Stepping Up for Prison or Homeless Ministry

Dennis Rainey

When I wrote the [Stepping Up] book, I was thinking about young men who needed to step up and become responsible men.I was thinking about men who needed to assume the responsibility of being a mentor, and those who were mentors who needed to set their sights on being a patriarch.We designed this video series to help men step up in all walks of life, but we never imagined in our wildest dreams that it would go where it ended up … that God would use this to reach men in prison and homeless shelters.”

God designed husbands and fathers to play an integral role in the development of the next generation. Unfortunately, today’s society isn’t training men how to fulfill that role. Therefore it is incumbent upon the body of Christ to show them what it looks like.

If men in general struggle to define courage and manhood, how much more do those whose lives are marked by poor choices and absentee fathers? Helping men understand these five stages of manhood—from boyhood,to adolescence, to manhood, to becoming a mentor and a patriarch—is key to transforming their lives.It gives them an opportunity and a road map to truly become a man.

This is true of all men, whether they’re stuck behind a desk, in prison, or in a homeless shelter.When men whose lives are stuck due to these poor choices recognize their call to courageous manhood and step up to be the men, dads, and husbands they can and need to be, that’s when the cycle can be broken.God can transform the lives of even the homeless and the prisoners, and He can use them for His purposes.

Here’s what a few of these men and ministry leaders had to say after completing the Stepping Up video series:

“I had my own interpretation of what a man was but as I continued to go through this program, I actually learned that I was the furthest thing from a man.Thank God for showing me the direction in how to be a better husband, a better father, and a better person as a man.” –Inmate

“Today I want to cut the cycle, to be a better dad for my children so they don’t have to go through the same thing.” –Inmate

“Completing this program, it really put it on my heart that I needed to step up and take the initiative to be back in my family’s life, and actually within the last month I talked to my family and had a reconciliation with them.”–Shelter Attendee

“Thanks for making this available to the men. God is working in a mighty way at this unit because of these men being touched with the anointing from the DVDs. We have 330 men in the unit and are drawing 13% of the population. And that 13% is going out and affecting not only the other inmates, but also the officers and staff. As I walk our campus, I have received many comments from the employees about the difference they have noticed in the overall attitude of the unit. God is truly moving and making a difference through this FamilyLife material.”–Prison Chaplain

“Men want to be treated as real men. And whether you’re a homeless man or you’re a successful man, you’re a man . . . It’s just been amazing, truthfully, to watch our men get a different picture through Stepping Up of what they could be.”–Shelter Leader


If you are involved in ministry to men in prison or at a shelter, the Stepping Up video series or video event may be the most effective resource in your toolbox to transform lives from hopelessness to lives with purpose and vision for a positive future! Review this checklist to prepare to lead a Stepping Up video series or video event. (This checklist assumes you are trained and cleared by the warden, an official prison chaplain, or the shelter’s leadership to do ministry at the facility.)

  • Start with prayer. Commit your plans to the Lord. “Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21 NIV). Prayer is the starting point of any ministry endeavor. Ask God to remove any barriers to hosting the study. Pray for the men who will attend, that God will transform their lives. Unless the Holy Spirit is at work, the hearts of men will not be changed.
  • Decide between the video series and video event. Format, length, and depth are the main differences in the two products. The video series is a ten-session study whereas the video event is a four-session, single-day event. In locations where men may not be able to meet for ten weeks, the video event can also be used as a four-session study. Obviously, more content is shared in ten sessions than in four, but the four sessions still give men an overview of godly manhood and challenge them to examine their lives in light of what the Bible teaches.
  • Get approval. Even if you are trained and approved to do ministry at the facility, you must have approval from the prison warden, official prison chaplain, or homeless shelter leadership to lead the Stepping Up video series or video event. Please ensure that these officials are given a list of materials and equipment needed, including DVDs, as early as possible before bringing them to the facility. Make the materials available for review.
  • Secure equipment and location. You will need permission to use video equipment and a room large enough to seat all the men interested in participating. Since content is delivered by DVD, make sure the location has sufficient video and audio capabilities as well as room for men to break up into small groups for the group discussion times. If you have more men interested than you are able to accommodate, plan to host a second group at a different day/time, or if needed, repeat the series after the first one is completed.
  • Promote the series or event. We offer promotional downloads and resources for the video series as well as promotional downloads and resources for the video event. While flyers and posters can be effective, nothing beats a personal invitation.
  • Set the schedule. With either the video series or video event, allow up to 90 minutes for each session.
  • Order materials.Plan your start date and order your materials. For the video series, you will need the Stepping Up video series leader kit (which includes the DVDs and other materials you will need to host the series), plus one Stepping Up video series workbook for each man. For the video event, you will need the Stepping Up video event kit (which includes the DVDs and other materials you will need to host the event), plus one Stepping Up video event manual for each man.
  • Preview the video series or video event sessions and workbook/manual. While each session’s content will be presented on DVD, you will want to be familiar with it. Read the brief leader’s guide for preparation as well.
  • Conclude the series or event. Honor the men who complete the video series or video event with a commissioning ceremony. Download the suggested ceremony structure (pdf).

If you are unable to purchase materials to do Stepping Up in prison or in a homeless ministry, we currently have limited funds available in the Stepping Up Scholarship Fund to help because of the generosity of several FamilyLife donors. Submit a scholarship request to see if you qualify for these scholarship funds while they last.    NOTE: You may need to pay for shipping the materials to you.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry. Your gift today will help more men, women, and families return to God’s blueprints for a healthy, godly home through outreaches like Stepping Up. Will you partner with FamilyLife today to strengthen more men, women, and families?

Questions? FamilyLife staff member David Derry is available to answer questions regarding using Stepping Up in prisons or homeless ministries. Contact him at or call 800-358-6329.

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Small-Group Series Leader Kit

Gain insight from America’s top men’s ministry leaders and teachers with the Stepping Up small group video series. This leader kit has ten video-based sessions combined with small-group discussion and personal applications to help men understand biblical manhood. Over 98% of hosts would recommend Stepping Up!

Purchase the Leader Kit