There are free correspondence Bible studies available for inmates. While they may not be accredited, they can go a long way towards bringing incarcerated students out of anger, hatred, and darkness.
Enhancing Spirituality in Prison
Free correspondence Bible studies are one of the best ways for prisoners to enter the world of correspondence education. These courses are free, so all prisoners can afford them. They also help to raise the incarcerated student out of the anger, hatred, and darkness so prevalent in prison. For these reasons alone, correspondence Bible studies are a great option for incarcerated students.
Factors to Consider
Free Bible studies fall into much the same realm as fee-based Bible studies in that accreditation agencies do not usually recognize them. Accreditation and costs are not at issue here. No one accredits free Bible studies, and they come at no charge. You don’t earn credit, and there is no time limit for completion. Best of all, these courses are actually designed for prisoners, so they come in a paper-based format. Regardless of how long you are incarcerated, they will be there for you.
If you know nothing about the Bible or if you have reading challenges, start with a school or ministry that offers simple basic courses.
Everyone has to start somewhere. You can’t be blamed for where you are educationally but you can be blamed for not making an effort.
Even those of us who consider ourselves Christians, even if we grew up in a church, it doesn’t mean we know much about the Bible. It’s about growth and progress. Today, as you kill time in prison, you can step up to the plate and make something of yourself. For me, free Bible studies served as my catalyst for higher education and a better life.
Some of the studies are easy and help build a strong foundation. Others are for those with more advanced knowledge. You just have to find your level of comfort.
The way these studies work is simple. Write a letter to the school or ministry of your choice explaining that you’re interested in enrolling in their Bible study program. The school or ministry will mail you a list of lessons to choose from along with an enrollment form or card you will complete. When they send you the first lesson, complete the lesson and mail it back.
The schools and ministries listed in this section will provide everything you need to complete their lessons except possibly postage stamps. (Some send stamps or self-addressed, stamped envelopes while others don’t.) Most of them will send a free Bible if you don’t have one. (See Chapter 5 for organizations that offer free Bibles.)
When the school or ministry receives your completed lesson, they correct and grade it and mail it back to you with the next lesson. This process continues until you finish all the lessons in a particular course. In some cases, courses only have one lesson; in others, the school or ministry might send all the lessons at one time. When you complete the requirements for each course, they mail you a certificate of completion together with the first lesson of the next course.
You can enroll in several courses simultaneously to fill the downtime between completing one lesson and receiving the next. It can’t hurt. The more Bible study courses you take, the more you’ll read the Bible, and the closer you’ll grow to God.
The following are the main factors to consider when selecting a free correspondence Bible study program.
- Review the course outlines to determine the difficulty of the courses and the longevity of the program. Correspondence Bible studies are generally prepared at a very low academic level. While some are directed towards children (which are almost categorically very simple for an adult to complete), others are written for adults and can be either very simple or very difficult. The easier programs of study tend to take perhaps 30 minutes or an hour to complete and could be one or several lessons long. The more challenging ones can take days or a week to complete and can last for several years from the first to the final lesson. As such, it is up to the incarcerated student to review a number of course outlines to make a determination on which type of course is best suited for their personal educational needs.
Recommended Bible Study Programs
There are many free correspondence Bible study programs that prisoners can enroll in. All of these programs have merit, although some are a cut above the rest. In an effort to help incarcerated students select top-tier programs, we recommend the following list of Bible study programs:
American Bible Academy courses are the most challenging and of the highest quality. You have to put in the work. Each course is based on a 120-page textbook written by respected Bible college professors or Christian educators. Seven courses are available in Spanish. The American Bible Academy also offers a number of support services for chaplains through their parent ministry, A.R.M. Prison Outreach International.
- Bon Air Baptist Church
Bon Air Baptist Church offers quality courses at various levels of difficulty. Lessons for each course are contained in a soft-cover textbook for minimal mailing delays and a neat, orderly study. If you don’t have a Bible, they will send one.
Christ For Me, Inc. might be the most comprehensive source of free Bible studies. As the distributor of 1,653 different lessons from a child’s level to the college level, they are a clearinghouse for Source of Light, Christ for Me, Tommy C. Higle, Online Bible College, and ECS Ministries courses. If you need a Bible, they will send one.
