Frequently Asked Questions for Volunteers
What does this all mean to time and money needed from me?
1. What will I be doing as a first-time volunteer?
With few exceptions, Jubilee places first-time volunteers in the role of Table Assistant. This means you will be one of three volunteers sitting with a group of six inmates as part of a table family for the weekend. This will give you a chance to experience the program alongside the participants and to contribute as a member of the table family. You will be assigned a speaking role during the weekend, and your weekend leader will discuss that with you. Do not worry, however, the talks, prayers, and homilies are all scripted and you will have an opportunity ahead of the weekend to practice and get pointers from experienced volunteers.
2. How much does it cost? / Is there a fee to volunteer?
There is no fee to volunteer and be part of the Jubilee weekend! The cost of the weekend varies depending on how much equipment we have to rent (e.g. tables, chairs, portable toilets, etc.) and how much we can borrow from the prison. Our main expenses are food for the weekend and the agape cookies for the unit. This will typically cost anywhere from $6,000 - $8,000 per weekend. All volunteers are expected to help raise money through their churches, social media contacts, etc., but no one is expected to personally donate any specific amount. If each volunteer can raise between $200 - $300 (think 10 donations of $20-$30) we cover the cost of the weekend. But, let us emphasize this clearly all are welcome regardless of financial means. We understand that taking time off work (see below) and traveling to the unit represents a significant burden for some volunteers. So do not let this be an obstacle.
3. How much time will it require?
Below is an outline of the inside volunteer time requirements:
· You will need to attend a half-day training session if you are a first time volunteer and all volunteers need to attend a full-day team training and formation session.
· The weekend will start early on a Friday morning (we typically arrive at the rendezvous point around 6:45 am) and we will finish for the day around 8:30 pm. Saturday is the same. Sunday we once again start early and we finish by around 5:00 pm.
· All inside team volunteers are expected to attend all three days plus a half-day session the following Saturday. (Some volunteers will come out on Thursday to help with set-up.)
· Additionally, you should expect to spend around 2-4 hours preparing and practicing your talk/homily/prayers and 4-6 hours writing agape letters to the participants.
· Adding it all up, ou should expect to spend around 60 hours as a participant in the Jubilee Weekend (12 hours of team training, 36 hours on the weekend, 4 hours the following Saturday, plus 8 hours of personal preparation).
· You should also plan to spend a few hours one Saturday per month visiting the unit (you are expected to make at least one-third of these Saturday events, or ~3 per year).
4. I am not very good at preaching or sharing the Gospel. How will I know what to say?
Good! Jubilee needs listeners, not preachers. Our volunteer maxim is, "talk less, listen more, and love always without reservation." The Holy Spirit does the work. The program script ensures the key messages are conveyed. We need to listen and be agape missionaries.
What will we actually do, and is it inside the prison?
1. What does Jubilee Prison Ministry do inside prison?
Jubilee is a four-day Christian program that takes participants through a structured and interactive short-course in the Gospel. In addition to talks and discussions, we have worship music, food, and a number of interactive activities. The program overview provides additional details on the structure.
2. Do all volunteers go inside and can men and women go in?
We have inside volunteers (around 30) and outside volunteers (anywhere from 6 to 15). So not everyone goes in. For men’s units, male volunteers are inside for the weekend and for female units, female volunteers are inside for the weekend – and you must be at least 18 years old. Anyone can volunteer for the outside team; it is hard work but very rewarding. On the last day, anyone can also attend the commencement ceremony – but again, you must be 18!
3. I have never been in a prison before, how will I know what to do?
Relax, you will do great! The Jubilee weekend includes one-time training for new volunteers and a training and team formation meeting for the entire volunteer team. We will show you what to do and you will have experienced volunteers to mentor you through the program. The most important thing to remember is that God is guiding the weekend. If you prepare spiritually, and enter the weekend with an open heart and a prayerful approach to your participation, it will be amazing.
4. Is it safe?
We have never had an incident of any sort and we do not know of any prison ministry volunteer who has felt threatened in any way. It is essential that we follow the prison system rules for volunteers (both inside the unit and outside). These are designed to protect both us and the inmates. We will always have corrections officers with us whenever we are in the unit.
5. How do most first-time volunteers react? How many volunteer a second time?
Around 95% of first time volunteers return for additional Jubilee weekends. Most will tell you that it is one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences of their lives.
6. Is this similar to the Walk to Emmaus/Journey to Damascus/Tres Dias/Cursillio or other multi-day Christian programs?
Yes, the Jubilee weekend follows the same broad outline as all Christian programs designed to bring participants to a deeper or initial encounter with the Gospel. Perhaps the best analogy for Jubilee is that the program follows the same path John Bunyan's classic character, Christian, follows in the Pilgrim's Progress - from realization of our need for a Savior to Reconciliation and dropping our burdens at the cross, to learning how to continue on a faith-based walk in an hostile environment populated by snares, distractions, and people who are seeking to pull us off the "narrow road."
What are the rule about who can volunteer?
1. Can ex-offenders volunteer?
Of course! So long as you meet the requirements of the prison system and you are a member in good standing in a Christian community then you are very welcome. All Jubilee weekends have included brothers or sisters who are ex-offenders.
2. Will I need training to be a prison system volunteer?
Yes, we will make sure you are familiar with the prison system and know what to wear and how to act once you are inside. In most places, the regional Jubilee team will host a formal training session, sponsored by the state prison system, at least once a year so you can become a certified volunteer. The requirements on this vary from place to place, but your team leader will brief you on the next steps. Don’t worry, God’s got this!
Still Have Questions? Give us a call or send an email and we will have an experienced volunteer contact you.