Blog

Bruce Feiler, in his article for the New York Times, writes: "The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

October 30, 2015 5 0 comments
Blog

A line I often hear (and maybe you do, too) is: “If that’s what God is like, I don’t think I could believe in him.” Why are we so quick to re-write God when we find something we object to?

October 29, 2015 3 3 comments
Resource, Curriculum

The Sticky Faith curriculum contains tangible examples of ways to engage parents in ministry and help them understand their roles as the primary spiritual influence in their children's lives. 

October 26, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Syd Hielema reflects on our baptismal vows, defining this simple liturgical act as the cornerstone of our congregations’ way of walking with children and teens. 

October 26, 2015 2 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

Recent findings agree that parents continue to be one of the strongest influences on a young person’s faith formation. This webinar explores how to both support and mine this most important youth ministry resource.

October 20, 2015 1 1 comments
Blog

My pastor always begins the celebration of communion at our church with a warning: “We’re going to do something really weird now. It's important, and it's Biblical, but it's also pretty strange.”

October 20, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

Ron deVries serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Alberta. In this interview, he shares a few of the big issues he has noticed in youth ministry today. . . 

October 19, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

As we share some of the plans Faith Formation Ministries has in place for 2016 and beyond, we'd love to hear YOUR input and ideas! 

 

October 19, 2015 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Mark 6:14, "Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe..." Why did Jesus rebuke them for these things? 

October 16, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

In a recent interview with Complex magazine, Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber shared some of his thoughts on God, Christians, and going to church. How can, or should, we respond?

October 15, 2015 3 9 comments
Blog

Kids aren’t the only ones who like things the same; adults also often choose to sit in the same church pew each week. God knows we're wired this way and so He gave us rituals to build faith. 

October 15, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

My experience in the past 30 years with youth-curriculum has been extremely disappointing. Many materials do not engage the students. But, good news, the “So What” Bible Study is different. 

October 13, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

We have given many contradictory views on manhood—be rough and tumble but kind and compassionate, be strong and fierce, but able to cry, and on and on. Is this hindering men in their faith?

October 5, 2015 1 18 comments
Blog

As summer turns to fall, we'll take a look back at the first few months of Faith Formation Ministries' work. Next week, we'll preview what's to come. 

October 2, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Is it possible, given our preference of heart-knowledge over head-knowledge, that we, too, are at risk of abandoning our long and strong tradition of intellectual exploration?

September 30, 2015 0 3 comments
Blog

Laura Keeley is Co-director of Children's Ministries at Fourteenth Street CRC in Holland, Michigan, and serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Michigan. 

September 29, 2015 0 1 comments
Blog

This week we are heading south of the Canadian border to introduce you to Jill Friend, who serves as a Regional Catalyzer in Iowa.

September 23, 2015 1 1 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar examines a number of teaching resources and curriculum that many of the Canadian Youth Ministry Champions have used or are using for their youth groups. 

September 15, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

“People around me in church…they are probably OK with the Lord…“ And you think you are not? “Sometimes I don’t really know…"

September 15, 2015 2 1 comments
Resource, Website

Thinking about Thanksgiving? Wondering about ways to worship with all ages? Check out one of the things for which I’m thankful—the Worshipping with Children blog.

September 14, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

For the past three Sundays, my church has been promoting Fall Ministry Kickoff. It's impossible to miss the message to get involved! Is this the same at your church? What are your thoughts?

September 14, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

To many of us in North America, to rest is to be lazy. We have the saying “Don’t just sit there, do something.” And we are not afraid to say that to those who are sitting. Is this Biblical? 

September 14, 2015 2 2 comments
Blog

Being part of a large family reminds me that all of us, in our own way and in our own place and time, are trying to figure out what it means to live out our faith. And for each of us, that looks different.

September 14, 2015 0 0 comments
Q&A

Is their a guideline regarding voting at congregational meetings if someone is a professing member and is under the age of 18?

September 11, 2015 1 7 comments
Blog

The word ‘faithful’ has grown in meaning. It used to just refer to faith. Someone who had a lot of faith and lived faith consistently was ‘faithful.” Now being faithful means more...

September 8, 2015 2 0 comments

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Hi Leon, 

On the Dwell curriculum site there is a free downloadable Commissioning Litany that might be helpful. I love it because it involves children too!  Here's the link: http://dwell.faithaliveresources.org/_downloadables/_pdf/topics_for_coordinators/3_Commissioning_Litany.pdf

Karen De Boer, Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministries, CRCNA

 

 

Hello Jolanda,

Thank you for this article.  Just what I needed to hear as we begin another season of Sunday School in our local church!  I agree: the best gift we can give our students is a love for God's Word and a transformed self.

Say, we are having a Sunday School kick-off this Sunday.  Do you have any prayers and blessings for such an occasion?

