Ministry’s middle years paired standardization and innovation

Crossroads’ founder, Tom de Vries, brought a blend of charisma, empathy, and diligence that inspired people in jails and prisons to join his growing Bible study program. As enrollment grew, his extended family and community responded to the need for volunteers. To his family and friends, the benefits of providing Christian education through supportive Christ-centered friendships were obvious.

At every point, the Lord provided exactly what the ministry needed.

By the late 1990s, it was clear to the de Vries family that Crossroads needed new leadership that could focus full-time on a new phase of the ministry. So, in 1999, the entrepreneurial de Vries handed leadership of Crossroads to a friend, the Rev. Dr. H. David Schuringa. Schuringa brought several things that the organization needed at the time, including organizational management skills developed during several years as a pastor, fundraising experience, and biblical scholarship to support curriculum development. During the early years of Schuringa’s tenure, the organization developed systems for documenting student enrollment, lessons processed, and volunteer hours, leading to the creation of annual reports to keep donors and volunteers informed and engaged. The structure meant that the organization, then called Crossroad Bible Institute (CBI), could continue to scale up operations multiple years in a row.

Dr. H. David Schuringa

Dr. H. David Schuringa

“Why are people excited about CBI?” Schuringa wrote in his first newsletter column as president. “CBI is a ministry where, by God’s grace, something spectacular happens! Something happens as our instructors guide and encourage students through the various courses: God gets a hold of them, and they change! . . . And you can be sure that not only the students are changed. Something happens in our instructors in the process as well!”

The years from 1999 through 2015 also saw an expansion of learning opportunities for mentors, then called instructors. These learning opportunities came via traveling lectures, a regular radio broadcast, and videotaped interviews that were posted online. The organization also developed courses for students who wanted to go deeper in their studies. It was during this period that the Tier 3 curriculum was developed for longtime incarcerated people who wanted seminary-level content.

While the 2000s and early 2010s were a period of processes and structure, they were also years of experimentation as the organization forged an identity. New endeavors included:

  • Spanish-language lessons.
  • Creation of a mail-based ministry for the children of Crossroads students.
  • Several international outreach centers, making Crossroads a global organization.
  • The first gallery show of student-produced artwork and the launch of a student arts journal.
  • The development of Tier 3 courses that aspired to have the rigor of college- and seminary-level courses.

Rapid enrollment growth plateaued in 2008 and 2009 due in large part to the deep economic crisis, which led to steep budget cuts to stay afloat. Schuringa wrote in the 2008 annual report, “I’m not discouraged in the least because I believe God will use these tough times to make CBI stronger. Surely, the sun will shine again.”

With God’s grace, the turbulent times passed, though growth in enrollment never again matched the pace seen in the first twenty-five years of the organization.

Schuringa’s tenure at Crossroads ended in 2015, yet his contributions continue to bear fruit. Courses developed during his tenure are still in use. He passed away in September 2023 following a lengthy illness. He is survived by his wife, Mary; four children and their spouses; and many grandchildren.


Office Volunteers Address Mail

Within twenty years of its founding, Crossroads had grown to serve nearly as many students as it serves today, thanks to the work of a dedicated staff and a fleet of loyal volunteers. While processes have been greatly refined over the years, the core steps for processing student lessons remain the same.


Read part 1: Crossroads: Christ-Centered and Student-Focused from Day One

To be continued in September.


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