In response to the news that choosing by lot had been part of the selection process, someone commented that it was good to see us trusting the Spirit just a little. What do you think?

August 11, 2015 1 2 comments

Classis was in the spotlight at synod—in part because of the big structure decision! Synod also asked to take a hard look at the purpose and structure of classis. This is momentous for classis leaders.

July 27, 2015 2 4 comments

Is Classis a separate organization from the churches it represents? Do we have to be incorporated?

July 23, 2015 0 4 comments

Over the last ten years classis Chatham has conducted more than fifteen exams. My overall impression is that one exam is pretty much like another, even though the purpose of each exam is different.

June 30, 2015 1 0 comments

My father was ordained as an evangelist. Though he served under a different title, the work he did is not that much different from what I do as a minister of the Word. 

June 18, 2015 0 3 comments

The classical appointment might be an endangered species. While understandable given a surfeit of preaching resources available, its passing may further fray our communal identity.

May 22, 2015 0 2 comments

I once read that organizations should periodically clear the decks, disband every committee, and run lean for a season. Classes may soon be given the opportunity to do something like this...

April 29, 2015 0 0 comments

“The extremely long pastorates of our day place a great strain on many a congregation and especially upon its minister.”That comment may sound familiar, but it is not new.

April 14, 2015 2 0 comments

I am not sure I’ve ever heard a deacon speak up at classis. We will soon be able to test whether this is simply a failure of my own perception.

April 7, 2015 1 16 comments

Years ago I was a guest at a Presbytery meeting that broke into advisory committees. I recently heard of a CRC classis that did the same. Why don’t more classes break up the work in this way?

March 12, 2015 0 2 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Pages 67-69 of Henry DeMoor's Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary focus specifically on Church Counselors.  You can order the complete commentary through Faith Alive Resources.

February 26, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Pages 242-248 of Henry DeMoor's Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary focus specifically on Church Visiting.  You can order the complete commentary through Faith Alive Resources.

February 26, 2015 0 0 comments

Is 100 members the threshold for congregational viability? If so, what might that mean for congregations seeking pastors and candidates seeking a call?

February 19, 2015 0 1 comments

“I doubt that church visiting is very effective anymore.” In spite of comments like that, church visiting is one way classes can help strengthen congregations.

February 6, 2015 2 1 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

This guide, created by a Pastor Church Relations team, is intended as a quick summary of the CRCNA's Guide to Conducting Church Visiting.

February 5, 2015 0 0 comments

While talking with a church council, it became clear that few members could remember a time when their church felt engaged and motivated by classis. Few knew much about classis at all.

January 30, 2015 0 3 comments

Over time our official descriptions of what pastors do have grown longer. The latest evidence is a recommendation to add engaging in “the work of diaconal outreach” to the list.

January 21, 2015 0 3 comments
Resource, Calendar

The updated Classis Meeting Dates have been posted to the CRCNA website.

January 21, 2015 0 0 comments

Classis is the front line for leadership development, deployment and support for the CRC yet most classes struggle with consistency and follow-through with basic tasks.

January 11, 2015 0 0 comments

“It was the most fun Classis I’ve ever attended.”
An unusual word to describe a gathering of delegates, pastors, elders, and deacons. What ‘fun’ things happened in those hours from 4:00-9:00 p.m.?

January 5, 2015 1 3 comments

What makes the classis structure so valuable? Here's a few of the things I've come to notice and like about classis.

December 25, 2014 1 0 comments

In the last couple of weeks I have seen “Like us on Facebook” on the signs of two different churches and a truck dealership. Am I just old, or is there something odd about that?

December 16, 2014 0 0 comments

In “Why Staff?” I suggested that unclear expectations may be one reason many classical staff positions seem to be falling by the wayside. Another reason might rest in the nature of the positions; they cannot help but function as consultants.

December 9, 2014 2 2 comments

Classes that once had interim pastors, youth ministry consultants, or ministry coordinators, either no longer have these positions or have left them vacant. Perhaps we weren't clear about our expectations for these positions.

December 2, 2014 2 0 comments

The persistence of questions about the purpose of classis suggests that we are still not sure what the role of classis is.

