The Field Ministers Academy

The Heart of Texas Foundation supports the mission and goals of TDCJ and the Rehabilitation Programs Division. As the service providers of the Field Ministers Program, we want to take the next step in preparing graduates of Scarborough College to be even more effective once they reach their outlying units to begin their work as Field Ministers.

The Field Ministers Academy will be annually sponsored and hosted by The Heart of Texas Foundation, in partnership with TDCJ.

Program

With the help of TDCJ and RPD, we are creating The Heart of Texas Foundation Field Ministers Academy.

  • The Field Ministers Academy will be held annually for the most recent graduating class of the Scarborough College at Darrington.
  • Upon graduation from Darrington, the entire class would then be designated as “Candidates” for appointment as Field Ministers.
  • The Field Ministers Academy will be a highly focused, “on-the-job training” experience for the newly graduated class.
  • Graduates of the Darrington program will be required to successfully complete The Heart of Texas Field Ministers Academy before being commissioned as “Texas Field Ministers.”
  • The Field Ministers Academy will consist of a four-week, intensive, on-the-job training experience for the new graduating class.

We want to give the men the opportunity to transition well from student to Field Minister. We want them to have the added confidence that comes with on-the-job training to minister to men like Karl who you can hear from in the following video.

The Field Ministers of the John B. Connally Unit faithfully visited the men in restricted housing. Karl Harris was one of those men. Karl is now a leader for the good on his unit and has received a reduced sentence with the opportunity to be released from prison. Without the Field Ministers being able to visit Karl, he might still be lost in a cell alone.

Training

The Texas Field Ministers Program includes two parts: 
1.) training, 2.) service. 

The Training portion of the Texas Field Ministers Program involves two steps:

Step 1:

Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies. The Heart of Texas Foundation and The Texas Department of Criminal Justice recognize the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies from the Scarborough College for Men at the Darrington Prison Unit and the Scarborough College for Women at the Hobby Prison Unit as the only degree qualifying the completion of the first step in becoming a Texas Field Minister. 

Step 2:

Certification from The Heart of Texas Foundation Field Ministers Academy. As step two to becoming a Texas Field Minister in the Texas Field Ministers Program, inmate graduates from Scarborough College attend and must successfully complete the Texas Field Ministers Academy developed and hosted by The Heart of Texas Foundation in collaboration with The Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The Four Partners


  • The Heart of Texas Foundation
  • Scarborough College
  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • The State of Texas Governor, Legislators, and Representatives

The Heart of Texas Foundation, founded in December 2009, exists completely independently from Scarborough College at SWBTS, the school that provides the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies to men and women who serve as Field Ministers. We existed before the school at Darrington began. We exist completely independently of TDCJ and work with the highest regard for them. We exist completely independently of any federal or state entity and receive no tax dollars of any kind. We operate with the highest regard for the law which provides accommodation and protection in order that we may exist to provide services to those within the state prison system. The Heart of Texas Foundation is: a.) overseen by a board of directors, b.) privately funded, c.) run daily by a Chief Executive Officer, and d.) produces regular third-party financial reviews and audits which are committed to the highest level of integrity.

The Heart of Texas Foundation actively provides, as a no-cost service provider to TDCJ, the entire Texas Field Ministers Program and its ongoing development, integrity, and funding.


