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Fellowship Bands in Prison

Update: February 2023

GOD Answers Prayers.

Chickens are ready to leave the nest! We talked today and all 3 members feel confident in starting a new band but also want keep our 1st generation band together.

The Second Generation of Bands begins at SECC! We have approval to start 3 new Bands beginning the first week in April. The three members of this first Band will each lead a Band after Ramadan. The three will work with the Chaplain in selecting the members. The three new Bands will meet the first and third Thursday of each month. The original Band will meet on the second and fourth Thursdays and we will meet as a whole in a general discussion on the fifth Thursdays when they arise.

We also received approval to meet with the three current members after lunch on the 25th. The three guys are excited.

Update: November 2022

Don’t want to sound like a broken record but we had another great meeting today. All three of them were waiting by the door of the building and we went in together. They were all excited and wanted to share their God Moment. They are definitely more attuned to look for God’s presence. They are more confident, trusting and comfortable with their transparency.

We walked out together as a group and, unsolicited, they all told me how much they like the Band and how much they like the small number, the intimacy and the honesty. One said, “what we are doing in this group is so atypical in this place. We’re so used to large worship and group studies of 25 or more where it’s safe.” Good point, we don’t grow much when we’re safe.

The Story Begins

Two separate and seemingly unconnected events are the impetus behind the Fellowship Band at SECC (Southeast Missouri Correctional Center).  

In 2013, during a small group study, one of the participants commented that he liked the discussion and sharing from the small group studies.  He shared, “I like corporate worship and can attend several times a week.  But, if I’m going to continue to grow in my faith,  I need to enjoy the personal connections I get from small groups.”

Fast forward to 2018.  A young seminary student (who many of you know – Anthony) was working with the Inspire Movement and shared the concept with his father, who is the pastor of the church he grew up in. The pastor “bought in” and the church began to encourage congregants to form discipleship bands.  I was fortunate to be a part of a La Croix Fellowship Band and am an advocate both inside and outside of church walls. I enjoy the community sense of the band, feel I’m growing in my faith and like lifting one another up through prayer.  Transparency has become easier and I am more objective in my self-evaluations.  

In late 2021, while cleaning out a designated drawer in the desk, I came upon a professional paper I had coauthored and presented.  In rereading the paper I found the quote from 2013.  Synapses between the quote and my experiences with the Band occurred.  

The Spirit began to move inside me and I felt promoted to link the Band with the need for deeper spiritual connection inside correctional facilities.  I questioned if I was able to discern God’s plan from mine.  I recruited my Band mates, some members of the church staff and fellow ministry partners to join me in prayer.  After 2 months of prayer I still felt called by the Holy Spirit.  

The inertia led to developing a proposal which was reviewed by the Chaplin and a Deputy Warden who were both supportive. The proposal and Inspire Band materials were shared with a potential participant who became an advocate and that is the story behind the first Band in a correctional facility. 

Starting in October 2022, the Band will meet every Thursday for three months.  The three SECC participants and the LPM facilitator will evaluate this pilot program in early January. Ideally, the program will be self-perpetuating.  The three SECC participants will be encouraged to start their own Band when they are confident, with members of the 2nd generations following the same path and will continue with each generation.  

John is a member of La Croix United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. 

SECC is a Maximum Security facility in Charleston, MO, within the Missouri Department of Corrections. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first Inspire Band within the Missouri Department of Corrections.  

La Croix Prison Ministry is a local mission of La Croix United Methodist Church, MO, USA, that has been delivering programs at SECC since 2009 including Story Link, Men’s Fraternity, The  Global Leadership Summit and Feed My Starving Children Mobile Food Packs.

Read more about La Croix Prison Ministry and contact John HERE

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