I've fallen in love with Posterous.com for easy posting; they say you can podcast with it; I haven't tried it but it sounds worth a try for churches: http://posterous.com/faq
Buildings and facility operations are typically one of the top two budget line items for churches and I haven't found any mention so far of facility use, building design, or sustainable operations on the CRC network. It would seem to belong in the Administration section? Worship section?
A clever, efficient, resourseful, fitting, and meaningful building design will bless a church for generations. A bad building will impede ministry and hog resources for generations. I presented on church architecture amidst cultural change, and sustainability for church buildings at the Worship Symposium last month, and from the number of questions I received, these are very relevant issues - especially when they usually are accomplished with sacrificial giving.
Therefore, I'd like to see a topic created around church buildings.
Steve Fridsma, AIA, LEED
Architect, Worship Environments Leader
Monroe Community Church (CRC)
Grand Rapids, MI
I've just been having an exchange with Mike Bruinooge about this topic. It isn't that I or others involved in the global mission network think this is unimportant. I'm part of an inner city church that is very deliberately focused on its neighborhood. Neland is growing into a "mission with" rather than "mission to" mentality. Mike wondered if the global mission site could embrace local mission too. I'm not sure, though, that people will look for the resources they need for that purpose on a site called global mission. It seems that it would be better to establish an additional network, with lots of links of course. The boundaries between these two are weakening, but they aren't yet gone. We need to do ministry locally and globally, but the dynamics and issues are somewhat different. What do you think?
Wow Mark, super tough for sure.
I know what you mean by the two camps. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Acts 2 church in action and what that looked like. I'm not sure, but I thought I read or heard somewhere that Tim Keller's church is like that. I can't imagine Wall Street folks hanging with the street people in a small group kind of way. But I think that's what's happening. I think I'll check into that a bit more. That's a good one to kick around though.
I agree with Gary's statements about thinking locally. We have for too long in the CRC thought of the "missio Dei" as something we do in other countries while neglecting our neighbors. We have somehow come to think that the local church can be "successful" apart from improving the community where the church is located. We need to begin to think about how we impact our communities and if our community isn't improving then the local church is not living it's mission. We can no longer think, "As long as we are doing missions somewhere..." We can't let this thinking give us permission to neglect the people closest to us. This disconnect from God's mission locally is evident even on this website. It is a site designed for the local church but has little connection to local mission. How do we effectively impact the communities where our churches are located. What does it mean to be "missional" at home? How do we listen to our communities in a way that we discover where God is moving and how we can be in step with Him in our communities.
Amen.........see, we were in agreement the whole time :)
Having recently studied at CTS, I am a Logos fan. I use Logos 4 because of it's versatility, extensive resources, notes and handouts ability. I find that it keeps me fresh in the languages too especially with its visual markup capability. They made it even easier to work with since Libronix 3.
Just got this hooked up into our site,
Logos refTag -- shows bible references in a little popup window when you do a mouse over. Great in your blog and anywhere else on your site where you reference scripture. http://www.logos.com/reftagger
Also YouVersion.com has some great badges to put on your site to connect people to the Bible online. You can also connect to it via smart phone as well. It has many different Bible versions to choose from.
Oh no, don't get me wrong I would never be a wrecking ball guy. My "chuck 'em" comment may have been a bit too harsh. But I would make sure that any new group started would be discipleship, missional focused. The problem I have found in almost every established church I've consulted with or have talked with leaders there is extremely poor coaching, training or none at all. People become disenfranchised with church programs and especially small groups because of it.
The CRC suggested the Principle Based small group model for years, which has turned out to be a big problem especially when leaders are not coached or trained effectively to make sure people are moving forward to something deeper. The idea was that these groups would intentionally direct people toward a deeper group, IE. someone from a scrapbooking group would eventually join a women's bible study or join a care/share small group with their spouse. It rarely if ever happened and most of these groups really just functioned as clubs.
While you cannot force people into something deeper, with guided intentionality you are more apt to turn the ship a little quicker. I think another fair point in this discussion is to say that when the leadership is making the vision clear and living it, people begin to see that the little group/club they are doing just doesn't fit and perhaps there is something of value to a different approach. But if you have neither clear communicated vision of mission and ministry and the church leadership is not on board and you don't have effectively trained and coached small group leaders, you're sunk.
