April is Second Chance Month. Reflecting the Easter message of redemption that is available to all through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we hope to remind church members that people who are coming out of incarceration have served their time and deserve a second chance. The NC Conference Restorative Justice and Mercy Ministry Team is offering many resources to use in your church. The NC Conference Media Center also offers group studies, DVD documentaries, and books related to prison ministries and Christian engagement with the criminal justice system.
Conference-Wide Worship Service
A conference-wide worship service will be available to recognize Second Chance Month. Pastors and worship leaders, consider taking a break after Easter and worship with friends around the conference. The service will be broadcast at 11 am on April 11 at live.nccumc.org.
Download the Toolkit
This free toolkit provides resources for all ages in your church to engage with Second Chance Month. It includes a vision statement, worship bulletin, pastor notes, coloring sheet, and an advocacy insert.
The small group discussion can be done in one meeting and requires no preparation. It includes discussion questions, scripture, stories of redemption, optional YouTube videos, closing prayer, and next steps. One of the next step options is to use the Outrageous Justice curriculum that is a free six-week study that will further engage participants in this work.
Borrow Resources to Use as Next Steps
The NC Conference Media Center offers books, studies, and DVD documentaries to help your church learn more about ministry with and advocacy for the imprisoned. These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.
Books for Study and Discussion
I Was in Prison: United Methodist Perspectives on Prison Ministry edited by James M. Shopshire, Jr., Mark C. Hicks, and Richmond Stoglin. This book provides a holistic framework for ministry with the incarcerated, their families, and victims of crime. What is the historical foundation of working with prisoners in the Methodist/Wesleyan past? What are the Scriptural guidelines? And how does the future challenge and inspire those to continue this ministry?
The Journey: Forgiveness, Restorative Justice and Reconciliation by Stephanie Hixon and Thomas Porter. This spiritual growth study intertwines stories from the Bible and recent history to illustrate the redemptive power of forgiveness. It includes with the text a study guide that takes restorative justice from spiritual concept to tangible life skill.
Ambassadors of Reconciliation: New Testament Reflections on Restorative Justice and Peacemaking by Ched Myers & Elaine Enns. In this two-volume set, the authors offer a lens for re-reading the entire biblical tradition as a resource for the cause of “restorative justice” and peacemaking. The term “restorative justice” refers to a social movement that seeks to repair interpersonal, communal, and social injuries without recourse to violence or retribution. The first volume offers solid biblical and theological resources for this vital and growing movement. The second volume focuses on stories of the principles of restorative justice in action around the world.
A Breath of Fresh Air: Biblical Storytelling with Prisoners by Amelia C. Boomershine. This book challenges the behemoth of mass incarceration through the convergence of biblical storytelling pedagogy, restorative justice principles, and peacemaking circle structure. Circle of the Word is an interactive, creative process of engagement with biblical stories. Since the purpose of the book is both advocacy and empowerment, a how-to chapter is included with details for implementation.
Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us by Shane Claiborne. In this thought-provoking work, Shane Claiborne explores the issue of the death penalty and the contrast between punitive justice and restorative justice, questioning our notions of fairness, revenge, and absolution. Using a historical lens to frame his argument, Claiborne draws on testimonials and examples from Scripture to show how the death penalty is not the ideal of justice that many believe. Not only is a life lost, so too, is the possibility of mercy and grace.
Christian Reflection Vol. 42: Prison edited by Robert B. Kruschwitz. The contributors to this issue of the magazine offer a theological critique of the prison system and articulate positive responses for Christian disciples. The study guides and lesson plans integrate Bible study, prayer, and worship to address the troubling moral questions raised by the current penal system. The full issue and the study guides can be downloaded.
Download a Free Study
United Methodist Women created the School-to-Prison Pipeline Bible Study Series to call attention to how children and youth of color are rerouted by systems and institutions and funneled away from educational success towards the criminal justice system. This six-part curriculum uses scripture to examine systemic racism, social holiness, and what we can do to effect change
Long Road Back: Ex-Offenders’ Struggle for Acceptance. This 1-hour documentary seeks to reduce the fear and stigma experienced by those re-entering society after serving a term in prison. Feel the heartbreak and the victories as you follow a young woman putting her life back together after eleven years in prison. Experience the difficulties ex-offenders face when looking for a job. See how mental illness complicates an ex-offender’s life.
Through the Door. Churches and faith-based organizations are working together in dynamic ways inside and outside prisons, helping returning citizens productively re-enter society. Faith makes a difference. Through the Door tells stories of what goodwill Christians are doing in Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. This DVD includes both 30 and 60-minute versions of the film.
Breaking Down the Box. This 40-minute documentary examines the mental health, racial justice and human rights implications of the systemic use of solitary confinement in US prisons. It is a call to action for communities of faith to engage in the growing nationwide movement for restorative alternatives to isolated confinement that prioritize rehabilitation, therapeutic interventions, and recovery.
Blessedness out of Brokenness: Receiving Life at Angola State Penitentiary. This 1-hour documentary presents the stories of inmates that bring clarity to Jesus’ teaching as they share the blessedness of the beatitudes in their own lives. It also includes interviews with Angola’s iconic prison warden, Burl Cain, who famously transformed Angola from one of the most violent prisons in America to one of the most peaceful through a program he calls “moral rehabilitation.” Today hundreds of Angola’s inmates attend a seminary inside the prison and participate in ministry to fellow inmates and their families.
Online Films + Host a Free Screening
Brave New Films has produced a collection of short films around issues of racial and criminal justice. These films are available to view online for free, or you could host a free screening of the film at your church, and Brave New Films will help you to promote it.
We have one of their older films, Redemption of the Prosecutor, on DVD in the Media Center. This 22-minute film tells the true story of a Christian prosecutor who began teaching in a prison and how his faith is changed through a friendship with one of the prisoners. This film can also be viewed online.
Request These Resources
These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.