Do you see these trends in the denomination? Some other ones? Are we trending in healthy directions?
There are some classes out there that have put in place an array of new initiatives, intended to strengthen classis in its ability to serve congregations. Some innovations increase efficiency, some increase prayerfulness, some add resources to strengthen congregations. Some do all the above.
There are some classes out there that are struggling with low morale, uneven decision making and follow-through, discouraged member congregations, burned out leaders. When budgets are tight, leadership is precarious, membership declining, it's very difficult to put classis renewal steps in place. Motivation, energy, hope, resources are all in short supply.
What to do? Are there any changes taking place in the denomination itself that might suggest more resources are coming to classes? Yes, I see some of those changes being considered. If congregations are to get the help they need from classis, then classis must get the help it needs from the denomination and from the agencies. I'm old-fashioned enough to think there is a way forward here. I see signs that the denominational leadership is committed to shifting the paradigm from leading the congregations to resourcing the congregations. Yes, I'm oversimplifying. Yes I am naively hopeful. Yes I know that this is a little more daunting than I'm saying.... nevertheless, I see hope here.
Another shift is happening - more prayer. I've written about this before so I won't say much here, but my point is that as we tune into the Spirit in our decision making, we'll see new opportunities open up. And we are. And they are.
And how about this -- a concensus is emerging that stronger more robust classes are an essential part of growing a healthier denomination, including healthier relationships and collaborations of all kinds. Service delivery systems will include renewed classical systems. Tired and burned out leaders must have vibrant systems of encouragement, support, and growth available to them in the classis. Congregations that are holding on by their fingernails need a nurturing community of prayerful sister congregations around them.
Our old paradigm was strong healthy agencies carrying out ministry on behalf of congregations. That worked wonderfully well in a culture of high investment and high ownership in the denomination. It's a new day, and that strong culture of trust and loyalty has eroded - a lot. Congregations feel lonely, used, on their own to thrive or fade. And so there is a shift taking place -- denominational leadership and agency priorities are edging over toward partnership, seeing congregations as constituents whose partnership must be earned, not as resource machines to be taken for granted. Congregations are being seen as partners in ministry, not customers to sell stuff to.
And leadership, what is changing about our concept of the kind of leadership that is appropriate for our denomination? Do you have any hunches about that? Do the shifts I've mentioned above ring true to you? What do you see as you sense the trends in the CRC? I'd like to hear from you!