Next Steps for Me...and for The Network

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Today I retire. I leave the employment of the CRCNA after 32-plus years with CRWRC, the Denominational Office, and most recently, The Network. So I’d like to say a thing or two about this venture, The Network. We launched its online service in February, 2010, not knowing exactly what to expect. We’ve watched it grow during each one of these last 18 months. We’ve seen it connect people doing ministry in churches across our denomination. And we’ve seen it evolve based on your feedback.

Why did we create The Network anyway? Don’t we have enough denominational ministries, enough forms of communication? Aren’t our inboxes already overflowing? Well yes, I suppose. But there should always be room for the new—as long as it meets a need or adds some new value.

With The Network we’ve tried to do two things:

  1. Create an easy-to-access, one stop resource center for local church leaders.  We started by asking what pastors, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, technology people might want to know. Actually, we gave that question to volunteer “guides” and forum hosts who are themselves anchored in the local church and asked them to assemble resources—articles, basic guidelines, practical advice, and links to the web sites of denominational agencies and other resources. But we also hoped that participants could themselves be resources to one another—asking questions, giving answers, sharing ideas.
     
  2. Create a meeting place for the CRC and its friends—a place of conversation, a place where even difficult questions of ministry can be addressed. We are all to one degree or another isolated, perplexed, searching. Could we help the CRCNA be a community of Christ that more easily and quickly learns from each other’s experiences in ministry?

To sum it all up, you could say The Network has been an effort to apply social networking to the church. Not just for the sake of being social, but to equip and encourage each other for ministry.

Are we succeeding? Should we continue?

The Board of Trustees has initiated a review of The Network and, specifically, this website. Use the comment feature below to share your thoughts. 

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Let's Discuss…

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Community Builder

I like a lot about the network in many ways. I have printed off blogs for my elders and deacons for council meetings so that they might be up to date on a few items. On the other hand,  I am a bit unerved sometimes about the harshness some people respond to posts in the forums.

I will be honest, there is something missing and I just don't know what...if that makes sense at all.

In the end, keep it up though, keep evolving and be fluid in how the Network opperates. It takes time for a child to learn how walk, it will take time for the Network to become what it is supposed to become.

Community Builder

I think the network is an ambitious undertaking and I'm very impressed at what you've been able to accomplish so far. I think many people who have never attempted to develop any online tools probably have little idea how difficult this undertaking really is and in my opinion what you've managed to do has so far exceded my expectations of what I thought you could do. I think it is a strategically important goal and like many ministry undertakings requires determination, support and prayer. 

I have been impressed by the quality of some of what has been generated in this effort. There are wise and godly servants of the church and you have managed to gleen some of what they have to offer. Penetrating the din of information is a challenge that multi-billion dollar media companies work at every day. We just imagine "write good CRC stuff and people will find it." That's simply not true. Your task is not unlike that of starting a church, because you are really developing a community or at least trying to support one. 

So good job on your start. I hope those who are evaluating this effort understand both the challenge and the importance of the undertaking. pvk

Community Builder

I think the Network is a good idea, too. I've read and saved a fair bit of helpful material from the insightful and gifted people who populate this corner of the internet. I am thankful for Michael and his time and talents!

For me, the "something missing" is how the Network doesn't integrate into my existing communication and social media tools. I almost wish it were something like "crcnetwork.facebook [or twitter or whatever].com" – a unique area in something I'm already using. The Network would not regularly be on my radar without the reminder emails or the "headlines" in the CRC weekly newsletter, which feel more old-school than I think the Network is trying to be.

I look forward to seeing how the Network continues to develop and bless our church(es)!
Stan

I have found The Network very helpful, mostly from a church adminstration and/or church finance perspective.  I am somewhat disappointed with the number of people who do not use it (both in our local church and denomination wide).  I would like a broader perspective.

I think the various "guides" have done an admirable job.  There has been much thought and time spent from some very dedicated persons.  My thanks to them!

Participant

My opinion is biased since I was an early contributor and have now become a guide. But it was because I thought the network was such a great idea that I supported it so early. I think you've done an excellent job and created a quality site.

I, too, wish I could get more of my church members to join in. We have quite a few people on Facebook, so maybe we can figure out more ways to bring this there -- where they are. I could try to remember to share articles on FB more. I know you already highlight articles there. We'll have to keep finding ways to reach out and grow, but I think it's already done a terrific job.

I love sharing ideas and hearing things that other churches are doing. This site goes a long way towards helping all of us involved in our churches to connect and gain insight from each other. I hope and pray that the Board will see the that the Network is another method of spreading God's good news.

Participant

Many years ago, I attended Synod and was surprised at how the interaction of delegates outside of the formal sessions (around the firepit, so to speak) led to a wonderful exchange of wisdom.  The senior pastors could advise the rookies, the new elders received help from the old-timers, etc.  Synod itself was invaluable but so was the "networking".  If we network, we get to learn by other's mistakes and successes instead of being limited to learning solely from our own experience.  There is no sin in synergism and this Network is a prime example of synergism.   No, we won't always agree but, as one of my business partners told me, if the 3 of us always agree, 2 are unnecessary (a good tip for Council meetings as well).  I wish more people were made aware of this CRC asset and I think those of us that are aware should champion the cause.  I (and my wife) are sincerely hoping there are countless other contributors who can smarten me up even further.

Michael and others at the Network - it's no secret I'm a big fan of the Network, and I will add my thanks to the others already offered for the terrific work to build and create this site. I think you've done great work towards meeting your two stated objectives.

