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Is Colorado Church Too Small, or Still Growing?

Can a church be small and yet still be healthy? What does it mean to show fiscal stewardship?  These are questions that surround Jewel Christian Reformed Church in Denver, Colo., after a recent church visitors’ report to Classis Rocky Mountain (regional group of churches).

Church visitors are officebearers from a neighboring church who visit churches on behalf of the classis.

In this case, the biggest question facing Jewel is that of financial feasibility.

“When we saw their books, they were taking in from the congregation one third of their total budget.  Two thirds was coming from savings,” said Rev. Rick Ebbers, one of the church visitors.

“If they continue on the same trajectory, they will be out of reserves in two years. Our recommendation, based on the fourth criteria of article 38d, was that classis send us back in six months to see if any improvements were being made. If not, to begin discussion for succession.”

Rev. Gerald Vander Hoek, minister at Jewel, sees that information somewhat differently.

“Worst-case scenario,” he said, “[if] no offerings were done for two years, we could still make it with all of our ministries in place for the next two years.”

Vander Hoek admitted that the church does have some financial concerns, but that the biggest concern is growth. “The truth of what was in the church visitors’ report is that we have to grow.”

The church recently changed their name and vision. During that process they did lose some tithing members, according to Vander Hoek, but they are still planning for the future.

“We’re in the process of putting together goals for growth,” said Ron Pickens, president of Jewel’s council.   “But before we set goals we had to make the transition from our conservative background to our new mission focus.  It would be really great if we filled the pews, but that’s not our prime objective. Our goal is to reach other people and bring them into the kingdom of God.”

Vander Hoek feels that Jewel meets all of the criteria of a healthy church set forth by synod (the CRC’s annual leadership meeting). 

“We have a number of summer outreach events, Wednesday evening meals, and Kids Club,” he said. “We host an Alpha class, have an active prayer chain, and a time of shared prayer requests during our service.” They also have an active ministry to people with visual impairments and run a neighborhood preschool. 

Classis Rocky Mountain did not make a decision on the matter. The church visitors’ report, along with Jewel’s response report, were both received for information.

About the Author

Sarah Boonstra is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classes Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone.

See comments (5)

Comments

It would have been nice to be able to compare the two visions in order to more fairly form an opinion.

Bottom line is that the church visitors ought to begin discussion for succession only if the Jewel church requests it. Visitors ought not to come uninvited, and should not be so rude as to suggest or formally recommend dissolution, unless the local church is already requesting such a path.

"discussion for succession" is an awkward phrase. What in the world does it mean?

Maybe the more appropriate response from the Classis would be to help them get back on their feet and offer some encouragement.

Asking them to consider closing their doors with 2 years of reserves seems to be rather bizarre advice for a congregation enduring some transition and hardship.

And I agree with John - the whole thing seems like a case of bad manners, uninvited advice and poor judgement in the case of the visitors.

The Church Order requires that church visitors visit each church in classis on a yearly basis. Though few classes fulfill that requirement, church visitors need no special invitation for to visit a council anymore than elders need an invitation for regular home visitation.

And the advice of the church visitors may indeed be appropriate, not rude. It is far better stewardship for a church to close instead of waiting until it runs through all its money simply because it is financially able to stay in existence for two or three years more.

This is even more true when there is another Christian Reformed Church less than a block away from Jewel.

Sometimes it is self-interest, not missionary zeal, that keeps the doors of a church open when they should be shut. Hopefully, the classis can discern what's appropriate in this case, and hopefully Jewel will be open to the insights of fellow Christians who are also interested in building Christ's kingdom.

8.5 years ago Second CRC took a vote for its future. It chose to become a mission church in its neighborhood. My wife and I joined that journey 7.5 years ago. We have had many exciting things and changes happen (including the name change to Jewel). Jewel has experienced more Kingdom growth (about 25 first time commitments to Christ) than Church growth (about half of the new commitments moved away). Jewel's highly post modern neighborhood also has come to see Jewel as a valued neighbor.
We have been blesed with able leadership through transitions. We have been blessed with adequate finances. Jewel's Council at least twice a year for the last 6 years had discussed our continuing viability. What the Lord has planned for Jewel will become clear. Whether he plans Jewel to exit in 50 years or to close in a few years, we rejoice in what he is doing among people's lives along the journey.
It is unfortunate this article gives so much credibility to what was a highly dysfunctional church visit.

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