Does Classis Help Churches?
January 30, 2015
Updated February 2, 2015
3 comments 375 views
I was visiting a church council as part of a classical visioning process. Our Classis had asked each church council to participate in an appreciate inquiry about classis. While there, it became clear that few members could remember a time when their church felt engaged and motivated by classis. Few could say how classis had contributed to the spiritual life of their church, describe the most important life giving characteristic of classis, or make three wishes for classis. Few knew much about classis at all. Most only thought of classis as something their money went to. The focus of the meeting quickly shifted.
That wasn’t the worst part of the day. The worst part came when I realized I didn’t have an answer that satisfied their questions about what classis did for them. I could point to campus ministries and church plants and say that classis gives churches the opportunity do more together than they could do on their own. I could give other examples of regional ministries. I could talk about the way classis gives churches councils the opportunity to hold each other accountable. I could point to times when classis helped churches through crises. I did all of that, but still had a sense that I was not really answering their questions. They wanted to know what classis could do for a church that was not in immediate crisis but dealing with low morale and a slow decline.
As I’ve reflected on that meeting, I’ve realized that much of our talk about classis seems to center around the idea of running good meetings. Sometimes, the focus on creating a good experience so delegates can go home knowing that a good time was had by all. Sometimes the focus is on planning meetings that run smoothly, have a clear focus, provide delegates with a sense of accomplishment and finish at a decent time. But I sense that our churches need more than good meetings as they strive to minister in our culture and context, and fear that we are not very well equipped to deliver what churches need most.
Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.Add Your Post
I think that classes could help congregations more if they were more connected to the many resources that the denomination has to offer. Denominational offices, like Safe Church Ministry, can't connect meaningfully with every CRC congregation. We depend on classes, and other regional bodies to act in an intermediary role. It's also true that the denomination could offer more support to those who serve the classes. How are people trained for this important work? How and where are the connections made, and experience and knowledge shared? What is the process for these connections to grow into mutually beneficial relationships?
A quote that I've often reminded people of is that "there is no sin in synergism". When a Classis does it's job right, it is the connector and amplifier of the various ministries provided by its congregations and, in some cases, becomes the medium through which such a ministry can either exist or be enhanced. As far as the lack of knowledge amongst congregations as to what Classis does (or can do), I encourage the Classis to utilize narrative budgets that tell the story of how last year's funds amplified the effect of ministries, how the funds enabled education of office bearers and/or employees and coordinated the efforts of congregational teams (such as Safe Church). That narrative budget should also tell the story of how next year's funds will be utilized.
If something new comes up (e.g. new legislation, amendments to Church Order, opportunities to serve, etc.) Classis can provide necessary references or can coordinate re-education connections for the ministries of the various congregations. If synodical ministries need to connect with congregations, the Classis can be the conduit.
Classis needs to tell its story and show the good news that results from an effective Classis.
My wife and I consider our payment of ministry shares to Classis AB North to be an "investment" (with a great return), not an expense and the cost of our investment works out to be less than the cost of going out for coffee weekly. I wish they were asking for more since I know how good the rate of return can be.
One of the items permanently on the Classis Agenda is Finances. Classis should add an item on Church Membership. Here is some interesting information:
Summary of Year Book CRCNA 2013
Members 76% 24%
Classis 79% 21%
Churches 80% 20%
Churches <100 members 90%* 10%**
*USA has 296 churches with under 100 members
**Canada has 28 churches with under 100 members
Classis are the perfect place to discuss this. Churches with less than 100 members are not sustainable IMHO. When new church plants are recommended Classis should ensure affordability and that they will be subject to a "sunset clause".
This sound may business like. But I am a Christian business person and would deal with a church in a stewardly Christian business manner. Btw it takes about $200,000 per year in fixed expenses to run a church.
Sounds to me some Classis have some work to do to help each other out.
We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.