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.