Gateway Church, a multicampus church with six locations across the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and one location in Jackson Hole, has now added a new campus to an underserved community – the H.H. Coffield Unit, the largest incarcerated population within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system. Located outside Tennessee Colony in Anderson County, which is 90-minutes southeast of Dallas/Fort Worth, the Coffield Unit houses more than 4,000 criminal offenders.
Committed to discipling the incarcerated and their families, Gateway Church launched the Coffield Campus in November 2018. The initiative was announced to Gateway Church members on January 27, 2019, by Robert Morris, the lead senior pastor of Gateway Church. The first service at the new campus had more than 550 inmates in attendance with weekly attendance averaging 400 people and 854 decisions for Christ since its inception.
Through the ministry, they can experience regular worship and attend Gateway classes centered on discipleship, marriage, and parenting to help prepare them for life of leadership after incarceration. Additionally, there are groups at Gateway campuses for families of the incarcerated to help them through this period, as well as prepare for life once their loved one is released from prison.
“Since we started having Gateway services at Coffield, men’s lives are being changed. Men who were convicted of felonies are turning their lives around and reconnecting with their families,” says Coffield chaplain Allen Barker.
The Gateway Church Coffield Campus runs like any other campus with inmates serving as greeters and ushers and operating the sound, video, and audio. Stephen Wilson, an ex-offender who went to seminary school and has been ministering in prisons for years, serves as the Gateway Coffield Campus pastor.
Not all inmates can attend service regularly. The 2,000 minimum-security offenders can attend each week. The medium-security offenders are only able to attend on special occasions such as the November launch service. Maximum-security offenders are not able to attend but receive materials from Gateway including the church magazine, devotionals, and books like the bestseller “The Blessed Life” by Pastor Robert Morris.
Gateway Church has already opened a second prison campus at Sanders Estes Unit in Venus, Texas, and plans to open more within 100 miles of existing campuses so members of the church can serve and volunteer at the Gateway prison services on a regular basis.
[Image Credit: Gateway Chruch]