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Leadership Development Networks Shape Hearts and Careers


For the past ten years, eager learners from various Christian Reformed congregations in British Columbia have gathered once a month for Leadership Development Network (LDN) training.

This scenario repeats itself across the denomination and beyond.

Erica and Paul VanderSpruit present their son Judah Andrew to ministry associate Liz Tolkamp (right) for baptism at Willoughby CRC.

Homemakers and farmers, teachers and nurses, business owners and retirees, ranging in age from 18-68, have signed on for a three-year lay training curriculum.

Just as attendees have come from varied places, so the “graduates” of LDN programs find themselves in varied places and positions.

“Early on LDN was a highly driven mentor model, with the emphasis focused more on skill, competence, and practice in missional leadership” said Rev. Ed Top, a 2001 graduate.

Top, who was a journalist before going into ordained ministry in the CRC, remembers LDN as a “series of one-on-one over 24 months filled with challenges, forgiveness, grace, and encouragement.” Top now shares a pastorate with his wife, Rev. Michelle Gritter, in the inner city Lantern Community CRC in Calgary, Alberta.

For Liz Tolkamp, LDN was the path to being ordained as a ministry associate in the role of children’s pastor at her home church, Willoughby CRC, Langley, British Columbia.

“Participation in LDN helped to solidify a calling,” said Tolkamp, who completed her third year of training in 2007 and was ordained a year later.

For many participants, the influence of LDN is not so much in a career path as it is in their ongoing involvement in their church and community.

Carolyn Gerber is an LDN grad who continues in her profession as a Christian high school administrative assistant as well as serving in a variety of leadership capacities in her church, Hope Community CRC in Surrey. “LDN has given me the incredible opportunity to engage in some intentional learning about theology, Scripture, and church history, while developing skills that have already served to enhance the ministry work I am privileged to do within my local congregation,” she said.

“LDN is not just a learning experience and it’s not a solo endeavor. LDN is in fact an extension of the church,” said Perry Dacuik, a member of Immanuel CRC in Langley. “It is one of the CRC’s best kept secrets.”

Eighteen people are meeting this fall with LDN leader Wilma VanderLeek, making it the largest group yet to benefit from this “secret.”

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