When someone purely pencil and paper tries four times before succeeding in opening an account, you know that mug must be something special :-)
Correction, when I click "My Church" there are now 5 others listed! Halfway! Can we earn the mug by the end of the day??
Wow 2 of 10... and we're just getting warmed up! Come on, Crossroads, let's make a statement!
Yay for Rebecca's winning the mug! I admit that I should have officially joined the Network sooner--since she encouraged me to do so soon after the Worship Symposium. (By the way, you picked the right person to take home that mug! She will use it with great joy. :-)
Our church is currently without a Safe Church team. As the head of the Nursery Ministry this leaves me and my co-chair stuck trying to write and implement safety policies for our nursery. The church membership is resistant to most all safety practices as they don't see them necessary in our small town. We found out very quickly that the terms "Abuse Prevention" and "Safe Church" make some people quite angry. They feel like if we need these safety procedures that we must not trust them and they get insulted. What can we do to change these perceptions?
Tom, any idea how expensive it is to get a system like that for about 15-20 kids? As for sign in sheets Heather, I just made one up on Xcel Spreadsheets for ours. If I can find a way to link it I will try. Ours is made to accomodate this info for each child each time they sign in: Child's Name, Child's ID #, Signed in by, Signed out by. The parents have to bring their corresponding ID tag with them to retrieve their child, although our workers aren't great about enforcing that. Hard to enforce safety procedures in a small town church where you think you know everyone.
The Network "mug" winner: Rebecca WHO?? A member of CROSSROADS here in San MARCOS??
And, Tim, when I was your pastor, didn't we hear a word against "bearing false witness"?? and probably also against "manipulating systems"??!
The answer to all of the above is joyfully "YES!," and you have obviously responded to that word well (at least in the mug controversy! :-). I'll confirm the truth of your statements here in writing, and I'll joyfully look forward to seeing Rebecca's mug as she takes it to Crossroads in her new calling as deacon! (And learns from the gifts of the Network how to do that calling well.)
(Now, Tim, did you mention sending me a free mug if I crafted a note to this effect?)
There's a scandal 'brewing' about that coffee mug...and I must respond.
It turns out that Rebecca L attends the church where the CRC Board of Trustees president - Mark Vermaire - is pastor. But wait...it gets even more scandalous. He's also the former pastor at my church.
Let me just say that I know how bad this looks. And that it's a little gift to conspiracy theorists everywhere. But I assure you...our coffee mug contest was not rigged.
We've verified that Rebecca L is not a fictitious account. And we assure you that the selection of reply #33 was, in fact, randomly selected (courtesy www.random.org).
Plus, there's the obvious fact that the CRC's BOT president is in such a powerful position that he can get any coffee mug in the CRC he wants. No rigging required.
So you can put the pen down...no need to write that overture for a Synodical investigation. Our Network mug contest was totally legit.
Thanks, Steve, for mentioning ReFrame-Media.com. These are some great new ways God is using the Internet for missions in the English language. You might also want to check out BackToGod.net to see links to similar web ministries in other languages as well. Back to God Ministries International has some great discipleship web resources in Arabic, Chinese, French, Bahasa (in Indonesia), Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish—and we’re working on Hindi.
I see more clearly now what you were asking. In fact, I think an answer to the question you asked can help do what I would like to see: strengthen the institution of church membership and our commitment to it.
The practice of giving a "record of membership" of some sort to the person moving prior to the move does seem to have some strengths. If nothing else, it reminds the church member of the significance of membership.
I can think of two concerns:
1) Often, people take a substantial amount of time to settle into a church community. Would they fail to receive the pastoral guidance to settle in and commit to a specific congregation under this new system? Under the current system, the council of the previous church would (ideally) keep in contact with them (and bug them after a bit so they can tidy up the membership rolls). But if the member is removed from membership and given a record of membership prior to the move, they would have no one bugging them about settling down. They might appreciate that, but I'm not sure it is the best practice.