October 26, 2014 0 1 comments



Thanks Norman for your article and Stanley for your comment.  I agree with your hesitancy to choose leaders of the church by lottery.  If you think it through, choosing leaders in such a way is really no different than playing the lottery.  You can say we are relying on the Holy Spirit to make the choice, but the reality is that we are bypassing making a reasonable thought out choice and leaving the choice to chance or luck (not the Holy Spirit).

As Bible believing Christians, we believe we have been created in the image of God.  One of the primary human characteristics is our ability use reason and to logically make choices.  Humans don’t rely simply on animal instinct.  This is likely the very reason that Christ emphasized that the law can be reduced to two principles, love for God and neighbor.  From those two principles we can reason or logically deduce the details of what is loving toward God and neighbor, without coming up with a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts,” as did the Pharisees.

It’s disappointing to think that our churches and denomination are moving increasingly in the (so called) leading of the Holy Spirit direction when the reality is that Christians are walking away from their unique God given ability to be reasonable and to use logic when making important choices in life.  The extreme logical outcome of such foolish thinking is to prayerfully play the lottery.  If I win big (unlikely), then I then I thank the Holy Spirit for his guidance; and if I loose all my wealth then I know the Holy Spirit wanted me to be poor.  After all, I did pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

posted in: Trusting the Spirit

Thanks, Norman, for the good reminder. I've thought the same thing when selecting by lot is advocated on the grounds that it's more Spirit-directed. The Spirit works through our reflection and discernment, too!

posted in: Trusting the Spirit

Yes, this is certainly a direction to consider.  I'm actually not even sure we need to "vest more authority", at least not for starters.  I'm wondering whether better informed and better trained classis leaders would discover they already have enough authority.  Part of the problem is that most of us don't have a deep understanding of how to use the church order to best effect.   And to use it more proactively!   Really confident and competent church visitors can intervene more supportively and earlier....  and councils need to be willing to receive loving skillful help rather than stonewall out of fear.


We've all observed or been part of those situations where things go bad in a church and there is no easy exit process (short of Art. 17). It usually gets ugly. Couldn't we consider vesting more authority (opportunity) in the classis structure to address these situations and help arrange a solution? I guess the lack of ability to move from one classis to another via this approach would be an issue. 

Hopefully, the currently-in-development structure for more frequent and comprehensive assessment and career guidance provided to those in seminary and at transition times in their ministry may begin to address this -- not from a position of command but from one of counsel and advice based on match of gifts and awareness of all the ministry opportunities available.

Yes, one usually does erode the other, as you say.  At this point I'm reporting on Paas' article, not espousing anything.  But I'm convinced we do need to revisit this polarity, and have some dialog about it.  You'd be surprised how many stories we (Better Together Team) heard about conflicts in congregations that dragged on and on, with no resolution, because there was no clear decision-making process/ person.  And the word "bishop" would often be spoken!   We all know that when we talk about bishops, we're mostly joking, just to point out the relief there would be in having a "decider" when things get tough.  I very much doubt that anyone in the CRC is really willing to go very far in this direction.  And yet....   our communal decision making, especially in crisis times, is often clunky and inept, not to mention slow.  At the very least I would want to argue for increasing our organizational competency at  corporate decision making, as well as building the skill of leaders to work with that model.  


Interesting discussion (as always), but I am baffled at how you (and maybe Paas) choose to move from empowering the mid-level judicatory (classis) to empowering spiritual leaders, including possibly a high level functionary (bishop). One usually inhibits or erodes the other. A review of the long discussions that took place at the constitutional convention at the beginning of the U.S. history could remind us all that a system of checks and balances is not just the product of " Dutch fondness for careful low-risk decision making," but a well developed understanding of the corruptibility of human nature. When too much authority is invested in one leader (or group of leaders) it has seldom turned out well in the history of states or of the church. Our U.S. system has begun to shift toward giving more and more power to the executive branch for the same reason you imply -- the cumbersome and inefficient nature of balanced alternative. We may regret it as a nation and we should avoid it as a church.

Thanks for the responses. Note - I am the Classis Treasurer. Being involved in a couple of non-profit corporations in Michigan I see the increase in regulations for such organizations and look at the organization of Classis and wonder if it's the way to go.  About 15 years ago when we had a new incoming Stated Clerk, the "organization" of Classis was looked at in relationship to the churches, and its role as an "independent" organization. What is the legal role of Classis with the CRC and the churches it serves? If the CRC is looking to have the Classis incorporated, could it provide a process to assist them? It could save a lot of headaches and legal fees. 