Thank you kindly and God bless!

--Leon H. Johnston

Lacombe, AB

Long time ago Someone wrote that a congregation should be measured by the songs they sing, not the statement of faith. If that is true then most congregations are vacation bible school mentality at best.

An area that is worth watching is faith in the workplace, in which there are several good blogs going. For example the work section of The High Calling (http://www.thehighcalling.org/work) and the Theology of Work site (http://www.theologyofwork.org/) which is not strictly a blog, but publishes short and timely articles from the site in their Facebook page. I have also just published a new blog post in my own Faith@Work blog (http://faithatworkplace.blogspot.com).

Also, may I be cheeky enough to plug my upcoming CRC Webinar on the subject, called "Every Square Inch" at Work? This is a general area of faith formation in which the church, and especially CRC, could do far more to equip its members to live out God's Kingdom calling in their everyday occupations.

This is awesome, Shannon! Our church is hoping to launch some interest groups this season and my desire is to see these spaces be places where those who are older and younger can build lasting relationships that open up space for meaningful conversation and story sharing! 

Great post, Shannon! I think sometimes we try too hard to make intergenerational ministry happen. Yours is a great example of the organic nature of how God works in our midst when we aren't even trying to make things happen.

This isn't specifically for intergenerational trips, but our church recently sent it's high school youth group to Mexico on a mission trip. The youth director paired all of the students going with prayer partners, older folks in the church, many of whom were very generous in supporting the kids financially to go. She also had the kids in Wednesday evening children's ministries make cards for the youth going on the trip (6 weeks before they left). This got the younger kids interested in the trip, too. So when the youth director was thinking of a fund raiser, she put together a dinner at the church, that the youth sold tickets for. The price was a bit steep for many folks ($20/adult, $10/kid, and 5 and under free), but more than 100 people showed up, and it was an intergenerational group, from young families to seniors. Many people paid more than the ticket price to support the trip.

The meal for the dinner was prepared by a few of the boys in the youth group, interested in cooking and baking, under the shepherding of a man in the church who loves grilling. There were ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork sandwiches, homemade rolls, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese. The rest of the youth group pitched in with set-up and tear-down and serving, and everyone pitched in to promote it. The whole church really took ownership of the fund raising. It was good to see!

One thing I found interesting about this study was that it pointed to the importance of the quality of the parent/child relationship in passing on our faith. It's important that we are intentional about talking with our kids about God but it may be even more important that our interactions with them be characterized by openness, affection, grace, and love--qualities that reflect God's heart for them too. It is nice to know that just loving our kids well helps them to love and admire the God we adore. 

This is great! Thanks for sharing.

posted in: Youth

Thanks for sharing this Louis. 

posted in: Youth

I read your post, Roger, and I'm glad you're keeping this interesting conversation alive! I agree that our society puts all the attention on us, and baptism is really about what God is doing, not what we are doing... But I don't think that alleviates the problem that Howard is describing. Memories shape us and help to form our faith, so I am deeply interested in helping my kids and our church find ways to acknowledge the meaning of baptism and remember and hold onto it in personal ways, faith shaping ways. Pointing to infant baptism as something GOD is doing is itself a hurdle that makes it different from infant dedication. Our ways of remembering our baptism should focus on that message of remembering God's work in our lives and God's faithfulness in our community and through the generations.  

I know this article is rather dated, so perhaps the comments that come in this late will never even be read.  But as I see it, infant baptism isn't the problem, but rather believer's baptism, or the idea of infant baptism being the only form of baptism that is done in a church (is the problem).  Because baptism, say in a Baptist church, is considered a sign of one's faith by which they have taken hold of Christ.  It is more of a sign of an individual's action and a sign of when they themselves came to faith in Christ.  Whereas in the Reformed tradition, baptism is a sign of God's action.  It's really about God and not about me.  But in our egotistical society, we tend to put ourselves at front and center and want markers of what we have done, so believer's baptism does more to feed that kind of mentality; it draws attention to me.  So in our Reformed tradition we have to be careful not to feed such a mentality and emphasis. Salvation is about God, not about me.  More could be said, but seeing as this will likely never be read, I'll leave it at that. 

Thank you for sharing this, Laura! I like the idea of honoring the small occasions in our family's life. Our oldest child recently graduated the eight grade, and her school doesn't have a ceremony or anything to mark it, but I have been wondering how our family might mark, even in a small way, this milestone in her life as she sets of for high school. I am eager to check this book out.

This book inspired me to start a new family tradition for Pentecost! I like the ideas involving kites and wind that the author suggested for Pentecost, but I've always noticed a certain flower that blooms in the spring that reminds me of a flame. So my family (which includes my husband and two-year-old daughter) planted an orange celosia plumosa flower as we talked about the Pentecost story. Then we sang a simple song that I learned through the Little Lamb's curriculum which is set to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell: 

The birthday of the church! 