I think it's fair the choose as a small group focus to be more intentional with new groups you are starting, encourage the other existing ones to jump on board and see where things fall. My experience has shown that eventually the new focused caring and missional groups will win out because their value rises far above the rest; people begin to hear about it and want it. Of course there will be some groups that have existed since the inception of the church that will never die and that's okay, it may be part of their identity as a congregation. That's fine, but I don't think the church should put a lot of time and energy in that direction.
I think we pander people in the church way too much thus enabling them not to grow toward discipleship and are startled when we challenge them toward it.
I'm looking forward to exploring and discovering the myriad of resources on this site. I came to the global mission looking for resources on cross-cultural mission, but not over seas. Rather, how to connect and minister with churches from vastly different cultures right down the street, or, in our case, right in our building. I'm looking forward to finding a common niche with other similar churches facing the same opportunities.
I'd love to hear more from you, Sandra, about what you're looking for and what you find lacking in RW. Is the challenge in the area of music only? Or are there other elements in the liturgy that you are wrestling with as you strive to stay connected to our Reformed heritage while also connecting to today's community?
I have been using PowerChurch Plus for 5 years and really like it. Not only does it keep track of the membership data, but it intigrates the contributions as well. I am also doing all the accounting on it, generating monthly reports that can be emailed directly to the board members.
Alpha was the way that God lead my husband to Christ, and solidified my love for Christ. I attended in 2003 and have been an active member ever since. My husband attended in 2004 and also has been actively involved in the church. We teach/co-ordinate Sunday school, I lead GEMS and am an elder. We have continued to attend a Thursday night bible study that began with Alpha 5 years ago. Several other Alpha attendees from the same year are also deacon, GEMS leaders, and active participants in the Church. Alpha is a great tool to connect with community members - connection being the most important part. It was the connections we made with church members and our pastor that made us choose to become members of this particular church.
We have set a goal for ourselves to try to have each elder visit the families in his district once every two years. The challenge in part seems to be the schedules that families keep are rather hectic. Finding a date that works can be difficult.
The benefits of doing the visits are worth the scheduling challenge. Families really appreciate having that close contact with someone who wants to know how the family is doing, how their walk with the Lord is going, and if they have any questions for the Elders, or the Council.
Thanks for the note. I use Access to do the same, plus it allows me to pre-create reports and modify queries. My problem is that if I want to pass the job on to another person, they need to be an Access expert. If there is an off-the-shelf piece of software, more of that functionality is behind the scenes. There are a number of packages out there, but I am not familiar with them.
Re: Small Groups in an existing environment
My only issue with that argument is that, if you yank a moving ship around that quickly, people are liable to fall off. Now, obviously you can't pander to everyone's little existing pet groups, but, as you well know, small groups can take lots of different forms.
My point was simply that if you have only knowledge-based or activity-based groups, which many established churches are full of (as you pointed out), challenge them to go deeper and more missional where they currently are (missional=being the Church where you are). Maybe they can't handle it and you end up ending the program right then and there.....but I should think you can give people a chance to make their existing groups more missional and spiritually deeper.
The added bonus is that people don't see the pastor/small group pastor as the human wrecking ball telling them that they now need to be in new small groups with new people when they've already got a level of intimacy with a group.
I agree that the simple church model is fantastic goal for streamlining discipleship, but forcing it on people suddenly, rather than over time, has the potential to be very divisive simply because it is an unknown.
Hi Mark and Angela,
I have been a ministry associate since 1994 but have done ministry since 1969. Hi Angela! I just moved in July from serving at the Bravo CRC in classis Holland. I miss all of you back in Michigan. I am serving as the only pastor in a small church in the Helena Valley, just north of the City of Helena, in the "Big Sky" state of Montana. Please share what kind of ministry you both are doing.
Hello, I have been employed at Emmanuel for 11 years. One of the best ideas I have heard, and which i am still implementing, is using Excel for membership tracking. It is a program which I can manipulate in many different ways just by having a column for every little bit of information. For example: one column for each of the following: last name, first name, middle name, birth date, birth month, birth year, baptized or baptized/professing, date of visit and name of elder who visited, and so forth.
Now I can sort by age for class lists, seniors, visitors, and/or baptized members. You add whatever category will work for your situation.
