Results of Prison Ministry Survey

Results of Prison Ministry Survey


Board of Church & Society

10/30/2015

Summary of responses to the Prison Ministry Initiative Survey

The following is an informal analysis of the survey results, rather than a strictly statistical and scientific one.  

The Prison Ministry Initiative Survey was conducted via Survey Monkey, with the first response on January 13, 2014 and the last response on April 7, 2014.  The survey is now closed.
There were 51 total responses, of which 8 contained no information other than the church name and 6 were duplicate entries from the same church, leaving about 37 valid responses.
It would seem that the majority of responses came from churches where some prison ministry was taking place and/or there was a proximity to a prison.  In many cases this was minimal involvement:  a “prison pal” letter writing program, gift collection at Christmas, or some form of welcoming the formerly incarcerated (though this was not spelled out as to its process or results).  Both Rising Hope, a Methodist sponsored program in the New York prisons whereby a certificate from Nyack College can be obtained, and Kairos, an interdenominational program of faith building were mentioned.   
All respondents wanted to be more involved, with “welcoming the formerly incarcerated” getting the most responses, closely followed by interest in “setting up church study groups using books such as The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, or The Cross and the Lynching Tree by the Rev. Dr. James Cone, as well as resources on restorative justice.”   Women’s advocacy, leading Bible studies in prison and participating in Kairos were next as choices for involvement.
When asked how the Conference could help them, the largest response was for facilitating networking among churches involved in prison ministry, closely followed by requests for a mentoring program, more literature and a conference Symposium on the subject of prison ministry opportunities.
Recommendations:
Establish a process of networking and communication among churches already involved in prison ministry, using the resources of the Social Justice Coordinator and C&S Board
Create or find appropriate bible studies for churches, as mentioned above, and have a campaign to publicize these studies throughout the Conference.  Lent might be a good target date for launching one or more of these studies.
Use the C & S newsletter and The Vision to highlight programs already in existence, like Rising Hope and Kairos, “prison pal”, etc. so that it will be easy for interested churches to find out more about these programs
Research programs that work on welcoming the formerly incarcerated back into the community, since this was the most popular option that participating churches wanted to pursue. (And I will be in touch with Doug Walker at GBCS)
Organize a Conference Symposium on prison ministry opportunities to occur sometime in 2016.  This should be discussed by the C & S Board soon, in order to allow time for planning.  An all-day event, with panels and workshops is probably the most effective structure.  Such a symposium would be a way to communicate information, build a network of interested churches, provide resources and, above all, inspire and inform our Conference about the many aspects of justice and ministry needed in this area. 

Do you have an idea about what the NYAC should be doing in the field of Prison Ministry?  Do you know of a project that could be highlighted or shared?  Are you interested in starting something in your area?  Get in touch with the Board of Church and Society and let us know what you think!
churchandsociety@nyac-umc.com