As John has already said, I'd suggest asking your classical clerk or treasurer.  I am not sure how this works in the US, but in Canada corporations are required to file information annually.  For that reason the person who takes care of your records should know whether your classis has been incorporated.   


Thanks for the helpful resources, John! If interested in reading more, the Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary can be purchased here. Also, the website for the denominational Archives can be found here

We have long encouraged local congregations to incorporate and offer model Articles of Incorporation for both US and Canadian churches within the Church Order Supplement to Article 32.  Classes have been encouraged more recently, especially in Canada to incorporate and today almost all are.

Dr. Henry DeMoor, in his book Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary notes on page 195 that the reason for incorporation has traditionally been focused on protecting the property and assets of the organization.  However, since few classes own real property, incorporation was less common.  He points out that in more recent years, classes have incorporated themselves to make it possible to insure against liability arising out of lawsuits directed at classical agencies or leadership.  The recent question you reference was an inquiry from my office to determine the feasibility for the possible creation of group coverage for Officer and Director insurance for all the classes that are incorporated.  A classis that is not incorporated does not have a legal entity to insure.

As far as who would have the records of whether or not your classis is incorporated?  I would suggest checking with the classis treasurer or the denominational archives as being the sources to begin your search.


Thanks Norm and Leon! I agree that the imagery of "pasturing" goes along well with this post (as does "pastoring", which is how it now reads). 

posted in: By Any Other Name

Thanks for catching that.  It is a typo, but the terms are not unrelated and it does bring a nice picture to mind.

posted in: By Any Other Name

I am not sure I have heard the term "pasturing" in this context before.....but I can identify with the picture that it brings to my mind

posted in: By Any Other Name

Thanks Norm for the thoughtful reflection. 

I would fully agree that every ministry benefits from a different voice from time to time. However, I think the real issue here is intentionality about that different voice. It is confusing to me why a church without a pastor would simply ascent to random and diverse pastors coming to preach and lead in their worship gatherings. It is assumed that simply because it is "in house" that the Word brought will be helpful, encouraging, insightful and of a certain quality. That is an assumption I would challenge. At the church I serve we desire and are working toward being very intentional about who comes in to preach and lead. This actually means going outside of the denomination from time to time (an even greater reminder that we are indeed part of a greater body).

On the other side of the coin: for those churches/pastors fulfilling classical appointments, there is the question of how often is it healthy for the primary pastor to be gone (especially if there is only one pastor...who is probably gone 8-10 weeks already for vacation, etc). How many additional times a year do you want to be gone for classical appointments? Classical appointments can also be disruptive for the sending churches/pastors when Sunday morning preaching is done in both liturgical and thematic series and suddenly the pastor is expected to preach elsewhere.

I agree that denominationalism is likely to be weakened if the classical appointment goes extinct, but I'm not convinced that is a bad thing. I'm not a congregationalist, but I'm not a denominationalist. I proudly speak with a reformed accent and am proud to be a part of the reformed heritage, but clinging to denominationalism may actually hinder God's big mission in the world. There are probably better and more creative and innovative ways to support our sisters and brothers in our classis and denomination who are without a pastor than through classical appointments. 


I appreciate your comments. We may think we're unique,but we're still part of the greater body. When we think we need to have just our own pastors/staff lead, then it's a subversive way of the hand to say to the foot, "We don't need you!" or other such focusing on self.... The classical appointment could/should remain as a tangible expression that we're interested in each other's well being, get to know each other a little, and consequently work together more effectively at classical and denominational level. Pastors have to give some leadership to keep the bonds/sinews that connect us.....


The question is how to get deacons involved in Classis and Synod? Would a stipend for those losing wages be an effective measure? Some Classes have stipends for elders to attend Synod. Perhaps that is a route to explore...

Thanks, Terry for your remarks. I wonder what the participation rate of deacons is at Classis Atlantic Northeast? I left CANE in 2008 and at the time, deacons delegated to Classis was relatively new, but participation/attendance at Classis was not a very high percentage. Has that changed considerably over time? I believe Classes that allow women deacons will likely have a higher percentage of attendance than Classes that have not yet approved that measure.


