Fact Sheet: Prison Fellowship’s Seminary-Level Leadership Training

WHAT

Prison Fellowship, through a partnership with World Impact’s The Urban Ministry Institute, equips prisoners to be spiritual leaders who help transform prison culture and the urban areas to which they return after incarceration. The four-year program includes 16 ten-week courses in the following subject areas: 

  • Biblical studies
  • Urban mission
  • Christian ministry
  • Theology and ethics

Each of the 16 seminary-level curriculum modules requires students to study for approximately 30–40 hours outside of class. Upon completion of the program, students receive a certificate in Christian Leadership Studies.

WHO

Prison Fellowship—the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families—and World Impact—a Christian missions organization committed to serving the urban poor—partnered to offer this leadership training program to prisoners.

Some 1,100 student-inmates are currently receiving seminary-level leadership training in 11 states around the country.

Since the first seven program graduates received their certificates in December 2011, 168 graduates have completed the four-year curriculum, with another nine graduates on track to finish in 2015. Today most of the graduates are active in ministry work within their church or local community or are continuing their education.

WHERE

Prison Fellowship currently offers seminary-level leadership training through 49 classes in 33 prisons in California, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

Because Prison Fellowship’s partner, World Impact, also offers 103 satellite programs outside of prisons, program participants who are released prior to graduation can complete their coursework at urban locations across the U.S. and internationally.  

HOW

Prison-based courses are facilitated through trained Prison Fellowship volunteers, mentors and staff from local communities.

WHY

Seminary-level education is largely inaccessible to urban poor in the U.S., especially those in prison, because:

  • It is too expensive.
  • It is too far away.
  • It is academically restrictive.

The Urban Ministry Institute was started to overcome these barriers and provide needed theological education for America's inner-city poor. Through Prison Fellowship, it has been extended to prison environments because of the potential to equip smart, committed Christians inside prisons to become effective leaders both inside prison and in America's urban areas when they are released.

FUNDING

All Prison Fellowship in-prison satellites of The Urban Ministry Institute are privately funded, and no state funds are allocated to the program.

RESULTS & ENDORSEMENTS

The program is changing the lives of inmates and has been heralded by prison officials and inner-city pastors for the positive impact it has had both inside prison walls and in urban communities. Here is what they have to say: 

  • "The culture inside prison can tend to be violent. I have more than 40 inmates in The Urban Ministry Institute who are learning to become leaders and as a result have remained disciplinary free for a year and a half. The attitude change and new life direction these inmates have received from TUMI are helping to change the culture within the prison yard. I know there are populations in every prison facility that would benefit from this program."

    Warden Domingo Uribe of Centinela State Prison in Seeley, California

  • "I am extremely impressed by the men and the change of environment at the facility due in large part to The Urban Ministry Institute class. We would love to start an additional class if the funds become available."

    Warden Mary Berghuis of Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon, Michigan

  • "For more than a decade, TUMI has trained urban pastors for effective ministry. I am excited to be part of multiplying this exciting work in the prisons, believing that God will transform thousands of prisoners into pastors. I will welcome them back into the city as co-laborers."

    Bishop George McKinney, Pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of
 God in Christ of San Diego

  • "I have seen the effectiveness of TUMI over the past 15 years. I've witnessed former thieves and drug dealers go through this program and become totally different people, completely turning their lives around. I fully expect when TUMI graduates leave prison they will become contributing members of their communities—and our communities will be safer for it."

    Dr. Jack Hayford, founder and president, The King’s University, Van Nuys, California

  • "Inmates in yards B and D have been greatly blessed by the efforts of The Urban Ministry Institute. A real standout has to be Luis. He has been a real problem since arriving at Centinela. However, the difference in him has been dramatic."

    Chaplain Steve Francis of Centinela State Prison in Seeley, California

  • "The Urban Ministry Institute is training leaders to go into the neediest places, poverty-stricken urban areas that need to be loved. Now I can be a part of what God is doing here in the city."

    Pastor Austin Chiang 2011 The Urban Ministry Institute graduate and former gang member turned L.A. pastor 

  • "In The Urban Ministry Institute I learned about God and his plan for me. The change that took place in my life through this program while in prison allowed my family to reunite."

    Cary White, 2011 The Urban Ministry Institute graduate and now The Urban Ministry Institute mentor

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