Because most of you don’t know me, let me make a few disclaimers. I love the denomination and its agencies. I’m a third generation minister and you can catch me talking denominational “shop” on my vacations. I’ve spent 10 years on the Home Mission’s board and served as president. I worked for World Missions for 6 years as a missionary joyfully serving along side World Relief missionaries. I’m a regular contributor to the Back to God blog ThinkChristian.net. I’m an insider and I love this drama queen but I have to say she is one and it hasn’t been a good thing.
The recent resignation of the Executive Director and Director of Denominational Ministries is just the latest chapter of her history of drama. When I was serving on the Board of Home Missions too much of our focus as board executives was spent not on overseeing Home Missions but on wrangling with the denominational office and worrying about turf. How does the agency board relate to the denominational Board of Trustees? Who has the final say? Why does the agency director have two bosses (despite Jesus’ words about servants and two masters)? Etc. A lot of energy spent on drama that should have been spent on attention to ministry. Now we’ve got the Board studying its structure and its culture some more. Will this latest round of soul searching bring an end to the drama? I have my doubts.
- Spin off the 4 major denominational agencies as non-profits and get Synod out of the agency management business thus reducing the work of the denominational offices and the Board of Trustees. Let the now smaller, fitter agency boards do their work.
- Put ministry share distribution in the hands of the classes.
I have a lot to say about point 1 that is beyond one small blog post and doesn’t necessarily fit into the “classis” space on the network. My short point is that Synod is a poor type of body to govern agencies. Running agencies has become a distraction from its focus and the church suffers, not unlike the complaint of the apostles in Acts 6.
My second point has to do with the long cultural change that has impacted the Ministry Shares system. This too is a big point to spell out here but the culture has changed making it difficult for givers to fully invest in what feels like a monolithic, centralized organization. In some cases denominational Ministry Shares are nearly ten times what classical shares are. Why? I don’t believe there is less money in the CRC for ministry. I think we are experiencing a cultural shift which is quietly redistributing money to ministry that is closer to home. Local churches are spending money on local staff and projects rather than sending it to the Synod to spend at its discretion. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a change.
When my friend, classical colleague and former CTS classmate Jerry Dykstra came into the position of Executive Director he wanted to bring the “healthy church” priority to the denomination. His thinking was that the future of the entire CRC ecosystem was more dependent upon thriving local congregations than in denominational drama. I think he was right on that call, but I doubt that “the front” of that battle is at the denominational level. I suspect that we could see more of a lift at the grass roots level by increasing classical resources rather than by trying to do it at the denominational level.
What if we re-directed 20 to 40 percent of the funding now going through Synod to the classical level? I think we would see more part time regional and local specialists available to help resource and support local churches. I think we would see more churches planted and contextual counselors available to help revitalize established churches. Electronic networks and communication can help collaboration between these specialists. I think we would see a greater impact in local church help than by any amount of denominational drama.
What do you think? If your classis had double the money it has today what would it do differently? If your classis had $100k to hire specialists to assist local congregations or regional ministry projects, how might that bring lift to your churches?