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One thing I’ve learned from being a lifelong CRC person is that CRC folks love archives. In fact, I even had my first kiss beside archival photos of war veteran church members from Spring Lake Christian Reformed Church—of which at the time my dad was the pastor and my in-laws the youth leaders. Sorry, everyone! 

All that being said, archives seem to play a special role in the life of many Christian Reformed churches. 

Good archives share the story of the church in a way that makes it come to life. So maybe instead of the phrase “If these walls could talk” we should swap out walls for filing cabinets. 

In my time since that first kiss among the archives of Spring Lake CRC I have served three CRC churches in various roles. And at each church about two months in I like Gandalf wander my way to the archives. There I find photos, old council minutes, building plans and more. 

But why go there you may ask. You were hired to bring new life to the church to bring in a fresh perspective, why go digging in the past? 

Here are three reasons to go to the archives

  1. Establish Connection Points

When you are new in leadership to a church, in most cases you have zero history with the church. By familiarizing yourself with the history of the church, you can establish some connecting points with lifelong members. You might ask a member, “Tell me about when you started the church picnic tradition.” Be careful though you may touch a nerve. Which is why the next point is important. 

  1. History Repeats Itself

There’s nothing new under the sun. Looking at archives allows you to see that churches go in cycles and those cycles tend to repeat themselves over and over. As a new leader in the church you may be facing an issue at the church that you cannot seem to crack. If you turn back in the archives you may find this is not a new problem, but one that has been around for years. How was it dealt with in the past? Is your current solution just reopening a wound that isn’t healed? This is your chance to break the cycle and infuse some new thoughts or ideas to an age old problem.

  1. You Can Find the Heart of the Church

In any good treasure story, the treasure is usually found buried deep in the ground somewhere. The same is true for the heart of a church. It is buried in their archives. The archives highlight what was and probably still is important to that church. And it may be the heart has not been spoken about in a long time, but it lives on in many people of the church, they may be struggling to put it into words. When you can tap into what has made the church tick for years and years, you can then adapt to modern times and suggest ways in which this vision can be recaptured. 


So, yes the archives can be very helpful, however, we must be careful not to live in the past. We as leaders have the opportunity to reframe this in people’s minds. When someone says “Our church was so much better 40 years ago.” We can reframe that by reminding them of God’s faithfulness and that 40 years later the Spirit is still active and at work. 

This is not easy work. But of course no one ever promised it would be. What we can do is try to adapt our archives and walk along members and attendees and point out the Spirit’s movement in the life of the church from long ago and right now in this very moment.



What are you storing your archives in? We have had one fire and are always worried about another.

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