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The Bible Study Curriculum
described below was developed specifically for an in-prison
format. It combines interactive lecture and small-group
discussion formats. It assumes that the participants
represent a wide range of backgrounds, from those who have
no knowledge of the Bible to those with considerable
knowlege. It is designed for a total of about 45 minutes of
lecture and discussion time, with the rest of the time
devoted to singing and prayer.
We are currently in the process of
converting the actual lesson materials to a format suitable
for posting on this Web site. If you would like to be
notified when they are available, send a message to
Your meeting format will depend on your situation -- are
you meeting in the prison chapel, the visiting room, or a
classroom? Are there tables available? Can you easily move
chairs into small group circles? What restrictions are
imposed by prison regulations or by the corrections officers
supervising your group?
Here's our typical weekly meeting looks like:
Corrections Officer collects passes and two of the
Chaplain's inmate assistants take attendance as the men
enter the visiting room. Men who are working on *individual
Bible studies* turn in their completed books and pick up new
ones as soon as they arrive.
Singing (10 minutes):
We start off with a session of spirited singing, using a
*song list* we've compiled. Sometimes we have inmates who
perform solos or as small choral groups.
minutes): We then engage in a time of
corporate prayer, in English and Spanish (and occasionally
other languages as well). Those who choose to pray are
encouraged to speak out clearly and to keep their prayers
minutes): Inmates are encouraged to
pursue independent Bible study each week. We are currently
using two six-book *Navigators Bible Studies*, Studies in
Christian Living (in English) and Design for Discipleship
(in Spanish). For each book completed, we award a small
diploma. This award ceremony has turned out to be a
significant motivation for inmates to complete the studies.
Over one-third of the inmates take part in these
Introduction (10 - 15
minutes): The volunteer leader introduces
the lesson and we read the relevant scripture passages
Small Group Discussion (20
minutes): We break into small groups of 8 to 10
people to discuss the questions associated with the lesson.
Generally, a volunteer leader leads each discussion,
although some groups are led by experienced inmates.
Summary and conclusion (10 - 15
minutes): We reassemble as a large group to
discuss answers to the questions. The volunteer leader then
summarizes and concludes the lesson.
Closing song and prayer (5
minutes): We close with a song and a prayer,
often led by inmate.
No single approach can possibly fit every prison ministry
situation. To understand our curriculum, you need to
understand the context in which it was developed. You'll
need to adapt your approach to the situation you face.
MCI-Concord is the primary intake and classification
center for the Massachusetts correctional system. It has a
fairly high turnover rate as inmates are evaluated,
classified, and moved on to other institutions. The average
stay is about six months, and most inmates who attend our
Bible Studies do so for only a few weeks before being moved
out. We have therefore focused our lesson plans on important
topics in Christian doctrine and Christian living, organized
in relatively short sequences, which we cycle through
approximately every six months.
Our group meets weekly for an hour and a half each Monday
evening. We currently have 12 active lay ministry
volunteers, with an average weekly attendance of about 9. We
meet in the main visiting room, which is free on Monday
evenings because that's the one night when no family visits
The prison population is about 2000. The prison
administration has limited total inmate attendance to 100.
The Protestant Chaplain maintains a list of inmates who have
signed up to participate. Only these men are allowed to move
from their living units to the visiting room. The Chaplain
also maintains a waiting list. Men are dropped from the
active list if they miss two consecutive meetings, and a
name from the waiting list is added.
Your program may also include special events, such as
- an outside guest speaker
- a videotape presentation, followed by a discussion
- a special music program, such as a guest singing
group or choir
- a talk by an ex-inmate who has succeeded in the
Special events involving additional outside visitors will
require permission from the prison administration. Be sure
to submit any such plans well in advance of your planned
meeting. This is especially true of bringing in anyone with
a prior criminal conviction -- this will probably require
special permission from the superintendent of the
institution, and possibly from higher authorities as
Of course, you will also want to hold special programs
for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Examples of these
programs are summarized below.