Scarborough College

The Scarborough College – Darrington Prison Extension held its first class in 2011. One class of 33-36 students has graduated every year in May since 2015. As of 2019, 169 men with long prison sentences have completed their full coursework while at the Darrington Unit and received the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies—a dually accredited degree from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) accrediting bodies. Southwestern maintains the highest standards of accreditation, is privately funded, overseen by a trustee board, and led daily by its appointed President and hired executive staff. SWBTS employs the director of the Scarborough College – Darrington Prison Extension and all faculty (full and adjunct) who teach the classes offered at Darrington—all completely funded by The Heart of Texas Foundation.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), founded in 1908, established Scarborough College in 2005 as its undergraduate degree-granting institution on its main campus in Fort Worth. Scarborough College serves as the degree-granting institution for the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies offered through the Texas Field Ministers Program. SWBTS’ main campus is located in Fort Worth but conferred this degree for the Texas Field Ministers Program for the first five graduations from its J. Dalton Havard School of Theological Studies located in Houston. After a restructuring of SWBTS’ accreditation, the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies confers now from Scarborough – The College at Southwestern. The undergraduate college is overseen by the SWBTS President and Board of Trustees. The school at the Darrington Unit is formally referred to as the Scarborough College – Darrington Prison Extension and is sometimes referred to as the “Bible College” by Darrington’s Correctional officers and staff and other TDCJ employees and volunteers. SWBTS has graduated more than 46,000 students in its 112-year history. 


Texas Department of
Criminal Justice

 The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has accepted the Texas Field Ministers Program as an agency program through its Rehabilitation Programs Division (RPD). TDCJ accommodates the focus of The Heart of Texas Foundation as a Christian organization, as well as, the religious component of the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies, for inmates who voluntarily apply and continue within the Texas Field Ministers Program. By allowing the Texas Field Ministers Program, TDCJ fulfills their lawful requirement to “accommodate and not merely tolerate” an inmate’s faith expression even in his education, whether his or her own faith is Christian or not. This accommodation allows an incarcerated man or woman to learn more about faith practices in general, by specifically studying the Christian faith included in the curriculum, whether or not his or her own faith expression, if any, is Christian. 

TDCJ accepts the Texas Field Ministers Program as one of many programs in its utilization of numerous resources, sacred and secular, to address the educational needs of the long-term prison population, a population which is historically under-resourced in most states. The men and women of the prison population with the longest sentences often view pursuing the lowest education, a GED, as futile if their lives are to be spent in prison. TDCJ’s excellence in Corrections is reflected in its willingness to accept the Texas Field Ministers Program. This outstanding option for inmates with extremely long prison sentences—an unprecedented endeavor with many positive measurable results—includes an accredited Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies with no online or correspondent component.1 Through the Texas Field Ministers Program, men and women with extremely long sentences have the opportunity to express the rehabilitation that has taken place in their lives starting in the very place where they live. Prison is the only place many men and women serving in the Texas Field Ministers Program will ever live. Can they live a rehabilitated life within the prison? Texas Field Ministers are showing us that rehabilitation goals achieved become rehabilitation goals far surpassed. Our desire at The Heart of Texas Foundation is that men and women in the Texas Field Ministers Program would live flourishing lives, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Evidence exists daily that men serving as Field Ministers have met and far surpassed the rehabilitation goals of TDCJ. While this does not change the length of their sentence or their status as men who are incarcerated, it changes entirely their quality of life inside of the prison and their influence among the inmate population. For the first time since the program started in 2011, the first two men serving as Texas Field Ministers have the possibility of completing their prison sentences in 2020.


The State of Texas Governor, Legislators, and Representatives

The state officials in Texas who were involved earliest in the establishment of Texas Field Ministers are still serving in the same roles as or in higher capacities than they were when the idea for Texas Field Ministers began ten years ago. Senator Dan Patrick (Republican) became Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Texas State Senator John Whitmire (Democrat) holds the title of Dean of the Texas Senate as its longest standing member. Senator John Whitmire also serves as Chair of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Each of them has attended every graduation and every fundraising banquet to lend his full support publicly to the Texas Field Ministers Program as a privately funded endeavor. And each of them shares and champions the work of The Heart of Texas Foundation and the Texas Field Ministers every appropriate opportunity he has.


  1. Jang, Sung Joon, et.al. “Prisoners Helping Prisoners Change: A Study of Inmate Field Ministers Within Texas Prisons.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 64, no. 5 (April 2020). 470-497. doi:10.1177/0306624X19872966.

