History

Brief History of the
Texas Field Ministers Program

            In 2010, The Heart of Texas Foundation, through its founder Grove Norwood, invited Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Texas State Senator and Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee John Whitmire, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Bryan Collier to tour the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola to determine whether offering a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies to inmates with extremely long prison sentences through a Bible college in Texas would be a viable endeavor for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It was determined by this group of leaders that the answer was, “Yes.” Grove suggested, with unanimous approval from this group of leaders, that he move forward with approaching Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) to provide the instruction for the degree. Grove immediately requested a meeting with the president of SWBTS. The meeting was held in Fort Worth in the president’s office on May 27, 2010. At Grove’s request, the executives of SWBTS agreed to partner with The Heart of Texas Foundation to offer the degree to inmate men with long prison sentences.

However, from the earliest days, The Heart of Texas Foundation’s vision for the Texas Field Ministers Program was something far more than a degree offered to men with extremely long prison sentences. That vision was of “sending” graduates to do the work they had been trained to do. But the workers and the work needed a name and a plan. As a result of multiple research interviews carried out by The Heart of Texas Foundation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Grove Norwood wrote the document, “Proposal for the Texas Prison Field Ministry Program,” and submitted it to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on October 26, 2012. The 27-page document consisted of the following 20 chapters:

Chapter 1:     Building a Best Practices Model for Inmate Field Ministry
Chapter 2:     Significance to Texas and The Prisoned States
Chapter 3:     Overview and Baselines
Chapter 4:     From Application to “Certified Field Minister”
Chapter 5:     Preparation for Field Ministry Internship Before Graduation: The Undergraduate Practicum
Chapter 6:     Preparation for Field Ministry Internship After Graduation: The SWBTS “Boot Camp” Summer 
Chapter 7:     Prescriptive Guidelines:  Dos and Don’ts
Chapter 8:     The Field Ministry Internship at a Host Prison
Chapter 9:     Which Prisons? Assignment of Graduates to Field Ministry Prisons
Chapter 10:  The Field Ministry Coordinator 
Chapter 11:  The Field Ministry Advisory Council 
Chapter 12:  The Supervising Field Ministry Chaplain
Chapter 13: The Host Warden in the Field Ministry Program
Chapter 14:  The Field Ministry “Internship” Program 
Chapter 15:  Ministry and Service Opportunity for the Certified Field Ministers After Internship Completed
Chapter 16:  Establish a “Certificate Program” in the Field Ministry Prison for the Certificate Field Minister
Chapter 17:  Supervising Chaplain’s Training
Chapter 18:  Important Questions to be Answered
Chapter 19:  Administrative Forms to Be Developed
Chapter 20:  Ongoing Professional Development: The Chaplain’s Field Ministry Academy

            The Heart of Texas Foundation carefully chose the terms “Field Minister” and “Field Ministry” to identify the heart of this work. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice accepted the Texas Field Ministers Program through the submission of the document including the terms Field Minister and Field Ministry. The document went through three more revisions before submission of the final board-approved version from The Heart of Texas Foundation to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on August 8, 2013.

            The Texas Department of Criminal Justice accepted the Texas Field Ministers Program in 2014 and created its own policy statements for Field Ministers. Everything was ready for the graduates to be appointed as Field Ministers. Two weeks after the first graduation held on May 11, 2015, the 33 graduates were appointed as the first Field Ministers and transferred to seven prisons in carefully selected teams and locations. The transition from general population inmate to student to Field Minister marks the dedication, planning, and work from the earliest days to now of The Heart of Texas Foundation with state executive and legislative officials, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—without any of whom the quality of the Texas Field Ministers Program would not be what it is today.


Our first project:
The Darrington Chapel Restoration

Before

The Darrington Unit Chapel restoration began in early 2011 and was complete in August 2011 so that the first Convocation could be held in the chapel to kick off the Texas Field Ministers Program.

This picture was taken at the beginning stages the chapel renovation. The chapel leaked when it rained, the pews were rotten, the floor was missing tiles, and there were no lights. No one was using the chapel. It had become unusable. The renovation was dependent on private donors because the state could no longer lawfully spend money to restore the chapel.
Once lights were restored, the first step was to remove the rotten pews.

With generous help from the faithful men and women who have served the men at the Darrington Unit for years through Kairos, The Heart of Texas Foundation’s first project was to refurbish the chapel inside the Darrington Unit.


After

Now, the chapel at Darrington is used every day, all day by a robust roster of volunteers, the Darrington chaplain, and the Field Ministers. We are grateful to be able to hold the annual Convocation and Graduation in the beautifully renovated chapel thanks to our donors.

The newly restored chapel was immediately used by the men in the Texas Field Ministers Program when they chapel was newly opened.
Field Minister John Blevins talks with Senator John Whitmire in the chapel as other Field Minsters look on.
Field Ministers Reading Acceleration Center. Field Ministers certified by The Heart of Texas Foundation as Literacy Instructors work with men at Darrington to improve their ability to read.