Comment Stream

Kevin Soodsma July 27, 2017

Email me: and we can "talk".  My wife has fibromyalgia so I understand the "fibro-fog" thing.


Diane Curry July 27, 2017

Thank you for responding. I have taken piano lessons sporadically since I was a child. As an adult I took lessons from our church piano/organist with the focus being the organ. She also taught me about chording to add more interest on the piano. She passed away quite some time ago. I have played the organ for our church in the past regularly. I have been taken away from that role for different reasons. I do well with hymns and "churchy" stuff.

My issue now is that we sing mostly praise and worship music. I know my role should be easy as we have a wonderful praise band. I may be making things more difficult than I should. However, I wonder if I can add to this type of worship with different techniques; I certainly need to understand the sounds and combinations the organ can create.

I am completely overwhelmed! It doesn't help that I have fibromyalgia which causes difficulty with concentration.

I would appreciate any and all suggestions. And lots of prayer!


John Zylstra July 26, 2017

I'm not sure about the consistency of "Council is at liberty...",  and the clause, "councils should not do this without the senior pastor's full consent..."  How is this liberty?  when constrained by such a condition?   


Eric Van Dyken July 26, 2017

Follow-up question: Must a desire to show "our gratitude to God by obeying his law" necessarily be characterized as "emphasizing a return to the law" or necessarily "[turn] the practice of righteousness into a burden"?

Eric Van Dyken July 26, 2017

Matthew, I have a discussion question: Given Calvin's three uses of the law included that "It admonishes believers and urges them on in well-doing", how would you differentiate an unhealthy "emphasizing a return to the law" or "demonstrat[ing] our gratitude to God by obeying his law" from a healthy use of the law in the reformed tradition of what Calvin taught?

Eric Van Dyken July 26, 2017

I share Shannon's enthusiastic reaction.

Shannon Jammal-Hollemans July 25, 2017

Thank you for sharing this really excellent piece!

Mike Hogeterp July 25, 2017

Thanks all, your reflections are super helpful to us!  


Monica Brands July 24, 2017

I think Bonnie's voiced all of the suggestions that come to mind for me too - I really like the idea of cameras if it is important for the internship to take place in the church building. If it still feels uncomfortable/unhealthy or potentially unsafe for a small number of people to be working together in the church building, which can be heightened if they're of the opposite gender, offsite meetings nearby feel like a good solution. Your questions highlight how important it is for all churches to spend some time brainstorming and strategizing to have workable solutions like these in place allowing equal opportunities for all people regardless of gender. We might not be able to eliminate all risk, but I honestly believe with some planning it is possible to open up many more opportunities for both men and women to work collaboratively in a healthy environment than we might've assumed. 

Bonnie Nicholas July 24, 2017

I'm wondering if there was any conversation with the intern, and with others about this issue. I can think of various options off the top of my head, and in good conversation with others I'm sure there would be a lot more. What about flexible work hours, working offsite, or alone in the building when you were not there? Or, what about an office with a lock on the door? Same sex relationships must also be considered in safety planning. Has this been an issue with male interns or only female interns? If it's only seen as an issue with female interns, then that's a problem in my mind. There might be other ways to work around the concerns of having two people alone working together in a church building - a video camera in the office space? A quick-dial emergency phone number? And the trust level in the relationship must also be considered. I don't believe that completely risk-free ministry is possible - it is our responsibility to minimize risks as much as we are able. And I often say that risks must always be weighed against benefits in determining the best course of action; and if you're going to error (it's human after all) error on the side of safety. 

Bonnie Nicholas July 24, 2017

BTW: Safe Church Ministry has a webinar, Healthy Boundaries in Ministry Relationships, which includes handouts, that could be a helpful tool to begin discussion for church council and/or staff members and other ministry leaders. Transparent discussion might lead to greater understanding of some of the underlying issues involved, and/or be helpful in creating policies to help meet the various needs that are expressed. Regular ongoing Boundary and/or Ethics training is required by pastors in many denominations - a good idea I think.

Hendrik "Henry" de Vries July 24, 2017

Thanks, Mike, for relating the experience that exactly describes the dilemma we all face. We men either treat women as full equals without any boundaries and thereby provide the context needed for full implementation of their gifts; or, we place limits on interaction to prevent misinterpretation or even exploitation by less charitable persons. In well-populated, professional settings the first is easier to implement but in informal contexts with fewer people interaction between genders always seems to have traps that we need to avoid to maintain integrity in ministry. It's not just a matter of male hormones or propensities but includes that of community realities.