I'll suggest a solution to this one: perhaps they could be given a record of membership when they leave, but would remain official members of the former church until the usual membership transfer process was enacted (a kind of both-and with respect to these the different membership transfer procedures mentioned in your question). This assumes that they would transfer to another church with our kind of polity. In a neat and tidy world, this would probably be a good practice. But in the actual world...
2) The answer to your question applies really well to geographical moves. But would it be an improvement when people are restless in their current congregation and begin "church shopping"?
"Church shopping" is, of course, largely spurred on by post-denominational and consumer-oriented cultural trends, and I suppose part of answering your question would require us to evaluate those trends. Are they purely problematic when it comes to commitment to a congregation? And if they are, does this mean the institutional church should have, in its polity, a zero-tolerance policy toward such evils? Or should we accommodate? Perhaps a bit of accommodation can be combined with a strong stand against these things. A carefully crafted system could take a step toward where people are in order to bring them to a better place.
Excellent thoughts...there are many topics that come out of this! The relationship between "paper membership" and I guess what we could call "real" membership seems to have been at the center of the discussion so far. As you note, Nick, paper membership seems to have functioned as a "sacrament" of sorts of a person's commitment to and union with a particular body of believers. My original question, though, was not so much about eliminating or preserving paper membership, but rather something along these lines...when it comes to membership transfers, is there a way of preserving the importance of membership (and by extension, "paper" membership) while highlighting the volitional aspect of membership in an increasingly transient (and, one might add, postdenominational) age? Does Monstma and Van Dellen's observation of the Dutch practice, properly hedged in by pastoral oversight and due diligence, point to an alternative that already has precedent in our tradition? H. Bouwman also notes this practice in his work on church order, of "a person, after having moved to a new place of residence is supposed to hand in his "attestatie" to the church of his choice in his new home town." Or, here is an excerpt from a classical overture from the 1990s:
"A crucial component of membership is the willing commitment or choice that a person makes. It is that choice that constitutes a covenant with the local church to be a living member. When memberships are "transferred" from one church office to another, the choice of the member is often bypassed and the nature of church membership degraded. Since it is the commitment and not the paper that constitutes the membership, the papers the give a testimony of true membership in the previous congregation ought to be given to the person who is leaving. This person needs to bring it to the "new" church community and by that act makes a new covenant. He or she then becomes a member of this new communty of faith.
"Membership cannot really be transferred from one church to another. it is not like a club membership or a credit rating. Neither is it the property of the church. Membership papers are letters of testimony about the person's faith life in the previous church. Ideally they should not be form letters, but testimonies about faith commitments, spiritual gifts and participation in the previous church.
"The volitional aspect of membership has been recognized in reformed church policy by requiring: that membership transfers should be requested, that membership papers must be given to persons who insist on it, that membership can be kept in a church where one is not attending upon request. Even when a member is under discipline and insists on withdrawl as member it must be granted. However, we have not been consistent with this principle in our practice of transfering membership.
"We deem the Dutch method of transference of membership to be more effective if not more scriptural than the method of our own denomination, where transference is mainly an administrative act of the church office in which all too often the member plays a minor role. It seems that a personally expressed indication of the desire of membership in a local congregation is a confessional act which is far to be preferred above the merely passive and administrative transfer often practiced in our denomination."
Fairly strongly worded, but plenty of food for thought.
A beautiful morning here in West Michigan, and looking forward to a weekend of relaxation and remembrance.
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Good morning from New York. Going to be a great day.
I'm Trena Boonstra at Crossroads CRC in San Marcos, CA. I started a book sharing book case and eventually actually made it into a lending library. We have a beautiful combination BookStore/Library cart in the foyer and a small library room in a nearby building. It is all self serve. I have in the last years been cataloging all our books and adding pockets/cards. But my catalog is entirely on a computer which is not in the library so not accessible right now to patrons. Most of our books, audio books, etc are donated.
I need to enlist someone else to help. I am also wondering what automation programs others are using. Right now I have a library program put together by an individual in a neighboring church. Not sure yet how flexible it is in adding patrons and a scanner--so far asking for $$ for that doesn't seem appropriate.
