This post continues to follow the evolution of a new ministry being born: COTAAN, a prison re-entry and aftercare outreach.
Depending upon the size of your congregation, it is important to assess what your capabilities are. In other words, how many volunteers you have that are willing and able to assist with the program, be on a board, and help with practical things like answering the phone, assisting with office needs, just “being there” during the hours of operation so that the staff of the program does not have to be by themselves as they meet individuals.
It is also important to identify what is offered by other agencies in your area so that you are not re-inventing the wheel. Understand that you can’t do everything. Pick a few things that through prayer and experience appear to be your congregation’s strong suits. Individuals re-entering society need support in the following ways:
- The basics of food, clothes and shelter: They may need assistance with getting into a “half-way” house, food vouchers, a few changes of clothes, personal hygiene items, etc.
- Emotional/psychological counseling
- Spiritual guidance and support
- Encouragement and acceptance
- Depending upon the length of time they’ve been away, perhaps a re-introduction to society today (technological changes, new laws in place, the job application process)
- Clothes for job interviews (connecting with programs like “Dress for Success”)
- Bus passes for transportation
Google is a wonderful thing! In addition to speaking with local pastors and missions in your area, you can put in key words like, “prison after care programs,” or “support for ex-felons” or similar phrases to identify local agencies.
As I mentioned in a previous post, our congregation determined that we would provide referrals to other organizations and agencies providing many of the needed services, thereby focusing our energies on those things we were uniquely equipped to do. Start by building bridges first. Then see where your ministry is most needed, and what tools and gifts for service God has given you in particular.
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.