Skip to content

Bible Study For Female Inmates

Inmates in hundreds of prisons across the country can study the Bible at a level that has never been seen before. Thousands of inmates are enrolled in group Bible study classes. This is possible because of volunteer chaplains and a unique program from The Gideons International. Additional inmates are provided with the opportunity to participate in small group studies. Through partnerships between correctional facilities and local churches, tens of thousands of inmates get to study the Bible.

The importance of reading God’s Word cannot be understated, especially for Christians in prisons. The Bible offers a wide array of benefits, from improving reading and writing skills to fostering spiritual and personal growth. Visit this page to learn more about Bible study for female inmates.

The Bible Study for Female Inmates (BSFI) program is for women who are incarcerated in state and federal prisons, as well as some county jails. This 13-week study focuses on the beginning chapters of the Book of Matthew, which includes selected portions from the following books: Jonah, Mark, Luke, John, and Romans. We will also be considering key topics such as “A New Life” and “The Morality of Righteousness” so that these women can gain a greater understanding of our Christian faith and its impact on their lives.

Bible Study For Female Inmates

A bible study for female inmates

This bible study is meant to be used with the book of James. It is intended to be used in a small group setting with female inmates who have been convicted of crimes. The study will run in 3 weeks and will take place once a week.

Week 1: Introduction to the book of James, chapter 1-2; review of the week’s key verse(s)

Week 2: Chapter 3-4; review of the week’s key verse(s)

Week 3: Chapter 5-6; review of the week’s key verse(s)

The Bible is a powerful tool for changing lives and can be used to help female inmates, who are often overlooked by the prison system.

Inmates have many needs, including spiritual guidance and stability. They may have lost faith in themselves or in any higher power due to their incarceration, but the Bible can help restore their faith and give them hope for the future.

Bible Study Lessons For Prisoners

Bible study is a great way to learn about God and build your relationship with Him. If you’re in prison, you’ll find that there are many opportunities for Bible study classes.

The first thing you should do is check the list of options offered by your facility. There may be certain restrictions, so make sure to read over the list carefully before signing up for anything.

Once you’ve decided which class you want to take, make sure to ask questions about it before deciding whether or not it’s right for you. You might want to ask what the class is like, how long it lasts, who teaches it, how much time there will be for discussion, etc. If possible, ask someone who has already taken the class about their experience with it so that you can get an idea of what kind of class it is before deciding whether or not it’s right for you!

The goal of this bible study is to help you, as a woman in prison, to grow closer to God and to see his love for you. To do that, we will be studying the book of Ephesians. We will cover two chapters per week, and each chapter will be broken into smaller sections so that we can go through it together.

For each section, I’ll ask you questions about what you’ve read. These questions are meant to help us understand what God’s Word says and how it applies to your life. I’ll also give you some things to think about and discuss—these can be anything from personal experiences related to the topic at hand or questions about what we’ve read.

We will meet on Sunday nights at 6:00 pm in the library for our weekly bible study session.

Female inmates need to know that they are loved and accepted by God, just as they are. They also need to be reminded of the power of forgiveness, because it is only through forgiveness that we can truly find freedom.

Jail Ministry Discussion Topics

Almost none of the prisoners I’ve spent time ministering to have a hard time seeing themselves as sinners. When I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to preach or teach in our county jail, I still preach on the subject of sin. And yet, I don’t have to spend as much time on it—like I might need to elsewhere—because the concept of sin is not a hard sell for most men and women behind bars. A simple analogy about sin and the breaking of God’s cosmic law makes the point clearly and uncontroversially.

But there is another doctrine—one that is equally true—that almost none of the prisoners I teach have ever heard of: the Imago Dei.

Preach the Imago Dei

I usually begin my time with a new group of prisoners by telling them something they’ve probably never heard before: “You were created to be kings and queens on this earth.” That usually perks their ears up. When I talk about how we’re all sinners, it’s not a hard sell. But the Imago Dei usually requires a good bit of careful teaching because it’s so contrary to most prisoners’ sense of identity.

When it comes to the issue of personal identity, most prisoners tend to define themselves with a single word. When I ask the inmates to use one word to describe themselves, it’s usually one of the following (depending on the matrix of the room):

  • Felon
  • Criminal
  • Whore
  • Addict
  • And so on. . . .

In light of this reality, I’ve found it necessary to tell prisoners what God says about them, namely, that they were created to be something more glorious, beautiful, and powerful than what they are now. In other words, they are not, most fundamentally, criminals in cages.