The birthday of the church! 

We celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of the church!

The wind was very strong

The Holy Spirit came,

Disciples told of Jesus love and praised his holy name! 

We will probably outgrow that song as my kids grow up, but I hope to continue planting the flower each year! Now it sits in a pot near our deck reminding us of the important day when the Holy Spirit came in a new way. My daughter waters it while she plays with her water table and sings the Pentecost song! 

 

Thank you, Laura, for this lovely post on my book! If people are interested in checking it out, they can find it at Chalice Press or Amazon

Congratulations to you on your son's wedding; what a joyous occasion! 

 

 

Hi Chris,

Thank you for this blog post.  I like your angle.  We too "vacate" a bit during the summer, as we love to go camping and visit family.  But like you suggest, I'm trying to take more "Sabbath" during my vacation.  Slowing things down, reading more, spending more time in quiet.  We also spend considerable time in our backyard, working in the garden, but also spending time in solitude and silence, in God's creation.  But as much as we enjoy staying home during summer holiday time, we've also learned to get a way a bit, as you'll know that when a pastor is home, he is "on-call."

May the Lord bless our Summer-Sabbath breaks!

--Leon

I once had a wise spiritual director say words to me that I will never forget and that have helped guide my life ever since: She said, "Consider the things that bring you life; consider the things that bring you death; and don't do violence to yourself." Work for me includes both those things that bring life, and those that bring death; and I can tell when the balance gets shifted and I need to make some changes. The Lord has created us with a need for Sabbath, for rest, for the renewing and refreshing of our souls. This blog is thought-provoking for me. What brings life to my soul? A vacation-day or a holy-day?

Thanks Harriette for your post on doubts that some Christians may have on their faith journey.  It’s my guess that this questioning pastor, who relayed the story of the street preacher and the heckler, didn’t have serious doubts about his faith but was only looking for something (anything) to confirm his already grounded faith.  If he was serious about his doubts he would look beyond this one example of this heckler who got what he prayed for to the thousands who didn’t receive what they prayer for.  Thousands pray for the healing of a husband, wife, or child, thousands pray for the just outcome of a war, thousands have prayed for the healing of a broken marriage, and on and on, without receiving what they have sincerely prayed for.  And yet Jesus teaches that we can pray for whatever we want and we will receive it.  Does this one example really exemplify a loving God answering what we pray for?  This pastor really wasn’t very objective in pitting the one example of answered prayer against the thousands of examples of unanswered prayer.  And that is even if this one example is even verifiable or just a good story.  Your post is suggesting that Christians should be more gullible when grabbing for straws.  Thanks, anyway, for a good attempt.

Thanks for sharing this! It is a good challenge to many of us.

Louis Tamminga, May 1, 2014

Thanks again, John, for laying out your thoughts in further detail. You burned the mid-night oil.

How shall we proceed from here on? 

These columns are meant to think together through various issues that concern the well-being of our churches. So we seek your input. It would be fine if you would wish to address only parts of John's essay. Should the church in the future wish to deal with these proposals and needs, we realize that the pathway through the ecclesiastical structures is cumbersome and time consuming. But progress will only be made when office bearers and thoughtful members have already discussed them at various levels. So, again, let's talk. We owe it to the church and to John.

A word of caution

This NETWORK is meant to help church leaders in doing their ministerial work. There are so many parts and issues in this work. They all deserve discussion. Share your problems and experiences with us all. This must not become a one-issue platform.

Thanks, Louis for your refreshing openness.    This is a big topic, but I will try to be brief as possible.  I have thought about this issue for some time since about  30 years ago when asked by a non-member visitor whether he could participate.   Many other circumstances and situations have added to this thinking, including those baptized as adults but not members, those baptized as infants but not adult professing members, those with reduced mental capacity, etc.  In addition I had to make decisions on whether to participate in non-reformed churches. Also I noted that in one reformed church only a small part of the membership actually participated in communion, and that I was restricted from participating in another particular reformed church as a visitor because I was from a different denomination.

I think  profession of faith has always been an issue of formal church adult membership primarily.   It sometimes happens years after someone knows they are a Christian.   It is not a gateway to faith in Christ, but a commitment to local and denominational precepts.  There is no reason to think that making such a profession of faith is tied to a recognition of a faith relationship to God or to the body of Christ, since if this was so, for many children, it would be done much earlier, and for some people, it should not be done until much later.

 I see too often that profession of faith is not taken seriously.  The elders who examine do not understand the significance, and the one who professes faith does not renounce sin in any reasonable fashion.   It should be noted that simply saying you renounce sin does not prove that you really do.   In the same way, professing that scripture is your guide and rule for life and for worship, is not the same as actually doing so.   Members who do not renounce sin, who refuse to put on the robe of righteousness/obedience, and who think scripture is out of date, cause problems when they influence others to do the same under the presumed authority of their membership.  

