One of the major efforts of this ministry is to provide educational materials and support for men and women in prison. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, both numerically and in the percentage of the nation’s population. For that reason, workers are greatly needed in prison ministry.
In 1962 John Clayton began working with men and women in the local jail, and then at the state prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Helen Richards had been doing work in prisons, and the two of them began teaching both classes such as mathematics, and Bible-study classes. It became very apparent that a high percentage of the prisoners had embraced atheist teachings. When convicts were brought into the prison to begin their period of incarceration, they would be asked about their religious affiliation. They would pick a denomination, or the clerk would do it for them. The reality was that a vast percentage of inmates had rejected God and the Bible as useful in directing their lives. We wanted our prison ministry to help those prisoners.
In 1968 John Clayton wrote a three lesson apologetic course to use in prisons. This quickly evolved into a 13 lesson course so that prisoners could complete a lesson once a week each quarter. This course was written at a 4th-grade reading level, and there was a question sheet at the end of each lesson. The number of students grew rapidly, and the course became a nationwide correspondence course. Ten years later, John developed a college-level course reaching inmates who want to learn more advanced material.
At the same time, Helen Richards built up a series of lessons that were straight Bible studies. Interest in this educational prison ministry was so great that additional help was needed, and more courses were added. We now have just under 4,000 students in our two apologetics courses, about half of whom are active. We have nine courses graded by other workers with a large number of lessons being graded by this team every month. We provide students who enroll with the lessons and answer sheets to fill out and return to us in postpaid return envelopes. They take one course at a time, and the nine studies we offer are broken down into four areas:
1) Basic Courses – Bible lessons in simple language written especially for people who need a beginner course. Most of our prisoners start with this course.
2) A Special Needs Course for those who need help with substance abuse.
3) Four general courses dealing with Christianity as taught in the Bible.
4) Two Advanced Courses with in-depth biblical studies.
Students who need out of state visits or specialized help with substance abuse are referred to “Christians Against Substance Abuse” (CASA). Buck Griffith and Don Umphrey have built a program that has helped thousands of men and women pick up the pieces and live productive Christian lives. We have been able to help several men get college degrees. Several prisons have a class in progress using DVDs of our video series taught by an inmate who has studied our materials. For more information, or to enroll, contact us for a “Request Form.” All of the courses and programs in our prison ministry are free.
— John N. Clayton © 2019