I would just like to respond by saying ditto to Mark and Allen's comments. I'm a Worship Coordinator of 8 years and have turned to the Reformed Worship Magazine for worship idea's and that has been helpful at times however it's often just a jumping off point for us as I often have to revise the services to fit our worship style of incorporating a good blend of traditional hymns and more contemporary music for our worship bands. I've attended the Worship Symposium a couple of times and really enjoyed it but did not find the workshops overly helpful with assisting us in the transition of developing in the area of modern worship. The cost of attending from Ontario Canada just wasn't justifiable.
I long to keep our worship “Reformed” and theologically sound as we practice a style of worship that is culturally relevant to our community.
I’m very excited about this new initiative of having a place to network with others that serve in Worship Ministries. It sometimes can be a lonely world out here and after eight years of serving some fresh ideas would certainly be appreciated.
I would love to have more ideas available to me. I also agree about the CRC creating more images available like the bulletin covers, etc...
Thanks for the article, Marcel. Understanding how people think is so important for ministry. Doing a personality test is a great way of opening our eyes to what makes the others tick. The Myers Briggs is perfect for this. I just picked up a book recommended by my brother who is also in ministry. His staff used Living Your Strengths by Winseman, Clifton, and Liesveld, a book that includes another type of test called the Clifton StrengthsFinder. We may use this StrengthFinder test as staff here at Immanuel CRC in Hamilton. Anyone else do this one to shed light on its effectiveness?
This is a good start and the reason i responded so quickly was the opportunity to share ministry with other colleagues. I would like to be a part of raising the bar for the ministry associate. I am completely affirmed in the work that i do as Pastor of Reconciliation. I look forward to encouraging other saints and being encouraged by them. What a wonderful and powerful use of our high tech.
on the journey with ya!
Rev. Angela Taylor Perry
I love the imaginations of kids this age!
Another good resource that I'm familiar with are the books by Lee Strobel: The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, the Case for a Creator, and The Case for the Real Jesus. These books are sold in teen editions as well as adult editions.
Very good advice. With free image editing software such as PhotoScape, you can resize multiple images very efficiently.
There is no such thing as a "missional disciple". Disciples ARE missional. -- Ed Stetzer.
We are working on putting our bulletin on our website, but it will only be visible to registered members as well as anything else "in house" only. We also respect people's wishes to keep their names out of the bulletin or online.
I'd like to know the laws regarding all this stuff. I've heard so many conflicting things I just don't know what is kosher anymore.
Found a great resource online for clergy tax stuff.
http://www.clergytaxnet.com/ It is an invaluable resource.
I'm a new pastor in our church. When I asked the treasurer about how she does the W-2 she said she only ever did 1099s. I said that was not right. We found this site which clearly puts the law straight on the issue and offers great services to clergy and church treasurers.
I really believe it starts with the vision and purpose of the groups set forth by the leadership. If they are just another program of many, then I think it will be difficult to form any real depth because people are thinking programatic and since no other program gets deep, why should small groups.
I found that in an established church the statement has to be made that this is going to be something really different than they are used to; it's about accountability and growing spiritually not just in more knowledge. I tell them that it is not going to be a Bible study, but where real transformation happens; be ready to be uncomfortable, but if you desire to grow as a disciple then stick with it.
The vision of what they are supposed to be must be absolutely clear. I've even told people in a previous church that they may not turn it into a Bible study where no one gets real. I'm a hard ass sometimes.
Then you have to spend a lot of time with your leaders training them what it means to lead such a group. There is some great stuff out there especially on smallgrouptrader.com (FREE) and smallgroups.com (worth the $99). Then coaching them while their dealing with this new phenomenon they've never encountered before is essential. Otherwise they will not have the vision, will become discouraged and momentum will slow.
Developmentally it is hard for groups to become immediately transparent. It's always a process that must be nurtured and sometimes people need to be challenged along the way. Leaders need to learn to ask the right questions that don't leave people safe. And they lead the way in being vulnerable.
I have found that accountability groups can work if the people are committed to it. I started one with some guys that is still going strong. But it is only 4 for good reason. If it's a moral compass kind of group then small is better.
Our sermon-based small groups are the best I've seen as far as taking the application to heart. As I'm writing the sermon, I know what questions I want the groups to talk about. I know where the folks are at and what stuff they struggle with so I'm able to formulate the questions to be very personal. Often each group member sets a goal for the week in relation to the questions and they follow up the next week. Some leaders even started calling their people during the week to see how things were going.