We generally consider those who make profession of faith as full members and able to participate in congregational meetings, voting, and eligibility for office.   Then we have also in the past added in the ability to participate in communion, and baptism of their children. 

I think we should separate these two items.  In order to participate in communion, faith ought to be evident, but in general this should be left up to the participant with the general warning that if you do not believe and trust in Christ, that you should refrain from participating.  If you believe and trust and follow, then you are considered part of the body of Christ, and thus communion is fitting, since it is participation in the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour.

If someone is participating when it is obvious that there is no repentance, no renewal, no reflection of Christ, then that is opportunity for the elders to talk and visit and witness.   This opportunity is a gift from God, not to be neglected.

Membership as an adult is somewhat different, because now distinctions are being made between various confessions of faith, various assumptions about renouncing sin, and various governance assumptions.   If we have a significant number of people making profession of faith who do not agree with some of the confessions, then they can easily vote in favor of not promoting infant baptism, or inviting various speakers from any denomination to preach, denying the authority of the elders, or denying the power of scripture over their lives.   Membership ought to be clearer.  It is not a form of acceptance by the congregation, but a form of commitment to a set of standards by the believer/member. 

We ask elders to sign the form or covenant of officebearers, in order to establish what their commitment is.  However, by making membership conditions relatively insignificant, there is a side effect on signing of this elder’s form such that it is also not taken so seriously, and thus we have officebearers directly contradicting their agreement both in their understanding of the confessions and scripture and in their daily walk of life.   We have seen this in council rooms, congregational meetings and in the banner.   If this is not taken seriously, then how can we have the temerity to suggest that it is necessary to make a formal membership profession in order to partake of communion?

A contrast was made for me in the difference between two churches (not crc) in my region, and how they handled church membership.   One church had 10,000 members on their books and had seating for only 2000 people in their building and the church usually half empty.   Rarely 10% of their membership would attend on a weekly basis.   Another church had seating for 1500, with only 250 adult members, where attendance was usually four times the membership, and 80% full.   The second includes a statement of faith, as well as a statement of conduct relevant to today’s temptations to which a member must sign agreement.   One treated membership as a mystical panacea that covered their sins, while the other treated membership as a commitment with high standards.  So the question for me is, which does the crc prefer to be?

We should also make clear that if membership is not contingent on following all of the proscribed confessions, articles, synodical statements, forms for baptism, installation, ordination, etc., then in which instances is there room for divergent perspectives and beliefs?  For example, if there is room in the crc for members who wish to be rebaptized, or for those who prefer believer baptism, or for those who speak in tongues, then we should make this clear.  If there is room for members who deny that God created man good, then perhaps we should make that clear.  If there is room for members who advocate sexual immorality, then we should make that clear.   The lack of clarity in a simple document on some of these high profile issues causes problems for members, for those considering membership, for elders, and for any understanding of membership, acceptance and discipline.

In my view, the potential complexities of a membership decision should not be the condition for approving or denying communion in the form of the Lord’s supper.

April 29, 2014

Louis Tamminga

 

​Thanks, John, for your contribution of April 22, today just one week ago. I have pondered on your remarks many hours. Many readers of NETWORK will have too. The fact that I did not read any responses probably demonstrates that others too could not come up with answers. Unable to formulate a helpful response I took comfort in the fact that NETWORK was designed to draw many readers into discussing the observations and questions of fellow-readers.  So, dear participants, what would you say to John and us all? 

And I may add: John, what would you say yourself in response to your questions? As you struggled with your thoughts, you will have envisioned some  answers. 

 

Thanks for your reply/comment.  First I would respond that in my experience it is indeed realistic that some children would examine the confessions and practices of the church, and begin to make statements about which they agree with, and which they do not.   These are usually children who are very committed and who examine scripture and love the Lord.  These children can range in age from 14 to 30.   They came to the faith from the time they could speak and read, and as we confess in our creeds, they belonged to God from before birth, as evidenced in their daily talk and walk.

Whether we agree with their confessional or practical disagreements or not, on what basis do we deny them communion?  They believe in Jesus as their divine Lord and Saviour, and follow Him in their daily lives.   What if the clause in profession of faith " “to confess the faith of the church as taught in the creeds and confessions of this church.”" causes them objections?  Or from the 1976 form, "Do you believe....that the confessions of this church faithfully reflect this revelation?"  What do we do then with temporary or permanent visitors from other places, or from other churches(with different doctrines)?   Should communion be tied to membership?

