UK Prisons Week: Tuesday
To mark UK Prisons Week, our Director of Prison Ministry, Stephen James, will be sharing what a typical week looks like for him.
I'll trial new ideas for our prison editions of Christianity Explored, Life Explored and Discipleship Explored during my prison visits on Mondays (see yesterday's post), and then on Tuesdays I normally have time to sit down and reflect on what worked and what still needs to be tweaked.
I joined CEM in 2008 in order to make the material more accessible to people in prisons who often struggle with reading and writing and tend to prefer more visual, oral or tactile learning styles. We use flip charts, drawings, and ask shout-out or small group questions before looking at a single verse, rather than tackling large sections of text.
We also offer lots of practical tips and help for people running courses in prisons as there are many specific needs to be aware of - from how to set up a room and what questions to ask at the start of a session, to highlighting things that might be triggers in this environment and structuring the sessions around the two hours we're typically given to fill.
We're constantly refining the materials for maximum engagement and to keep them current. Most recently, I've been working on creating a prison version of Life Explored, and re-looking at the Christianity Explored Prison Edition.
What I like about this work is the challenge of making Biblical themes and concepts both accessible and engaging for prisoners.
It's definitely a process of trial and error but as I'm able to run several courses in prisons each week I have loads of opportunities to work on refining the material. I also keep in touch with colleagues in London who can help provide some editorial input. Tuesdays are a good time to touch base with them on Skype to talk through my ideas and get feedback.
However, it can be difficult to have fresh ideas when you’re familiar with a tried and tested approach - it’s not easy to change gears and adapt something that already works pretty well. You have to balance new ideas and adaptions with being faithful to the Bible and the aims of the original material.
For example, I'm currently trying to develop the Christianity Explored Prison Edition which I have been using successfully in prisons for 10 years now. I'm trying to come up with something that works even better and that also has potential to help those outside of prisons who also struggle with reading and writing, and that's a bit of a challenge as the prison context is so specific.
It can also be difficult to find others who are willing to trial run new materials and give good, constructive feedback.
Our prison editions are currently used in at least 60 prisons in the UK. Get hold of copies of Christianity Explored Prison Edition and Discipleship Explored Prison Edition.
If you're interested in helping us to trial the Life Explored Prison Edition or the revised Christianity Explored Prison Edition then we'd love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep an eye on the blog all week as we'll be sharing more about the ministry Stephen is involved in each day.
Read more about our prison ministry