Is the Hope-Western Prison Education Program primarily oriented toward education? Or is it more aligned with ministry? The program is an accredited academic program leading to a Bachelor’s degree. It is intellectually rigorous, oriented to the liberal arts, and is therefore broad in its design while also providing depth of study in a major area of academic focus: Faith, Leadership, and Service.
But people of good will often refer to it as a ministry. It isn’t uncommon for students, professors, administrators, and supporters to ask us “How’s the prison ministry going?“
The borderlands between “education” and “ministry” are sometimes blurry. Neither Hope College nor Western Theological Seminary are churches primarily oriented toward ministry, but are instead academic institutions concerned with educating students. But it’s also true that both engage in ministry, and are concerned with whole-person educational and spiritual formation. This is true not only in Holland, but also at the Muskegon Correctional Facility.
To place this question in context, take a look at Byron Johnson and Michael Hallett’s excellent article, A Church Without Walls, Behind Walls: How Evangelicals Are Transforming American Prisons.