Some Observations: Do You See What I See?

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Do you see these trends in the denomination?   Some other ones?   Are we trending in healthy directions?

There are some classes out there that have put in place an array of new initiatives, intended to strengthen classis in its ability to serve congregations.  Some innovations increase efficiency, some increase prayerfulness, some add resources to strengthen congregations.  Some do all the above.  

There are some classes out there that are struggling with low morale, uneven decision making and follow-through, discouraged member congregations, burned out leaders.  When budgets are tight, leadership is precarious, membership declining, it's very difficult to put classis renewal steps in place.  Motivation, energy, hope, resources are all in short supply.  

What to do?  Are there any changes taking place in the denomination itself that might suggest more resources are coming to classes?   Yes, I see some of those changes being considered.  If  congregations are to get the help they need from classis, then classis must get the help it needs from the denomination and from the agencies.  I'm old-fashioned enough to think there is a way forward here.  I see signs that the denominational leadership is committed to shifting the paradigm from leading the congregations to resourcing the congregations.  Yes, I'm oversimplifying.   Yes I am naively hopeful.  Yes I know that this is a little more daunting than I'm saying.... nevertheless, I see hope here.

Another shift is happening - more prayer.  I've written about this before so I won't say much here, but my point is that as we tune into the Spirit in our decision making, we'll see new opportunities open up.  And we are.  And they are.

And how about this -- a concensus is emerging that stronger more robust classes are an essential part of growing a healthier denomination, including healthier relationships and collaborations of all kinds.   Service delivery systems will include renewed classical systems.  Tired and burned out leaders must have vibrant systems of encouragement, support, and growth available to them in the classis.  Congregations that are holding on by their fingernails need a nurturing community of prayerful sister congregations around them.   

Our old paradigm was strong healthy agencies carrying out ministry on behalf of congregations.  That worked wonderfully well in a culture of high investment and high ownership in the denomination.  It's a new day, and that strong culture of trust and loyalty has eroded - a lot.  Congregations feel lonely, used, on their own to thrive or fade.  And so there is a shift taking place -- denominational leadership and agency priorities are edging over toward partnership, seeing congregations as constituents whose partnership must be earned, not as resource machines to be taken for granted.  Congregations are being seen as partners in ministry, not customers to sell stuff to.   

And leadership, what is changing about our concept of the kind of leadership that is appropriate for our denomination?  Do you have any hunches about that?   Do the shifts I've mentioned above ring true to you?  What do you see as you sense the trends in the CRC?  I'd like to hear from you!

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Thank you, Karl, for expressing hope and not discouragement.  We are in a season of change, and we have the opportunity to join God in his wonderful work, holding each other up.   After the Prayer Summit, I am convicted in a new way that as we follow in obedience, God surprises us with new opportunities in carrying out His Mission.  It will not be "business as usual".  Maybe new wine for new wine skins would be better!  

Participant

Very to the point, grace-filled and optimistic! Thank you Karl. Someone should submit a write in-- Karl W. for Executive Director ; )

"I see signs that the denominational leadership is committed to shifting the paradigm from leading the congregations to resourcing the congregations.  Yes, I'm oversimplifying.   Yes I am naively hopeful.  Yes I know that this is a little more daunting than I'm saying.... nevertheless, I see hope here."

I know in my own life I need to often come to the end of my own efforts before I finally give up all effort and place before God in intercession a bad habit that only he can change. I have seen churches who finally when they have come to the end of their old ways of trying and fighting, can submit and do some nonsensical things to them that God uses to breath life. Possibly we as a CRC need to come to the end of ourselves before we are open to the new wine skins God has for us. I hope we have come to the end of ourselves because none of us would want it to get worse.

 

"Congregations feel lonely, used, on their own to thrive or fade."  Glad to see you write this. I hear some congregations tell me about feeling used, but unfortunately I have not seen that feeling make its way into our CRC culture public discourse yet.

"a shift taking place -- denominational leadership and agency priorities are edging over toward partnership, seeing congregations as constituents whose partnership must be earned, not as resource machines to be taken for granted.  Congregations are being seen as partners in ministry, not customers to sell stuff to. "

 

I expect this would help.

Have you written anywhere about what you have observed in classis that have felt demoralized and at the end of their rope and how God began to turn them around?

I wonder if there is not room as well for classis to resource each other (peer learning) and not just relying on the CRCNA as a resource pool.

 

Thanks again.

 

Community Builder

In reading your post Karl Westerhof, I am most delighted in that you are seeing signs of the denomination paying attention to the classes and local churches by operating under a new reality that calls for them to resource congregations and be led by prayer. As a BOT member and someone on the denominational Strategic Planning Group, I am more and more encouraged that we are moving in this direction and operating in healthier and healthier ways. Let us continue in such a way so as to strengthen each other!

And no I am not saying we are perfect, but we are growing ....

Community Builder

Hungry for hope!   Thanks to you who posted comments!  It sure is easy to focus on the  problems, isn't it?  Yes, we have work to do to strengthen the CRC, and even more important, yes we have work to do as we listen to the guiding of the Spirit and watch for the opportunities, and follow in faith and obedience and joy.  May God grant that we do that together - at synod this week, in our congregations and classes, and in our personal lives.  More and more I look to my congregation to be a community that facilitates my listening, my obedience, my joy.   I need them.  And our congregations need each other.

Participant

From the floor of Synod: I am pleased to see a spirit of finding a way together through changing times, even though we may see things differently. We need each other.

 

 

Community Builder

Thank God.  The Spirit is working.   I love getting good news.