He may not be as renowned as Sister Jean of Loyola-Chicago, a chaplain for the Loyola Ramblers men’s basketball team that made a surprise run to this year’s Final Four, but Tuscola County Jail’s new Lead Chaplain Mike Slocum said that working at the jail is a call from God.
When asked why he wanted to be a chaplain, Slocum said “It’s a call of God. The important thing to consider is the 92 people in the jail are our friends and neighbors. Most of them are going to come right back into this community.”
Slocum, 64, replaces Rick Tuckey, who retired in December, as lead chaplain. Slocum began work at the jail the second week of March.
“I want to thank my predecessor Rick Tuckey for setting up the fantastic team of volunteers and supporters that I have inherited,” Slocum said. “He raised up a fantastic group of pastors, lay leaders and associates.”
Programs offered by Forgotten Man Ministries, the organization Slocum is employed by, in the Tuscola County Jail are: Weekly Bible studies, church services, self-study Bible courses, Bible distribution and individual spiritual counseling.
FMM is a statewide ministry based in Grand Rapids, whose mission is to follow in Christ’s footsteps by bringing the healing powers of God to those incarcerated in Michigan’s county jails.
In a letter to supporters of FMM in Tuscola County, FMM Executive Director Bill Cariano said “We thank Sheriff Glen Skrent and Lt. Brian Harris for opening the jail doors even wider for us to build on an already productive ministry. I am confident Chaplain Mike will be a great partner to the sheriff and his staff.”
At the Tuscola County Jail, Slocum estimates around 30 inmates attend church services, held on Saturday afternoons.
Slocum, who lives in Vassar Township, has worked with FMM for three years and applied for the lead chaplain position earlier this year.
Commissioned chaplains, like Slocum, and volunteers provide outreach services to inmates in penal institutions, spiritual outreach to court, police and corrections officers and local outreach to families of inmates.
As part of FMM in Tuscola County, there are 17 volunteers made up of area pastors and lay leaders. There are nine associate chaplains.
“Associate chaplains are people who can pass through the control room into the jail unescorted,” Slocum said.
“Associates have a special status. Working with the team members is the most satisfying part of the job for me.”
FMM volunteers need to be escorted by the associates into the jail and are responsible for leading church services.
“My function is to serve the associates and volunteers and act as a liaison to the jail staff,” Slocum said. “Our goal is to have contact with everyone who processes through the jail.”
In a given year, over 1,500 people are booked into the Tuscola County Jail, which has the capacity to hold 92 inmates.
Other work Slocum focuses on includes investigating programs the Tuscola County Jail ministry might include in the future, in order to enhance its ministry.
“Not all take advantage of the program and want to participate in the Bible studies and church services,” Slocum said. “I think all do listen to some extent.”
Slocum is retired from the federal civil service, the civilian workforce of the United States federal government’s departments and agencies, and has been active in church ministry and parachurch ministry since 1998. He worked at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs as a contract specialist.
Parachurch organizations are Christian, faith-based that usually carry out their mission independent of church oversight.
Slocum was born in Arkansas, grew up in western Michigan and completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado. He has a master’s degree in business from Central Michigan University.
He was in the U.S. Army for six years of active duty and 18 years of reserve duty from 1976 to 2000. During his active duty years, Slocum was stationed primarily at Fort Carson, Colo. and had a tour in Germany.
“There’s three ministries that are specifically brought up in the Bible as commands,” Slocum said. “Caring for widows, orphans and visiting those in prisons. Most people understand the importance of it. In the faith-community, you are either called to it or not.”
Those looking to volunteer with FMM in Tuscola County can contact Slocum at 989-860-2036, or by email at email@example.com.