The groups also commit to doing mission together in the community with their families. That has really deepened the group as they serve and debrief.
one of the questions I have is how to make these groups more than simple discussion places. How do we get these groups to really be open and accountable to one another? I know it starts with getting to know one another, but often the material that you get for small groups starts superficially and sets that up as the tone for the entire group time, never moving any deeper into core struggles and issues that are crucial for growing in holiness.
For example, I know that sex and money are two MAJOR areas that most of us (especially men, but women too) fail to live righteously in, where can we go to get real support for these kinds of areas.
What kinds of groups have you seen work in building real accountability into the lives of Christians?
It surprises me how often webpage designers/programmers do this. With super-fast internet connections and/or ridiculously high bandwidth, maybe they don't even notice. ...Though it comes in handy if you'd like a copy of the little picture and then discover after saving it that it's at a high quality resolution!
we simply put a note in our bulletin asking those who objected to having their names in the bulletin to let us know, those names are removed. we also tried to bury the pdf file for the bulletin and only keep it up for a couple of weeks. names still come up on searches, but since it only stays on for a couple weeks, the chances of a hit are pretty slim.
it is a difficult subject to discuss, and requests for privacy need to be honoured. different laws between Canada and the US also make it difficult. Canada actually has really strict laws about what information websites can post about people.
not perfect, but we found that very few people actually objected to having their names on the bulletin online, especially for a short period of time.
"2. Don't fix what ain't broke --> usually, established churches already have men's groups, women's groups, bible studies, prayer groups, etc. Instead of replacing those for people, recognize that they work and grandfather them into the small group structure. Start calling all your bible studies small groups; call your worship teams small groups; then encourage them to act like small groups and work unconnected people into new groups.
What's your take on this?"
I don't think this is valid at all. Just the amount of groups you've listed show that the church is just too busy for small groups to be effective.
We've begun a visioning process here and already we are looking at how to simplify to make disciples. I am convinced that many church systems inherently keep people from actually becoming disciples even though they have lots of what they call disipleship ministries.
I think we talked about this during our coaching times, that churches need to have a structure for growing disciples that actually works. Business kills it. If the small group doesn't take you to deeper personal application and hold you accountable to these new commitments then chuck 'em. Keep it simple so people can actually be involved without feeling guilty.
You know what I mean?
Yes, fancy meeting you here. LOL!
I agree with what you're saying. I've been thinking a lot about "Simple Church" and the three basics to what makes simple churches so effective. Loving God, loving others and serving others. Most of these churches use small groups to especially make the last two work. And it makes all the sense in the world.
As you know I'm just getting my feet wet over here in Colorado, but things are moving right along. The church was itching to get going with a more missional focus. I brought up the small group idea, which they hadn't been doing for quite a few years and the groups were so-so when they did have them. We had a kick-off event in the middle of October and committed to a seven week (including a fun night or ministry night together) semester and then reevaluate. We had four good groups who picked their own leader. I spent 3 weeks training (used a lot of video footage from smallgrouptrader.com -- FREE).
The groups went amazing. I chose to start with sermon-based groups and they took off. People really love them. They appreciate that the discussions are application heavy challenging them to really look at themselves. Our next semester starts through the Lent to Easter weeks.
We are having a group eval next Wednesday over an appreciation dinner that I am cooking for them... Gourmet don't ya know.
I've been getting a lot of calls from my fellow seminary peers who are now out in the field and have no clue what to do or where to go for small group stuff. I usually get facebooked about it and point them to you and to the resources that I use. I'm not sure how many actually contact you.
I've been doing a lot of consulting on this end.
For the question of why evil is in the world, or why bad things happen, I often give Lewis Smedes' *How Can Everything Be All Right When Everything is All Wrong.*
Great idea! I'm always looking for more images and ideas that are available for public use.
Thanks for sharing your story Adam!
We would definitely appreciate any visual resources. We would like to see the denomination produce visuals that go with other items they produce (such as bulletin covers, handouts, etc.). Our church, as do many others, use photography that was done by our members in some of our visuals. Anything we could share with other churches would be great!
I should do mine earlier too! I think mine are actually simpler than they have been in the past so it should be easier too.
Interesting topic and a great one for an article.
Privacy / security is a complex problem especially when you consider all the generations in a church.
Thanks for the feedback!
Great suggestion. I added it to my roster of items to post.
There is a lot of wisdom in the article that is worth passing along!
Mark, Great comment! In my previous church we did the Myers Briggs Personality Test between the staff members. It was incredibly helpful to us in understanding each others personalities and how to work with each one uniquely. It was a great tool to work through with fellow staff members. Thanks for pointing this out.
