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A Rare Opportunity & Endless Possibilities: The Inaugural Correctional Ministries Summit

Beyond the facts and figures of global evangelism lay individual people who God is using in creative ways to transform this world. Many of these people have inspired us as well. We want you to meet them.

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A Rare Opportunity & Endless Possibilities: The Inaugural Correctional Ministries Summit

cmca“I can’t tell you how wonderful the sense of community was at the summit!” exclaimed Rev. Carmen Warner-Robbins, chaplain of the American Jail Association. “The love of the Lord and the sense of family was such a blessing.” This last part was true so much so that Warner-Robbins and her six table mates have stayed in touch with each other since the inaugural Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association (CMCA) Summit. They have committed to regularly pray for each other and send resources and contacts as each has need.

Such was the atmosphere at the summit, held May 30 – June 1, 2013. Nearly 400 people from 36 states and four countries came together for fellowship, networking, and teaching. The group represented the gamut of correctional ministry foci—ministry to those who are incarcerated, to families, in reentry, in advocacy, with children, the list goes on. The event was a great encouragement for many for a number of reasons. The two primary reasons being (1) the chance to interact and engage with people from different ministry areas and (2) the opportunity to spend quality time one-on-one with new friends in similar fields of ministry.

“This event was significant for those of us involved in correctional ministry because it brought us out of our silos to share how God is using us and what he is teaching us in each of our respective ministries—these rare opportunities to be together multiples our wisdom and collaborative fruit,” said Heather Rice-Minus, senior policy advisor to Justice Fellowship, the criminal justice reform arm of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries. Joy Stevens, chaplain with Good News Jail, adds, “We have all been in the trenches, called by God to this ‘peculiar’ ministry. Few people are in correctional ministry and there was such depth in talking with people who have been there and are doing it. It was a joy to see the breadth of what God is doing in our world's jails and prisons and that he has actually called us to be a part of it.”

cmcaA Place for Everyone

Less than two years ago, CMCA >> was birthed out of the Billy Graham Center Institute for Prison Ministries (IPM) >> with the goal to connect, encourage, equip, and strengthen Christians as they fulfill the Great Commission in corrections. Since that time, CMCA has emerged as a critical networking and resourcing association for hundreds of people in correctional ministry. “CMCA openly builds on a foundation of Christianity and provides a professional forum where Christians ministering to offenders can meet in fellowship, share successes, and acquire new skills,” explains Richard Barnhart, recently-appointed executive director of CMCA. “Additionally, CMCA has placed a high priority on identifying and sharing information about faith-based programs that are shown to both bring people to Christ and to address criminogenic needs.”

According to Barnhart, the inaugural summit was an important milestone for the CMCA because it was a visible event that helps give CMCA credibility. He adds, “Hopefully, it also created an expectation that future programs and services offered by the organization would be of a similarly high quality.”

cmcaThe three-day event, themed, “Serving Together,” included over 40 workshops on topics such as reentry, reconciliation, churches in correctional ministry, mentoring, community development, addictions, policy and advocacy, and more. Tracks for reentry specialists, chaplains, correctional ministry workers, correctional officials, and church leaders were offered. In addition to these teaching sessions, the main plenary sessions included worship through dance, hip hop, and song, as well as a number of teaching sessions. Each plenary session allowed participants to begin sharing ministry, vision, and life in table groups of up to ten people.

“It was really cool to be in conversation with others at my table who were focusing on different areas and yet working because God had called them,” said Eric Kelly, national director of Juvenile Justice Ministries, a ministry of Youth For Christ. “There was a sense of collaboration and wanting to work together.” During the event, Kelly organized an informal networking time for others working in juvenile ministries. This group has kept in touch since the event. Kelly is also helping to develop a track for those ministering to youth for next year’s summit.

A Bright Future

“The greatest thing about this summit was that it allowed people to begin seeking ways to collaborate in the future,” shared IPM director Karen Swanson. “People often work in silos and so those who are incarcerated often fall through the cracks when they go from one place to another. We want to see comprehensive ministry happen so this won’t occur.”

