Relevant or Irrelevant?

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There are a number of people who think that classes have become irrelevant to our congregations.  And perhaps overall, there is a waning interest. But I also know that there are many who are working hard at helping classis do things differently in order that they become more relevant and address the needs of leaders and churches.

Rev. Alvin Hoksbergen wrote in an article for The Banner: (see article here) that there seems to be a “waning interest” in the Christian Reformed Church structures including classis. He writes that “we must either recognize the value of these structures and take action to strengthen them, or allow them to continue down a course that reflects what some may think is the irrelevance of our denomination.”

In my experience there are a number of people who think that classes have become irrelevant to our congregations.  And perhaps overall, there is a waning interest. But I also know that there are many who are working hard at helping classis do things differently in order that they become more relevant and address the needs of leaders and churches.

I have heard stories here and there about what is happening around our denomination. Classes Grand Rapids East, Hamilton, Niagara and Toronto have Ministry Coordinators who work to help classes do things differently. Alberta North just started a Restorative Justice Team. Another few classes have youth coordinators who work to help youth programs in their classes.

Let's hear more about what is happening. We need to start sharing these stories all over the denomination. We need to hear more about what is being done to strengthen our congregations at every level. What is your classis story? What have you been doing that has given life to the congregations in your classis?

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Community Builder

Elizabeth, I've just come home from a visit to Classis Atlantic NE, and I was surprised and delighted with what I experienced there.   Your post provides me the opportunity to talk about it a bit!  Thanks!  

There were SO many things to notice, and I'll be the first to admit that I was a visitor, without long exposure or inside information.  But I'm convinced that what I experienced was genuine. It just plain felt good to be there.  The mood was upbeat, and people obviously enjoyed being together.  

There were several references to how far the classis had come over the past decade or so - a reminder to me that change takes time, at least it usually does, and it took hard work on the part of many.  The question is whether the steps are in the right direction, and in this classis the steps have led to wonderful places.   There is diversity in some really interesting ways - a nice cross section of age and experience, and denominational background, and types of congregations represented.  Within this diversity, there was lots of dialog, interest in each other, encouragement, appreciation.  

The classis has a large number of "church plants" and therefore a large number of younger "planters", and the excitement of this momentum is easily felt.  This gives hope, adds to diversity of perspective, creates energy.   

Mentoring and coaching is the norm in this classis it seemed to me, and there are two Leadership Development Networks in the classis.   Bi-vocational pastoring is not uncommon, and the classis is very involved in deaconal work, deacons, and celebrates the role of deacon at classis.

I witnessed the church order being used appropriately, with appreciation, and without any ado - to further the ministry of the classis.  Church visitors were brought in by conference call, in what seemed to me to be a nice way to be stewardly while taking account of the geographical challenges faced by this classis.  

And they met in a retreat center - what an invitation to see classis in a different way, and to have a different mind set about what is happening there.

Last but not least, I note that repeatedly I heard church planters talking about the appreciation of new folks for what is biblical and Reformed.  This bodes well for the future, and it reminds us of the treasure we have in earthen vessels.  

Community Builder

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<p>Thanks for starting this thread, Elizabeth. Also thanks for your comments, Karl.<br>

<p>I too would like to say that, while I'm not really familiar with what is going on in other Classes, our (Quinte) is one that I value tremendously. The classical ministries are vital and important and recognized to be so by most of the people in our churches (as far as I can tell). There's a lot of resource sharing and wisdom pooling going on at classis meetings. People seem to be positive and upbeat about the church in the area and the differences God is making in their communities. Classis meetings are collegial and helpful. Classis is good at connecting pastors and churches with one another, and supports new leaders coming up through the churches through classical funding and through training and discipleship programs. Meetings are run well and go smoothly and disagreements are handled incredibly well.

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<p>There is genuine concern at classis meetings for local congregations and for how classis can help, and the churches seem to respond by contributing their own resources to the cause. Also, classis is gratefully acknowledged to have a strong healthy hand in helping with church planting, social justice and mission causes in our area.

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<p>Each year the pastors and spouses from classis get together for a 3-day retreat to reenergize and renew. We have nearly 100% participation in those events and everyone seems to feel that they are a significant contributor to the health of classis as a whole.

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<p>In short, from what I've seen our classis is a vital and vibrant part of our church. I for one appreciate it extremely.

Community Builder

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<p>By the way, I'm sorry about the "<p>" tags. I don't know why they keep showing up--I'm not writing them in there!

Thanks Dan and Karl for your stories.  I love hearing them.  Let's hear more of them!