Footsteps 104 - Prisons

Footsteps 104 features practical tips for getting involved in prison ministry and caring for ex-offenders.

Photo: James Morgan/Tearfund


Letter: Why the church needs to get down to business

It was encouraging to read the discussion in Footsteps 103 and the Tearfund Learn blog about wealth generation by Christians and churches. I have asked the following question to many dear Christian friends in low-income countries: on the one hand, churches are praying on their knees for God to bless them with resources and wealth. On the other hand, the church is very quick to criticise any activities that generate wealth. Where does the church think the wealth comes from? 

People often quote the verse about it being more difficult for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. But I believe what Jesus is criticising is the rich man’s attitude towards money, not the money itself. There is also the story of the Good Samaritan looking after an injured stranger. My guess is that he was a good businessman who had some money, but more importantly, that he used the money he made from business to help his neighbour.

We do not need to withdraw from the world to serve God. We glorify him in all of life. An Indian colleague pointed out that many talented men and women are leaving their businesses to work in ‘full-time ministry’. This is a misunderstanding of the Bible and often a huge waste of their business talents. As long as it is legitimate and honest business, it is pleasing to God.

Liu Liu, Programme Effectiveness Adviser, Tearfund West and Central Africa team

Knotty problem

Question: We want to welcome an ex‑offender into our church, but how can we make sure our congregation is not put at risk?

Answer: The church has a unique role to play in welcoming and showing love to ex-offenders. But this process can bring with it practical challenges that need careful consideration.

It is very important to protect the congregation from harm, especially children and other vulnerable people. Churches should decide on some key policies to keep people safe. For example, anyone who has committed a sexual offence against children should never be asked to work with children or have unsupervised contact with them. Some form of background check should be carried out on anyone wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults. Your denomination’s head office may have some guidelines on developing appropriate policies.

The church leadership should form an agreement with the ex-offender about any necessary boundaries. Ideally, a mentor should be identified to offer ongoing help and encouragement.

Ex-offenders who are truly repentant should understand that these measures are put in place for the safety of the congregation and to avoid placing the ex‑offender in a position of temptation. The church can play a huge role in providing accountability and support.

Do you have a knotty problem you would like the Footsteps community to help with? Write to us as the address below.

Please write to: The Editor, Footsteps, 100 Church Road, Teddington, TW11 8QE, UK