Christian Leaders Institute (CLI) seeks to give justice officials options in bringing restorative justice to those who are qualified for parole or probation. Christian Leaders Institute offers over 180 credit hours of free high-quality instruction and was encouraged to develop this program by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Christian Leaders Institute was started as a Christian Leaders school for those going into workplace ministry (bi-vocational) or those seeking ministry positions. Most ministry positions do not pay well or expect volunteer involvement. At the same time, good ministry leadership requires training because the work is complicated. The training had to be low cost or free because large amounts of debt are not an option for those serving in ministry.

Christian Leaders Institute sets out to bring free high-quality training to called ministry leaders. While they are receiving this training, they are connected to a local Christian leader who mentors them in ministry activities. In meeting the mission of reaching workplace ministers, CLI has added credentialed programs including awards, certificates, diplomas, and degrees that include ministry topics and other topics from a Christian perspective. This makes sense because marketplace ministers need both general higher education skills to support their family and ministry training to fulfill their calling.

In the fall of 2017, Heidi Washington met CLI president Henry Reyenga at a breakfast gathering. After exchanging business cards and connecting, Washington invited representatives of the CLI staff to discover whether CLI could help with those on parole or probation. Heidi Washingon and Kyle Kaminski outlined some problems to be solved.

These were some of the discussed needs in how the Michigan Department of Corrections and Christian Leaders Institute could address common concerns.

  1. Most probation or parole offenders have little resources for higher education.
  2. Higher education has a positive impact on lowering the recidivism rate.
  3. Faith-based options are acceptable and have proven themselves to help bring restorative justice.
  4. There is an old saying: “You can not expect what you can not inspect.” There has to be a way that justice officials can easily monitor offenders progress if this education option is to serve our communities.
  5. There must also be an expectation that offenders connect with community resources and community mentors for their success.
  6. Credible record keeping including the tracking of activities and grades.
  7. High-security processes in place in regard to individual privacy.
  8. A welcoming spirit to community business and partners who hire offenders and help bring restoration.

Christian Leaders Institute helps address these needs as we work with Kyle Kaminski on this project.

At the meeting, both staffs agreed to due diligence to see if Christian Leaders Institute and the Michigan Department of Corrections could work together and possibly be a model for other departments of corrections throughout the world.

In December 2017, the decision was made by both organizations to proceed forward. The Michigan Department of Corrections gave CLI a list of important classes they suggested that be added to our courses of study. CLI immediately started seeking funders and partners for an official launch of the program on May 22, 2018. Throughout the next several years, funders and partners will be sought to develop the list of suggested Restorative Justice classes.