New Church Plant Prepares Prisoners to Reenter Society

prison outreach
(AP Images/Paul Faith)

Pastor Mike Teeter and his congregation from the New Destiny Community Church (A/G) in Denver, N.C., spent a recent Friday evening where relatively few congregations do—behind bars.

On Aug. 26, Teeter and his congregation weren't arrested and dragged off to jail. Instead, they were in South Carolina's Kershaw Correctional Institution by choice, providing a celebration meal for inmates graduating from the Prison to Society program.

"New Destiny is a new church plant (2010)," Teeter explains, "and it is my goal that this church focuses outwardly."

Teeter, who has been involved off and on in prison ministries over the past 20 years—and more regularly in the last five years—has seen God work in miraculous ways, taking lives and transforming them. He became involved in the Prison to Society program, which helps prepare prisoners for the transition from prison life into society, and saw an ideal ministry opportunity for his fledgling church: helping inmates celebrate their successful completion of the program.

The two-year PTS program, spearheaded by Kershaw Chaplain JoAnn Cook, offers focused study on education, relationships and spiritual applications. Following their release from prison, the former inmates can still access a year's worth of additional guidance from the program to help with needs such as clothing, job hunting, helping them to connect with the right people and building relationships.

As prisoners go through the PTS program, on their way to graduation and release from prison, their achievements are culminated with a celebration service and meal. That's where Teeter and New Destiny Community Church asked Chaplain Cook if they could step in. Yet with a young congregation that only averages about 25 to 30 a week, hosting a meal for more than 100 hungry inmates and staff, along with providing an evening program, is a serious challenge.

So Teeter did what any small church should do—he reached out to other churches in the community to join them in making this outreach to prisoners an impacting success.

"We were joined by a Baptist church and a Methodist church, Fire School of Ministry as well as our mother church, Lake Wylie Christian Assembly," Teeter says. "We provided a meal of fried chicken with sides and dessert. And while the prisoners ate, three sisters from our ministry team sang a cappella. And let me tell you, they can sing."

Following the meal, Teeter was able to speak briefly to the inmates. As most of the inmates in the room already had a relationship with Christ due to their involvement in PTS, Teeter says his message was one that challenged inmates as they embraced the future. "All we've heard back have been good reports," Teeter says. "The inmates and prison chaplains appreciated our desire and willingness to serve."

Now that the outreach is over, Teeter says that he and his church are looking forward to being back in prison on a regular basis.

"It [prison] is not as scary as you might think, when you come in God's love," Teeter says, encouraging other churches to explore prison ministry. "Having had this experience at Kershaw, our people already want to get more involved—they want to volunteer as well as give financially towards our prison ministry."

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