Who cares if the deacon can or cant speak at Classis, or synod, or who has what role if the work of the church of either office is not being done effectively.  We have much to say and are amazingly articulate in our own assemblies but are mute in practical matters in our congregations and especially in our communities.  We have the cart before the horse.  Let's go for what's working and rewrite our playbook.  

I think that looked at from a historical perspective, the office of deacon is incredibly flexible and has manifested itself in many different forms.  Your note about nominating people according to skill sets brings up an interesting historical note, Harry.  In Geneva the deacons were divided up into procurators, what we would call administrative deacons, and hospitalars, who had the care of the poor and sometimes lived among them.  Calvin defended this distinction exegetically.  Maybe in our new setup it will make sense to make use of it again.  


Thanks for "jumping in" to share your perspectives and thoughts as someone who has been intimately involved in this process for several years now. I am grateful for interest and responses that Norman's post has generated thus far. I encourage those who are following this conversation to share their thoughts on the post itself or in response to any of the comments made thus far. 

I appreciate Norman and Terry's comments. The church made an interesting change when it broadened the skill sets for the ED of the Denomination. Now when you look at the skill sets of those who are nominated to the BOT and the Boards of the various ministries, the "quota's"  for Ministers and Lay people come into play.The "Lay" people for that do not have to be Elders or Deacons but certainly can be. Looking at skill sets has became a factor on one of the Boards I served on and that is good.

If that review of skill sets could be applied to those selected to go to Synod, the distinction between Elders and Deacons could largely fall away. Now of course you need a skill set evaluation at the congregational level if you want to be consistent. But here is where the problem comes in. Pastors on the payroll can always (I hope) get time off for Synod/ Classis. But for lay people this is more problematic. Not only they have to devote time to local work in the role of Elder or Deacon but they can also be delegated to Classis and Synod.

Despite all of the new technology, and how it was supposed to help us, it has probably done the opposite. It is harder than ever to "get away" from the job. In our church polity we have to rely on the wisdom of church Councils and Classis to select the most capable (and I hope with appropriate skill sets) people as delegates to the Ministry Boards and to Synod.

I will make (repeat) another bold suggestion. Could the church not take Calvin College out of its governance structure and also find a totally new way to govern World Renew (e.g. give that role to the Deacons)?

I'll try to address your various points from my perspective as a deacon, a deacon who recently attended a classis meeting (and spoke at the meeting), and a member of both task forces that wrote the subject reports.

Your opening and concluding observation about not being sure about ever hearing a deacon speak at classis might be more indicative of the agenda and culture atmosphere of what classis meetings are like to deacons. Have the deacons been encouraged and mentored by pastors and elders to actively participate in the meetings and committees? Are the topics and discussions relevant to deacons? Do the deacons have a voice in shaping the meeting agenda? In my experience, certain pastors/elders may dominate the discussions. At the last meeting of Classis Atlantic Northeast, the delegates broke into small groups of four to pray for one another and also discuss a topic. Deacons participated equally with the elders and pastors in these small groups. This is one small example of how deacons can be encouraged to have a voice at a classis meeting. I've been told that almost every deacon from one of the churches who has attended a classis meeting in recent years has returned with renewed energy and excitement about ministry.

A couple points regarding the church order changes:

  1. The proposed changes are the result of four years of work over two task forces. The churches have had ample opportunity to comment on the changes and suggest revisions. (One specific revision suggested via overture in 2013 has been incorporated into the 2015 report.) I am sure that future synods will have additional changes based on experience working with these proposed changes.
  2. I hope that at this synod an advisory committee is assigned the sole task of working on this report. The advisory committee in 2013 was assigned additional work that didn't allow it to fully focus on the report it was given.
  3. Changes viewed individually rather than in the context of all the other changes may be questioned, but we looked at every church order article with a big picture view of the offices to ensure that the articles communicated the vision of the offices of elder and deacon that we, and hopefully the church, wants to see.
  4. We have no expectation that these church order changes, in themselves, will be the primary means of revitalization of the offices of deacon and elder. That's why there are other recommendations in the report that are just as important as the church order changes. In my opinion, this report should be viewed as the beginning of a journey of revitalization and not the final word on what needs to be done.

