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Congregational Ministries Merge into One Agency with Two Co-leaders

Congregational Ministries Merge into One Agency with Two Co-leaders
Lesli van Milligen (left) and Chris Schoon are the respective Canadian and U.S. co-directors of the CRC’s Congregational Ministries.

A recent reorganization of the CRC’s Congregational Ministries, driven largely by budget constraints, consolidated nine separate ministries into one agency with two co-directors, one in the U.S. and one in Canada. The congregational ministries budget has diminished from $9 million to $6.5 million over the past three years.

Despite previous communication that director positions have been eliminated, Chris Schoon, director of Faith Formation and soon to be the U.S. co-director of the new agency, clarified that at the October meeting of the CRC’s Council of Delegates. Schoon told the Council that the word “director” has been removed from their job titles. Those who were directors of those agencies are now team leaders working together across the agency to share resources, while each still concentrating on their own area. 

“Of the nine directors,” he told the Council, “one retired, five have rewritten job descriptions in the same pay range, and three (others also) did not receive a decrease in their pay. All eight are still employed in substantial roles.” 

In speaking with a committee of the Council, Amanda Benckhuysen, leader of Safe Church Ministry, noted that the reorganization process is helpful in building synergies between the ministries but mentioned the budget pressures have created challenges with respect to synod mandates. 

Mike Hogeterp, leader of the Christian Reformed Committee for Public Dialogue in Canada, also said the reorganization represents a change in capacity for ministries like the Office of Social Justice and Race relations. Justice ministries and their networks have concerns that a consolidation risks an over-shadowing and/or diminishment of these ministries. The consolidation does not affect the Canadian justice ministries.

Despite the challenges, Benckhuysen told The Banner in September, “From the outside looking in, it may look like we are dismantling well-loved and appreciated ministries, but from the inside, it feels hopeful—like all the staff are taking ownership and mutually sharing in the various ministries and programs that make up Congregational Ministries."

The Council also affirmed a co-director model for Congregational Ministries. The U.S. corporation (U.S. directors of the Council) appointed Schoon as director of Congregational Ministries-U.S., to begin in January. The Canada Corporation appointed Lesli van Milligen as director of Congregational Ministries-Canada in July

Some U.S. delegates expressed concern that due process was not followed for the U.S. director appointment, since the U.S. Corporation did not have the opportunity to interview the nominee. Lloyd VanderKwaak, interim chief administrative officer for the denomination, noted that the process for appointing leaders needs to be redefined in light of recent governance policy changes. “I acknowledge we messed up the process,” he told delegates. “It’s always better to start with the correct process.”

Zachary King, the CRC’s general secretary, added, “There were some missteps. I’m just happy we have two people that are called and gifted for this work.” 

Congregational Ministries is made up of ministries focused on serving congregations and their needs, including the Safe Church office, Chaplaincy and Care, Race Relations and Office of Social Justice, Faith Formation, Worship, Disability Concerns, Candidacy Committee, and Pastor Church Resources.


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