Mentor Leadership in Prison

At the end of March, I had my last “official” meeting with men at Allendale Correctional Institute. I had been meeting with some of these men for almost a year and a half, after I met some doing Kairos Prison Ministry in Allendale. We’ve done a series of manhood curricula, and even got to watch a couple of Super Bowls together.

This last series of meetings was a “book study” of Mentor Leader (Tony Dungy). (Remember, I was meeting with a group of leaders from the Character-based Housing Unit initiative.) Each week, we discussed a chapter, and each week I’d leave with a page of notes — things I learned from these men. For me, the biggest concept that I’ve take away from reading this book is that mentor leadership is about adding value to the lives of those around me.

What I Learned from the Men in Prison

During our final session, I asked the men what was the biggest take-away(s) they got from this book. I was floored by their answers and our discussion:



“I need to encourage others more. I need to be at their level before I worry about bringing them to my level.”

“I need to understand that each person is different, and then engage them accordingly.”

“This book has helped me to look past my motivations, and to look at others’ motivations. It has helped me to encourage and motivate others.”

“I need to stop thinking about myself, and consider the plight of others.”

“I need to identify the talents of other guys, and to try to bring out their gifts and talents.”

“I’ve learned to be able to equip and empower others.”

“I need to keep learning so I can keep teaching.”

“For a long time, I was wanting to get out. Now, I want to stay here in prison, so I can help other men.”

Re-read that last quote. Actually, more than half of the group talked about this. Although they would be ready to leave prison, they are glad to be here, to help build the CHU program and teach men. They equated this to Paul’s tension to wanting to live to do ministry, while also dying so he could be with Jesus.

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,”  Philippians 1:23-25

My prayer is that these men continue to live out what they learned, and what they shared. I am continually amazed how much they labor to reach other men, with the selfless (and often thankless) goal of helping them make a positive change in their lives.

Future Mentor Leaders

I’ve heard some similar statements from some of the teenage boys who have been going through this book. Despite their rough backgrounds, these young men want to help others, to add value to the the lives of other people.

I am blessed to have known these two groups of men. One group is just starting their lives, and others are in the middle (or end) of it. Their lives up until this point have not been ideal.

But what they know, and what we need to remember, is that there is something that matters more than where we are now. What matters even more is which direction we are heading, and who else we can help along the journey.

Thank you for your support of God’s work in Allendale through our family. I was only able to get these books and develop these relationships because of the generosity of people like you.

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