Finally, addressing your concern about imposing a model on the entire denomination, well, isn't that what being a denomination with a church order is all about? Isn't requiring elders and pastors to be delegated to classis meetings already an imposed model? I encourage classes to be creative and share their experiences with incorporating deacons into the structure of classis.

If, as some suggest, the roles and responsibilities of the offices reflect or are intended to reflect and perform the functions of Christ as prophet (pastor), priest (deacon) and king (elder), what does it say about our denomination's view of the role and responsibilities of the deacon (priest) when we don't include them and give them a voice and vote at synod?


Norman, I full support the full inclusion of deacons at all assemblies.  We work together in God's kingdom and we need to share information, encourage one another, and partner together.  So, we need every opportunity to be in the same room together.  I understand your uncertainty, and we'll have a big learning curve.  I'm hoping that the changes we have to go through will leave lots of room for evaluation and flexibility so we can make accommodations.

Norman, I did find your reference to deacons not participating at classis meetings quite disturbing, and I shared that with you privately.  No elder, minister or deacon can be evaluated by the number of words that are being said at a classis meeting.  I might even suggest to you that some people (ministers in particular) probably say too many words at Classis and do not add a whole lot of value to the meeting.

I have been very blessed being in the presence of all God's servants.

Diane Plug

John Klein-Geltink, a deacon from Classis Chatham, emailed his response to this post and asked me to share it here--for some reason he was unable to post it directly.

Hello Jack
When I read the report I was rather put off as are other deacons.For the past 13 years a number of deacons of Classis Chatham have served on the Classis Chatham Ministry Committee and attended Classis meetings and voted on all matters. We even asked to set time at classis to have churches share Diaconial ministry at local communities,which did happen at our last May meeting.Deacons also designed questions to be discussed at Church visits about the nature of diaconial work in their commuttees.So I am not sure what Norman is talking about.

To those who might have missed it, there is a post on The Network's site for Deacons entitled, "What's Up With Deacons Going To Synod?." The post itself is a letter written to CRC Deacons by The Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon. Given the interest sparked by this particular post, I think anyone wanting to better understand this issue might find it helpful. You can get directly to the post by going here. You might also be interested in reading a letter written in 1939 by a deacon that addresses the matter of deacon inclusion/representation also posted on the page for deacons here.



I think you--and others--might appreciate and benefit by reading a letter written in 1939 by deacon Hendrik Schoonekamp about the need for and importance of deacon inclusion and representation. You can read it on The Network's page for Deacons here.

While I support the idea of including deacons at Classis meetings, I wonder about the participation. It is hard to find deacons that are able/willing to take a day off of work for a Classis meeting. I often wonder about the possibility of deacons having their own meetings and reporting to Classis. A number of years ago I was in another Classis that made the change to include deacons. The attendance of deacons was minimal at best. We need full participation of deacons to make it work well.

True, deacons have their hands full at the local church level.  This has sometimes been used as an argument for not delegating them to the broader assemblies.

But couldn't the same thing be said of pastors?  Of elders?  Yet there is no talk of them staying home.

Ultimately, doesn't it all go back to fully reflecting the work of the risen and ruling Christ, though the offices, at all levels of assembly and decision making?  It will be interesting to see what might take place when this becomes a reality.



Here is the summary of the Synod's Agenda. Look how neatly all the ministries of the CRC HO Departments & Ministries have been pigeonholed into the five streams. The CRC Extension Fund in Canada, which is 3 times large than the US (Loan Fund) one, is not even mentioned anywhere.

Faith Formation
Calvin College
Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministries
Servant Leadership
Chaplaincy and Care Ministry
Christian Reformed Church Loan Fund, Inc., U.S.
Pastor-Church Relations 
Pensions and Insurance
Safe Church Ministry
Global Missions
Christian Reformed Home Missions
Christian Reformed World Missions
Loving Mercy and Doing Justice
Committee for Contact with the Government
Disability Concerns
Race Relations
Social Justice and Hunger Action
Urban Aboriginal Ministries
World Renew
Gospel Proclamation and Worship
Back to God Ministries International
Calvin Theological Seminary 
Worship Ministries

The order is very telling. Gospel proclamation is last. With a 557 page Agenda it will be an interesting Synod. Why Deacons would even want to participate is a question for me. They have their hands full at the local church level.