I have participated, as have my children, in communion in non-crc churches.  These include Alliance, Baptist, Church of God, Brethern, Luthern, and various community churches.  I do not believe that communion belongs to a denomination.    Only that communion ought to be practiced in a way to treat each other as the body of Christ, mostly by not being selfish (I Cor.14), since Christ was not selfish.  I have also seen some non-members exhibit more christian leadership and committment than some "professing" members.   Would we then deny the one and admit the other?

This is different than I thought when I was a child, but it is a real struggle.  When we see people making profession of faith who are not renouncing sin, how honest are we being?   The 2013 form and the 1989 form seem to place less emphasis on the confessions, but is there no expectation of membership with the profession of faith any longer?  Yet it seems to be a gateway to membership, voting, and eligibility for teaching and leadership, yes?  Which would at a minimum imply some level of agreement with confessions and practices?   And would imply some agreement on christian living?   Some other denominations separate this entirely, by making faith and communion separate from membership.  Membership then implies a whole 'nother level of committment.  Perhaps we could learn from this?

I appreciate the attempt to accommodate various less significant differences, within the ability to participate in communion.  I agree with that.  But what that leads to then is a problem with membership and committment.  I have seen difficulties with members not renouncing sin, or with members saying the Bible is out of date, or with making huge scriptural inaccuracies such as Mary  being raped when conceived with Jesus,  or Paul being homosexual.  Not to speak of those who question whether God really created us good.   I have difficulty in communion with people who do that, but even more importantly, such people are deemed qualified for leadership simply because they are members by virtue of their profession of faith?  How do we practice the Lord's Supper as the Lord himself did and the epistles instruct us, while at the same time making membership and leadership truly accountable?  In the past these two things have been so closely tied together, but are they still?

Sorry for my questions, and perhaps they are not easily answered.  The baggage of our history lingers on.

My thanks to John Zylstra for his thoughtful comment about “older children” participating in the Lord's Supper without having made Public Profession of Faith. John argues that many such children/young people may have problems with the three Confessions of Faith (the “Creeds”). John, in passing, refers to Christ's approval which is a bit tenuous, since Christ did not spell out participation in detail.

Thinking about John’s proposal brings up immediately one implication: churches following this path will then have another – a third - class of members: regular participants in the Lord's Supper, but not “Professed Members”.

The problem John introduces is real and it is not new. Let me suggest a solution which I think is more profitable.

It is hardly realistic to think that "older children,” who consider profession of faith,  will turn to the Creeds and then check whether they agree with the contents. By far the majority of church members came to the faith through Bible reading, the Christian life at home, the ministry of  the church, and a variety of Christian contacts. The Holy Spirit used these and other means to instill faith in the hearts of the members (mostly) from young age on. Thus they became members of a church-fellowship that confessed the Word of God as the source and basis of faith.

But the denomination also confessed that the thrust of God's Word was summed up in the Creeds.  As a community of believers we believe those to be true (though not at the same level as the Scriptures). They form splendid study materials,  keep us connected with previous generations, form a helpful defense of the faith, and Pastors preach sermons that do not contradict the creeds.

Does that mean that I must agree with each phrase in the Creeds? Not really.

What can I do in case of disagreement? We realize, of course, that many strategic doctrines of salvation are spelled out clearly in the Bible. But there is plenty left for believers to disagree about.  For instance “infant baptism”. But would that seriously hamper me from joining a church in which I have been nurtured spiritually from my youth on?  I think not. Here, I think, is the way young people may follow. They will speak with their minister, or elder, or trusted guide and together consider the matter.  Should this not lead to clarity, the young member should be assured that his/her (confessed) membership remains fully assured in spite of the confessional wrinkle.  I may stand next to him/her in the Lord's Supper circle, both assured in Christ's salvation, but with a different view of one implication  of holy baptism. The 'solution' I propose is pastoral, it is the assurance that we look in a glass darkly but our hope is in Christ in whom we are one in spite of our differences.

Synod itself at one time gave a  bit of pastoral advice in reply to a question of a local church, how to deal with a charismatic member who had accepted adult baptism in another fellowship. Synod's reply: ask that member whether she still  values her membership in your congregations and whether she is prepared to continue to accept the responsibilities going with regular membership.  (Synod 1973, Acts page 73)

Although it is true that participating in communion ought to be a sign of faith, and not a sign of peer approval, the direct connection to making a formal membership profession of faith in a particular denomination is not required by scripture.  Of course we would ask and expect only believers to participate.  On the other hand, if someone says that they have not read the belgic confession and thus cannot yet make profession of faith in any reformed church, or they agree with most of the confessions, but not with the mandatory requirement for infant baptism and thus cannot in good conscience say that they agree entirely with what is taught on that point, should they therefore be denied participation in the body of Christ?  Did Jesus do such?  Would we deny christians from ORC, or from NRC, or from Baptist or Pentacostal, or Alliance churches to participate in this remembrance of the body of Christ?  even though they have not entered the hallowed "gateway"?  If the crc finds a way to distinguish between profession of faith, and a membership committment, then perhaps you might have a point.  The two are not the same.  

