Introducing A New Guide


This meant to be my introduction as guide for the Classis forum on the Network.  I am not sure how to accomplish this without sounding like a server at your local eatery, so here goes, “Hi, my name is Norman Visser and I will be your guide for the next while.  Allow me to tell you something about myself.”  

I am a Canadian who has twice lived in the US, once by my parents’ choice and once by my own.  When I was in high school my family also spent time in Mexico, where my parents were training for missions.   That gives me a very small claim to being a missionary kid, but most of my childhood was spent on farms in southern Ontario.  I have degrees from Dordt College and Calvin Seminary, but the largest and most ornate diploma on my wall is an Associate Diploma in Agriculture (a two year program).    I am married and am the father of three children; one is beginning graduate school, one is in college and the other is in high school.  I am presently serving as pastor of the Ingersoll Christian Reformed Church and have also served congregations in Nova Scotia and South Dakota.  In my down time I enjoy reading for pleasure, gardening, cooking and baking bread (without a machine).

Having served churches in three distinct areas of North America, I have also served in three different classes, and at least two classical cultures.  I have carried out the tasks that are often given newly ordained pastors, and have also served on a campus ministry committee, on classis planning committees, and as a stated clerk.  Unlike some previous guides, I am not a classis coach and have mostly been an observer of the classical renewal movement.  I remember the promise of classical renewal, but just missed one of the early conferences.  When I moved to a new classis I looked forward to seeing how renewal ideas had been implemented there.  Along the way I have seen some ideas take root, and others wither away.  Lately, I've wondered where the momentum has gone.   

I have appreciated the contributions of Karl and Elizabeth who had this position before me, and I look forward to the appointment of a Classical Coach who will also add content to this page.   I write as someone who just completed a term as chair of a Classical Ministry Committee.  I see this blog as an opportunity to reflect on my experiences, to share what I have learned, and learn from the experiences of others.   I believe that the Network works best as a pooling of ideas and I look forward to hearing your stories and comments.

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Community Builder

Hey, welcome, Norm!   Great to see you are already writing.  As things now stand, I'm still the Classis Coach, working with the Classis Renewal Ministry team, one day per week, encouraging and assisting classes to experience renewal.  Within coming weeks we anticipate that a few more structural issues will be clarified in the denomination, and that will shed light on my role and the classis renewal journey.  We'll keep you posted here.  We certainly don't anticipate any reduction in the momentum of classis renewal - it's too important for serving and empowering  congregations.   

       You point out a very important issue when you mention losing momentum.   One of the things I"ve noticed is that the renwal process needs regular attention, because it's easy to slide back to business as usual, and then things look a lot like they did before renewal!   Disheartening for the classis that worked hard to bring about change.  Sustainable positive change generates its own energy and continuity and persistance.   The Holy Spirit is a power source, even in the middle classical machinery.   Learning to listen and follow -- that's the journey we're on!

Community Builder

Welcome Norm. Unlike Karl, I have no words of wisdom for you. Just hearty thanks for taking on this work, and a prayer for God's blessing on you in it.

Community Builder

Welcome Norm!

Welcome Norm!

Great  to hear from you Norm.  I am part of a team in classis Hamilton that has gone through significant changes/discovery at how we can be more effective as a classis.  It started about six years ago when the delegates adopted adopted a new mission statement namely "classis Hamilton exists to be used by God to renew the greater Hamilton region through a gospel movement of healthy and vibrant churches, ministries and member".  The values that we adopted were community  (less isolation), ministry (less administration or at least completing administrative matters well but in short order) and mission focus (less maintenance orientation in our meetings).  I am part of the Classis Ministry Team that explores how we can have reports at classis done in a more meaningful way.  We have done so through greater dialogue  and attempted to build in ways for churches to be able to take the experience/learning back to their congregation.  It has been an exciting work in progress.  

Classis, and Classis meetings, suffer from a lack of interest - or should I say a lack of knowlege - of what classis is all about or what it does or what makes it interesting. 

As a frequent elder, deacon, or ministry representative, I attended almost every classis meeting.  I got caught up in the activities, the pains, the successes, the challenges, the excitement, and the good the classis could do for the region of churches.  I tried to convey these things to my home church.  However, now retired and no longer an "office-bearer", I am quickly out of the loop.  Our delegates do not report back to the congregation, rather our bulletin reprints the "Classis Highlights".

The reported "Highlights" of the last meeting were:

1. opening devotions

2. all 28 churches present

3. appointment of chair and vice chair

4. treasurere reported 100% of budget income received

5. Bob xxx re-appointed classis treasure

6. classis youth consultant will soon be choosen and introduced at next meeting

7. schedule classis for a Saturday once a year

8. an out-of-work pastor was given another year to receive a call

9.  next meeting date

Be still, my heart, I can hardly stand the excitement. Only one item - classis youth consultant - could be described as exciting IF it would have been accompanied by a overview of how this person will help our churches with dynamic input for our youth programs.

Classis suffers from a "who cares" illness.  But there is a lot of good happening.  Lets at the very least report it in a positve, vibrant way.  Have your church representative write the bulletin notice.  Have your delegate give a verbal update at your following Sunday service.  Have the delegate send a note, email, visit, whatever,to all in your church who might be remotely affected by what happens at classis.  Tell of the wonderful ministry in your regional churches.  Connect your outreach team to an adjoining church to begain working together.  Learn from other churches.  Consider area projects with a few churches.  Yout get the idea.  I really don't care who chaired the meeting - I care more about what ministry has happened, and how we as a congregation can learn from it. 

Good communication can create excitement.


Welcome Norman.


Thank you for your 'welcomes'.  It is encouraging to hear from each of you.  

Especially when I wonder whether classis renewal has lost mometum, it is good to hear from those classes that have had positive experiences.  I really like the three clear values from classis Hamilton.

Ben raises very good questions when he says that classis suffers from a lack of interest and offers good suggestions for improved communication. I hope to follow up on these in the future.  Thanks again.