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A Congregation in a Prison - Really?

Welcome to Prison Congregations of America, a ministry which plants denominationally sponsored worshipping communities is prisons across the country. In 1984, Rev. Ed Nesselhuf, PCA's founding director, was called to Jessup, MD to form a prison congregation.  From that first experiment has grown a national movement!

The PCA model is unique in that the prison inmates are the members of the worshipping community.  They are led by a pastor from the outside who is trained by and accountable to the sponsoring denomination.  The prison church or worshipping community is supported financially by churches on the outside who also take turns being worship guests.  This is truly ministry with, rather than ministry to, those who are incarcerated.

A worshipping community inside a prison works the same as outside, given the parameters of the facility.  There are worship and Bible study, sometimes choir practice and lay leadership teams.  There are mission projects which include crocheting hats and mittens for homeless people, raising money through a CROP walk in the prison yard, engaging in a prayer shawl ministry, and sending missionaries from the outside out to serve those in need on behalf of the prison church.

A natural outgrowth of the inside-outside relationship built through the PCA model is an interest in reentry. Sometimes that means that good-hearted people meet a returning citizen at the gate upon his/her release.  More and more often, however, groups of people avail themselves of reentry training so that they can offer support and accountability to people getting out of prison.

There are many winners when the PCA model of prison ministry is used!!  Inmates get a chance to grow and mature in their faith in a welcoming environment. The outside church wins because when a church becomes involved with the PCA model, the Spirit is so strong, that church renewal simply happens! Prisons win because there is a healthy arm of programming for which they have to pay nothing.  Society wins because returning citizens have had the chance to learn and practice the skills needed to succeed on the outside.

Every year, PCA hosts a Come and See Conference through which people interested in the ministry model can learn about and experience this unique model of prison ministry. The 2015 event will be October 15 -16 at Ankeny First United Methodist Church, Ankeny, IA.  Registration will be open soon.  Contact the PCA office for more information.

The PCA model of prison ministry works!  Look further into our story.  Then contact us - maybe this could work in your area!

You can view/download our February newsletter and 2015 Lenten Devotional Booklet now!

Also, check out our video!  PCA video   If you would like an actual DVD, contact the PCA office and one will be sent to you for a donation of your choice.