Christian Leaders Institute (CLI) is a federally registered 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to “Identify, Train, Connect, and Mobilize Leaders Worldwide.” To accomplish this, CLI has built an extensive worldwide network of faith informed leaders who spread renewal, restoration, and revival.

CLI’s rigorous curriculum is available at no cost to anyone with access to the internet. Our innovative online education platform is the highway through which ministry training is delivered, much like the Appian Way was utilized by early Christians. Constructed by the Roman Empire in 312 B.C., the Appian Way was used primarily to transport military supplies between Rome and Brindisi in southeast Italy. The highway allowed Apostles to move easily throughout modern-day Italy, carrying forward the “Great Commission” given by Jesus. CLI is utilizing this technological Appian Way to build a worldwide network of Christian community leaders.

The CLI curriculum, which can be completed on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop device, encompasses all that a student would expect from a school of higher education. Along with their ministry training, students take college-level courses in core subjects such as algebra, basic sciences, sociology, astronomy, history, and philosophy. Training is also available to develop people skills, such as how to build and nurture relationships, and life skills, including enterprise training to ensure sustainability of a ministry or business.

Since its establishment in 2006, CLI has provided the opportunity of high-quality training to more than 191,000 individuals in 171 countries, with over 15,000 students completing at least one program of study (certificate, diploma, or degree). During the last 12 months, approximately 50,000 students were actively taking classes.

CLI’s business model is generosity based – meaning that student and alumni giving covers the cost of ongoing operations, while philanthropy supports the growth of the platform and the infrastructure that supports it.


CLI specializes in serving those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue higher education. The extraordinary global unmet need was summarized recently by CollegeAmerica:

Only 6.7% of the world’s population holds a college degree. It is often assumed that the percentage is higher because, simply, those with degrees make headlines. They are the ones who make the big decisions. Who make breakthroughs. Make bigger impacts and change history. They are the ones who get noticed.

Higher education is game-changing, and Christian Leaders Institute seeks to reach those for whom this is out of reach, but otherwise would be making the headlines, big decisions, breakthroughs, and history! With that as a guiding principle, CLI is constantly pursuing new applications for its platform and finding new communities eager to gain knowledge and answer a higher calling to serve. In 2017, CLI was approached by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) with an exciting and transformative opportunity to impact a new population, criminal offenders.

In partnership with MDOC, CLI is establishing the Restorative Justice Initiative. Under this initiative, CLI is creating a statewide system to deliver a specialized curriculum for probationers that covers a broad range of life skills and practical topics.

As with all CLI programs, the curriculum is grounded in biblical principles and the teachings of Jesus Christ; however, the focus of the Restorative Justice Initiative is to equip criminal offenders with skills to address and overcome obstacles they will encounter when re-entering their homes and communities. While learning, individuals will be accountable to a mentor of their choosing or the government’s input.

The MDOC envisions the Restorative Justice Initiative as a resource for judges and parole boards across Michigan to provide alternatives to imprisonment. Judges will have the option to order criminal offenders to complete CLI classes as a condition of probation, rather than incarceration. Similarly, Michigan prison parole boards could order a prisoner to complete Restorative Justice classes as a condition of early release. Offender progress toward completion of a class or program can be monitored by judges and parole boards through real-time reports provided by CLI.


Consider the following:

  • An estimated 70 million Americans – one out of three adults – have been involved in the criminal justice system through either an arrest or conviction. (
  • Significant racial and ethnic disparities exist in the adult criminal justice system. Of those behind bars in state and federal institutions in 2011, about 60 percent were minorities. Black men born since the late 1960s are more likely to have served time in prison than to have completed a four-year college degree. (
  • A 2015 Center for Community Alternatives study suggests that of the 2,924 individuals with felony convictions who started applications for admission to State University of New York schools, two-thirds never complete the application due in part to the onerous process of providing supplemental information about their convictions. In comparison, the overall attrition rate on applications is only 21 percent. (
  • Christian Leaders Institute accepts anyone who completes the initial scholarship class; no background checks are required. This will help launch offenders toward a path of success.
  • More accessible education will help MDOC achieve its goals of reducing recidivism rates.

