Jubilee Church Partners An Open Letter to Pastors and Priests
It is sad to admit this, but we know there are many church leaders who worry that encouraging their members to be part of a lay-led, cross-denominational ministry like Jubilee will detract from their own congregation, will divide their congregants' loyalties, will dilute their annual giving, and will confuse them with contrary doctrine. Nothing could be further from reality!
The Jubilee Prison Ministry is not a competitor to your church. We love your church, we support your church, we are part of your church. Our volunteers come from your church and others just like it. It is our hope and our prayer that Jubilee graduates will return to churches like yours to become faithful congregants in the Community of Christ (if you will have them ... ). Our entire program emphasizes the importance of being a faithful and involved member of a Christian church. We require it of all of our volunteers and we strongly encourage it among the program's participants.
Years of experience in prison ministry has taught us a few things you ought to know. When members of your church get involved in a ministry like Jubilee:
- Their giving at your church increases
- Their participation in other activities at your church increases
- They become more faithful in every aspect of their Christian walk and they look to you, their spiritual leader, to guide them on the path
Why? Because volunteering at a Jubilee weekend means they will have a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. They will have a front row seat to watch God change lives and open hearts. They will live out the Great Commission and they will know what Jesus meant when He said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." They will hear the repeated emphasis of the Jubilee program on being a faithful member of the body of Christ and living out a life of worship, discipleship, mission, ministry, and fellowship. Then they will hear our emphasis on how this life of faith must be based in a great church ... like yours.
Yes, the Jubilee Prison Ministry is a cross-denominational program that connects them to the larger body of Christ. We know of no instances, however, where participating in a program like Jubilee has caused Catholics to become Protestants or Baptists to become Episcopalian or Armenians to become Calvinists! To the contrary, participating in Jubilee causes most volunteers to take time to better understand their own traditions. They also discover the commonality that binds together the world-wide body of Christ. We do not think we exaggerate when we claim that every pastor or priest whose congregation is involved in Jubilee will tell you the same thing: Jubilee helps make their parishioners better, more committed members of their church.
What is involved in being a Church Partner?
Having said all of that, we are we seeking from you? There are two ways your church can be part of Jubilee and we hope you will consider doing both.
First, encouraging your members to volunteer. Someone from the Jubilee ministry would be delighted to come visit your church and tell your members how they can get involved. From baking and bagging cookies to signing up to pray to writing letters to inmates, to participating inside the prison or jail, there are many ways for them to get involved. We are happy to come and tell you more, to share with your congregation, and to guide potential volunteers into the ministry.
Second, opening your church community to returning inmates. If you are willing to invite ex-offenders into your congregation, we would love to speak with you about how you can do that. These men and women need a home church that will welcome them without judgement and with the full confidence that they can and will be transformed into a new creation through Christ Jesus.
(If your church is located within 5-10 miles of a prison or jail where Jubilee is active, we hope you will consider becoming a host church. You can check out what is involved here.)
The Jubilee Prison Ministry is designed and built to serve the Church not to replace it. We believe the church is stronger when she works across the boundaries of our local communities and across the boundaries of our denominations. To quote the great old hymn, "We are not divided/All One body we/One in hope and doctrine/One in charity." We pray that you will join us and that together we can serve Our Lord in prison and we can help you to build a stronger community in your church.
We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713.364.5530.