And so, as I go about the business of communicating the gospel to the incarcerated, I always begin in Genesis 2, not Ephesians 2. We start with the original good news of creation before moving on to the good news of re-creation. Prisoners need to see how glorious Genesis 1:27 is in order to understand how bad Ephesians 2:1–3 is. And when they understand that, the gospel will come alive to them in a way that it might not have otherwise.

Preach the Whole Counsel of God

“. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)

There’s something about ministry to the poor, the addicted, and to prisoners that makes us feel like we only need to talk about love and forgiveness. Haven’t they been through enough? Surely what they need now is consolation, not confrontation. It’s tempting to think such things. But I would argue that one of the most insidious ways of stripping someone of the fullness of their dignity is to give them a truncated gospel.

Prisoners are not in a spiritual category all their own. Just because they are locked up does not make them a ‘special case.’ They need to hear the whole counsel of God, just like the stay-at-home mom, the business man, the machine worker, and the college student. Granted, the weight of emphasis may be different depending on your audience, but the whole gospel must be preached. Let me give you an example of two different audiences that might drive this point home.

Preach to the Audience

One week I was asked to preach to a local Southern Baptist youth group. This youth group belonged to an average, middle of the road, squishy Baptist church. The youth group was a classic caricature of the American evangelical youth experience, replete with:

  • Stage lighting
  • Student ensemble band
  • Silly games
  • Moralistic teaching

Most of the kids there have been in church their whole lives. Everyone had all the ‘jewels in their awana crowns’ . . . that kind of thing. I don’t think I was wrong to assume that such a room was likely composed of a mixture of little pharisees, genuine converts, bored non-Christian teenagers who had to come because their parents made them, and a few unchurched kids interested in cute church girls.

So the weight of emphasis on sin in that room should be, I believe, much greater. The focus of my sermon that night was on sin and the fact that even good little church boys and girls go to hell if they don’t repent and turn from their rebellion against God. I spent very little time trying to build up their understanding of the Imago Dei, because very few people in that room had a hard time grasping the concept that they were created to be kings and queens.

But it’s very likely that the sermon I preached to the Southern Baptist church youth group would have been unbeneficial as a sermon preached to a room full of prisoners. I would have still talked about sin and the fallenness of man, to be sure, but the weight of emphasis would have been different.

Another way that you can strip prisoners of their dignity is by preaching to them like children. You don’t have to dumb down the gospel for prisoners. Many of them (if not most of them) are fairly sharp. They may not have the degrees to demonstrate their intelligence, but I’ve rarely come into contact with someone that couldn’t grasp the plain teachings of Scripture. Even the prisoners who haven’t graduated high school (like this author) still possess an intellect that is completely capable of understanding the full panorama of gospel truth.

Must we be careful not to treat prisoners like seminary students? Absolutely. But I’ve found that prisoners usually have the same intellectual capacity to grasp gospel truth as the average member of my local church.

Preach the Gospel

Jesus taught his disciples to pray for their daily bread. Which means that God does in fact care for our temporal bodies. He cares about empty stomachs, electric bills, and rent payments. Ultimately, however, our perpetual need for physical provision points to a deeper reality: We are in perpetual need of spiritual provision. We must pray for bread. And when we do, we must remember that Jesus is the bread of life, and that all who feast on him will be satisfied forever (John 6:35).

There is certainly a place for helping prisoners with temporal needs like life skills classes, relationship workshops, parenting classes, and real-world job training. We should praise God that so many churches have opportunities to offer inmates exactly this kind of training. But none of that matters if those inmates die and go to hell because they don’t know Jesus. We want to give out earthly bread and adorn the gospel, but we must never neglect to give men the eternal bread of life.

Prison ministry is difficult. It does pose some unique challenges. It does require a certain kind of contextualization. But so does ministry to Muslims, drug addicts, Mormons, Buddhists, and so on. We must certainly be wise and discerning in how we communicate the gospel. But we must remember that the gospel is powerful enough to fill the gaps of our wisdom. Everyone behind bars has the same need as you and me: Jesus Christ and His glorious redemption. So be faithful to tell them what they need to hear, and pray for the Lord to give you grace along the way.

