Submmitted by: Brenda Cooper
Submitted by: Brenda Cooper
Submitted by Brenda Cooper
Wondering what she and her husband might do to make a difference in their community, Brenda and Michael Cooper, members of the Summerville, Georgia, Church learned about jail ministry at their local Chattooga County jail.
Jail ministry works with people who are incarcerated locally serving possibly only 48 hours, a week, or more, according to Cooper. These individuals in the local jail are only served two meals per day. “The sheriff’s office only needs to meet a set calorie count,” she added.
After learning from a friend who serves meals in the jail on Sundays, in March 2021, Cooper started serving lunch on Saturdays. The first Sabbath they serve Italian food, the second and fourth Sabbaths are pizza from Little Caesars, and the third Sabbath they offer a meal of haystacks. “We also provide one dessert, drink, a plate, and spoon, which are the only utensil allowed,” added Cooper.
“Ever since EW showed me a VHS tape of baptisms in a jail in east Tennessee, and I heard the prisoner’s testimonies, I have been hooked on prison ministry,” said Cooper. “But, this jail ministry is so different in that the whole church can be involved, from kindergarten to the elderly. And, the people you are reaching out to are short term in jail and live near your church! This is what really excites me.”
In jail ministry people are needed to cook the food, to sort the to-go boxes with meals and books or other materials; children could decorate the boxes, and someone needs to deliver the meals. “For smaller churches this is a great ministry,” said Cooper. “You are a witness right in your own town.”
If you would like to start a jail ministry in your town, EW Dempsey, adult ministries director, says to first check with your local sheriff to determine what is allowed. He also recommends going to the North American Division website for online training to learn the rules for this outreach.
“Large city and county jails may have more comprehensive rules than smaller jails. Please check on procedures and guidelines for visiting,” said Dempsey. If you have questions, please call Dempsey at the Conference office, 800-567-1844.
Tamara Wolcott Watson is the communication director at the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
Georgia-Cumberland | June 2021