World Renew is pleased to announce the appointment of Jodi Koeman to the position of Church with Community Coordinator. This new position, also supported by Pastor Church Resources and the Office of Social Justice, seeks to network and equip deacons in the U.S. to help their churches in restoring their communities.
“What would our churches look like if we worked WITH our community? What would the CRC look like if we were intentional about transforming our communities?”
These two questions were on my mind when I received a life-changing call to become the Church WITH Community Coordinator, a role that seeks to engage the church to live out their call to be a “diakonia”. This word is full of meaning, but to me it simply means restoring relationships WITH God, self, others, and creation by living lives of mercy and justice.
Much of this restoration work is facilitated by our deacons. In today’s ministry context, the work of deacons is increasingly vital. World Renew was founded by CRC deacons in 1962 and the CRC denomination continues to seek ways to encourage diaconal ministry. Together, they want to expand efforts to build on World Renew’s history of community transformation and on the CRC’s heritage of service oriented deacons.
In 2015, Synod recognized the importance of increased attention to diaconal ministry. I’m indebted to Andrew Ryskamp, who, after retiring from World Renew, spent four years consulting and providing leadership to the Synod Diaconate mandate. Andy explained that “in 2015 the Synod of the CRC asked its churches to live into a vision where all its members were called into ‘diakonia’, living lives of service exemplified by mercy, reconciliation, and justice. Church Councils and Classes, as well as Synod, with special emphasis on the office of deacon, were asked to give leadership to living this out communally."
Another partner, Pastor Church Resources, was recently tasked with developing some focused support for elders and deacons. Scott DeVries, Connections Manager, clarified, “Deacons in Canada already had great support through Diaconal Ministries Canada, but we recognized there wasn't anything comparable for deacons in the US. We are very happy to have the opportunity to partner with World Renew and other ministries in hiring Jodi as the new Church with Community Coordinator to begin filling in that gap.”
Because of the call of deacons to exemplify reconciliation and justice, the Office of Social Justice is a third partner. Reggie Smith says, "As director of the Office of Social Justice, my support for the position continues a long-held commitment to collaborative ministry.”
There are a lot of you doing amazing things as deacons, as leaders, as service-minded people. I’m here to cheer you on, but I think we can go deeper. I’m here to help us learn together, share stories, and create a new vision. I’m here to ask all of us...what about WITH? What would our churches look like if we made it a priority to work with our community? What would the CRC look like if we were intentional about transforming our communities?
I believe we can be churches where we are known by our love and service, and also where we listen particularly well to our communities and work with them. I believe we can be a denomination that is outward focused, looking to the strengths and gifts of each other and our communities to see where God is already at work and where we need to follow. I hope we inspire one another to move out in faith. Our communities are places where we have been placed for a reason!
I look forward to connecting with you to engage, equip and empower deacons, other church leaders, and members to BE the church as we live out our call to be agents of change in our communities.
A bit about me:
I grew up in Sheboygan, WI, attended Calvin College (BSW) and Boston University (MSW), where I focused on community development, organizing, and administration. I served both professionally and personally in community development work in Grand Rapids, MI, Washington and Massachusetts, and led non-profit organizations, serving as the director of Girls Inc. and as the executive director of the Community Harvest Project, both in Massachusetts.
My husband, Kent, and I were members of the core team that served New England Chapel (NEC), a CRC church plant. While there I worked for 15 years as Pastor of Community Restoration, building teams to lead their diaconal work using a community development approach in caring for one another and engaging in their local community and globally. Most recently I served as the Director of Spiritual Formation at Whitinsville Christian School, where I was excited to lead them in K-12 service learning programs.
For more information about how your church can increase effective diaconal ministry or engage your community, contact Jodi at [email protected].