PLEASANT HOPE – COVID-19 has changed the way many churches do ministry, and that goes for jail ministries as well. Now, after months of being barred from physically visiting inmates and navigating through officials and red tape, Shepherd’s Way here is looking to begin streaming worship services in the Polk County Jail.
Jacob Miller, the pastor/planter of Shepherd’s Way, said the goal is to stream services into each of four pods in the jail in the next two to four weeks.
“Originally we were just waiting on [COVID] and thinking the trend might reverse,” Miller said. “But about six months into it I started to think that we were going to have to go outside the box if we were going to get back in there anytime soon.”
Miller and others from Shepherd’s Way were originally going in and sharing testimonies and studying the Word together, small group style, on Friday nights in the jail’s four pods.
“I thought if we put something together to allow for online access we could use it for a once a week evening ministry like we had been doing,” he said, ‘but also use it to broadcast our regular Sunday service into the jail even after we were eventually allowed to return for the weeknight Bible studies.”
After the initial idea, a grant provided through the Missouri Baptist Convention helped purchase the streaming equipment to get the gospel into the county jail.
Miller said he knows how God can work in the lives of inmates. He’s been part of a two-year-long discipleship process with one inmate, one who is now distributing Bibles and sharing the gospel on the inside himself.
And Miller isn’t the only one excited for the streaming to begin. Jail administrators told him, “The jail ran better when they were having ‘church’ inside it.”
Miller asked for prayer for this new style of jail ministry and those who will hear the message.
“There are many people in the jail that know and have heard the gospel, also many have responded to it and have a desire to grow in their faith,” he said. “But they are weighed down by addiction and by a culture of sin in their immediate families/friends/community when they get out of the jail environment. Most of the time they haven’t been taught good sound biblical doctrine, because either they went to churches that try to use the world to reach the world, or they don’t often make it through the door of the sound churches they might have access to in order to hear it anyway.”