Vision

How then will they call on him in whole they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

Romans 10:14-15

Mission of The Heart of Texas Foundation:
We take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the darkest of places in our Texas prisons.

Vision of The Heart of Texas Foundation:
We provide the Texas Field Ministers Program as a service opportunity to long-term inmates in the Texas state prison system.

The Heart of Texas Foundation actively provides, as a no-cost service provider to TDCJ, the entire Texas Field Ministers Program and its ongoing development, integrity, and funding. 

The Texas Field Ministers Program includes two parts:
1.) training, 2.) service. 

1.) Training:
a.) Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies. The Heart of Texas Foundation and The Texas Department of Criminal Justice recognize the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies from the Scarborough College for Men at the Darrington Prison Unit and the Scarborough College for Women at the Hobby Prison Unit as the only degree qualifying the completion of the first step in becoming a Texas Field Minister. 

b.) Certification from The Heart of Texas Foundation Field Ministers Academy. As step two to becoming a Texas Field Minister in the Texas Field Ministers Program, inmate graduates from Scarborough College attend and must successfully complete the Texas Field Ministers Academy developed and hosted by The Heart of Texas Foundation in collaboration with The Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

2.) Service:
The Texas Field Minister job opportunity provides men and women who have extremely long prison sentences the opportunity to display a new way of life by faithfully handling responsibilities that flourishing people enjoy to the benefit of themselves and everyone around them, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

 a.) Qualification:  Maintain a G1, G2, or G3 custody level status while serving his or her peers through community, crisis, counseling, and faith-based ministries.

b.) Appointment: Remaining in good standing with the Field Ministers Advisory Council.

The Heart of Texas Foundation makes a lifelong commitment to men and women who enter the Texas Field Ministers Program and successfully keep their jobs as Field Ministers.

What Makes Us Different

              What Makes the Texas Field Ministers Program Different?

         This movement to train men and women with long-term prison sentences to serve their peers is unique in the history of prisons anywhere in the world. It is fair to ask, “What makes the Texas Field Ministers Program unique?”

Senator John Whitmire, Dean of the Texas Senate and Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee shares the uniqueness of the Texas Field Ministers Program.

The Texas Field Ministers Program Consists of Six Key Elements.

        Each of the six key elements described below, together, make the Texas Field Ministers Program unique.

L.E.T.L.A.P. = L
ifers,Equipped,Transferred,Live-in,Access,Peer to Peer

● L: Lifers and Long Sentences. Only “lifers” and inmates with extremely long sentences need apply to the Texas Field Ministers Program. We don’t want someone to earn his or her theological training and then leave the prison, when the prison desperately needs the word of God as do the inmates who live in it. We want men and women who will be Texas Field Ministers for the rest of their long sentences. What better option does a lifer have, who wants to build a new life and serve others, than to become a Field Minister while in prison?

●  E:  Equipped. A two-step process: 1.)We equip the lifers with 4.5 years of sound theological training through providing a fully scholarshipped education that leads to the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies. This degree, conferred only through Scarborough College, is the only degree accepted as the qualification of the first step to becoming a Texas Field Minister. The Heart of Texas Foundation entirely funds this educational component. Without the Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies from Scarborough College, no inmate can progress to the next step in his or her preparation to become a Texas Field Minister—the Texas Field Ministers Academy. 2.) The Heart of Texas Foundation’s Texas Field Ministers Academy helps a person with a long sentence transition successfully from his or her years as a full-time student to a full-time Texas Field Minister. Matters of integrity, real field experience, and successful dos and don’ts are all part of the Texas Field Ministers Academy. Upon successful completion of both steps, a man or woman will be able to voluntarily accept the job of Texas Field Minister.

●  T:  Transferred. When an inmate is appointed as a Field Minister, he or she is actually transferred by TDCJ to an outlying prison to begin service as a Field Minister. The new Field Ministers are placed in teams of two or more. With this transfer out, the new Field Minister’s entry into the mission field begins.