Printable Bible Study For Inmates

Hebrews 13:3 ESV / 635 helpful votes
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

Psalm 69:33 ESV / 476 helpful votes
For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Matthew 25:35-46 ESV / 429 helpful votes
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ …

Isaiah 61:1 ESV / 366 helpful votes
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Isaiah 42:7 ESV / 297 helpful votes
To open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Psalm 146:7 ESV / 284 helpful votes
Who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;

Psalm 102:20 ESV / 236 helpful votes
To hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,

Matthew 25:36 ESV / 217 helpful votes
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Luke 4:18 ESV / 162 helpful votes
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

Psalm 79:11 ESV / 158 helpful votes
Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!

Genesis 39:20-23 ESV / 155 helpful votes
And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

1 John 1:9 ESV / 143 helpful votes
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 16:25 ESV / 136 helpful votes
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,

Genesis 39:20 ESV / 118 helpful votes
And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.

Mark 6:17 ESV / 115 helpful votes
For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her.

Acts 12:7 ESV / 111 helpful votes
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.

Genesis 40:3 ESV / 111 helpful votes
And he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined.

Acts 16:24 ESV / 110 helpful votes
Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Genesis 39:21 ESV / 101 helpful votes
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Acts 12:5 ESV / 100 helpful votes
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

1 Kings 22:27 ESV / 98 helpful votes
And say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.”’”

Acts 16:26 ESV / 94 helpful votes
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.

2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV / 93 helpful votes
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Genesis 39:22 ESV / 92 helpful votes
And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.

Proverbs 3:1-35 ESV / 91 helpful votes
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. …

Romans 8:28 ESV / 90 helpful votes
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Judges 16:21 ESV / 90 helpful votes
And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison.

Acts 5:19 ESV / 88 helpful votes
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,

Matthew 11:2 ESV / 88 helpful votes
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples

Hebrews 10:34 ESV / 87 helpful votes
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

Luke 3:20 ESV / 85 helpful votes
Added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

Jeremiah 38:6 ESV / 84 helpful votes
So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.

Ezra 7:26 ESV / 82 helpful votes
Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”

Acts 16:27 ESV / 80 helpful votes
When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.

Isaiah 42:22 ESV / 79 helpful votes
But this is a people plundered and looted; they are all of them trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become plunder with none to rescue, spoil with none to say, “Restore!”

Free Bible Studies For Inmates

People give me funny, hesitant looks when I tell them I am frequently “in jail.”

Then I explain that I am a volunteer assistant chaplain to the women at a large county correctional facility. (Perhaps 150 out of the 900 inmates are women). They usually laugh and say, “Oh, okay.” Questions follow. What do you do there? How did you get involved?  Many tell me they have been thinking of becoming volunteers as well. I am delighted to share my passion for the ministry.

I joined a jail team at my church long ago—somewhat reluctantly, I have to admit. The call had gone out for more volunteers. I was a busy single parent, teaching at a private school, and involved at my church. What extra time did I have for criminals?

However, to my surprise, it was a good fit. The jail women and I connected, mostly due to my empathy for people in trouble and pain.

Some years earlier, I had lost a young husband to a rare cancer, which had caused me to learn hard life lessons by trusting God with my family’s future. He had come through for us. He had comforted me through months of intense grief. He had directed and provided for my children and me in miraculous ways. My fervent testimony was that God is real, and He is good.

I soon discovered that women in jail were a receptive audience looking for authentic answers to empty lives. They had accepted the solutions—mainly drugs and alcohol—that the world offered for their problems. Those answers didn’t work. Here they were (again) locked up and wearing green and white stripes. Did God really care? Did He love them? Would He forgive them? Was there any hope?

A year and a half later, after faithful attendance and a growing love and concern for these women, I was promoted to assistant chaplain. This meant spending much more time at the jail with added responsibilities. Presently, I teach Bible studies, fill requests for Bibles and literature, write and correct Bible homework, deliver materials, and pray with and counsel the women. I am sometimes asked to check on those whose relatives have died while they’ve been incarcerated. I also notify officials if I think a woman is suicidal. Above all, I come in the name of Jesus, acting as a spiritual friend to those who are in the habit of cursing His name.

Most of the women range in ages 18 to 70, and are incarcerated because of crimes associated with addictions. Common charges include domestic violence, theft, assault, possession, and manufacture of drugs, driving without a license, probation violations, and prostitution. All women are facing court dates and possibly trials. Many have children who have been taken away by Child Protective Services. Desperate prayers, accompanied by tears, go up to God every day from the inmates asking Him to get them out of jail.

