The most wonderful time of the year?
Caring for those spending this Christmas behind bars
Stephen James is our Director of Prison Ministry. He joined Christianity Explored Ministries in 2008 to help develop our courses for prisons, after spending time in prison himself.
Christmas is one of the hardest times to be in prison.
It's meant to be a time spent with family; eating, drinking and enjoying life. When your freedom is taken from you at this time of year, being in prison has its biggest impact. I spent two Christmases inside and they were some of the lowest points of my life. You know exactly what you're missing out on beyond those four walls and can spend up to 23 hours behind a locked door.
Recently, as I was running a Life Explored course in prison, some of the prisoners were very happy to tell the others that they were getting out before Christmas. I felt real pain for the guys who will still be inside because I’ve been there. But should we feel that pain with them? Well, it’s a ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Yes, because it’s meant to be the season of goodwill to all men, even those who are serving a prison sentence. We want everyone to experience the best gift anyone could receive and that’s freedom - not from a physical prison but from the slavery to sin, the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life, being with God forever.
No, because if you do the crime you must do the time. Prison is where rehabilitation is meant to take place and it’s at this time of year prisoners are more likely to do the deepest of soul searching and ask the bigger questions about life.
What can we pray?
Prisoners are more likely to attend chaplaincy and carol services over Christmas period, some will be seeking out the real meaning of Christmas.
Some prisons hold their own carol services, run by the prisoners themselves. The public are then invited into the prison to take part.
Prisoners tend to think about the future and what to do in the New Year and Christmas is a good time to sign up for a Christianity Explored, Discipleship Explored or Life Explored course, or other courses offered by chaplaincy.
It is through the above that we can pray that prisoners would encounter the real Jesus, and that this encounter would be life changing, at the deepest level of the heart.
How can we get involved?
The UK has lots of ministries who go into prisons regularly to take Bible studies, Sunday services and offer support to prisoners.
Many churches have their own prison visiting schemes.
Do a simple google search and find out what’s going on in your area.
We'll be posting more blogs in the New Year with more information about how you can get involved with prison ministry, and how to do it well.
For he himself [Jesus] is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). May we all know and enjoy his peace this Christmas.
Read Stephen's story
Find out more about the prison editions of Christianity Explored and Discipleship Explored. Life Explored is currently being trialled in prisons.
Keep your eyes peeled for more posts updating you on this area of our ministry in the coming months.