I also need to find time to review and promote individual titles
We checked all of our wireless mics and found one that was in the 700 Mhx range. At this time Shure has a trade-in for up to $150 for replacement of the mics in this range. We took advantage of that and replaced the "offending" mic with a new one.
Invoking random number generator...and the winner is...
Reply #33. That's you, Rebecca L!
Congratulations, you are now the owner of that Network mug. We can't imagine a more worthy recipient. 4 posts on The Network? Nice.
Use it proudly for after-church coffee and maybe that will kick some of your fellow church members into gear and using The Network. Yeah, I'm talkin' to you Crossroads CRC in San Marcos, CA! You who left Rebecca all alone in her "My Church" listing. It brings a tear to the eye.
Tell you what...if Rebecca's "My Church" count gets up to 10 people within 2 weeks we'll send you a second Network mug for the whole church to share from week to week. If that's not major incentive to sign up, I don't know what is.
Either way, Rebecca, you're getting your very own Network mug. Use it well. Maybe send us a picture of it in its new home.
Now if we can just get it shipped to you in one piece. Time to find some bubble wrap...
How do churches equip members to assist elders in pastoral care? Do any churches have a pastoral care team that assists with sending cards, regular visits, phone calls, etc?
There's no reason that the argument for paper membership must come from scripture. We've always maintained that not all of the details of church order are given to us in scripture.
The question is not whether it is dictated by scripture, but whether paper membership is the best way (or a very good way) to put into practice the biblical truth about the seriousness of membership in and commitment to the body. Should a member's covenantal commitment to the body of Christ be sealed with a paper record of some sort? The long tradition of Western jurisprudence certainly suggests that paper records are wise "sacraments" of covenants. (Perhaps there are other traditions that would offer us some other solid paradigm...) I'm hesitant to think that a few anecdotes about churches that got along fine without them are enough to overturn this ancient wisdom -- especially when it comes to the most important commitment a person can make.
I hardly ever use Microsoft Office anymore. Even though I've got it installed, I find Google Docs so much more convenient.
But I've also discovered that it's not easy to transition people to Docs. After using Office products for so many years, the whole concept of Google Docs and online collaboration in general is so strange. So there's the tendency to go back to the tried-and-true method of creating a Word document, attaching it to an email, track changes, and all the other stuff that now drives me nuts.
So I think Microsoft has a real opportunity to bridge that gap and help people move to web-based documents and collaboration...while keeping them in the Office family they know and love.
Any churches fully 'in the cloud' when it comes to meeting agendas, minutes, etc?
I would tend to agree if I hadn't visited and been a part of congregations that operate perfectly fine without membership - still holding eachother to accountability and still differentiating between those who were part of the committed body and those who are less so. There are ways to do church discipline and honor articles 28, 32 & Q&A 54, I believe, without paper membership - many of us are already playing on that field out of necessity, if not principle.
At a different time in my life, it might have been a thing that I triumphed, as well, but I have trouble doing so when there's no real Scriptural precedence for this sort of thing. I'm all for being cross-cultural, but is paper membership really an area of the Church that we feel like we should be expending large amounts of energy to "preserve" when the Church is eroding in so many other areas? I'm not sure its realistic, necessary or even Biblical.
Thanks lauri! I love the idea of a slide show with pictures! I be the kids would enjoy seeing themselves on screen, and it's a great way to remember the good times shared over the last year! I only have a handful of photos this year, but I'll be more intentional about taking pictures from now on, so that I can do that next year!
By the way, it's nice to hear from you! I hope all is well in Ripon--I have such fond memories of visiting there.
In our tradition, membership is absolutely the responsibility of the individual. The Belgic Confession even says so: "all people are obliged to join and unite with the [church]" (Art. 28). But it is also the responsibility of the officers of the church: e.g., "excommunication, with all it involves... is required." (Art. 32). The question is, of course, whether "paper" membership is all that important. Do we really have to keep books of names and dates?
You're both right that many people don't value "paper" membership much anymore. I think Mark is right that people are skeptical of it because it seems to have little value -- you can be active and committed to the church without having your name written down in the council's book, right? And what about all those people who do have their names written down, but who are inactive within the body?