One of my concerns in my first response was to the sensitivity to such limitations being perceived as offenses. I really don't know how to deal with that. Somebody may be able to develop a way to accommodate every need.

Mike Hogeterp July 24, 2017

Thanks very much for this excellent piece of work Monika!  

As it happens this issue is not at all academic or hypothetical in my little corner of the world:  I work (mostly) alone in the upstairs of a church building that is regularly empty between 1/2 and 1/3rd of the work week.  In the past with 'safe-church principles' in mind, I worked with a fabulous female intern, and had to restrict her schedule to times in which we knew that Church staff would be in the building (office with an open door).  It was probably the strongest internship we've ever had, but there were very clear limitations due to the scheduling.  At the end of the internship the young woman was deeply complimentary about the experience but recommended that women not  serve in our office unless something could be done about the schedule restrictions.  That has, since then, restricted our intern pool significantly - this is deeply unfortunate.

So, Monika, given this article, and the deeply significant need we have for the full participation of women and men in our work, is there anything creative that we can do to make our place more Gender inclusive and fully appropriate from a safe-church perspective?  

Mike Hogeterp

Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, 

Algonquine Terrritory, Ottawa Ontario


John Zylstra July 24, 2017

we might assume that most churches are not entirely healthy.  Yet God uses them to bring the gospel.  They may be missing one aspect or another of these ten signs of health.  But just as a man with a broken leg could still write a book, so a partly unhealthy church can still demonstrate grace, or speak truth to power, or provide solace for the hurting.  God used Jonah, a spiritually unhealthy man, to bring the message of repentance to Nineveh, and God used Israel, an unhealthy nation, to bring Christ to the world.  Signs of health are important, but not as important as the good news of the gospel itself.  

Michelle De Bie July 24, 2017

I think you would need to pay the substitute either as an employee, or contract and issue a 1099. If you pay your regular church secretary it will be reported as wages on her W-2 and she will pay taxes on the pay.

Monica Brands July 24, 2017

That's a helpful, comment, Eric - exactly. The goal is creating healthy spaces and boundaries that work equally well with both genders. 

Monica Brands July 24, 2017

Thanks for this comment, Bonnie. You worded so beautifully exactly what I was trying to say. 

Worship Ministries July 24, 2017

Steve - yes! We will be recording the webinar and will post it on our Worship Ministries website several days after the webinar takes place. That way many more can take advantage of the learning.

Staci Devries July 23, 2017

Hi Steve, I know Worship Ministries is planning to post this webinar recording on The Network. Stay tuned later this week! 

Bonnie Nicholas July 22, 2017

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on this article! It is an important topic. It's more complicated than it seems on the surface, which the article itself and the comments clearly show. 

I know many women who feel that their leadership potential is stunted by the fact that they are treated differently than their male counterparts. There may be fewer mentoring relationships and opportunities available to them, especially in male dominated positions such as pastors. In our culture, networking with others is an important part of job advancement. So, women can feel at a disadvantage if they are not allowed the same opportunities for networking and building relationships. This is a real issue, more than just a perception. And it may play a part in the economic disparity found between women and men doing similar work. We must be aware of these cultural biases, and work toward equal dignity and opportunity for all people.

At the same time, I applaud men for considering the issue carefully and taking steps to protect themselves from false allegations of inappropriate behavior, which is also a valid concern. It's a valid concern for women leaders as well. Anyone in a leadership position needs to consider how their actions are perceived and how they might be understood by others. Leaders should be an example to others, and in Christian ministry are called to be above reproach. It seems also important to note that Jesus was as concerned about our thoughts and motivations as he was about our behaviors (See Matthew 5). And so, it seems that knowing yourself is also important in making these kinds of decisions. If being alone with a woman, or a man, causes one to lust, than for sure, avoiding that situation all together is wise and good. Better yet, is being able to treat all people with equal dignity and respect - may we come to that place in our leadership. And I believe that an important part of that is maintaining a safe environment, which may mean meeting in public (you can have private conversations in public places), having windows in the doors, etc. And every leader should have those who can hold him or her accountable - so that when temptations present themselves, he or she has a place to go with that struggle. We need to hold our leaders accountable, in a gentle and restoring way - because our enemy is working overtime in this area. Our hope rests in our God, who is stronger, and is also always working on behalf of his people, his bride, the Church.

