The Early Days
Crossroads was incorporated in September of 1998, as “Crossroads of Illinois, Inc.” It was founded by Bern and Jeanne Bertsche, the owners of Camcraft, a precision machining company located in Hanover Park, Illinois. Camcraft, which was founded in the 1950’s and relocated to Hanover Park in the 1990’s. Shortly after moving into its new neighborhood, Camcraft was the victim of vandalism as graffiti was painted on a retaining wall outside the plant. After speaking with the police, it was suggested that one way to avoid such activity in the future would be for Camcraft to build relationships with children and youth in the community. Soon, Camcraft began a school-business partnership with Parkwood Elementary School. This partnership continues nearly 20 years later, with students from the fifth and sixth grades visiting Camcraft several times during the school year and learning trade-specific skills from employees who volunteer their time over lunch.
As this program was starting, Mr. Bertsche personally spent time with some of the Parkwood students when they would come over to the company on a weekly basis. It was there, interacting with these children, that he saw the need for the students to learn about God’s love for them. Many students needed to discover the hope that only a right relationship with God can bring. Since the school-business partnership took place during the school day, talking about faith was not something that could happen as part of this time because of church-state separation issues. So, during the spring break of 1998, the Bertsches and Camcraft sponsored a Bible club that took place in the building of Evangel Assembly of God, which is across the street from Camcraft. The club was such a success that the Bertsches decided to continue hosting a weekly after-school Bible club at Evangel for the rest of that school year. Enthusiasm from the leaders and students was high, and the Bertsches sensed that the Lord wanted them to move forward with these efforts at working with students both through the school-business partnership and through the after-school Bible clubs.
In June of 1998, Matt Armstrong was hired by Camcraft to lead their efforts at developing the after school ministry to the children of the community. The goal was to develop a ministry that would impact the children in the Parkwood School community by sharing the Good News with them. Prior to working with Camcraft and Crossroads, Matt had been a public elementary school teacher. Within a year or two after Matt started working with the Bertsches, Kids Club moved out of Evangel Church and began meeting right inside of Parkwood School immediately after classes. It wasn’t long before a second club began at Sunnydale School in Streamwood, Illinois. Soon, Kids Clubs were established in multiple schools all around Hanover Park and Streamwood. In 2007, we changed our name to be “Crossroads Kids Club” because it says who we are much better than our previous name.
From 1998 – 2011, the goal of Crossroads was to impact children and families in our local community. We were even part of launching a new, non-denominational church in Streamwood to more effectively reach children and parents.
A New Vision for the 21st Century
In the U.S. there are approximately 39 million children in roughly 89,000 public schools. There are well over 300,000 churches in the U.S. Beginning in 2011, Crossroads shifted its focus from being a neighborhood ministry that directly serves children in our own community to being an organization that helps churches around the region to serve kids in their local public schools. Ultimately, we aim to build a model that is scalable to the nation so that every school will be connected to a local church in its community.
You can watch the 20-year documentary of our story below!