Values I’ve Learned From Prison

What Prison Ministry Has Taught Me About Youth Ministry

I’m a part of unCuffed Ministries, an organization that serves youth charged as adults in the criminal justice system.  Each week I go into the Baltimore County Detention Center to meet with these young men, which is such a contrast from my regular job as a suburban youth minister.

It’s amazing what I’ve learned serving in this area of ministry.  Serving in prison has not only impacted me personally, but helped me improve the way I serve the teens in my parish.  What I’ve learned since joining unCuffed is that:

YOU CAN NEVER UNDERVALUE RELATIONSHIPS 

Relationships will trump the activities and material you provide the next generation.  Just like the guys I serve in prison our teenagers are hungry for real healthy relationships.

It doesn’t matter if they are guilty or innocent everyone wants to know that they are loved.  The teens in your ministry might not have a conviction; however, they could be feeling judged.  By focusing on relationships in your ministry you can create a place where people are anxious to come back.

VALUES IMPACT LIFE PURPOSE

The guys in our ministry have values, they just aren’t always based in God’s Truth.  Without God given values the teens will find themselves wondering, “What’s the point to life?”

As leaders of the next generation we have to introduce a different story from what the world is offering.  That means helping teenagers seek God’s wisdom.  It means introducing them to adults who have those values and giving them a picture of what a God driven life looks like.

THERE IS A STORY BENEATH THE STORY

It’s easy to look at someone in prison and think, “They are guilty.”  It’s easy to listen to these guys and think, “They are victims of a broken system.”  There is truth is what we see and what we hear, but it’s not always the whole truth.

To really help someone you need to listen to the story beneath the story.  That means taking time to get to know them and share life with them.  If you want to help teenagers you need to give them the time to open up and reveal who they are.  It takes patience on your part, but it’s worth the time it sometimes takes.

If you want to go deeper in your ministry look for ways to serve outside of your comfort zone.  I’m not saying you have to serve in a prison ministry, but look for ways where you can grow so that you can look at what you are doing under a different light.

Question:  Where are you serving or learning to gain a fresh perspective on what you do professionally?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I’m passionate about helping the guys I meet in the Baltimore Detention Center because we all deserve justice.  Our goal at unCuffed isn’t to prove these guys innocent, but to give them an opportunity to find, feel and experience God’s grace.

If you are interested in investing or learning more about unCuffed Ministries, please visit their website HERE.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nancy Radday

    I am trying to listen more rather than talking!