I for one am excited to see what the changes might bring. I have been at classis meetings where elders barely spoke a word. According to this line of reasoning, perhaps we shouldn't delegate them to classis, either.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments for us to consider as we look ahead to Synod 2015. I share your concern about the possibility--perhaps even likelihood--that the delegates to Synod 2015 could get "bogged down" with all the recommended changes to the articles of church order. You raise some important questions and I would like to hear what others are thinking about it as well.

Classis Pacific Northwest broke into advisory committees at its meeting two weeks ago.  It is arguably the best classis experience I have had in 35 years in ministry.  The elders actively participated in great number, as did the minority delegates.  One elder said in open session it was the first time he had truly felt a part of a classis meeting.  The material was reviewed in depth at the advisory level and the proposals had a measure of care and thoughtfulness uncommon for classis level discussions.

The two major negative considerations are that it is hard for me to see how this can be done well without a two day process, which will be difficult for many elders and deacons.  And as at synod, not every advisory committee ends up with similarly weighty material.  Those with less difficult matters to consider experienced the first day, in advisory, as time poorly spent.

posted in: Break It Up

Great reflection, Norm. Thanks. 

posted in: Break It Up

We should consider what "viable" means?  In this article, viability is associated with finances to pay a preacher/pastor.  Viability does not seem to address in this article, the various gifts within the congregation, or the ability to grow, or the community it serves, or the strength of conviction of the members, or alternative service mechanisms.  Viability is also not compared or contrasted with usefulness, with need, with mission statement, in this article.  Churches do not exist to support a pastor;  they exist to unite the body of Christ, and to serve God in a community, as a community.  A hundred members of which only half attend, and yet sufficient funds available, with debt free facilities, may still not be a viable church.  Only a useful purpose makes it viable.  In that case some churches with only 40 members may be more viable, especially if they have a higher attendance rate, including attendance by non-members. 

posted in: One Hundred
  • In quotes "Historically, the practice of church visiting is for the purpose of “strengthening” churches, not ruling or
  • policing them. Section II provides text from Church Order article 42 specifying practices and purpose.
  • There is a strong emphasis on accountability while avoiding hierarchy. Together we hold each other
  • accountable, but no lording it over each other. The aspects of church visiting are: ascertain (data
  • gathering); admonish (when necessary); advise (upon request); and hold accountable (church visitors
  • report to classis). It is up to classis to appoint church visitors who are experienced and competent in the
  • task."

No wonder church visiting is no longer effective. If we keep doing the same thing (note the word historically!!) and expect better out comes, we better abolish this practice. I have reread the document that covers church visiting. It is all complicated and dated language and way too much of it. No two visitors could cover things that are listed.  We need a much more practical approach.

1) Interview every person that is being paid be the church (each less than 1 hour).  2) Get all statistical information re membership either from the church of get it from the annual Year Book and 3 years of financial information. 3) Ask for a list of donors (without names) and the annual contribution per donor for the same 3 years.

From those three pieces of information a very good picture of the local church and its issues will become obvious. Two experienced church visitors will be able to make up a report that would be very helpful and/or pose questions that would motivate the church leaders to look at their own situation in a different way.


One of the items permanently on the Classis Agenda is Finances.   Classis should add an item on Church Membership.   Here is some interesting information:

Summary of Year Book CRCNA 2013
                                              USA                  CND
Members                               76%                 24%
Classis                                   79%                 21%
Churches                               80%                 20%
Churches <100 members      90%*               10%**

*USA  has 296 churches with under 100 members
**Canada  has 28 churches with under 100 members

Classis are the perfect place to discuss this. Churches with less than 100 members are not sustainable IMHO. When new church plants are recommended Classis should ensure affordability and that they will be subject to a "sunset clause".

This sound may business like. But I am a Christian business person and would deal with a church in a stewardly Christian business manner. Btw it takes about $200,000 per year in fixed expenses to run a church.

Sounds to me some Classis have some work to do to help each other out.




