“Shortly after meeting Prison Fellowship’s Dick Paulsen at the retreat, Ackerman began making time to go to prisons to use his business and leadership experiences to teach inmates how to write resumes, how to conduct themselves in job interviews and how to budget their time and money. Ackerman also got the opportunity to be mentored by and spend quality time with Colson before he died in 2012.”
Accomplished American businessman James Ackerman has put aside his 25-year career in the entertainment and media industry to take over as the next president as the nation’s largest prison ministry, the Chuck Colson-founded Prison Fellowship.
Ackerman, the former executive chairman of Broadway Systems who sold the company to an Israeli-based technology firm last October, took over as the president of Prison Fellowship on Monday after having been named the replacement of the organization’s former President Jim Liske last month.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Ackerman said God aligned everything just right for him to take over the reigns of the organization that he has volunteered with for over a decade.
Being the son of Emmy Award-winning television producer Harry Ackerman and actress Elinor Donahue, Ackerman explained that he was born into the entertainment and media industry.
He led successful organizations like the Documentary Channel, Broadway Systems and Spinnaker Media. He also launched the Spinnaker Media Fund in 2008 and was appointed chairman of the Board for Accedo, a leading provider for user experiences and technologies for mobile apps, earlier this year.
Despite having spent his entire career in the entertainment industry, he told CP that he knew if God ever called him into full-time ministry, he needed to be ready to answer God’s call.
During a father-son retreat in California over 12 years ago, Ackerman recalled waking up to the realization that although he always had aspirations to participate in prison ministry, he never made time to actually go to prisons and help better the lives of inmates.
Shortly after meeting Prison Fellowship’s Dick Paulsen at the retreat, Ackerman began making time to go to prisons to use his business and leadership experiences to teach inmates how to write resumes, how to conduct themselves in job interviews and how to budget their time and money.
Ackerman also got the opportunity to be mentored by and spend quality time with Colson before he died in 2012.
“The few things I learned from [Colson] was to pour my own life and the experience that I have had in life back into other people. I share his passion for ministering to the needs of those who are incarcerated,” he explained. “I also learned and adopted his passion for worldview and how many people unpack their worldview. He said that we were both very tough-minded men but we got along really well.”
After over a decade of volunteering with the organization, Ackerman sold Broadway Systems and took time off from his career to spend time with his family. During that time, Ackerman said he received an email from Liske over last Christmas season explaining that he was stepping down from his role as president of the organization to become senior pastor at Christ Memorial Church in Holland, Michigan.
Ackerman emailed Liske to express an interest in his old job. Ackerman was eventually put in touch with a search committee tasked with finding the organization’s new head. From there, things just seemed to line up perfectly for Ackerman.
“The thing I think is really fascinating is that I’m an experienced operational leader. But I have been in the media and entertainment business my entire career. I grew up in the industry. By no design of my own, only by God’s grace and providence, Prison Fellowship decided they need an operational leader to take the organization to the next level,” he said. “They found one who not only is an experienced operational leader, but has passion for the work that Prison Fellowship does and has been working in the field with Prison Fellowship for a dozen years, who also knew and was mentored by Chuck Colson.”