Honest conversation about this issue is a good step in the right direction. So, thanks again Monica for the article, and also to all those who weighed in with comments.

Steve Nyenhuis July 22, 2017

Will this webinar be available for listening to at a later time?

golden ojechi July 21, 2017

Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and saviour it is not to late

Monica Brands July 21, 2017

Thanks, Mark - I actually agree with you that Mike Pence was treated unfairly in the coverage of his adherence to this rule. I too applaud his desire to protect his marriage honorably, and think we have a big problem with lack of boundaries to where following something like this rule is often better than the alternative. I did reflect on how potentially the rule itself could feed into implicit sexism, but was not at that point speculating on Pence's motives, more on how other women have experienced the rule when it was directed at them. My purpose in the piece was to point out that following the follow legalistically could cause problems and potentially raise the issue of discrimination (especially in work or education settings). It's helpful for Christian ministries and organizations to recognize that it could be illegal to require female coworkers, etc to be held to different guidlines than male coworkers.  It'd be better, like Eric pointed out, to have a principle in the workplace that applies equally to both men and women (only meeting in open spaces, etc). I think the Billy Graham rule arose from honorable intentions and points to the need for wise boundaries, but wanted to point out the potential downsides and highlight Safe Church's resources for thinking through more flexible guidelines. 

Monica Brands July 21, 2017

Thanks for your comment - as I mentioned in the article, I think the intentions behind following something similar to the Billy Graham rule are honorable and good, and far better than a lack of clear boundaries. The question of discrimination comes up primarily when it involves coworkers, students, or mentees, of the opposite sex -- for example, if in a work, education, or ministry setting women have to follow different rules than their male coworkers. There are many contexts in education and the workforce where following such a rule legalistically would be very difficult, even impossible, without it raising at least the question of discrimination towards female coworkers. It's good to keep this in mind, because in such settings, it could be illegal for women to be treated differently than males, which makes a leader vulnerable to lawsuit. But as Eric pointed out, there are many easy way to follow the common sense principle behind the rule's motivations of wise boundaries - not meeting alone with alone in an enclosed space, having a workplace that has windows and open doors, for more serious one-on-one conversations meeting in public, etc. The goal of this piece was to point out the limitations of a one-size-fits-all rule, and help us think about wise guidelines such as those offered by Safe Church to think through our own personal guidelines with discernment. 

Mark VanDyke July 20, 2017

Maybe Mike Pence has serious struggles with a temptation towards infidelity and this is what he has to do to remain "pure and blameless." I applaud his actions to do this in the face of mockery from non-believers (SNL and Bill Maher have had their fun with it). This article speculates about his motives by accusing him of holding to a caricatured Augustinianism instead of showing the charity that a brother in Christ deserves.

Mister B July 20, 2017

The Dispatch CRC in Kansas has a Foundation Scholarship for those attending Christian higher education. Contact the pastor there for more information.

Mister B July 20, 2017

"If a man with significant political power can only freely meet with other men alone, but not women, that raises questions about gender discrimination."  Gender discrimination?  Really?  Give me a break.  A woman meeting alone with a male pastor has more power than you think.  If she doesn't like the pastor, all she has to do is make an appointment with him and then say he was sexually inappropriate.  The accusation alone would destroy him.  The article above also points out that "it’s also true that in ministry a vulnerable or codependent [female] person might want a relationship with a [male] leader that crosses emotional boundaries, if not physical."  If the male leader sets firm bounderies, he also sets himself to be accused by the female person who feels rejected and wants to get even.  No thanks.  The Billy Graham rule is there for my protection and I'm going to use it.

Rev. G.Ben Bowater IV July 20, 2017

Just last week, we held our Community Wide VBS at the local public elementary school. It was Group's "Maker Fun Factory" and to pull it off, RedArrow again partnered with other churches in town including Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, & Roman Catholic. Out of over 200 kids who attended throughout the week, when parents registered their kids, more than 50% said they have no Church family. As the week ended, Crew Leaders and other volunteers confirmed that many of their students were hearing the Gospel of Jesus and other Bible stories for the very first time. While I agree that investing in those new relationships is absolutely essential, we should NEVER underestimate how the Lord can use outreach events like these to plant the seeds of Faith. 

Doug Vande Griend July 20, 2017

There are good things said in this article.  At the same time, I couldn't agree more with Eric's comments as to a couple of things said in this article.

