Extension Ministry: Rev. Michael Taylor, Prison Ministry

By Barry Steiner Ball

Rev. Michael Taylor (Mike) is an ordained elder and is the Chaplain for the Northern Correctional Facility in Moundsville, WV, making him a state of West Virginia employee working in a prison.  

Chaplain Taylor grew up in Ohio, went to college in Kentucky, married a West Virginia girl, went to seminary in Ohio, and was ordained an elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference.  As a pastor, Rev. Taylor served churches in Ohio and West Virginia for 25 years until health concerns led him to retire.  While serving churches, Rev. Taylor got involved with Kairos Prison Ministry (https://www.kairosprisonministry.org/).  While serving Simpson UMC in Moundsville, Rev. Taylor would travel an hour and a half to St. Marys Correctional Center in St. Marys, WV to assist in the Kairos Minstry in that prison.   After retirement and physical healing, Rev. Taylor was nudged by several persons connected with St Marys Correctional Center, including an inmate, to consider becoming St. Marys next chaplain.  Rev. Taylor went on the state’s general employment page and put in an application for the St. Marys’ chaplain position.  Rev. Taylor’s wife, Susette, suggested that instead of just looking for the position an hour and a half away, why not also apply at the prison in Moundsville. 

Five days later, Northern Correctional Facility called Rev. Taylor and offered him their chaplain’s position without having received his name from the WV webpage.  Michael sees this as a God thing.  Northern Correctional Facility had been without a chaplain for about two years, so Chaplain Taylor began building a program from the ground up.  He has been growing this ministry for twelve years now.  A few years ago, his chaplaincy extended to include the inmates of the Ohio County Correctional Center and Jail in Wheeling and, more recently, the inmates of the Northern Regional Jail.   

Being a chaplain in a state-run prison means caring for and providing for the spiritual needs of all the inmates.  Ch. Taylor oversees 82 volunteers (not inmates) who come into the prison to provide worship, study, and care to a wide variety of religious traditions.  Ch. Taylor also has three inmate chaplain assistants who are trained to be peer mentors, caring for their peers and representing the chaplain’s office in the inmate population.  Ch. Taylor does not have a chapel building but has an office, which a few years ago was a closet but now houses the chaplain and a very broad religious library.  Just outside of the office is a large room that serves as a chapel, which holds about 35 persons comfortably and is used for religious gatherings.   

A great deal of Ch. Taylor’s time is spent building relationships with inmates and helping the inmates build their trust in him.  Ch. Taylor is able to wander the prison grounds, meeting the inmates where they live and work.  Inmates can request an appointment with Ch. Taylor for an office visit or see him at worship services and Bible studies.  This is very much like a local church pastor, except there are no after Bible study parking lot discussions! 

Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility houses a maximum-security prison that holds 253 men and a regional jail that holds 330 men and women.  Ohio County Correctional Center and Jail is a minimum-security facility that holds 66 men.  The jail inmates are held for short periods of time, either awaiting trial or serving just two years of a sentence.  The prison is where long-term inmates can live out the rest of their lives as they discharge their sentences.  Ch. Taylor understands that, as a Christian chaplain, his ministry in the jail is more evangelistic in that these inmates are in crises.  They want and need hope, and are looking for some sort of stability in a world that has quickly turned upside down.  The ministry in the prison is more about discipleship.  These inmates know how long they will be living in the facility, and are settling down and looking for a way to better themselves. 

How we can pray for Ch. Mike Taylor:  Please pray for his family’s healing in grief after the loss of a daughter a year ago to an overdose after years of struggling with substance use disorder.  Also please pray for health and stamina to do the work of a prison chaplain and continued favor with the inmates, officers and staff of the Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Center and the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.