But this is exactly why the church must be counter-cultural by requiring documents for membership -- because without them, we would have nothing to say about those who no longer act like members of the body, except, "Well, they used to worship here." With paper membership, we can at least say, "They are not acting in line with their commitment to the body as a member of this church," and we can point them to a record of this commitment. If their membership in the body has at its earthly foundation only a subjective commitment voiced and practiced when they join, what happens when that subjective feeling of commitment fades? Have they ceased being members? Paper membership allows us to express the truth of Q&A 54 of the Heidelberg: "And of this community I am and always will be a living member." And it allows us to hold people accountable to that.
It's clear that "paper" membership has been misused and ignored by both councils and members of the body. But this is no reason to get rid of or radically transform the process. We need to be transformed. People are plenty accustomed today to being "members" of something or another. (Facebook, a local recreational club, etc.) What we need to do, both as the leaders and the members, is to be reminded that membership in the church is much more significant than these -- it is a life-long commitment. We often talk about how foolish it is for a man and a woman to live together and start a family without getting married because of the damage that is caused if there is a break-up -- damage which is much worse without the institution of marriage to help adjudicate claims. Isn't joining a church without "tying the knot" of official membership just as foolish? What we need is not a looser institution of church membership, but a stronger one.
And by the way, his name is spelled "Monsma." No 't'. I'm not related, but I felt like I had to correct it. ;)
Hey Jeff......great thoughts/questions. We're facing the reality in our church that my generation (20-30-somethings) aren't really very interested in membership at all. They're not uncommitted - in fact they are some of the most committed people in our church - they just don't feel it necessary to work towards membership and if I didn't think it was a requirement to work there, I'm not sure I would either, so its tough to blame them! I think part of it stems from a generational perspective that places heavy emphasis on authenticity - and we grew up watching some church "members" not act in a very authentically Christian way without any ramifications....so we wonder where the value is.
Then this question arises....can only members be leaders (ie, elders, deacons, ministry area leaders). If so, the leadership pool we have to select from is necessarily older and non-representative of our church as a whole (especially when we're passing up great up-and-coming leaders due to their membership beliefs/practices).
...just another wrinkle.
If http://www.greatschools.org/cities.page?city=Grand%20Rapids&state=MI is a fair representation of the Grand Rapids metro area then the Grand Rapids School District seems to be a typical large American city with good schools in the rich districts and poor schools in poor districts. Would you who might pull your kids out of Christian schools be putting your kids in a rich school or a poor school? I suspect the rich neighborhoods are not very "diverse," maybe less so than the church you attend?
Are your children old enough to understand the social and educational implications of making this change? Are you qualified and have the time to home teach your kids to make up for any deficiencies in the public school you choose?
I admire adults who intentionally go into harm's way for a good cause but is it "fair" to use one's children no matter how good the cause?
I stick with the 'tried and true', my 4th year with this plan. We've had an appreciation lunch for all children & youth teachers and leaders the Sunday after our Church school, and most other kids ministries, end which was May 23 this year. My husband cooks, I decorate and set-up, the Education Committee serves and cleans-up, along with some Council members as well. We invite family members and usually have about 90.
I have a "give away", usually a thank you pen with a name card for each volunteer. It's a nice time of fellowship and seems to be appreciated by those who attend.
We also do a slide show of lots of photos of the past year in ministry during both morning worship services. On that apprecation Sunday we give bibles to our kids entering 3rd grade for use at the christian school. And, we give recognition to any leaders 'retiring' from ministry.
So, it's a full morning but a very upbeat, positive one.
Blessing to you!
Coordinator of Ministries
Immanuel CRC, Ripon CA
Leadership training events are planned as needed in various regions where there are Ministry Developers available. We are also in the process of making the training more available through webinars and on-line resources. Please contact the office directly for further information about training: 1-888-644-0814 (Irene) or email firstname.lastname@example.org . In addition, you can also go to http://www.crcna.org/pages/crhm_reps.cfm to find the contact info for your local Ministry Developer.
