“he will turn the hearts of fathers to [their] children…”
Monday’s at our local jail, our church is doing a fathering group called Inside Out Dad. Why? The #1 request on our prison survey form was help with Parenting/Family Issues. Also, for every inmate (1,200+ in St. Tammany Parish) there is a family system on the outside that is hurting, at risk, and in need of the gospel. 20% of inmates are children of inmates (click here for stats on Father absence). 2.2 million children in the U.S. under the age of 18 have a parent in prison. The average age of these children is 8 years old. Compared to their peers, children of inmates are more likely to also end up in prison. If we prevent a child from following a lifestyle of crime we prevent one or more people from being a victim of crime, and cost to the government (estimated at $24,000 per year per inmate; $49 billion nationwide last year). A child’s connection with their Dad is key to many social indicators. I could go on, but in two weeks this study has touched deep issues that get to the heart of the problem of crime and incarceration. “I never had another person tell me, ‘I love you.’ growing up.” “I’ll never have kids b/c I don’t want to cause them the pain that my dad caused me.” And a deep longing to get it right… This is from the journal of an inmate in the group.
I thank God for not only second chances, but many chances. And I would like to take this opportunity to get my life on track so that I can be a positive influence to my kids and grandkids. I look forward to hearing the words “Daddy” and “Grandpa.” And to being able to fulfill what those words really mean.
The Old Testament closes with a promise in Malachi 4:6 – “he will turn the hearts of fathers to [their] children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” Praying to see hearts turned.
It’s easy to talk bad about “the system,” harder to teach a class at the local jail, mentor a child, invest in a single parent household. Check out these ministry resources if you’d like to get involved in Fatherhood/Incarceration/Prison Ministry/Mentoring fatherless kids, etc.:
- Life Coaches, Inc. – Local ministry linking fatherless children with mentors. Shane O’hara also leads fathering groups at Angola, Rayburn Correctional, and Hunt’s in Baton Rouge. He’s on the teaching team at our local jail as well. Also, look for info on volunteering with Shane at One Day With God or Returning Hearts event.
- Inside Out Dad – the 12-week workbook we’re utilizing at our local jail. Works good for facilities where sentences are short. Check it out and consider starting a group at your local jail.
- Malachi Dad’s – a longer, 12-month program for prisons or facilities with men that have longer sentences.
- YOU! If you know a single mom or family with an incarcerated loved one. Have them over and love on them. If you know a kid whose dad is incarcerated. Take them to the movie, pay their way into a community sports program, invite them to your church or on your family vacation. That would be more effective than 52 sermons.
- Let me know if you’d like to help provide the books and resources for our inmate programs at the St. Tammany Parish Jail.