For several years Chaplain Kenneth Hall, a former state trooper, moved between the worlds of law enforcement and spiritual leadership. His experience has given him a unique perspective on the challenges facing people whose choices carry them from arrest to incarceration. He believes the path to restoration for the incarcerated begins with healthy relationships. “They need to see God in us. We have to walk with them to reveal God to them,” he says.
Hall was not eager at first to respond to the spiritual call to serve in the jail. “The last thing I wanted was to see someone in jail that I had arrested,” he says. That very concern eventually became a reality. “A guy came up to me in the jail and said ‘you’re a state trooper aren’t you?’ Then he shook my hand and said, ‘thank you.’”
Hall’s journey of spiritual leadership began when he was ordained pastor at Union Community Church in Painesville in 2013. He continued his studies and received his chaplaincy in 2015. Soon after, Hall was appointed Chaplain of the Lake County Jail Ministry.
Most days you will find Chaplain Hall at the jail visiting inmates, meeting with the corrections staff or preaching during a Sunday church service. His other duties include managing the 40 or so Jail Ministry volunteers who visit inmates and lead church services for men and women every Sunday. He also assists the Gideons with their quarterly Gospel presentations.
Chaplain Hall was born and raised in Painesville, graduating from Harvey High School in 1980. While still in school, he signed up for the Army’s delayed entry program. “I turned 18 in the military,” he says. After serving four years he decided he wanted to work in law enforcement. He eventually landed a position with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, where he served for 25 years until he retired in 2015.
“I have always loved Painesville,” says Hall. “It was a friendly community as we were growing up.” Hall demonstrates that love beyond the walls of the jail as the Chairman of Men of Valor, a bible study group that became a self-funded, non-profit charity that assists people in need, especially the homeless, throughout the city.
The needs of the community and the inmates who re-enter after incarceration have always been a concern for Chaplain Hall and the Lake County Jail Ministry Board. “We have been talking a long time about how to effectively mentor men and women after they are released from jail,” says Hall. “It’s easier to minister to them on the inside, where they may be feeling remorseful and more open to change. Once they are out, that’s when they have real problems.”
To answer this need the Lake County Jail Ministry is launching a new program later this year that coordinates groups of volunteers to come along side recently released men and women and help them make a fresh start. These Community Life Groups meet weekly with the former inmates to provide stable relationships that help them succeed on the outside.
“We need to be teaching former inmates how to be part of a community rather than destroying the community,” says Hall. “They need compassion, understanding, patience and love. They need someone to understand their situation and not be judgmental.” Chaplain Hall invites anyone who is interested in serving their community to participate in a Community Life Group.
Hall has five children and lives with his wife, Colleen, and three youngest children in Painesville.