A quote that I've often reminded people of is that "there is no sin in synergism".  When a Classis does it's job right, it is the connector and amplifier of the various ministries provided by its congregations and, in some cases, becomes the medium through which such a ministry can either exist or be enhanced.  As far as the lack of knowledge amongst congregations as to what Classis does (or can do), I encourage the Classis to utilize narrative budgets that tell the story of how last year's funds amplified the effect of ministries, how the funds enabled education of office bearers and/or employees and coordinated the efforts of congregational teams (such as Safe Church).  That narrative budget should also tell the story of how next year's funds will be utilized.

If something new comes up (e.g. new legislation, amendments to Church Order, opportunities to serve, etc.) Classis can provide necessary references or can coordinate re-education connections for the ministries of the various congregations.  If synodical ministries need to connect with congregations, the Classis can be the conduit.

Classis needs to tell its story and show the good news that results from an effective Classis.

My wife and I consider our payment of ministry shares to Classis AB North to be an "investment" (with a great return), not an expense and the cost of our investment works out to be less than the cost of going out for coffee weekly.  I wish they were asking for more since I know how good the rate of return can be.

I think that classes could help congregations more if they were more connected to the many resources that the denomination has to offer. Denominational offices, like Safe Church Ministry, can't connect meaningfully with every CRC congregation. We depend on classes, and other regional bodies to act in an intermediary role. It's also true that the denomination could offer more support to those who serve the classes. How are people trained for this important work? How and where are the connections made, and experience and knowledge shared? What is the process for these connections to grow into mutually beneficial relationships?

Key, in my understanding of Article 12a, is the distinction between the first sentence and the second sentence (which is alluded to in the ground given for the recommended change). The first sentence is about the minister’s focus -- his or her calling specifically as minister. The second sentence is about the breadth of ministry work that a minister should be prepared to encounter -- his or her calling as one of the officebearers in the church, working together with the others in common ministry.

In view of this distinction between the two sentences, it looks to me like Article 12a captures quite well the competing concerns mentioned above: to define the core (sentence 1) but also have a view of the breadth (sentence 2).

The proposed change to Church Order Article 12-a is much more nuanced than simply adding "diaconal outreach" to the job description of the minister. Please interpret the change in the context of the ground that was provided. Though not mentioned in the ground, a valid interpretation of the change would be that promoting the work of diaconal outreach would be more applicable than engaging in that activity.

Ground: According to Article 30 of the Belgic Confession, ministers of the Word are called to common tasks with elders and deacons in equipping the church. Likewise, the second half of Church Order Article 12-a is intended to give an illustrative list of those tasks that the minister is called to do with other  officebearers. Making reference in the article to elders alone is confusing, since some of the tasks belong to other officebearers as well, such as supervising fellow officebearers (see Church Order Art. 82-84 and Supplement, Art. 82-84) and exercising pastoral care (see Art. 65). The proposed language removes this confusion by making a generic reference to other officebearers and including diaconal outreach in the tasks that the minister does in common with other officebearers.

Thanks, Norman. I agree.  It is time to focus.  Let's hope that vital conversations about pastoral theology continue to take place and that clarity emerges about the core functions of the pastoral ministry. 

Thanks for sharing this, Norman.  I know that the authors' intention was not "if you can't do missions perfectly, then stay home."  But it can come across that way, especially for some of the participants.  As our methods for engaging in short-term missions continues to mature, you have expressed an important part of that conversation.  The group I am involved with has encouraged past participants to read When Helping Hurts, and we are in the process of incorporating the books and videos of Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions and When Helping Hurts: The Small Group Experience into our orientation process. But each person is different, each team is different, and each host community is unique.  So one of the the things we have also brought into our 'best practices' is to, at the first opportunity to meet with the host community, ask that our time together be covered by grace and a spirit of forgiveness.  We explain that we are not on this mission trip because we are 'model Christians', but that we are sinners seeking to serve our Saviour.  Through some of those conversations we have discovered to what extent the host communities can also feel pressured, and that they too can feel as though they have been placed high on a pedestal.  Several communities have let out a collective sigh of relief as we together agreed that neither party is perfect, but let's do our best at learning about each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thanks for sharing this most encouraging post! Hopefully you'll receive inquiries about what GR East is up to. :)

posted in: Best Classis Ever

Hey, thanks, Carl!  This is encouraging AND fun to read!

posted in: Best Classis Ever

You raise a good point. I have long thought classes need more staff support, but I'm not sure we quite know what form that support should take. pvk

Sounds wonderful. Happy to hear some reporting in different ways to do classis! Keep it up! pvk

posted in: Best Classis Ever

Bill.  It's true dead seeds do not sprout.  Some seeds die without producing a plant.  But perhaps your simple statement misses the essence of what is happening.  A seed that wants to remain alive only as a seed, will never produce a plant.  It must get rid of the mantle and essence of the seed, in order to become a plant.  In the process of germinating, the seed disintegrates(dies).  Even a seed potato must empty itself in order to become a potato plant.  It must die to self, and live to what it can produce.  This too is scientific reality.  

