It is best to have the attitude that God keeps the records and knows the hearts.


With great love will come great heartbreak. With great hope will come great disappointment. It is best to always release the person to the Lord. You may have given a little bit of time to them, but Jesus gave His life. When heartbroken or disappointed, let it be a lesson in understanding the heartbreak of God, and go on back and keep ministering. Give God the glory. Pray for the wisdom, guidance, and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Seek His strength daily. He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. The victory is the Lord's.

October 26, 1993 Dear Friend of Calvary Commission, Will Christmas be any different for you this year? I want to tell you about a special Christmas 24 years ago. Charlotte and I were in the grocery and restaurant business in Tyler, Texas. We had just returned from our first missionary outreach in Mexico. We had been touched by God's compassionate heart and felt a powerful call to reach out to the hurting and troubled teenagers in our area. We had rented a downtown building to start a youth ministry. Throughout the month of December, I was busy cleaning, painting, and planning to open a "coffee house" after Christmas. As I painted some old tables and chairs, I thought, "Who will be sitting in these chairs? Do I really know how to help this generation?" The "Watchnight Service" was extra special for I knew that the New Year was going to be a new and challenging experience. On January 9, we opened the Teen Challenge Center and about 200 teenagers came in the first weekend. Charlotte and I learned real quick that we had been very secure in our own little world while a whole generation of youth had lost their way. The hippies filled the parks and the streets and began to make our new center their "hangout" and we saw so many searching for something that would make sense. Our eyes were opened to the drug world and the crime scene. We prayed, "Lord, Help us to see these lives changed." We began to see many miracles through the saving and delivering power of Jesus Christ. We felt that with men this is impossible, but with our Great God, all things are possible. When one of the residents of our Boy's Home had to go to court, we thought he would get probation, but the Judge sent him to the Texas Prison. As we went to minister to him, we discovered a whole prison world and thousands of hopeless men and women who had messed up, been locked up, and who had given up. God put into our hearts a Message of Hope. We saw the need and had to help. We sold our remaining businesses. We began to receive parolees into a loving Christian community. As we saw the vision in the hearts of these zealous new Christians, we saw a vision of a unique missions organization that would take hope and help to a hurting and troubled world. God gave birth to a new movement of hope, it was called Calvary Commission. Now, today, at Christmas, 1993, there are 100 inmates in prison who have been approved to come to our training school upon release. There may be some released before Christmas. Hundreds have come and have been helped since those first years. There will be some of these "commissioners" who will go to Mexico during Christmas to give gifts to orphans and needy families. Others will be with their families to celebrate a powerful restoration. Still others now have families of their own. Calvary Commission has teams in Belize, Romania, and at 6 different places in Mexico. At our recent missions conference, we were blessed to hear the testimony of Steve Campos. He told of his life of drugs and crime. Then he said, I was in the Coffield Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections and in came Joe and Calvary Commission with their message of hope. Today, I can truly say that God has put my life back together. I am happily married and I am a practicing attorney with my own law firm in Austin, Texas. I am the leader of a house church and I go to the Austin jail weekly to minister. You do have a Calvary Commission in Austin.