In honor of Crossroad’s 30th anniversary, the Crossroad Network News staff interviewed CBI president Dr. David Schuringa about the ministry’s past, present and future.
CNN: How long have you served as president of CBI, and what has your experience been like?
DS: This is my fifteenth year. Let’s just say that God has been moving in a mighty way, and it’s a privilege to be part of that.
CNN: What is your favorite part of the job?
DS: I love every single aspect, which is probably why this has been such a good long-term fit for me. But I do get a special thrill from preaching around the country on Sundays and meeting CBI Instructors.
CNN: Were you expecting this kind of growth when you took the job fifteen years ago?
DS: I sensed that Crossroad was on the verge of explosive growth, which is why the board had decided to appoint a president for the ministry. But no one could have predicted the magnitude of the growth. God did more than we could ever have asked or imagined.
CNN: There are a lot of prison ministries out there, big and small. What’s unique about CBI?
DS: CBI is unique among prison ministries because it can provide long-term, in-depth discipleship to an unlimited number of prisoners in an unlimited number of facilities. That makes it a wonderful complement to existing prison ministries.
CNN: The average lifespan of a nonprofit is ten years. Why is CBI still growing after thirty years?
DS: Clearly, God’s hand is on this ministry. Crossroad’s discipleship program found its niche and meets a need that was not being met. And the church latched onto Crossroad’s ministry with a passion.
CNN: Indeed it did! How have Instructors shaped the history of CBI?
DS: The Instructors are CBI. We in the head office are simply equippers and cheerleaders. Instructors do the hands-on ministry; they’re in the trenches. They make the ministry happen.
CNN: How does working with people in prison affect other areas of life?
DS: Our Instructors testify to the fact that prison ministry is a dramatic, life-changing experience. It comes as something of a surprise, because at first you think you are going to be helping prisoners, but it turns out that they are the ones blessing you.
CNN: In what way is prison ministry especially important in the current spiritual and/or political climate?
DS: Well, according to Scripture, prison ministry is always important. The Bible calls us not to forget the forgotten ones. But we also see throughout church history that prison ministry sparks revival and revival sparks prison ministry. And of course, the American criminal justice system is at the heart of many vital cultural issues today; it’s clear that with 2.3 million people in American prisons, the prison system is in crisis.
CNN: How has CBI found new ways to meet the needs of people in prison?
DS: First, we continue our focus on curriculum revision and development. Second, we discovered that people in prison need assistance in reentry in order to be able to apply the truths they learned through the CBI program. And finally, we found that there is a hunger in the church and in society for understanding criminal justice and restorative justice.
CNN: What do you say to people who think that prison ministry doesn’t do much good, that it’s just “jailhouse religion”?
DS: When people talk about jailhouse religion, they’re talking about hypocrites, right? Well, the New Testament says that the church is filled with hypocrites, whether inside or outside of prison. Given the prison environment, I personally believe that there’s much less incentive to be a hypocrite behind bars than there is on the outside.
CNN: Along those lines, how does CBI measure the impact that it’s having? Spiritual growth is something that’s difficult to quantify.
DS: Well, the testimonies of both CBI students and Instructors speak volumes. Both groups are telling us that the ministry is transforming them. We also keep meticulous records of every lesson by every student, and those records help us monitor their progress. And there have been credible studies by people like Dr. Byron Johnson saying that long-term discipleship reduces recidivism.
CNN: What’s something people might not know about CBI?
DS: We have not only 5,300 Instructors but also 500 office volunteers who are involved in the work of sending lessons, recording scores, etc. It may surprise people to learn that once the value of volunteer workers is included, CBI has a budget of over $7.5 million a year.
CNN: That’s a lot! What are some of CBI’s needs right now that people should be aware of?
DS: CBI continues to experience enormous growth year after year. That means more work for Instructors to do, more ministry for donors to support and more need for fervent prayer.
CNN: So what’s on the horizon?
DS: In the next two years, we plan to roll out the new Tier 2 program with courses in family values, work ethic, financial stewardship, and community involvement. We’re also expanding the college program with the goal of providing an accredited Christian liberal arts education to students who are capable of studying at that level. And though we have campuses in twenty countries, we sense that the international program is just beginning!