●  L:  Live-In. These Field Ministers, whatever their faith, take into their new prisons the education and training poured into them, and they take the gospel of Jesus Christ with them if they are Christians. And, unlike all Wardens, Chaplains, and all volunteers, the Field Ministers don’t “go home at night.” They are home! And they live in that large “village” around the clock, seven days a week. They don’t go on vacation. They don’t go home on the weekend. They live in their mission field, and most will die in that mission field. They are like any other missionaries anywhere in the world: they live with their people, they speak the same language, they dress like their people, and they indeed are culturally identical to their people. But Field Ministers take no furlough.

●  A:  Access.Field Ministers would be like any other inmates if they were not, by special permission, given access to all areas of the prison where inmates live, function, and go. While each Warden carefully monitors his or her own Field Ministers, TDCJ has officially sanctioned and encouraged Wardens to allow the Field Ministers to have access to any housing area a man or woman lives. This is where the “darkest of places” comes into view. The Field Ministers are allowed to have daily, and sometimes hourly, visits to places no volunteers can go. And Field Ministers can usually go to these places at any time of the day and also be called out during late hours of the night. Such areas include restricted housing (familiar to civilians as solitary confinement); inmates on Constant Direct Observation (CDO) for circumstances such as threat of suicide. The Field Ministers have a large impact on inmates who are totally separated from their peers because of their crimes or because they are known gang members. Field Ministers can bring comfort to inmates who are in the medical or hospice units. The Field Ministers are trained in how to preach sermons in the chapels, teach Bible studies, or counsel the grieving and depressed in their cell blocks. Such state-approved access for inmates such as Field Ministers exists nowhere in the United States. 

●  P:  Peer-to-Peer. Inside the culture of all prisons is the overwhelming influence that one inmate has over another. This peer influence is at the core of why prisons contain dark and violent cultures. That culture is usually founded upon intimidation, suspicion, retribution, extortion, violence, and hostility. The most influential inmates control every prison’s culture. And who are the inmates with the most peer influence? Typically it is those who have the longest sentences, the lifers, because they have committed the worst of crimes and have to do the longest time. They are instantly given “respect.” They are the “role models” for all the other inmates. They have the respect and the power. And of those with long sentences, the avowed gang members are the ones who bring fear into the hearts of other inmates. Their influence always sets the culture inside a prison. The prison’s culture is totally invisible to the outside visitor, to the staff, and to the volunteers. It underlies, controls, and directs all relationships inside the prison. It is not a culture of light. It is a culture of darkness. No warden, no chaplain, no volunteer can have the impact that a Field Minister has as a peer.


            Remove any one of these above, and the unique mixture of what makes the Field Ministers so effective is lost. At times, those who have seen the effectiveness of the Texas Field Ministers Program will attempt to replicate it in an “easier” way by reducing the length of the prison sentence requirements, reducing the length or standards of the education, not granting graduates the access they need to serve others, or focusing solely on education without service. Any attempt to reduce any one of the key elements in L.E.T.L.A.P. will not result in the same measure of impact seen in the Texas Field Ministers Program. It simply will not be the same thing. We believe that any attempt to replicate the Texas Field Ministers Program without the gospel of Jesus Christ will lose its impact entirely.

            Something impacted the culture of our prisons when the Texas Field Ministers arrived. The Texas Field Ministers brought new and positive “role-models” as scholar-mentors into the prison system. Inmates are stunned to find out that Field Ministers don’t intimidate; they don’t retaliate, can’t be bought, have markedly different countenances, and live their lives in total contrast to the gaming, deceit, and distrusting culture in the prison. They are not snitches; they are not spies for the warden. The Field Ministers are front-line spiritual responders, positive role-models that are unlike any the inmates have ever seen.[1]They bring into the prison a new kind of peer-influence because of the exemplary lives they live, in full view of every inmate.


[1]Kate Shellnut, “COVID–19 Shutdowns Are Shifting Seminary Education,”Christianity Today, April 23, 2020.