Prison Fellowship, a ministry founded by Chuck Colson in 1976 to evangelize and disciple prison inmates, is in the process of undergoing a radical transformation. After an internal self-examination this past year, and after failing to meet its expected income last June for the first time in its history, the organization is reducing paid staff and ministry centers and re-evaluating its ministry structure.

Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM) is moving toward a more volunteer-oriented format. The organization used to have about 55 area offices with a paid director and sometimes one or two paid staff members. Now PFM hopes to create volunteer "Ministry Delivery Teams" to recruit and equip churches to be involved in local prison ministry.

"Embracing this new format means we'll be able to do much more ministry and multiply more rapidly," Terry White, vice president of communications for Prison Fellowship, told Christianity Today. "Instead of attempting to hire personnel to meet the ever-increasing demands of our ministry we will now be equipping the people of the church with the necessary tools to administer the gospel to their own community."

Prison Fellowship's leaders hope these changes will move PFM even closer to its mission "to exhort, equip, and assist the Church in its ministry to prisoners, ex-prisoners, victims and their families."

These changes mean that PFM will eliminate about 100 positions and close about 20 area offices. The number of workers to be laid off is still unknown because some of the positions eliminated were unfilled expansion positions and others were positions filled by personnel who retired. According to White, some personnel might also choose to become managers of ministry delivery teams within PFM's new ...

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