Comment by Louis Tamminga:

This discussion  began with a distinction that was made: "older children" might not feel free to make public profession of faith (as yet...) but might still want to participate in the Lord's Supper. 

I submit that such a distinction is not valid. 

The CRC Synod of 1988 formulated some clear biblical in-sights re. the relationship between the Lord's Supper and faith-commitment. Here are some quotes: "The Bible makes clear that participation in the Lord's Supper is the result of status in the covenant ..."   (Thus Synod implied that the church is warranted in admitting covenant children to the Lord's Supper.). But Synod was careful to maintain the link between faith and participation in the Supper: "Our confessions teach the necessity of faith for participation in the Lord's Supper." It added: "The Heidelberg Catechism explains that participants in the sacrament accept with believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ."(Q&A 76). For the "older children" accepting  the elements of bread and wine, is concomitant to making profession of faith. The Consistory will want to follow the normal route: making profession of faith a gate to the holy communion.

(for a detailed study, see pages 260-316 Acts of Synod 1988)

 

 

 

My go-to suggestion would be Shaped by God, edited by Bob Keeley (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/151126/shaped-by-god.aspx). It's an excellent resource with chapters on all sorts of topics by different authors. 

I ran into George Brown (G.W. and Eddie Haworth Professor Emeritus of Christian Education at Western Theological Seminary) a few weeks ago and he recommended these two newer titles on faith formation:

Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations by Vern Bengtson

Faith Forward by Melvin Bray

Let us know what you decide on, we'd love to hear your thoughts! 

 

 

I think these are really great comments. The one about Classis Holland especially!

I put together a list of resources on our church website: http://www.fcvcrc.org/worship/children-lords-supper.cfm

My thinking on this has changed over the years.  I used to think only crc professing members should participate.  Then I realized that believing in Jesus as Lord and Saviour was more important;  how could we exclude other believers for non-membership?  But I thought that for baptized children they should still make membership profession first, because they lacked discernment.  Then I realized that some children had more discernment than some professing members.  The discernment in I Corinthians 11 refers to caring for others in the body of Christ, not some greater esoteric knowledge of magnificent theological and confessional insights.  And I realized that the apostles at the time of the Lord's Supper were all deniers and abandoned Jesus only a day later.  And even Judas was included in this last supper.  So it makes no sense for the way we restrict this. 

I have often participated in communion at many evangelical churches in several denominations, because I have no ability nor reason to think that they are not sincere spirit filled christians.  The extreme of crc not allowing rca to participate, or prc not permitting visiting orc to participate highlights the absurdity of our claims to make this sacrament dependant on an official membership.  This sacrament does not belong to a denomination, and we should acknowledge that.  The warning that scripture gives, should be the one we give, and the invitation scripture gives, we should give, and we should leave it at that, unless someone lives in  very serious moral disobedience, where mockery is obvious.     Even then, we should be cautious, given that Jesus did not prevent Judas.  We know that people can be Christ-followers without being official crc members.   And this opens the way for older "non-professing" but living-as-christ-follower christians to participate joyfully.

The decision as to whether or not to admit one to partake in the Lord's Supper used to be a lot simpler...

As per the minutes of the meeting of Classis Holland in April 25, 1849:

Admission to Communion - Whether any shall be admitted to the Lord's Supper who are unknown to the minister and consistory.

Answer - Yes, and even if they are known to be wicked and yet approach the communion table.  Such a person is to be asked what induces him to come.  If he confesses his sin and his faith in Jesus, and expresses a purpose to serve the Lord, he is to be admitted.

I am hoping this question will uncover how other CRC churches are dealing with this topic.

Thnaks to Josh and Derek for e-mails. A number of years ago we had similar situation in our church. :

 

1. Several high school youth who were very involved in our hi school group desired to make professuion of faith.. Most were baptized members from other denominational churches.

2. We talked with the parents and also at least one church leader from their "home" church concerning their desire to proceed with POF at our church.

3. These students went thru our POF mentoring process, made POF and ultimately joined our church.

 

I think the key to this proces working as well as it did,  was due to time taken to pray,  listen/talk with student's home church leaders and family members.  All involved understood that this was the work of the Holy Spiit leading them in their journey.

  We have been all blessed.

 

 

Arnie

Thanks for the question Josh. I reached out to Howard Vanderwell at Calvin Seminary to ask for his advice. Here's what he offered for consideration: 

1. In which of these congregations does he intend to remain affiliated, either, or both?  How he answers that might provide insight into which is his "primary membership".

