Interviewed By Linda Schreckenber
I am forty-one years old. My wife Amelia and I have been married for fourteen years and have one daughter, Kaitlyn. We live in Saltillo, Mississippi, where I’m a church planter, Pastor of Life Point UPC, and own two businesses. I’ve been involved in many ministries, and along with pastoring, I serve as the Mississippi NAM Director and the CPM (Christian Prison Ministry) General Chaplain for the UPCI
Briefly share your testimony and how you became involved in prison ministry.
I wasn’t raised in the church. When I was eight years old, my dad, Duwaine Robbins, was sent to prison for drug possession and selling drugs. The first time I visited a prison at eight years old, I was going to see him. Before he went to prison, he came to church, repented, and was baptized in the name of Jesus, filled with the Holy Ghost, and completely delivered of drugs and alcohol. While in prison, he taught Bible studies and won people to God. He is a pastor and church planter in Prentiss, Mississippi and has been doing prison ministry for twenty years. I’ve now been involved in prison/jail ministry for twenty-five years. I started jail ministry when I was sixteen years old and prison ministry at the age of eighteen.
What are the differences between jail ministry and prison ministry, and should churches consider being involved in both?
Jail ministry is ministering to those behind bars in the county jails, while prison ministry is ministering to those in regional and state prisons. If a church can be involved in both, it will be an incredible blessing. Many in prison are there for a lengthier time, while in jail, they are mostly there for a shorter amount of time.
Why should churches be involved in prison ministry? Is there a biblical mandate? How does this help the local church?
First of all, they should be involved because of souls. Everything about prison ministry is about souls. There are 7.4 million adults currently behind bars, or on probation or parole in North America. CPM’s mission is to reach every soul behind bars who is not able to come to church. Some say they’re just getting “jail-house religion,” and yes, some are. But for many, this is the first time they’ve been sober enough to really allow God to draw and speak to them, and they’re ready for their lives to be delivered and changed. Matthew 25 teaches us that we need to go to prisons and jails. We have a mandate to take the gospel to every creature. In verses 35-36, Jesus said, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” We must work while it is day. This helps the church be obedient to the Word of God, and it gives training ground and ministry opportunities for young and new ministers. It also allows those you reach to learn of you and your ministry and visit when they get out of a correctional facility. I’ve never seen any church not grow that was involved in jail ministry or prison ministry.
If someone wanted to start a prison ministry in their church, how should they go about it?
First of all, I would encourage all to go through our CPM training online and become certified. This allows valuable information and tools needed to be effective. Our website www.prisonministry.faith has all of the information on training and certification. Once that is completed, you get access to a members’ resource page that gives plenty of tools and helps. One of those explains how to start a jail ministry or prison ministry. We also have district and regional chaplains to assist in any way.
Are there any dangers or risks involved? Pros and cons? Are prisons still struggling with COVID?
There are risks involved in prison ministry and jail ministry, but in over twenty-five years of being involved, I’ve never seen one person get hurt. The main thing is to be trained and follow the rules in place. This ministry is one of the most rewarding ministries there is. Prisons are still struggling with COVID, but more and more are opening back up for ministry.
What gifts or skills are needed to be successful in prison ministry? Do you have to be called into the ministry?
The most important thing is being faithful and willing. But, with that, all that are involved must have a strong prayer life. This is vital for this ministry and the individual going. Yes, you do need to be called to this ministry, but most of the time you will not know you’re called to this ministry until you go at least once.
Share with us some success stories if you can. What churches, in your opinion, have a successful prison ministry?
We currently have UPCI ministers and pastors that were won to God in a prison or jail. One vicious prisoner was destined for the electric chair in Louisiana’s Angola prison, nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the South.” He is now a licensed evangelist and does prison ministry in Angola. You never know who you are ministering to. Some churches have seen 450 baptized and over 500 receive the Holy Ghost in one year along with many miracles, signs, and wonders. Churches such as Cedar Grove UPC (Saltillo, Mississippi), South Flint Tabernacle (Flint, Michigan), Christian World Fellowship (Salem, Oregon), New Life (Austin, Texas), The Pentecostals of Madisonville, Texas, and Dallas First Church (Dallas, Texas), among others, have successful prison ministries.
What does a weekly visit or service look like? What happens typically in prison ministry?
As far as structure, the worship services there are just like our services in church, including welcoming the prisoners, singing, worship, preaching, altar service, and baptisms. We also teach drug and alcohol classes at many prisons and jails because we want to meet the needs of each particular prison or jail.
Who is best to contact if interested in getting involved? Can people contact you if they have questions? Is there a website?
For more information, visit our website, www.prisonministry.faith. And, along with our regional and district chaplains, I am also available to assist. My direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org.