At the age of 65, the Rev. Raymond Slim is retiring, as he puts it, “in theory.”
In reality, for the next two years, he will continue to preach a couple Sundays each month at Sanostee (N.M.) Christian Reformed Church, and when he’s not at Sanostee, he will fill the pulpit at churches in Classis Red Mesa that do not have their own pastors.
However, by the time Slim is ready to retire in practice as well as in theory, there are expectations that those other churches will no longer need his services because they will have their own trained members in the pulpits—graduates of the classis’ Leadership Development Network (LDN).
Slim has been the LDN’s primary instructor, though starting this fall those duties will be split between Rev. Keith Bulthuis of Bethany CRC in Gallup, N.M., and Rev. Will Kempkes of Window Rock (Ariz.) CRC.
Now in its third year, Red Mesa’s LDN program will graduate its first class in the spring of 2011. Of the 23 students in the inaugural class, 16 continue in the program.
“Of the churches on the reservation, most are without pastors, mainly because of the economic situation we are in,” said Rev. Stanley Jim, who has been regional director for Christian Reformed Home Missions and recently became director of Native ministries for the denomination.
Red Mesa’s LDN program is designed to equip church members for leadership roles including serving as ministry associates, who are allowed to lead congregations in certain circumstances.
“These people are not getting paid to do this. In fact, they are paying to do this,” said Slim. The LDN meets two Saturdays each month, with students sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to participate.
“And there’s a lot of homework” Slim said, sometimes including immediate application of lessons—from pastoral visits to preaching a sermon. “This is all devotion on their part.”