2. Normally baptism and profession of faith are combined as a unit in the same congregation, so it's rather unusual to have one here and another there.

3. Possibility #1 is that he "transfers" his baptism record to the new congregation (yours) at the time of making POF there. Then they are together there which is the usual way.

4. The other possibility is to receive a statement by him, if necessary verified by the other congregation, that his is in fact baptized, and then the profession of faith can proceed without an adult baptism. A statement that there is a baptism in his past is usually sufficient. Your congregation/Elders can then acknowledge his baptism at _____, and proceed with his POF.  But some churches are very careless in keeping record of such things.  If  he  has not been baptized, then his POF should be turned into an adult baptism.  

I hope this helps. It does seems like a decision that should be made by your council since they know the situation best. You could always reach out to your classis for guidance on the issue as well. 

 

 

I will add my input on this because I do think it's an important one. I will speak with regards to my experience, and perhaps this is reflective of other young adults.

Does size matter? It certainly changes how social interaction happens, and this is applied in all types of settings. I immediately think of class sizes at college. Small is focused, communicative, personal. Large tends to be generic, less personal, and less-focused. Now, I know this doesn't apply in all situations, and context matters. So how has this played out in the church in my experience?

I have attended large congregations where I could show up and walk out without saying a word to another soul. I have similarly been to small congregations who were so focused on their conversations with their long-time friends that they neglected my presence in the room. The opposite is true too- for showing up and being welcomed by large and small congregations alike.

I have attended a church my whole life that is medium in size where the aspect of authentic relationships is key. It's great that I can show up at a place I can call home, where I can be involved, while still drawing on the gifts from many members.

The word I like to use is intentional. If you act and say with intention, you will reap the benefits of it, instead of happening upon the optimal outcome by chance. Smaller churches are provided with this flexibility where large churches cannot do this as easily (although able). It is my hope that both large and small churches can execute with intention in their ministry.

Size doesn't matter. A willingness to engage the younger generation is at the heart of this issue. I've been to small churches and just the opposite is true. I don't think the issue is as cut and dry as this makes it to be.

I serve a medium size church that is one of the few growing... and we can find places and opportunities for younger people to find their voice, but we're willing to engage.

I think you're right on George, but another reason Peterson might have said that is that smaller churches do not allow a new believer to disappear into the woodwork.  The smaller church needs its members to be active in carrying on the ministry of the church.  Larger churches can become comfortable places where one's faith is not exercised and stretched.

Agreed! We recently moved our family from a large church to a smaller one. My husband and I, after 6 years of not being able to use our gifts, are now using our gifts in service on a weekly basis. But the more interesting fact is that our three teenagers are thriving now in a small youth group where they didn't in the large one with all the"glitz". After the first over night youth retreat, our oldest came back and said, "I know everyone's name now". The once shy, uninvolved teen is now at every youth event- where eveyone knows his name too. 

Another thing about a small church is the opportunity to serve.  You don't have to have an awesome voice to sing in the choir and if you're willing, you'll be asked to fill in for a Sunday School teacher or nursery worker after a few months.  There's nothing like being involved to help a person, young or old, feel like they belong in a church family.

Randy,

Thanks for your thoughts on this common matter. I'd be even more appreciative if you'd take those thoughts and work them into an article for the BANNER. Something similar to what Kuyvenhoven did on a Baptism article years ago would be in Q&A form to make it easily digestible.    We need more emphasis on the covenantal aspect of baptism, and get away from the adult or infant terminology. You've got a good grasp of it....expand it, share it, the CRCNA needs it as it continues to deal with the faith formation of its youth, and do some catch up with its non-informed others.... Thanks!

I would baptize the child, not as an infant or adult baptism, but more accurately, as covenantal baptism. When we were evangelized into the church, my mother was baptized and made profession of faith, and I was baptized at age 11 ,and my sister at age 6. My pastor (John Rozeboom) explained what baptism was about in an "age and ability appropriate way" (as we have been saying lately with our focus on faith formation and the issue of children and the Lord's Supper). Was it "infant baptism" or "believer's baptism"? Neither term is really fitting; it was covenantal baptism. I was baptized because my single mom, the head of our household, was baptized, just like Lydia and her househould, or the Philippian Jailor (poor guy has no name!) and his household (Acts 16).