AMEN. Well written Neil. This is "Basic Christianity." But it is also "Intermediate Christianity," and it is "Advanced Christianity." That is, we must always be totally reliant on the Holy Spirit to live a life honoring to God whether we are a new babe in Christ or a maturing elder. We do pick up skills and understanding along the journey, but unfortunately when we do, we tend to move out on our own before prayer and surrender to God, thinking something like, "we know what to do." We might be right. We might in fact approach our task exactly as the Holy Spirit would have us approach the task. But with one critical missing element--the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. Why? Simply because we did not pause long enough to submit ourselves and the task to Christ in prayer before we got started on it.
Thanks Freda, for sharing about your Coffee Break ~ it sounds like things are going very well. Thanks for the renewed call to prayer, to God's Word, to the practice of meeting together, and to being open to God's Mission! May we all be encouraged to follow God's leading as Coffee Break continues to embrace the greater mission of God!
Papa John here. I'm a grandfather who is serving as an elder for the first time in New Life Fellowship Church Red Deer, Albrta. The network looks like a great place to get your feet wet and try and get up to speed with the elder activities. thanks for all the information.
Hello, I like the posts, I find them very informative.
Thank you for the great articles! I love to read the comments from churches across North America - a great way to connect us.
Oh, I feel so awesome. Actually, I've been enjoying the helpful articles and resources here on Network, I think it has great potential for helping churches across the country with ideas and encouragement in their ministry.
Technically, this is not my first post, but I really want that mug!!
This is great! Thanks for sharing Monica!
I've already posted a few times; but I'll say hello here if it means I have a shot at that mug.
Hi all - I just got registered, although have been following the Deacon postings for some time.
We have found missing items, or items not being returned, an issue for us as well. We keep our library locked up during the week and always have it attended during the open period before and after our morning service.
Hello! I am involved in our church library at Ebenezer CRC, Trenton, Ontario. Our library is well used also - kids love the growing DVD collection. Items not being returned is often an issue with our open door self serve library.
In my limited experience of "visual worship", the pictures on the PowerPoint have been scenes of nature depicting God's glory, like beautiful mountains or trees in fall, or flowers, or people's faces, babies, etc. I think as long as the picture isn't so funny or strange to be distracting, and not so flashy as to be overwhelming, anything can work. In a song about God's love, there are numerous images that come to mind, like people hugging, an adult hand holding a baby hand, a heart, etc. That is very general, I know, but in my opinion it's ok to keep it simple, and most songs have very general themes anyways. To find pictures, one idea is to do a search in Google, then click on "images" so it only searches pictures that are related to the word or phrase you are searching. Another way to make it more personal, if you have people willing to volunteer, is to ask congregation members to submit photos to be used. Imagine how included a child would feel to see a picture of themself up on the screen at an appropriate time. As in all things, as long as this is done well, with respect and good taste, it can be effective. As this could very easily be a time-consuming thing, it might be somethign a high school student who is into computers or design or photography could take on as extra credit for school, or even as a hobby. This would have a dual effect as they would also feel included in the worship by helping create it!
I'm loving all the other ideas I'm reading on here as well! This is great!
Thanks for passing along these ideas! During the song service, how is the story chosen for the children? Does it relate to the morning's sermon, or to Sunday school, or does it follow its own sequence? Are the stories read from a children's storybook, or shared by a storyteller?
Jesus said, let the little children come to me. If you do not become as these little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. We often take these statements too lightly, and pass them off as fluff, when they are actually at the heart of the gospel.
In our church, we spend the first fifty minutes having Sunday school. Everyone is involved, from small children to adults. Adults who are not teaching can attend an adult bible study, while some simply drink coffee and fellowship. Then, after a ten minute break, we have a song service, maybe 3 or 4 songs, and then a special story for the children, which the adults also get to listen to. About ten or 14 kids go to the front to listen, answer questions, and suggest kids songs to sing. Another 2 or 3 kids songs then are sung, usually from memory.
