Dwell Hosts Prison Ministry Seminar

On Saturday, November 6th Dwell will welcome Dr. Scott Larson, leading a seminar that morning on prison ministry. Larson is a widely respected authority on the subject, and will speak on "Engaging The Justice System Effectively and Biblically." 

The event is designed to prepare people for prison ministry, but is open to those just interested in learning more. It runs from  9:00 am-noon at the Dwell Warehouse (600 E. Oakland Park Ave.) and is free, but please RSVP at chms.dwellcc.org/registration/justice

Dwell elder Bret McCallum is taking the lead with the event, and answers some questions about it here.

Why is Dwell doing this seminar? 

Dr. Scott Larson is an authority on the topic of prison ministry and working with at-risk youth. He started Straight Ahead Ministries, which has spread internationally. After reading some of his literature I discovered that many of his values are the same as Dwell's. At Dwell we are working on organizing a prison ministry team. There are numerous members in our fellowship who have already been serving in this type of ministry for many years. In fact, our members have been doing so for 30 years. But there are also new people interested in getting started in this type of ministry for the first time. As we work on organizing our ministry team we want to bring in Dr. Larson for some needed equipping. His in-depth training at this seminar will hopefully help us understand the type of people who end up in the category of "at risk" as well as learning about the impact of trauma.

Is this seminar only for those who are involved in or considering prison ministry? How is it relevant to everyone?

An extremely high percentage of students in the Columbus Public school system would fit under his definition of "at risk." Around 1 in 25 adults in Ohio are caught up in the justice system in one way or another. I could see many people in our fellowship benefitting from this information. Whether interested in mentoring an at-risk youth, currently involved in prison ministry, working in a high school or middle school Bible study with at-risk youth, have a child who is headed down a bad path, or just want to learn and understand the impact of trauma, this could be for you.

What is the biblical perspective on prisoners? What call does God make on every Christian in this area? 

In Matthew 25 when Jesus is describing the sheep and goats judgment He specifically mentions visiting those in prison and serving the least of these brothers as directly serving Him. In Hebrews 13:4 the author says to remember the prisoners as those in prison with them. In Luke 4 Jesus said that part of His mission was to preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim the release of captives, and set those free who are oppressed. In Mark 2 Jesus says it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick--He did not come to call the righteous but sinners. In Romans 12 Paul says "Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."

Is Dwell considering more involvement in this area of ministry? What factors weigh in as you plan this? What are the challenges, both logistically and spiritually? 

On one hand, Dwell members have been involved in various prison ministries for 30 years. On the other hand, a lot of our members are not aware of this and don't necessarily know what is happening all around the church in this area. We'd like to bring people together to learn and pool resources. We'd also like to report to the greater church some of the amazing things that God is doing here. On top of that, we'd like to start a few more ideas for members who are interested in getting involved for the first time.

We've had some incredible success stories in our own fellowship of people who have done some time but have had the Lord turn their life around. Our senior pastor, Conrad Hilario, was once incarcerated but has been completely transformed by God. We believe doing ministry to this population will provide rich opportunities for evangelism. Volunteers hungry for ministry and leadership can grow their skills and character by mentoring people. Many people in our society have been talking about the cause of justice over the last couple years. Instead of talking the talk, putting up a sign in your yard, posting a hashtag on social media...how about getting your hands a little dirty by actually getting out to be used by God to change people's lives who are caught up in the justice system? I believe that what is needed more than policy reform is spiritual reform.

If someone in Dwell is burdened for this work, what do you suggest they do, beyond attending this?

Come to this seminar and meet others in the fellowship who are already serving in various ways. keep an eye out for another seminar we plan to put on led by our very own Dwell members who are involved in prison work. Also, email me privately (mccallumb@dwellcc.org) with your level of interest or any questions.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I'd like to just say that I'm really excited and encouraged by the interest people have in this type of ministry. As we get our Dwell ministry team off the runway, we plan to start smaller, focus on quality, and build up over time rather than start with too many things and do a poor job.

We're going to be looking for members to eventually help with things such as life coaching, mentoring younger people, helping people find jobs, etc.