Any time a Christian family gets involved with the family of an inmate, they have an opportunity to show them what a true Christian family is like. You need to be sure you have the log out of your own eye before you help this family with the sliver they have in their eye by eliminating all prejudice from the beginning.
Some of the ways to interact with the family is to have them over for cookouts, going shopping together, and being a true brother or sister in the Lord to them. The more of the love of Christ you show them, the more Christlike they will have a desire to be. You cannot treat these Christians different than your other brothers and sisters in the Lord, even though at first you may need to be a little more cautious.
One main thing that you need to be aware of in family ministry is that the inmate’s family is suffering as much as the inmate, and sometimes more. In many cases their needs are not being met as easily as the inmate’s. Many times they suffer the embarrassment of going on welfare. In order to get the children proper medical care, the family has to deal with walk-in clinics. Everything takes much longer now because of the red tape, and sometimes the family may be looked down on because of their spouse’s incarceration. In many ways they are being punished far more than the one incarcerated.
It is very important that the inmate and their families are both being spiritually fed. If one spouse has received Jesus and is living for Christ and the other is not; there will be many problems at the time of the release from prison. They will be unequally yoked with an unbeliever from whom they have already been separated from long enough.
Many inmates have received Jesus while incarcerated only to leave Him on the shelf after they get home. Sometimes the reason is because of an unbelieving mate who does not desire to attend church or be a part of the Christian’s new lifestyle at the time of release. If someone who is a new Christian comes home to a spouse who has no interest in the Word, they have two and a half strikes against them. If the ex-inmates and their spouse are equally excited about this new walk with Jesus, it will greatly increase their chances of remaining together and not returning to a life of crime.
Remember that ministry to an inmate’s family should grow into a wonderful spiritual relationship and continue as the inmate comes home. The church will become the home church for another family who will truly have experienced the love of God from this congregation, and will be able to help minister to the next family in need in the neighborhood.