Then the regular service starts, at which all children are welcome to stay, but a few go to nursery. Particularly infants. Making the worship service for children is important, but also the entire environment. We have a playground outside also, which gets used in summer after church, and a foosball game in one of the nurseries, which kids get to play while the adults have coffee after church. Anyway, just some ideas for paying attention to what Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them."
Go, katekooyman! Thanks for the reminder of the resource available in your office!
I'm a staff member who assists deacons!! :) As Congregational Justice Mobilizer for the denomination in the US, my whole role is to make it easy for folks to do just this kind of thing! If there are churches out there that are interested in some assistance, I'd love to see if I can be helpful. I know there are lots of resources out there, but the Office of Social Justice also has a lot to offer as far as education and opportunities for advocacy. www.crcjustice.org
Thanks for the great ideas! We don't often use images on PowerPoint. I've never thought of the importance that might have for children. Do you have any suggestions on where to find the images?
Rebecca, you are right, and thanks for finding the reference. Sorry I neglected to include that!
One of the challenges we're seeing is that hosting a "discussion" is a very complicated thing, especially when it comes down to owning a "confession". A denominational organ that takes a position of endorsement naturally has certain advantages in promoting their point of view. When that organ also appears to have a degree of control or influence also on the process by which a discussion is supposed to take place it understandably looks to some as if a fair and free discussion is impossible.
This is enormously complicated by the fact that adoption of a new confession has never taken place within the lifetime of any of the participants today. Adoption of a new confession, which in terms of our ecclesiastical machinery is far more consequential than say adjusting the rules regarding women serving in office, seems to be a matter of an up or down vote at a synod a few years away, not unlike deciding on a church order article. It seems disproportionate to wrestle with women in office for a generation while we adopt a confession within 3 years.
Also within this discussion is the reality of how our current confessions actually play out within the life of the church. We increasingly don't know what to do with the three we have, why add a fourth now? Bringing the Belhar forward now is probably a good opportunity to lead the church in a discussion about what it means to be a confessional church, this at a time when these issues are as hot as they've been for a long time in terms of discussions in the broader church (the rise of the emergent vs. young-and-Reformed).
Granted, a lot of this broader leadership responsibility is beyond the purview of the mandate of the ERC, but one might ask where we might find this broader leadership perspective in our denominational structure if in fact it can be located anywhere?
In the directive from synod to capture additional decisions and regulations in the CO, exactly the wrong direction is being held to. The first objective of any CO changes should be to reduce the size and length of the CO by 50%. It should be made smaller, not bigger. The process should be to put a garbage can beside the CO and ask, what can we do without? What can we eliminate. Do we really need more rules, more conditions, more categories, more, more, more??? Everytime an additional rule or category or condition is attached, there is another potential and cause for division, for separation, for exclusion, for reducing the freedom in Christ to serve him.
On the one hand we want ecumenicity; on the other hand we create more rules that make ecumenicity either impossible, or make it more and more necessary to ignore the CO.
Reduce, reduce, reduce. Then perhaps we will come to a better understanding of what the CO ought to be all about.
And, as a further note, the CO should not be organized around the demands of the Pension Fund. That is ordering things in completely the wrong order. Rather, the Pension Fund should be made to fit the requirements of the CO. If we have all these various staff positions in the CRCNA then the Pension Fund should be reorganized to include them all, including janitors, secretaries, etc.
What a great perspective. Thanks for this article. I, too, am very sensitive to the inclusion or exclusion of children in our worship services. There is so much potential. I am going to try harder to be vocal about the times when I see the church "at it's best" this way, and hope for more positive change to come.
One small change I've seen make a big difference, is the choice of songs prior to the children leaving. Including a few children's songs, or hymns with simpler words, allows children to participate instead of standing idly by, bored and/or confused. Also, for children who can't read, having appropriate images on the PowerPoint screen with the words still allows them to worship with us through visual means. Having the singing team demonstrate actions or interpretive dance helps them participate as well. I have been so blessed watching children worship with their hands and faces even when they don't know the words and can't read them. I believe this is how God is pleased in worship as well. Let's encourage more of this!!