Spirit Key - Ministry to Ex-offenders

Date Posted: 10/31/2011

Restorative Justice ministries in the Texas Annual Conference reach beyond the boundaries of what might one might think of when they hear the phrase “prison ministry.” They often touch the lives of not only those currently and formerly incarcerated, but their familes, correctional officers and crime victims as well.


“Prisoners are today’s lepers – society’s throwaways… These are the people we’ve thrown away and they need to be reconciled to God,” said Allen Rice, Director of Spirit Key Inc. “The need is so great,” he continued. “There are 157,000 veterans incarcerated, and 1 in 3 homeless are veterans.”


Spirit Key is a ministry dedicated to being a re-entry program for ex-offenders, veterans, and homeless people. Rice said they handle over 1400 calls per year in which people are looking for resources such as shelter, employment or other types of assistance.


“Spirit Key currently provides housing for 20 people on 5 acres of land.” Rice noted that the ministry is not a halfway house, but a transitional work facility. “Residents have the chance to transition from being a worker to working full time to paying rent, while being part of a faith-based community… Most halfway houses are ‘good luck – pay your rent on time…’ We’re a place of second and third chances so people can re-enter the culture. No one sits around here… We have a recycling center for wood, metal, and appliances. Our work program is designed so that they come here and work, and at some point they have an epiphany: ‘I can do this myself.’”


 “We discern whether they need to be here. We look at their spiritual condition and criminal history. We don’t allow sex offenders or people on monitors. Our facilities are not designed with that in mind. If they have drug issues or come and develop a drug issue, we have a facility that is state funded that we send them to. They can come back if they need to,” Rice continued. “If they are doing drugs or are not ready to go back to work yet we will send them work with a church or parole division.”

 Spirit Key, which Rice describes as ‘99.9 percent Methodist,’ offers a full range of programs to assist and nurture clients to make positive choices. “Our ministries encompass training in life skills and spiritual knowledge.  The key elements of mind, body, and spirit combine to form the center of our program, highlighted by a 24/7 facility with goals specific to each client,” Rice said. “We have Bible studies and offer chapel services on Sundays. Our facilities can be available for government services or pastors or laity who want to come out and mentor.”

He added that there are many opportunities to serve, and they have volunteers involved in many aspects of their ministry. “People can help us find donations of clothing or food or can help clerically in the office. They can offer job training or help clients find a job. They can volunteer in correspondence or help us in our capital fundraising or grant writing.”


Spirit Key communicates with prisoners through "Restorative Justice," a weekly radio program which airs on 100.7FM - KKHT from 8:30-9:00 p.m. every Sunday night. “We are a family show that sends hope and encouragement to our listeners from Houston to Beaumont, north through the piney woods.” The show features guests including Spirit Key Staff, volunteers from different churches and Spirit Key clients. They discuss Christian community in and out of prison, and share scripture with their audience. Rice noted that the show is highly rated and in its second year. They also provide information so people can request applications for Spirit Key on each 30-minute show.


Rice added that some of their clients are not residents, and that Spirit Key helps a large percentage of people by e-mail and telephone as well. He said their facilities have a lot of room for growth and are looking at expanding their work and offering additional volunteer opportunities in the future.


Learn more about their ministry at http://www.spiritkey.org/

You can contact Allen Rice at allen.rice@spiritkey.org or by phone at: 281-813-0093

 See Other Articles in this series at: www.txcumc.org/rjseries