Also, it is quite appropriate to say that a person is baptized into Christianity, though more appropriately, that one is baptized into the church. This is not a statement about God's eternal decree of election; it is a recognition that this person, at whatever age it occurs, is now breathing the air of the confessional community (credit to Henry DeMoor for that phrase, I believe). There is a well-known remark of CS Lewis on this topic: "Don't bother at all about the question of a person being 'made a Christian' by baptism. It is only the usual trouble about words being used in more than one sense. Thus we might say a man 'became a soldier' the moment he joined the army. But his instructors might say six months later 'I think we have made a solider out of him.' "

In addition, we do not baptize because we presume that a child is elect, though Abraham Kuyper championed that view, and it was common in the CRC beginning about a century ago and through maybe the 1950's - 60's. The "Liberated" Reformed Churches (Canadian Reformed and American Reformed) still think we teach that perspective (presumptive regeneration). But this perspective has rightly fallen by the wayside. We do not baptize on the basis of a presumption. We baptize on the basis of God's claim and God's promise. We baptize because we recognize that God's covenant promises come to an individual through a community; we baptize because God's claim on a child's allegiance will come to that child through the influence of at least one believing parent (I Cor. 7:14).

We may speak of infant baptism and believers' baptism however, if we're referring to the water ritual, neither bestow salvation. The baptism of infants and small children brings them into the spiritually-nurturing, covenant community of believers but doesn't bring salvation. Only saving faith in Christ's finished work transforms a sinner into a saved, beloved child of God. No one is baptized into Christianity. Hence, Christian parents baptize infants or little children presuming they are among God' s elect and that when they're older they will commit their lives to Christ and are born again. 

I had this situation some years ago.  In the end I asked some questions of the mother and some of the seven year old boy.  And he was baptized.  But, this didn't count as profession of faith. 

I would suggest you look at the Faith Formation materials, particularly the emphasis on children coming to the Lord's Table with age-appropriate faith. The situation before you could be solved with the same logic. The grade 2 child can and should be able to articulate faith in Jesus at a grade 2 level (more or less what you wrote in the post). That is what you are looking for. I would suggest very simple faith questions based on the Adult Baptism or Profession of Faith forms followed by baptism. Then he can make full Profession of Faith later when he is ready. 

The other option is to just baptize him as you would an infant purely because of the faith of the mother. I would see this as perfectly ok too.

What would make it most meaningful for the child?

To my own surprise, I've revisited what I wrote about Sarah several times, rereading it, and pondering this experience in my heart.  Thank you to those of you who've responded in writing; your response to our experience is a  blessing and a comfort.  Oh how much I would have loved to get to know Annie and Dylan and Holly, and all the rest of the saints --children of  fellow believers who went before us - to greater glory as Brother John says.   Yes, I shed a lot of  tears for all the loss, and I still do, and I guess I'll go on shedding tears in my life too.  We all will, and we'll hold on to the promises together too.  And we'll comfort each other, and by God's grace and Spirit we'll live lives that are empowered and joyful now with the power of the resurrection. 

It's been a little over two years now since we said goodbye to our 21-year old daughter, Holly.  Holly passed away on September 9, 2011 - only 2 and half months after battling a rare, very aggressive spinal cord tumor that caused her to become paralyzed just a couple of weeks after the onset of back pain.  

Both my husband and I have experienced that same deep sadness - not only on those "anniversaries", but other times, too, when we are suddenly blindsided by grief.  All of the hopes and dreams we had for Holly graduating college and getting married, evaporated the day she left us to go to heaven.  Still, we cling tightly to the hope that we will see her again one day - her body healed--no more surgery, no more radiation treatments, no more wheelchair.  

During Holly's illness, we witnessed the body of Christ through Neland Church members...through neighbors and friends....and people in the Grand Rapids community, who transformed our home into a wheel-chair accessible place for her after her treatment.  And, after Holly left us for heaven, God still brings people alongside us on our grief journey.  One of those people is Ruth Boven - pastor at Neland Church.  She was a constant visitor to Holly and also uplifted my husband and I through some of our most difficult days in the hospital and multiple trips to the emergency room....and when a cure was not evident, Ruth reminded us, that we still can lean on that resurrection hope and have faith that we wiill see our precious girl again.  

We have also found that blessing others, who have been touched by cancer,  has been a balm to our grief.  A group of us from Neland Church have cooked some of the community dinners for the residents of Hope Lodge - the facility where our daughter stayed during cancer treatment.  We've also sponsored a team through Relay for Life the last two years - another way we can honor Holly and be an encouragement to others.  We still miss our daughter terribly - we know that there will always be that "hole", but believe that God is using this tragic and untimely loss to bless others.

 

 

 

Karl, thank you for speaking from your heart.  This essay was a gift to us all.

A profound testimony, Karl.  We are grateful for your sharing it with us.  Carl K

Thank you Karl and others for sharing your stories and thoughts.

Thanks for this great testimony of pain, loss, hope, and just that bit of godly wondering.

Thanks, Karl, for this reflection. Grief is so painful; it persists. It is right for us to grieve and to be honest about it. And we are blessed when we hear the testimony of people like you. The hope of the resurrection doesn't take away grief, but it surely puts it in a very different light.  God continue to bless you and yours. Harvey 

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