Warner-Robbins concludes, “The summit was a great sign of what God has in store for us. We are part of one family, working to bless those in corrections. We all play our part, but we must play it together.”

A Rare Opportunity & Endless Possibilities: The Inaugural Correctional Ministries Summit

cmca“I can’t tell you how wonderful the sense of community was at the summit!” exclaimed Rev. Carmen Warner-Robbins, chaplain of the American Jail Association. “The love of the Lord and the sense of family was such a blessing.” This last part was true so much so that Warner-Robbins and her six table mates have stayed in touch with each other since the inaugural Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association (CMCA) Summit. They have committed to regularly pray for each other and send resources and contacts as each has need.

Such was the atmosphere at the summit, held May 30 – June 1, 2013. Nearly 400 people from 36 states and four countries came together for fellowship, networking, and teaching. The group represented the gamut of correctional ministry foci—ministry to those who are incarcerated, to families, in reentry, in advocacy, with children, the list goes on. The event was a great encouragement for many for a number of reasons. The two primary reasons being (1) the chance to interact and engage with people from different ministry areas and (2) the opportunity to spend quality time one-on-one with new friends in similar fields of ministry.

“This event was significant for those of us involved in correctional ministry because it brought us out of our silos to share how God is using us and what he is teaching us in each of our respective ministries—these rare opportunities to be together multiples our wisdom and collaborative fruit,” said Heather Rice-Minus, senior policy advisor to Justice Fellowship, the criminal justice reform arm of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries. Joy Stevens, chaplain with Good News Jail, adds, “We have all been in the trenches, called by God to this ‘peculiar’ ministry. Few people are in correctional ministry and there was such depth in talking with people who have been there and are doing it. It was a joy to see the breadth of what God is doing in our world's jails and prisons and that he has actually called us to be a part of it.”

cmcaA Place for Everyone

Less than two years ago, CMCA >> was birthed out of the Billy Graham Center Institute for Prison Ministries (IPM) >> with the goal to connect, encourage, equip, and strengthen Christians as they fulfill the Great Commission in corrections. Since that time, CMCA has emerged as a critical networking and resourcing association for hundreds of people in correctional ministry. “CMCA openly builds on a foundation of Christianity and provides a professional forum where Christians ministering to offenders can meet in fellowship, share successes, and acquire new skills,” explains Richard Barnhart, recently-appointed executive director of CMCA. “Additionally, CMCA has placed a high priority on identifying and sharing information about faith-based programs that are shown to both bring people to Christ and to address criminogenic needs.”

According to Barnhart, the inaugural summit was an important milestone for the CMCA because it was a visible event that helps give CMCA credibility. He adds, “Hopefully, it also created an expectation that future programs and services offered by the organization would be of a similarly high quality.”

cmcaThe three-day event, themed, “Serving Together,” included over 40 workshops on topics such as reentry, reconciliation, churches in correctional ministry, mentoring, community development, addictions, policy and advocacy, and more. Tracks for reentry specialists, chaplains, correctional ministry workers, correctional officials, and church leaders were offered. In addition to these teaching sessions, the main plenary sessions included worship through dance, hip hop, and song, as well as a number of teaching sessions. Each plenary session allowed participants to begin sharing ministry, vision, and life in table groups of up to ten people.

“It was really cool to be in conversation with others at my table who were focusing on different areas and yet working because God had called them,” said Eric Kelly, national director of Juvenile Justice Ministries, a ministry of Youth For Christ. “There was a sense of collaboration and wanting to work together.” During the event, Kelly organized an informal networking time for others working in juvenile ministries. This group has kept in touch since the event. Kelly is also helping to develop a track for those ministering to youth for next year’s summit.

A Bright Future

“The greatest thing about this summit was that it allowed people to begin seeking ways to collaborate in the future,” shared IPM director Karen Swanson. “People often work in silos and so those who are incarcerated often fall through the cracks when they go from one place to another. We want to see comprehensive ministry happen so this won’t occur.”

Warner-Robbins concludes, “The summit was a great sign of what God has in store for us. We are part of one family, working to bless those in corrections. We all play our part, but we must play it together.”