Is teaching in prisons and rehab centers worth it?


Our church has been working with prison ministry. It began many years ago by a lady who would travel many miles to the women's prison. In that time I only know of one woman who came to be baptized, and, if my memory serves me right, when she was released she returned to alcohol and drugs. For the last few years several men and women went to the rehab centers and did Bible studies with those who would come to the classes. After a short biblical instruction, if they chose to be baptized they were accommodated at the church. During their studies they were allowed to come to services on Sunday mornings and they took of the Lord's supper before baptism. (Wrong?). We also had a larger amount show up on Sundays when we had potlucks. They came for the free food, as some who came had never been there before and never came back. I was somewhat attentive to certain ones who seemed sincere, and they all promised to keep in touch after they graduated into the world. Out of about 50 of them, I had response from two: one who has stopped responding, and one who calls at least once a week and is doing well. They were disruptive, distracting, mannerless, disrespectful and other things too numerous to mention. We had a visiting preacher on that particular day and I was so distracted, the only word I heard him say was "parable." I left the service feeling very upset, to the point of anger, as no one but me had said anything to any of them. So I wrote a letter to the head of each facility and the lady who had charge over all of them. Their privileges were suspended for first two weeks, then a month and now I hear permanently. The "permanently" pleases me as I do not see but one success story out of about 125. Not very good odds in my book. They use and abuse us in every way possible but the latest two who have been going to teach them at the facility have been going to an empty classroom. That tells me that they never came to hear God's word, only to be able to get out of the facility for a short time. Should there not be restrictions on this sort of thing or am I seeing it wrong? I do not look at them as "lost" as the reason they have been incarcerated is for drugs and alcoholism, and when they are released they go right back to it.

Our present preacher uses power point presentations for sermons and is "talking" way over their heads and mine too. I leave the church thinking "what did I just hear"? My husband and I are thinking about leaving and going elsewhere, where they don't have a disruptive congregation. My question is are we right or do we need to stay? My desire is to teach and evangelize in the community in my home and my husband is going to take an online course so that he can know the Bible better. He is a new convert in the last year. When he came out of the baptistery, he "hit the floor running" and hasn't stopped yet.

Thank you for your time and look forward to some help from you. Your site is wonderful and I have already printed out four of your articles to help me in my quest to teach.


If you aren't being spiritually feed and it looks like some things are not being done right, there is never harm in finding a more scriptural congregation. There will be times when you really don't have much of a choice. Then you pick the best that you think you can work with, and work to help improve the group -- or work to get a congregation started.

Teaching in the prisons is hard and you hit the nail on the head as to why. The environment in a jail is different from the world, so habits formed while in prison rarely carry over to life outside of prison. Though you look at it as only 1 out of 125 did well, still that is someone who heard the gospel message. How valuable is any soul?

Lately I've been spending a fair amount of time working with people struggling with addictions. The odds aren't much better, though I restrict myself to only those who how approach me for help. But even then I look at it that one success is worth the effort (and I've had more than one).

Even the web site that La Vista hosts is much the same. We are currently averaging about 5,200 people a day on the site, yet the congregation has only gained one member in the seven years it has been running the web site. But we also know that dozens of people have put on Christ as a result of the site. It is worth the effort even if we don't directly benefit because the Lord gains from the work. And if we turn several away from sin in the process, then perhaps someone else coming later into their lives will have an easier time bringing them to the Lord.

No avenue to reach a lost soul should be left untried. People are lost in sin; including people addicted to drugs and alcohol. All should be taught the gospel. A congregation should not be so focused on those in prison that it neglects the "milder" sinners in the community around it, nor should it be so exclusive that it writes off the worse of sinners before they have a chance to hear the truth.

"Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:6-11).

Can you tell me where in the Bible it says that Jesus went to the prison to preach? My husband would like to know that as he has been involved with the program here.

There is no mention of Jesus going into a prison to teach. But then, there is no mention of Jesus preaching in North America either, but you wouldn't conclude that it shouldn't be done. "And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature"" (Mark 16:15). Jesus command to preach the gospel doesn't leave anyone out -- and that includes people in prisons.

In explaining the Judgment Day, Jesus talked of the righteous being told, "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me'" (Matthew 25:34-40). Now you could argue that "my brethren" means people who are already Christians, but I take this as meaning in a broader sense since you never know who might become a Christian when they hear the Gospel.

Thus you see many references to Paul preaching while in prison to his fellow prisoners. The Philippian jailer in Acts 16 was one who responded. Onesimus, mentioned in Philemon, is another who responded to the message while in prison.