Great article, Marcel.
I think another thing that we don't think about enough is that a good chunk of youth ministry folks fall into the Type B personality spectrum, where many administratively-minded council members (and many senior pastors) tend towards Type A. This often results in people speaking on two different levels. Similar tendencies exist with musicians and artist-types within the church.
Learning a little about your own personality and appreciating the way other people think is key to making this type of relationship work. Its sort of like the "Five Love Languages" for pastor-youth pastor-council relations.
Howdy Allen. I think many small group ministries of the past had an identity crisis. They tried to do it all. I am hearing about more churches designing small groups for discipleship and mission! God is at work through small groups in the CRC!
What small group plans have you implemented?
Home Missions Small Group Ministry Developer
Jolanda, thanks for your comments. We hope that this site will be helpful and informative to youth workers across North America. Thanks also for your input, I will check it out and see if we can get it added to the site for other youth workers to enjoy. If you have any more websites to recommend or thoughts you would like to share please pass them on. Thanks so much!!!
This article is nicely done! Lots of applications --- and thanks for pointing me to this site!
Your proud dad!
Between Allen and I, it appears that the beta testing for "The Network" is heavily weighted in favor of Classis Rocky Mountain. Represent!
Allen brings up a good point here, especially with respect to the topic of worship. There are, of course, divergent preferences for worship style within the CRC from traditional to contemporary to modern to post-modern to what I like to call "CRC neo-traditionalism", which is the seeming desire of folks in our camp to let the worship revolution "fad" pass over. I agree (with lament) that the CICW & Worship Symposium seems to cling to the latter style. This has, in effect, alienated those of us in the CRC who want to do modern worship in a way that is both theologically reflective and culturally relevant. Unfortunately, we've been forced to look to other places for resources and support. What's really sad is that a fantastic network of CRC-modern-worship-practitioners already exists under the radar and is not being tapped as a knowledge base for the betterment of the CRC as a whole.
For instance, I spent this past weekend coaching CRC churches in Iowa and Michigan on moving towards contemporary worship. They called me, some hack guitar player in Texas, because they don't know where else to go. Its amazing how basic the questions are and how easy they would be to answer!
To the point of this "Network", however, it seems to me that the type of people who will use this sort of technology are also the type of people that are probably involved in modern styles of worship. So, if we're going to make this useful, we need to start getting real about nuts and bolts and real about the fact that modern worship is not a "fad". It is, in fact, an evolution in music and we seem to be choosing extinction over adaptation.
I say we do this - lets encourage our cronies to get on here and lets get some information available for the churches that are pining for it. Let's give them a reason to log on!
Hi Allen.....funny meeting you here :)
This really brings me back to the Willow GroupLife conference. On the way home from Chicago, the discussion in our car went something like this:
Most church experts agree that there's three big keys to growing, healthy churches: small groups, great [modern] worship and children's ministry. Oddly enough, these are the three things that seem to be most lacking in our pastoral training.
That said, I've been wrestling with the issue myself. Here's the deal - if you're a chuch planter, you can infuse small group DNA into your church, and everyone talks about that. However, if you're a church "resurrector", the situation we both find ourselves in, how do you infuse small group DNA into an established church?
This is now my second try (my first one wasn't good in the small group development dept.). I see two key lessons that I learned and am now trying to apply:
1. Don't fool yourself into thinking EVERYONE is going to get into a group (ie, the old "household" model). This is bad and good. Bad because even the best big churches have 50% participation. It is good because it also means accessibility for the unchurched. For instance, our small group is meeting next week and I can invite my neighbor, who has absolutely no interest in church but wants to belong.
2. Don't fix what ain't broke --> usually, established churches already have men's groups, women's groups, bible studies, prayer groups, etc. Instead of replacing those for people, recognize that they work and grandfather them into the small group structure. Start calling all your bible studies small groups; call your worship teams small groups; then encourage them to act like small groups and work unconnected people into new groups.
What's your take on this?
I'd bookmark and peruse it for sure! S.
This site looks great, Marcel. Here's another web resource that I always recommend-- www.thesource4ym.com. It was helpful to me when I was a youth director. My favorite feature is the game search (http://www.thesource4ym.com/games/). It suggests games for your group based on criteria you select (size of group, indoor/outdoor, messy/clean, etc.). The slang dictionary is also fun (http://www.thesource4ym.com/teenlingo/).