USA (MNN) – Sometimes in ministry, a change of approach is necessary to continue making a difference.
That’s something Crossroad Bible Institute has realized and responded to. Last week, CBI staff members spent a few days traveling throughout Illinois and Iowa holding conventions to connect CBI volunteers, give ministry updates, share stories of lives being changed and cast vision for future growth.
“It’s always encouraging when we can get together and be reminded of the work we do that enables the church to really be mobilized in reaching inmates with the message of the Gospel across the U.S.,” CBI executive director Lisa Blystra says.
One person CBI staff met was a woman whose husband is spending time in federal prison for a white-collar crime. Blystra said it was encouraging to see how CBI has impacted the couple’s life, but the conference that day also helped her realize how great the spiritual need in prison truly is.
“We had the opportunity to talk through some of the things she’s learning about through Crossroad and just the advantage that it has been both to her, and as she gets her husband engaged, just the encouragement that he’s receiving by knowing there’s people on the outside who are committed to staying connected to him and encouraging him as he lives through what’s going to be a seven year sentence,” Blystra says.
“I think what we were so mindful of yesterday is though we have had a great track record and are making great progress across the U.S., that there are so many men and women behind bars who are yet waiting to be connected to encouragement from the outside world.”
These men and women are currently being served by an army of 6,000 CBI volunteers. But as the majority of volunteers are in the later stages of life, a new crop is necessary to keep the ministry going.
“We have had a particular interest in developing some new strategy that will really push us forward in engaging a more youthful demographic volunteer base,” Blystra says. “Many of the people who are currently serving are older folks, and we love that, we want to keep them engaged, but we know in order for this ministry to be sustained for the next 30 years, we have got to have greater intentionality in including college-age students, 20s, 30s, 40s, in this great work that we are a part of.”
Still, older people are vital for the ministry to continue. Blystra encourages older, experienced volunteers to share stories of how they have seen God work with their family members, children and grandchildren, as this could inspire a new generation of volunteers.
“If an individual has their heart enlarged, has their eyes opened to the incredible challenge that we have before us with mass incarceration, if that happens at a younger age, then often times that will fuel somebody’s passion, that will be long-lasting, and we will end up hopefully with a generation of people that address this issue much differently than the generation that presently exists,” Blystra says.
Will you do your part to help CBI thrive? Blystra asks that you pray for a sense of discernment for CBI and that the church would respond to the need for prison ministry.