This post continues to follow the evolution of a new ministry being born: COTAAN, a prison re-entry and aftercare outreach.
I brought the vision for a re-entry program to the church general board. The board unanimously accepted the idea and was excited about the vision. One of our board members was already involved in prison ministry; that member had worked in the community to assist ex-felons in finding employment and also had a family member who was being released from incarceration. We began to discuss funding for such a ministry, as our congregation is small and has limited financial resources. We also discussed securing a grant writer to help us to think through all of the particulars for such program.
The grant writer helped us to identify what was manageable for us as a small congregation. Through her guidance, we determined that even with funding, we were not equipped to offer a full-scale re-entry program. However, we could serve as a referral service: partnering with larger established re-entry programs in our area. We also determined that we wanted to provide a spiritual component that would help individuals to further develop their sense of redemption and security in the Lord, and understand the power of prayer to help re-direct their lives and order their “moral compass.” Finally, we also wanted to assist in providing them with practical tools for self-sufficiency. Therefore, we determined that we wanted to include workshops in collaboration with a local bank to help them develop money management skills.
American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) has wonderful social justice ministry resources. I would encourage anyone who is interested to visit their site and contact a representative to discuss possibilities. In terms of setting up a board of directors, I would not recommend a large board (no more than 5-6 people). Be very clear about what their role in the program will be: Are they expected to assist in raising additional monies for the program? Are they partners or “overseers?” What level of expertise to they need? How are they connected to the vision for the program? (Finance? Law? Business? Shelters? etc). It would help to write up a job description for a member of the board of directors that would include responsibilities as well as other considerations before you begin asking people to serve.
The COTAAN blog posts are contributed by Rev. Christine A. Smith, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Wickliffe, OH, www.covenantbaptistwickliffe.com. Stay tuned for more on this story!
COTAAN is a grant project of AB Women’s Ministries. For more information about COTAAN , including how you could help support this ministry, click here.