MDOC has had tremendous success in rehabilitating criminal offenders. In fact, in March 2017 the MDOC announced that the percentage of Michigan offenders who return to prison within three years of parole had dropped to 29.8 percent, the lowest rate since the state began tracking recidivism. Michigan now has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the United States. (1) This historically low recidivism rate has contributed to an overall reduction in Michigan’s prison population. In 2016, the number of prisoners (41,122) was the state’s lowest in almost 20 years, and is projected to continue on a downward trend. (2)

Although these trends are encouraging, the MDOC realizes that more can be done to support parolees and those on probation as they seek to become productive members of society. The barriers that parolees and those on probation face can be difficult to overcome, whether it be addiction, mental health, damaged family relationships, lack of employment prospects, and/or the stigma associated with their offense. If individuals are not grounded in their convictions, including their faith beliefs, they often relapse into past behaviors putting them at high risk for incarceration.   Not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between inmates who participate in faith-based programs and lower recidivism rates.  (3)

In addition to faith, education is key to providing parolees and those on probation with the skills necessary to overcome their personal and environmental barriers. Prison populations have significant educational deficits and negative work prospects. In fact, roughly half of prison parolees in the United States lack a high school degree or equivalent, more than half have poor work performance histories, and many had income from illegal sources. (4)

Parolees who participate in educational, employment, or substance abuse programming have lower recidivism rates than those who do not. (5), (6)

Failure to address this issue has long-term costs for the family unit and at community, state, and national levels. The current annual cost to incarcerate one person is approximately $32,000.  (7)


As the attached Logic Model reflects, the Restorative Justice Initiative will be evaluated based upon measurable outputs and outcomes. The social justice courses will be developed in 2018, and tracking of metrics will begin in 2019. Goals for the first year of the program include:

  • 1,000 criminal offenders enrolled
  • 4,000 classes completed
  • 200 certificates or diplomas issued
  • 20 partners recruited
  • 50 students ordained as ministers

In addition to the annual outcome measures, the following metrics will be added beginning in Year 3:

  • Recidivism rate
  • Number of graduates with steady employment
  • Number of graduates who give back to the community as volunteers, ministers, or in leadership roles
  • Number of graduates serving in their church

Outcomes will be tracked through post-graduation surveys. CLI anticipates that survey response rates will be high due to a history of ongoing engagement with graduates.


The start-up budget for the Restorative Justice Initiative is $525,000 – $615,000, which will cover the development of 9 Restorative Justice core classes ($25,000-$35,000 per class), and at least 20 electives ($15,000 per class). Nine classes in Enterprise will also be developed at an additional cost of $225,000; these business-related classes will enhance the relevance and impact of the program with potential students from the general public.

We have existing core classes which will be adequate for the short term, but this exciting opportunity with MDOC compels us to update, replace and create additional core course options. Our plan is to produce 11 new or updated core classes in the next three years at a cost of $275,000. We also hope to add 10 “trades” classes at a cost of $250,000-$350,000.

The cost for the entire program as described above is $1,275,000-$1,465,000.

A list of certificate, diploma, and degree programs is attached. Once established, the Initiative will be sustained through student and alumni giving, consistent with CLI’s overall funding model.


Jesus called upon Christians to care for those who are in prison: “I was in prison and you came to visit me … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:36-40). CLI has been given an unprecedented opportunity to serve the Michigan prison population with customized training grounded in biblical principles. This experience will be life-changing for many who have a desire to improve the trajectory of their lives.


[1] State of Michigan, Department of Corrections. (2017, March 29). Michigan recidivism rate falls to 29.8 percent, among lowest in the nation [Press release]. Retrieved December 16, 2017, from,4669,7-192-47796-407975–,00.html

[2] REPORT TO THE LEGISLATURE Pursuant to P.A. 268 of 2016 Article V, Section 401 Prison Population Projection Report (Rep.). (2017, March 1). Retrieved December 16, 2017, from Michigan Department of Corrections website:

[3] Johnson, B. R. (2012, January). Can a Faith-Based Prison Reduce Recidivism? Corrections Today. Pp. 60-62.
Retrieved December 16, 2017, from

[4] Visher, C., Baer, D., & Naser, R. (2006, January 1). Ohio Prisoners’ Reflections on Returning Home [Scholarly project]. In Urban Institute. Retrieved December 16, 2017, from

[5] La Vigne, N. G., Brooks, L. E., & Shollenberger, T. L. (2007, May 1). Returning Home: Exploring the Challenges and Successes of Recently Released Texas Prisoners [Scholarly project]. In Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. Retrieved December 16, 2017, from

[6] La Vigne, N. G., Shollenberger, T. L., & Debus, S. A. (2009, June 1). One Year Out: Tracking the Experiences of Male Prisoners Returning to Houston, Texas [Scholarly project]. In Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. Retrieved December 16, 2017, from

[7] Kenney, K. M. (2016, July 19). Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration (Rep.). Retrieved December 16, 2017, from Federal Bureau of Prisons website: