Published July 26, 2021

24 Prison Yards in the State of Oklahoma Invited to Experience The Global Leadership Summit

The success of The Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in 100+ prisons across the U.S. is credited to our amazing volunteers, donors, corrections staff and of course, the church partners that serve as a faithful presence in their local prisons year-round. The Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is one of those churches. Having been a long-time partner hosting The Global Leadership Summit in their church for more than 20 years, it was a natural fit to also start hosting the GLS at Joseph Harp Correctional in 2018.

Now, due to their relationship with the Department of Corrections in the state of Oklahoma and the unique way they serve prisons across the state, they have extended an invitation to bring The Global Leadership Summit to 24 prison yards in 2021!

The impact it had—not only on the guys but the institution as a whole—was powerful

One of the key leaders responsible for this incredible feat is Jeremiah Braudrick, Crossings Community Church director of prison campuses. Jeremiah has been involved in prison ministry for eleven years. His first experience in prison moved him deeply. “When I started going out there at first, I was trying to develop some type of ministry, asking myself, what can I bring to the table?” said Jeremiah. “But I quickly realized everything I knew about incarcerated men might be misunderstood—the men in the yard were already doing ministry. So, I quickly threw my misconceptions out the window and decided to support them as friends. I got to know them. I developed a relationship with them so that they knew there was someone that loves them and thinks of them on the outside.”

After Jeremiah’s first experience, his involvement in prison ministry only grew. He started to serve above and beyond his then regular role overseeing the community center at Crossings Community Church, volunteering his time on the side and starting a nonprofit to support the ministry in the prison.

Excited about what was happening at Joseph Harp Correctional, the prison chaplain asked him about bringing in the GLS too. Then a few leaders at Crossings Community Church brought up the idea to Jeremiah as well. “I had been concerned about the cost and whether or not it would work, but it was 100% a God thing the way it all came together,” said Jeremiah. Ultimately, he knew it would be a great opportunity to bring the men the leadership development training their church was also benefiting from.

The GLS became part our strategy to develop leaders and grow the church behind bars.

In 2018, Joseph Harp Correctional experienced the GLS for the first time. “The impact it had—not only on the guys but the institution as a whole—was powerful,” said Jeremiah. “We really saw the value of keeping it going. It became part our strategy to develop leaders and grow the church behind bars.”

What does church behind bars look like?

Crossings Community Church’s vision for prison ministry is not like any other you may have heard of before.

The vision is unique—its roots are in dignity, empowerment and inclusion. This unique model includes the incarcerated in their church community rather than making them the target of a church program. Crossings Community Church sees the Joseph Harp community (and now the others across the state) as an extension of their church—they view them and treat them like another campus.

…instead of launching a new prison ministry where these guys are the target, we decided to launch a campus where these guys are invited to be part of our church community.

What happens on the outside also happens on the inside. They have guest speakers, artists, baptisms and are also included in voting on church initiatives. The incarcerated men and women across the state are seen as part of their church community. “This is what drives us,” said Jeremiah. “These guys aren’t a mission project. So, instead of launching a new prison ministry where these guys are the target, we decided to launch a campus where these guys are invited to be part of our church community. Everything that we do on the outside of prison we ask ourselves, how does that translate to the inside of prison? It speaks volumes to the guys. It lets them know we’re serious about this and that we actually do see them as functional contributing parts our church community.”

So, how did this ministry grow into 24 prison yards across Oklahoma? It started with a few key relationships.

After three years of hosting the GLS at Joseph Harp, ideas started stirring. Marty Grubbs, the senior pastor at Crossings Community Church, asked Jeremiah to investigate what it would look like to start more church prison campuses, which included bringing the GLS into more prisons across the state. Because of the relationship Jeremiah had with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC), and the positive cultural changes they had witnessed at Joseph Harp, at the beginning of 2020, the DOC ultimately invited Crossings Community Church to launch more campuses across the state of Oklahoma.

With a passion for church planting, Scott Bartlow, campus pastor at Crossings Community Church, partnered together with Jeremiah to come up with a strategy. “I had a stirring in my heart about planting more campuses, so when the opportunity came to work with Jeremiah to partner with not just one prison yard, but 24, I was honored and ready for the challenge,” said Scott. “I’ve been spiritually stretched through the process,” said Scott. “When Pastor Marty said, Scott, would you help plant prison campuses with Jeremiah? …Wow. Prison. I felt tested in my walk with Christ in the sense that the Holy Spirit challenged me and asked, have you put a geographical circle around where you’re willing to plant a church? Is it just in the suburbs to make you feel comfortable? Or, if you believe that church planting is where transformation can happen, are you willing to put that to the test, wherever that may be?”

We want to invest in a way that is not just financial, but also emotional and spiritual.

With such a huge initiative to reach 24 prison yards, Jeremiah’s role shifted from overseeing the community center to director of prison campuses. Jeremiah partnered with Scott and together they began something new at Crossings Community Church that has since grown across the entire state of Oklahoma.

And it all started with the GLS.

“One of the key elements in the success of this ministry is not just the relationship we have with the incarcerated, but also the relationship we develop and have with the staff, wardens, chaplains and especially the DOC,” said Jeremiah. “We support them too. And because of that, God has really opened up some incredible doors. On several occasions, we’ve been able to go straight to the top of the DOC for approval and it disseminates down into all the prisons. In fact, the chaplains and wardens really appreciate this initiative, because it takes the approvals off their shoulders. Overall, people feel appreciated and that goes along way. And through the GLS, everyone is built up and encouraged from the incarcerated to the staff, and the impact is even greater.”

“We are constantly reaching out to all our locations,” said Scott. “I think certain walls are starting to break down as they have seen us constantly reaching out and saying, how can we serve you? We want to invest in a way that is not just financial, but also emotional and spiritual.”

The impact of the GLS in prison affects everyone, whether you’re inside or outside. The reality is, when you support the community of men and women in prison, and they feel valued and invested in, they will take that back home with them when they are released one day. Statistically, 80-90% of the men and women in prison will be released one day—returning to our communities; leading families, businesses, organizations, etc.

Statistically, 80-90% of the men and women in prison will be released one day—returning to our communities

“When you serve your local prison, you’re not only pouring into the facility, but you are also supporting your community at large,” said Jeremiah. “And a lot of them have never been exposed to topics like servant leadership. It’s just not a concept that is on their radar in the prison yard. But the GLS is giving them a fresh perspective on leadership and what positive influence can look like, and it’s changing the culture.”

The Global Leadership Summit adds value.

“The GLS is a great reminder that your development matters as a leader,” said Scott. “Attending for 14 years, I’m reminded that if you don’t lead yourself well you can’t lead others well. It’s not about titles. It’s about using the gifts God’s given you to be a positive influence on those around you. We always talk about the importance of every organization needing good leaders. But it wasn’t until I got involved in the prisons when I really began to recognize the need for good leadership in every area. Transformation of a whole prison yard can happen with good leadership. Joseph Harp Correctional has transformed because of the partnership of a local church and the GLS working together. The culture has shifted. We don’t just need good leaders outside of the wire, we need them inside. Ultimately, it impacts whole communities.”

The GLS helps you gain a positive outlook on what is possible. 

“We have a lot of friends in prison that are thinking outside the box because of the GLS,” said Jeremiah. “They are thinking about how they can make an impact even while they’re incarcerated. The GLS helps you gain a positive outlook on what is possible. So much of the news is negative, and so it’s great to see people doing good work, shining a light in otherwise very dark places. It gives the guys an opportunity to see what is possible right where they are. It reminds them they are not alone. And you can feel God’s presence in prison, sometimes a lot stronger than you ever can at any church on the outside. They then take what they learn and apply it right back into the church, the work they are doing in the jobs they have in prison and with their cellmates.”

Get involved in the GLS Prison Program!

When you or your organization partner with the Global Leadership Network to bring the GLS Prison Program into prisons across the U.S., you multiply stories like these and impact men, women, families and entire communities for the better.

Learn more about how you or your church or organization can get involved at GlobalLeadership.org/Prison.
About the Author
Global Leadership Network

Global Leadership Network

GLN Staff Writer

globalleadership.org

The Global Leadership Network is a community committed to learning from each other and using our influence to accomplish God’s purposes on earth. No matter where your influence is, when you commit to grow your leadership, everyone around you wins—businesses work for good, communities are transformed and churches thrive! Both global and diverse, our network includes partners in 1,400+ cities and 135+ countries. We are committed to deliver fresh, actionable and inspiring leadership content both at The Global Leadership Summit, and year-round through our digital platforms.

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