Today I co-taught a pre-release class in a men’s prison. It was the first class I have taught in prison. It will not be the last.
It’s funny to me that a large part of the reason I am co-teaching this particular class is because my friend and co-teacher didn’t feel comfortable doing this new thing alone. She is extremely capable and will do great once she feels comfortable (and then we will follow our plan and I will abandon her). I don’t feel particularly called to this class at this time, but I do feel called to empower others for ministry to the vulnerable so I know that I am exactly where I need to be.
And then I thought about the church services the team from my church lead at the county jail a couple months ago. I had not set foot in the jail before planning the church service and leading my team of 8 to lead the inmates in worship and teaching. I didn’t know what it looked like, I just jumped in and pulled others along with me.
It’s not that I had no idea what I was doing. I teach (college students) on a regular basis, I prepared and lead services for Celebrate Recovery for over a year, and through various recovery ministries I’ve met and befriended a large number of people with complicated backgrounds. So, with the exception of the one guy on our jail ministry team who had been incarcerated previously, I am the most knowledgeable/experienced person on the team about our ministry context but I am by no means a seasoned pro and I’d still never lead a church service in a jail or taught in a prison until a couple months ago.
I love drawing people deeper into ministry, but I don’t particularly like leading blindly. I’d rather know and understand the context and feel completely comfortable before slowly introducing others. As a leader you don’t always have the luxury of knowing the road ahead or even understanding terrain you’re currently on. So you learn as much as you can, pray as much as you can, and go where God guides.