Today's culture seems to demand that we must "be the best," that whatever we take on be "incredibly exciting," that we must have "great impact on many."

None of that is bad, but insisting on them is.  I love churches that are faithful, regardless of whether they have a "unique vision," or whether they have embarked on "uncharted waters."

The Gospel story is pretty old.  Preaching it may require churches to address the particularities of their own congregants and communities, but the revolution has already happened.  Churches don't have create a new one.  The old one, preached and lived well, is pretty exciting actually, and pretty satisfying.

Perhaps hyperbole sells, I don't know.  But it can also disappoint.  If we demand from elders that create a new vision, they just might.  Or, they might just become discouraged for doing the mere stuff that needs to be done, that apparently has no value.

Anita Brinkman July 20, 2017

This event has been prayed over a lot! I'm excited to see how God will work in response.

Eric Kas July 19, 2017

Thanks posting Monica! I appreciate your nuanced thought. 

Personally, I do not like to be in an enclosed space (like an office without a window) with anyone, men or women. Fortunately, most office spaces have windows in doors and are often places where others may walk by, which give it public visibility. Moreover, I cannot recall the last time I ate alone at a restaurant. Normally there are people around, this is not “eating alone” - it is eating in public, with a private conversation. There are many ways to work without gender discrimination in our communities, while maintaining healthy boundaries.

Kristen VanderBerg July 19, 2017

Thanks Craig.  This is helpful feedback.  The unfortunate thing is that videos are expensive and time consuming to produce. If most churches aren't going to use them, or if a handful of churches are only going to show them once, it is hard for ministries to justify spending funds and time to make them.

With that said, I've been part of a few conversations recently about trying to create "less polished" videos that could still serve our needs, but at at lower cost.  Stay tuned.  

In the meantime, is there anything that you would like to see in print in the Together Doing More section of The Banner? Sounds like some good news stories from the denomination would be appreciated if we can cut through the clutter and get people to read them.

Monica Brands July 19, 2017

Thanks, Henry. Your comments point to how important it is for churches to have a clear policy in place for handling allegations of harassment or abuse, to avoid conclusions being drawn based only on secondhand information instead of a thorough and careful process for assessing each situation. Bonnie Nicholas and Safe Church are always available to help churches both in creating a policy and helping churches take any allegations through a rigorous and careful process before any definitive conclusions or further steps are taken. 

Roland Vanderburg July 19, 2017

Excellent!  Rain catchment of all types is critical in this age of climate change.  It happens too rarely.  Blessings on the work of World Renew!

Hendrik "Henry" de Vries July 19, 2017

Great article discussing a necessary issue. But what about the power of gossip and innuendo that leads to the maligning of a person's reputation? I've seen a few cases of this where a pastor lost their reputation, position and even calling. This applies to any person in positions of authority sometimes for as little as an off-handed comment. The sensitivity to offenses, whether real or perceived, leads to muzzling and inability to communicate. 

The Billy Graham rule was set up to avoid any possible maligning when their team realized how prominent Billy could become and thereby a target for malice.

Carmen Huttenga July 18, 2017

As the administrative assistant at our church I would not want to be paid for my substitute's hours and then have to pay them. I am paying taxes on that and that is being counted as my income. Granted, I work 26 hours per week. Some of the people that cover for me volunteer their time (projection, church website) others get paid (bulletin). The person who fills in for the bulletin for me is also on staff so it gets added to her check. While it may be extra work, it would be the proper way to handle such a situation.

Steven Garrett July 17, 2017

Love it, i do!  I have attended CRC churches in Seattle the past few years, and have recently moved into an assisted living house - with aprox. 59 neighbors.  There is a church nearby, in fact right across the parking-lot - in the building next door. I am sa d to report, tho', that this church is sold-out to the poisonous word of faith gospel; ANOTHER GOSPEL that st Paul cautioned the church about in the opening paragraphs of Galatians.  

As a believer of some 30+ years, i'd much prefer starting a small-group fellowship - over directing my neighbors to a false fellowship; the end result only being having them devoured by the wolves next door! Heavens no, i won't have it; not on my watch!   

I have listed the Awake Church as my home body, and am also acquainted with Randy Rowland, and his staff at the Sanctuary Church. I'd be thrilled to have either body provide the leadership to enable me to carry out this mission. 

Thanks, and blessings 2 all; SRG

Eric Van Dyken July 17, 2017

"Articulating vision is the primary work of elders."  No, it is not. 