- Crossroad Bible Institute
Crossroad Bible Institute is another excellent school. Their courses will make you think, search the scriptures, and understand God’s word. Along with each lesson, you receive a pamphlet with daily scripture readings you are asked to reflect upon. With each corrected lesson, the student receives a personal letter of encouragement and discipleship from the Christian volunteer who grades their lesson.
ECS Prison Ministry, founded in 1942, is one of the largest correspondence course ministries. Annually they distribute about 400,000 courses in more than 120 languages to prisoners in the United States and Canada alone, and additional courses to more than 100 other countries. All readings are included with each course. The courses also explain the history and culture of the time to provide an enhanced learning experience and greater understanding.
Global University courses are rather easy but they help form a solid Christian ideology. Delivered in phases that build upon each other, the courses are packaged in a soft-cover textbook with tear-out answer sheets to be mailed back. It makes a neat, well-organized study. Global University courses have been used for more than 40 years in 169 countries and are translated into nearly 150 languages.
Lamp and Light Publishers, Inc. is a full-service ministry that offers more than 140 relatively easy lessons in five languages. The 79-page catalog contains all the free Bible study courses and shows their breadth of ministry and Christian resources.
Little Lambs, Inc. utilizes a study method that completely immerses the student in the Bible by asking questions and directing the student to the answers within the Bible. Each lesson consists of 10 to 25 pages of short-answer and fill-in-the-blank questions.
Mount Hope Prison Ministry has you read a Bible passage, reflect upon your readings, and answer questions based upon the readings. This is an enjoyable format.
Salvation Army courses can be very challenging after you complete the beginner level. The regular and advanced courses will make you put in some serious work. On the low end, courses are 40 pages of fill-in-the-blank questions; at the high end, 200 pages. The answers are not easy or obvious. Answers aren’t usually taken directly from the Bible; rather, they stem from your reflection on the Biblical readings. You can learn a lot through the Salvation Army’s correspondence Bible study program.
Source of Light Ministries International courses are great for anyone who doesn’t know much about the Bible. The courses are easy but they teach important foundational truths. This ministry offers 188 lessons in 11 languages and produces 6 to 8 million Bible lessons annually. They minister to approximately 12,000 prisoners. If you are just starting on your journey toward God, it’s a good place to begin.
Free Correspondence Bible Studies for Prisoners
Bible: Not provided
Degrees: Certificate of Completion
Courses: Amazing Facts Bible Correspondence Course
Course Delivery: Paper-based
Comments: This ministry includes their Bible correspondence school, radio and television, public evangelism, and print media. Their focused desire is that you not only grow in your knowledge of God’s word through studying but that you also come to a deeper understanding of God’s love for you.
School’s Comments: Amazing Facts study guides provide keys to understanding the Bible’s prophecy and God’s will. Discover what happens after death, the way to better health, how to save your marriage, the truth about hellfire, and many other amazing facts!
American Bible Academy
Tuition: Free to prisoners and their spouses
Bible: Not provided
Degrees: Certificate of Completion
Courses: Gospel of John; Christian Doctrine Volume 1; Christian Doctrine Volume 2; Book of Acts Volume 1; Book of Acts Volume 2; Gospel of Mark; Galatians & Philippians
Course Delivery: Paper-based
Comments: These are very in-depth studies. Each textbook, written by respected Bible college professors and Christian educators, has a soft cover and 120 pages. Seven courses are available in Spanish.
School’s Comments: In addition to providing inmates with 7 comprehensive courses in English and Spanish, the American Bible Academy’s www.abarc.org website provides free downloads of Bible commentaries, textbooks, study guides, courses, and Christian books. The www.abarc.org website provides materials in English, Spanish, Russian, German, and Khmer. Our parent ministry (A.R.M. Prison Outreach International) offers jail/prison chaplains a variety of helpful resources: Communion Table Baptistries, Collapsible Portable Baptistries, Bibles from the American Bible Society, Christian greeting cards, and Chaplain Care Packets. Chaplains must personally request these special resources from www.arm.org. Materials must be ordered by and sent directly to the chaplain.