Pen PalsClick here to View the Pen Pal Rules and Guidelines
We are happy you are interested in the Pen Pal Ministry. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37. Most of the inmates (99% of whom are males) who contact us are already Christians and some are new Christians. Occasionally we hear from unsaved inmates who are in need of someone to show them how to be born again, and they have indicated this on their application. If that is the case, we have already sent them material about how to be born again. Many have been taking our correspondence courses while they were waiting for a pen pal. We are so blessed and privileged to be allowed to lead many inmates to the Lord. They all need encouragement and prayer!
Since we started keeping record by computer in 2000, we have ministered to over 20,000 inmates in over 15,000 county jails, state prisons, and federal prisons, in all 50 states & Guam, as well as a few facilities in England; Thailand; and Zambia, Africa, with our pen pal ministry, our intercessory prayer service, and our correspondence ministry.
The Pen Pal Ministry has over 400 active or semi-active volunteers. Many of those volunteers serve as intercessors (along with many others) for prayer requests of inmates. At this time, we have volunteers in 48 different states across the US.
Most inmates we minister to (again—mostly male) are lonesome and have been deserted by their families when they become incarcerated.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Does the inmate have to know my name and whereabouts? Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, we ask you to use a nickname. Most volunteers either use their middle name, first name, or make up one. You will instruct your inmate pen pal to reply to you to our ministry’s address (6900 Billtown Road, Louisville, KY 40299). This is for your protection. When we receive the letter from the inmate, we then put it into another envelope and send it on to you. A new thing we have been started with some success is scanning in the inmate’s letter and emailing. That works well for volunteers who are in another country, and also helps the turnaround time.
Do I need special training? No, all you need is a heart to reach out to inmates and be a light for Christ. We will send you your initial welcome packet with your pen friend’s info, the rules, envelope, and a sample letter. Once you start, ongoing training and support are provided. We are always available for guidance and help. The best way to contact us is always by email.
What if I start and then find myself in a bind financially? We can help with any problem you may have – we can provide postage, envelopes, even paper. Sometimes the devil tries to attack a volunteer to get them to quit ministering to the incarcerated. Just let us know and we will help in any way we can!
I don’t have anything in common with an inmate. What can I say to them? We do try to match up hobbies as much as we can, to give you a starting place. You will receive the inmate’s application, which includes his born-again testimony, hobbies and his spiritual needs – as well as a sample first letter to give you ideas on what to write. Then once you begin corresponding, you will be able to talk about things he/she mentions in the reply letters, give advice, pray for them, and give them encouragement regarding whatever particular problems they are facing.
How much time is required of me? On the average, the inmate writes once a month and it may take you no longer than 30 minutes to an hour to write them back. You can also type your letters if you like. For this reason, we suggest starting with 2 or 3 or even 5 inmates, so that you don’t feel you aren’t getting responses. Also, inmates are moved to other locations, sometimes they get discouraged and kind of check out emotionally, they get busy with studies or work inside the prison, or they don’t have money for postage or envelopes. There can be many reasons why an inmate doesn’t write you right back. Be patient and try again, or contact us to check their location change for you.
What if my inmate writes something in his letter that bothers me? If that ever happens, just contact us about the problem and we will take care of it. We never want our volunteers to be uncomfortable in any way.
I’m married and my husband isn’t comfortable with me writing a male inmate… If that is the case with you, there are certain safeguards we can utilize. Many of our married volunteers write their inmates as a ‘team’ with their husband (whether or not he actually writes) – Jim and Julie, Dow and Jean, Paul and Paula, and many more. Several sign their letters as a couple, and the husband reads the letters from the inmate to make sure he’s not saying anything he shouldn’t. The husbands in each case have become active in ministering to the inmate with his wife as he comes to understand the struggles the inmate is experiencing. Having a male point of view helps. If you are a single female and the prospect of writing a male makes you feel uneasy, you could be a ‘team’ using your father’s first name, or your brother, uncle, etc.
Do I have to belong to Evangel to be a pen pal? Not at all! We have pen pals from 48 different states and from many other churches here in town. We welcome all born again believers, age 18+.
Can I visit or call the inmate? No. Each prison facility has many restrictions such as: no photos, no visits, no money sent, no phone calls, no stamps, and no books from the pen pal volunteers. We could possibly lose our good standing with the prison facility if these rules were violated. Now having said that, we sometimes are able to have a book sent to the inmate, for example from Christian Book Distributors or Amazon. In those cases, the volunteer has contacted us with the name and author of the book, we work out the price, order the book from our account (so it has our return information), and the volunteer then sends us a check for that amount. It works great.
What if I get too busy one month to write? You may want to send a short note letting him know the basics of what is going on and let him know you will write soon. Or you can send copies of Christian articles you feel might minister to them, from any Christian magazines you may subscribe to, along with a short note.
I am very busy; do I have to come to meetings? No. The best part of being a pen pal is that you can have your own ministry right out of your own home. It’s a great ministry for retired persons, shut-ins, stay at home moms, the handicapped, someone who has no transportation, people who have free time on their job, or for someone who wants to be in ministry but has little time for ministry meetings, events, fundraisers, etc.
What can I expect to receive out of this ministry? According to one of our volunteers, “You will receive blessings on top of blessings, new friends, the joy of being used by God in the life of a needy person…. small things I have said in a letter are appreciated beyond my wildest expectations! That’s when I know the Holy Spirit is working through me and this ministry!”
Another thing is that we pray for our volunteers, so you will be on our prayer lists and you can call, email, or write us your prayer requests at any time and always be covered in prayer!
The Lord loves the prison ministry, as it is a great way to help His followers obey his command to “Remember those in prison as if you are incarcerated with them” – and to “Visit them in prison”. You can visit with a letter!
The need is huge! We are constantly in need of more pen pal volunteers. At this moment we have over 200 applications from inmates (99% male) waiting in our office for volunteers to begin writing them. Some of our volunteers are writing to as many as 30 or 40 inmates because we just don't have enough help. God is truly bringing in a harvest through this ministry - and we need workers to help bring it in!
If you think you might be interested in helping in this area of our ministry, please fill out the Volunteer Information Form, or if you have any questions not answered by this page, please call 502-964-3304, ext. 1227. If we are not immediately available, please leave us a message and we will get back to you. However, If you have email, you will get a faster response if you email us with your question at
If you have any questions or something is still unclear, email us!