MINTS SEMINARY IN PRISON
Barry Smith, MAR, MATS
MINTS International Seminary provides affordable and accessible education in theological studies and training in practical ministry skills for Christian leaders around the world. We believe that the most effective person to reach others is one who knows the culture, language, and needs of the community because they are part of that community. At the latest count, MINTS has 10,000 students in 350 study centers in 76 countries.
The late theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul said: "MINTS is the most important seminary on the planet today".
The MINTS Seminary-in-Prison program follows a similar strategy, educating and training prisoners to reach other prisoners for Christ. Additionally, MINTS Seminary-in-Prison degree programs equip prisoners to be able to seek employment in churches and with Christian ministries after their release.
MINTS is approved by the Florida Department of Education to grant degrees and has offered undergraduate and graduate programs in Florida prisons since 2010. We are currently in 16 prisons in Florida and one each in Georgia, Illinois, and South Carolina.
Our vision is to take MINTS Seminary-in-Prison degree programs into prisons across the United States, providing quality theological education and ministry training that prepares prisoners to become thinkers and doers—theologians and ministers who proclaim the Gospel while in prison and are equipped to serve the Church after their release
The personal and spiritual growth of our prisoner-students. Through engaging with biblical and theological content and interacting with MINTS instructors, prisoner-students will grow and mature as individuals and progress in reforming their character and behavior.
Education and practical ministry training. Prisoner-students will be educated and trained for ministry and equipped with skills to share Christ with other prisoners, working toward the positive transformation of individuals and institutions.
Teacher training. Prisoner-students will be encouraged to practice teaching under the supervision of MINTS instructors. Upon release, MINTS graduates will be encouraged to return to prison as volunteer mentors and teachers using the MINTS education program.
Professional qualification. MINTS Seminary-in-Prison programs will provide professional training and academic credentials which students may, after their release from prison, use to pursue employment in churches and other ministries.
Recidivism reduction. Prisoners who participate in academic programs during their incarceration are much less likely to re-offend after their release. MINTS Seminary-in-Prison programs will contribute to the thriving of our communities by contributing to the likelihood that prisoner-students will become productive members of the community and not relapse into criminal behavior.
The idea of using theological education to reach prison populations is not a new idea. Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana is the largest prison in the world. The average sentence for an Angola prisoner is 93 years. For many years Angola had a reputation as the more dangerous prison in America. In 1992 there were 1,346 violent assaults at the prison—an average of almost four a day. By 2014, however, the number of assaults was down to just 343. What made the difference? Theological education!
Warden Burl Cain “used Christ to pacify Angola. [He invited a seminary] to open an ordination program on the prison grounds, and today, hundreds of inmate-prisoners are turning thousands of their incarcerated brothers to Jesus.”
This is the model that inspired the MINTS Seminary-in-Prison program, seeking to be a change agent to educate, train, and equip prisoner-students to reach other inmates with the gospel.