"Elders consumed with the daily doing of ministry have lost sight of their essential calling."  No, they haven't.

Wendy Hammond July 17, 2017

Great post! For further reading, this post from 2011 has additional ideas: Vacation Bible School as Missions. 

Scott DeVries July 13, 2017

Before seminary I was doing ministry in a non-denominational, organic, young and hip group with zero budget and no ties to a building. I was living the dream that a lot of anti-seminary, anti-denominational, anti-institutional seminarians and pastors think they want. And there were some great things about it - but it wasn't nearly the dream that people like to think. I was so thankful when God called me to attend CTS! I came in with the attitude of wanting to get to know God better and understand His community of children - the Church. I was seeking for a greater filling with Christ, and I found that. The time I spent in seminary were some of the best years of my life, digging deeper into my relationships with God and with His Church everyday. I got to sit at the feet of people, past and present, who have been recognized as deeply knowledgeable, passionate, and wise about God. Yes, there is an academic structure and rigor to it all, but every relationship comes to a point where it takes an organized and intentional effort to grow. When I hear someone talk down about the importance of a seminary education I end up wondering how serious they really are developing their relationship with Jesus.

Angelyn Kuiper July 13, 2017

Hi Terry, Thanks for your interest! The recording is now available at this link:

Craig Van Hill July 13, 2017

This topic has become a big discussion for our congregation.  It seems that most people are unaware of what happens in our denomination and so they have a bad impression, since as we all know, bad news often spreads further than good news.  We have found that people don't tend to read written material whether it be in the bulletin, in their church mailboxes, or in the Banner.  So, we are attempting to find other way to share this information.  In my opinion the greatest impact is face-to-face, which we all know is difficult, at least the further you get away from Grand Rapids.  Next we have found that videos during the church services make an impact over time.  It needs to be in front of them multiple times.  That being said it would be nice to have more information passed on by way of videos.  It has been hard to find them.  Maybe they are being produced but we aren't receiving them.  A few years back a great video was made explaining ministry shares, but it would be nice to have consecutive weeks where specific ministries or agencies are highlighted in the CRCNA.

Eric Kas July 13, 2017

Click here for the link to order your free flyers/bulletin inserts for your church!

Carol Spiering July 12, 2017

Below are the CRC Guest WiFi terms of use. Please note that we can't guarantee these would cover any potential lawsuits churches may receive. 

Welcome to our Internet portal. If you choose to continue, you are agreeing to comply with and be bound by the following terms and conditions of use. If you disagree with any part of these terms and conditions, you may not continue.

Terms of use:

Your use of any information or materials on sites you access is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable.

You agree that, though this portal, you will not perform any of the following acts: 

Attempt to access devices or resources to which you have no explicit, legitimate rights 

Copy, reproduce, or transmit any copyrighted files or information other than in accordance with the requirements and allowances of the copyright holder 

Launch network attacks of any kind including port scans, DoS/DDoS, packet floods, replays or injections, session hijacking or interception, or other such activity with malicious intent 

Transmit malicious software such as viruses, Trojan horses, and worms 

Surreptitiously install software or make configuration changes to any device or application, by means of the installation or execution of key loggers, registry keys,  or other executable or active application or script 

You agree that you will use the access provided here responsibly and with full regard to the safety, security, and privacy of all other users, devices, and resources. 

You agree that you will be mindful of the cultural sensitivities of others while using this portal so as not to provoke reaction or offense, and that you will not intentionally access pornographic, graphically violent, hateful, or other offensive material (as deemed by us) regardless of others' sensitivities. 

You understand that we reserve the right to log or monitor traffic to ensure that these terms are being followed. 

You understand that unauthorized use of resources through this portal may give rise to a claim for damages and/or be a criminal offense.

Staci Devries July 12, 2017

This looks fascinating Evelyn. Have you already read it? 

Evelyn Oudyk July 12, 2017


It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.  

by Mark Wolynn

Staci Devries July 12, 2017

Love the description; I am already hooked into Ai-Ming's story. Thanks for sharing, Valerie. 

Staci Devries July 12, 2017

These are great suggestions, Rob. I just added "Not Sure" to my list. 

Staci Devries July 12, 2017

Love the detail in your review! thanks for sharing.

Staci Devries July 12, 2017

Thanks Angela. I just read the description of "Mentor for Life" and am intrigued. I enjoy some light mystery novels, too!