International (MNN) – Societal changes are to be expected over the years. And changes within prison populations are no exception. Carrefour prison ministries has served prisoners for over 30 years. The current demographics of inmates have prompted them to add a new introductory course to their Bible studies curriculum for men and women in prison.
Dara Nykamp, Director of Program Development for Crossroads, explains: “About two years ago, Crossroads did a very in-depth study through a number of different partner organizations in a number of different prisons and really did looked at this program carefully and realized that we had an increasing attrition rate – hence an increasing number of people dropping out of the program. They really dug into why it was and really there were two things they found that were the biggest indicators and issues that came up.
First of all, she said, “the number of students who were potential students, I should say, [in both] men and women [prisons], the level of education had fallen from what it was 10 to 15 years ago. So we’re talking about the fact that there is usually a grade 3 reading level for most inmates on average. There are certainly people who excel well beyond that, and these students were doing exceptionally well with our program.
“The other thing they realized during these conversations was that people were entering jail and our program with less Bible knowledge. Our executive director likes to say, you know, 10-15 years ago Grandma would take her grandchildren with her to church. Even though mom or dad didn’t go, the grandchildren still had a basic Bible education. And this is no longer the case. “
For this reason, Crossroads saw the need for a new introductory course in their Bible study. The short three-lesson course is titled “Who Are You?” And aims to fill in the gaps so that students can better delve into the Word of God.
“It’s basically designed so that our students and mentors can get to know each other better before they dig in and study further. It’s also in a way designed to help students, men and women in prison, get a sense of who God is and how God sees them as his creation, of people made in his image, and desires. to have a relationship with them. “
For example, “Who are you? Avoid asking the student to search for a multitude of verses – something that might overwhelm someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible or who has a lower reading level. Rather, the introductory course offers stories from the scriptures to connect with the student’s life.
They tested the new introductory course with a number of local prison Bible study groups and received helpful feedback. Carrefour launched the pilot course this week with the first 100 students.
“They’ll be taking these three lessons probably over the next three to four months, and then once we’ve received their feedback and any suggestions or changes we have from them, we’ll consider doing the final draft and posting it on. more of the student body.
And what’s exciting is that there are many ways to support this ministry! Nykamp says, “The first is definitely prayer. Please pray if you can that the pilot students and mentors who enter this pilot program with them will take this first course, and for the ministry as a whole as we move forward in expanding our program – that the material that we add to our already strong program will do even more to reach the men and women in prison and empower them to truly become the Church where they are.
You can also become a Bible study mentor! Carrefour mentors act as correspondents with the men and women who take a Bible study in prison. Mentors write to inmates, review their completed courses and answer their questions.
A Carrefour volunteer named Carrie has volunteered as a mentor for over 20 years. Nykamp shares: “She said the difference it made to her was when she drove on the highway and saw the prisons, she said:” You always thought of them as if these people were somebody. different. But now I realize that they really are men and women made in the image of God and completely and utterly loved by him. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. ‘ “
Finally, you can provide financial support to Carrefour as it engages men and women in prison for Christ. Carrefour programs are used by heads of ministries to serve prisons in more than 20 countries. Click here to donate to Crossroads Prison Ministries!