Every week, when I get the email with "what's new on the Network" I always find at least 2-3 articles or posts to read that help me with my ministry or that I can share with someone else. Greater even than a helpful tip is the idea that I'm not alone out here, there are plenty of other people thinking about ministry and challenging themselves and others to think about it and do it better all the time. I've posted questions and received helpful advice and I've been able to help others by sharing what we do or have learned at our church. More than once I've printed an article or sent a link to someone at my church to read. Although many at my church have signed up and some read articles regularly, I do know many are still hesitant to post.

I think the suggestions made are good ones when it comes to continuing to encourage participation and greater integration with other social sites (Mavis, I will be considering your suggestion to link to the network more often on our church Facebook page!). To that, I would add a suggestion that the agencies and ministries of (or affiliated with) the denomination get more involved in using the network as a means of distributing information. For example, the World Hunger Sunday materials were just made available and samples were mailed to our church. CRWRC could also post about this in the Deacons forum. Another example, our church recently received word that Youth Unlimited is hosting a Youth Worker Retreat on the West Coast (http://youthunlimited.org/retreats/westcoastusa.html) and this information could be posted in the Youth Ministry Forum. (I did just peek to see if these had been posted and didn't see them, but my apologies if I overlooked them in error!)

I would encourage the BOT to continue to support this effort, and I hope they will. I think as others have pointed out, it is still a very "young" initiative at 18 months, but I believe in it's potential to be a valuable resource for many who love and serve the church.

Mike,  Thanks for dedicating your efforts to the start of The Network!  We will miss you! 

I really believe that The Network is the beginning of what will become a tremendous kingdom building tool!  As a newly birthed tool The Network is providing a place for leaders to share ideas and connect with each other.  As The Network continues to develop, it will bring ever more powerful technology to the churches.  This is a place for agencies, colleges and Church leaders to provide tools, research, encouragement, leadership training and cutting edge resources to strengthen the church.   The Network structure is a step forward for the denomination and will cost effectively develop into the hub of much more than simple conversation with each other.  

As an example, I know that our small church struggles to train our new Elders and Deacons each year.  I would bet that we are not alone!  If it were possible for our deacons to attend a live practical, training webinar (or the archived version stored at the Network) led by a veteran deacon leader with the gifts of teaching and encouragement, what a blessing it would be for our church.  Certainly the cultural context would need to be “localized”, but being able to cost effectively pull together ministry leaders with similar gifts, passion and mandates to serve, will enable our churches to become even more effective in their communities.  There are great things happening in our churches around the country.  The Network can be the tool that allows for the sharing and even perhaps “mentoring” of programs from church to church.  It can be a a great support and connector for ministry leaders that are currently isolated either by geography or ministry specialty (for example – churches that minister to an urban population in a classis that is mostly suburban or rural).  The Network can enable them to connect and share through webinars, workshops or question and answer times.  This will make for healthier churches and more effective ministry. 

The network, when combined with the denominations data management capability will make targeted and effective leadership development a real possibility.  There are lots of “mastermind” groups such as this operating in the business world….let’s take some of this cutting edge technology to the church and build the kingdom! 

As the effective resources and tools grow, so will the word of mouth endorsements.  When you can combine these strong word of mouth endorsements with a well coordinated awareness building campaign (throughout the various classis meetings, agency mailings, Faith Alive, magazines etc.) the Network will continue to grow and will empower more leaders to make a difference in the kingdom.   

Participant

I really appreciate the network, and the opportunity to share and sharpen ideas/test thoughts that might be from the LORD, or whatever might be on your heart, with other believers that come from a similar perspective (mainly reformed)...

I have to laugh, last fall, about this time, I mentioned to a crc leader in the area, that I had some concerns about our denomination, and some of our position statements, etc.  The response was basically, no one locally cares (i'm in the pnw), and it won't make any difference at the denominational level.   So i thought, well LORD, I know I won't make a difference on my own, but I know You can, and You can use me if You want to.

When I first learned about the network in Febr. this year, I joined.    I have been blessed by the many thoughtful, honest posts, seeking God's way of doing His Church.  I have been encouraged by the expression of others, seeking better understanding of what it means to listen to and be led by the Holy Spirit.   I have seen answers to prayers, that i believe the LORD put on my heart about His Church, and seeing posts that start to bring up some of the concepts.  Other posts give insight on how to pray on behalf of His Bride, and some specifically for the crc denomination.

I too wish more people would share their thoughts here, and I encourage everyone to do so, because that helps the Body/Bride of Christ work together better for the common good, and we are much healthier.

 

 

 

 

 

Participant

I think a denominational resource like this is absolutely necessary.  It is fundamental infrastructure. 

This resource may be an instrument of changing things in the denomination--in fact I'm hoping for that--and if it does, it will be because it will makes it a bit harder for a small groups of people to have a disproportionate amount of influence in denominational affairs.  But, that is only if CRC members use it (and I think they increasingly will).

It's also just a great resource generally for CRC members, continent wide, to more easily and effectively exchange ideas and resources.

I would rather that the national Belhar tour (push) have been a national Network tour.  Would have been more constructive.

Participant

I enjoy receiving the Network every week. Each time there is something that is of encouragement or causes me to grow in my ministry. I often share a link with our ministry staff as I'm not sure they are on the Network. I would like to see greater participation and people understanding the goal and the benefits of being part of the Network. I would encourage the BOT to continue supporting this valuable resource and to help it continue to grow.

Admin

Thanks, Angela. It's so great to read comments like this. And it's people like you that help make this online community what it is. Keep reading, commenting, and helping us spread the word!

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