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June 22, 2011

New Professional Association Forms at Wheaton's Institute for Prison Ministries

A newly formed association of correctional ministry professionals hopes to serve as a resource for collaboration, training and advocacy among those involved in prison ministry.

The Institute for Prison Ministries (IPM), a department of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, recently hosted the first meeting of the Correctional Ministries and Chaplains Association (CMCA). The group’s mission is “to connect, encourage, equip and strengthen Christians as they fulfill the Great Commission in corrections.”

More than 40 representatives of 20-plus correctional ministries attended the inaugural meeting in May. The group of professionals and volunteers present included teachers, evangelists, chaplains, reentry providers, mentors, trainers, administrators, case managers, authors, editors, literature providers, missionaries, musicians, and prayer ministers.

Dr. Karen Swanson, Director of the IPM, says the idea for the CMCA came to her about 5 years ago. As she discovered others in the field of correctional ministry who shared the same vision and wanted to work together, the organization began to take shape.

“Before the formation of the CMCA, there was not a professional association for Christians, and particularly for evangelicals, in correctional ministry,” she says. “This organization fills that gap. We hope to raise the level of professionalism in Christian organizations, and bring chaplains, ministries and reentry providers together.”

Swanson says the CMCA will focus much of its energy on certification, training and support.

“Oftentimes, in correctional ministry, people have a relationship with Christ and passion for outreach, but they may not understand prison culture, security concerns, or issues related to potential manipulation by inmates,” Swanson says. “In addition to educating people on these issues, we hope to help them better understand the people and the culture they want to serve.”

The CMCA's website is cmcainternational.com.

The vision of the Institute for Prison Ministries (IPM) is to be a center for correctional ministry that encourages and equips those serving in correctional ministries worldwide to evangelize and disciple those within the correctional community. IPM works through networks, collaborations and strategic partnerships to provide leadership and training to those engaged in correctional ministries for the advancement of the Gospel.

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