It is a surprise to me that church visitors can poke their noses into a church without being invited by the council.  It would likely be a great offense to do so.   Be that as it may, church visitors in my experience often seem to lack the experience or training or motivation they need to be objective servants to a church in which they have no basic authority or involvement.  In my experience, when situations are relatively smooth, and they come to assist with visioning or something like that, they can be of some help.  But in volatile situations they seem to have their own prejudices and assumptions which do not allow them to be as helpful as they should be.   In my experience, there was a lack of real listening by the visitors, a carelessness about the welfare of the church, and a lack of verification as to whether what they heard was real or merely a perception.  There appeared to be a lack of desire for reconciliation on the part of the church visitors as well.   They had access, but misused it.  They made insulting recommendations because of the lack of verification, and did not use discernment.   In the end, this led to people leaving the church, and to a lack of reconciliation.  It seems that the church visitors made the situation worse.   I say this  to bring awareness to the need for special skills in volatile situations.  Skills in mediation ought not to be taken for granted and assumed, but need to be learned and practiced.  They also need to be able to step outside of their own frame of reference and realize that not all churches are the same, and do not all have the same culture or background or "history", and do not fit into neat little categories.  I'm sure that some church visitors do better than others, but the dangers of this ought not to be underestimated.  

Norm Visser brings up a topic to which many can relate: Classis meetings are generally not exciting (though they  can be and have been),

But picture their absence. Regional churches would then miss the main link that binds them together. We should also realize that classes play an important part in our church-life. Articles 75 and 76 of the Church Order spell out the tasks of classes, in brief: assisting the member churches of classes in their evangelistic programs and in their ministry of mercy. To that end every classis has a home missions committee and a diaconal committee. As long ago as 1937, Synod stated, "Our churches and our people are urged to unite strongly in their devotion to such missionary endeavors which are conducted by our churches..." (p. 99).

Classical meetings are also suitable settings for local churches to share their blessings, problems and needs. Local council members may ask themselves whether there are local needs in which classical prayers and assistance would be profitable. These last few years there have been several classes that have devoted part of their meeting-agenda to prayer and meditation focusing on the well-being of the member churches. Classes have also undertaken a variety of other ministries which would be beyond the capacity of an individual church..

Classical delegates should be afforded time and opportunity to report on the meetings of classes to the membership of local churches. Many churches already do this.

With all the talent invested in our ministers, elders, and deacons, much could and should be done to make our classical meetings more worthwhile, functional, and hence more exciting.

(One additional thought... Leadership of classical meetings is very important. Not every minister/elder/deacon is gifted for that function. Classes would do well to follow the example of synod; elect a chairman for each classical session, rather than just ministers taking turns.)

Louis Tamminga

posted in: What for (Again)?

A picture is worth a 1,000 words. Classis with the percentage of churches under 100 members. I stopped at 33% so could get at least one Canadian Classis in there. Draw your own conclusion to what this means for costs.  Room for what Norm suggests?

In total there are 324 churches with under 100 members = 30% of the churches in the CRCNA.

Country Classis            #churches   <100mem       %
USA      Pacific Hanmi               50               43        86%
USA      Southeast US               22               15        68%
USA      Yellowstone                  11                 7        64%
USA      Columbia                       20               12       60%
USA      Red Mesa                      20               12       60%
USA      Greater Los Angeles     37               21       57%
USA      Hackensack                   34               19      56%
USA      Lake Erie                       23               12       52%
USA      California South             28               14       50%
USA      Arizona                          10                 5       50%
USA      Pacific Northwest           45               20      44%
USA     Central California            33               13      39%
USA     Atlantic North East          21                 8      38%
USA     Northern Illinois               22                 8      36%