I sometimes tell them I am praying for them to stay in jail a few more months. They always react in horror, but then usually half-laugh because they know I care. I tell them I don’t think they’re ready to leave. There has not been enough self-examination. Good plans have not been made for leaving jail, and too many will leave with nowhere to go. So it’s back on the streets and into familiar surroundings with the same drug friends. I pray for more time to reach the women with God’s good news of salvation, which is the only way to change lives from the inside.

Answering the “Jail” Call

With experience comes the understanding that God chooses and prepares individuals for jail ministry. Volunteers who aren’t given what they need tend to not last very long. Because of inmates’ addictions, the ministry can be fraught with frustration, disappointment, and difficulty. Customers who travel frequently are referred to as “frequent fliers.” In order to effectively minister to inmates, you must be able to see past their external differences and into their hearts. They could be covered in repulsive tattoos and sores, have bizarre hairstyles, openly discuss risky lifestyle choices, and benefit from detoxification. Many people are missing front teeth because of chronic drug use. As a result of people’s pent-up rage, you may find yourself in a dangerous situation. However, the orientation provided by the jail will teach you how to circumvent most issues.

It’s impossible to fathom the magnitude of God’s blessings for those who follow Jesus into prison, which I now believe to be God’s merciful rescue operation for the sinful, fallen, and broken. If you help other people, God will reward you a hundredfold. To paraphrase what a young heroin addict once said to me: “My life is a blur. I have no idea where the last two weeks have gone or what I have done. But you look contented and joyful. I want to be where you are. As we read the most well-known Bible verse, John 3:16, and discussed how much God loved her and sent His only Son to die for her sins, we were able to answer her prayer. She got it after we asked her some questions and talked it over with her. Her heart was truly contrite. She desperately wanted to start over at that very moment.

Jesus commanded His disciples to minister to incarcerated people as though they were ministering to Him. According to Matthew 25:36c, Jesus said, “I was in prison and you came to visit Me.” These individuals have been written off by society, but Jesus is looking for them because He values every person’s soul equally.

Before You Begin

If jail ministry has caught your interest, here are some suggestions:

Plan to do a personal inventory of yourself to see if the Holy Spirit is prompting you.

Do you show grace and mercy to those who frequently make bad decisions and fall down in sin? Are you an encouraging person? Do you listen more than you speak? Do you have a good working knowledge of the Bible? Do you have a strong interest in bringing people to the Lord? Are you able to share with others how God has guided and blessed you in hard times? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then pray about your desire. Consult other Christians and church leadership who know you well, to get their input.

Plan to be faithful.

It is important to come to the jail as scheduled, usually once per week, to meet with the inmates. The women bond to their Bible teachers and, with little to do during the week, look forward to fellowshipping in the Word together. It is a huge disappointment if you are sporadic in attendance. It may even set back their interest in finding the Savior.

Plan to be yourself.

You don’t have to pretend you have never sinned in your life. In fact, you may have a testimony to share that will bless the women and give them hope that they, too, can change and grow through the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, if you have lived an exemplary life in the Christian community and know nothing about addictions, that’s okay, too. You can be a beacon of light for how to avoid pitfalls and temptations.

Plan to share the Gospel.

The traditional use of the Roman Road (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13). The inmates’ familiarity with the Bible varies widely; some have never read the Bible, while others are regular churchgoers. Words like “saved,” “holy,” and “sin” that are taken for granted in the Christian community may require clarification. When asked about concepts like “sanctification” or “redemption,” you can always say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I will get back to you.”

Keep in mind that a prisoner may quickly accept Christ but may lack a thorough understanding of what it means to follow Him. This practice is known as “jail house religion,” and the inmate’s declaration of faith is typically abandoned at the prison gates upon his or her release. Repeated trips to prison may be necessary before the offender decides to submit her will to God’s. It will take bravery to make such a dramatic shift in one’s social circle, surrounding environment, routines, and outlook.

The conditions inside a jail cell are bleak and confining. Steel bunk beds, tables, and bathrooms are common fixtures. Former tenants’ ugly pencil graffiti may be visible on the walls. Envision a woman in prison reading the Gospel as the Light of Jesus shines into her gloomy world. She is prepared to offer a sincere prayer to her Savior now. She sobs, her voice piercing through the silence as she lets go of her shame and guilt. And the heavenly host sings for joy because another person has been brought into God’s Kingdom.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *