Most churches think of social media as a way to connect with young people. But for retired pastor Winston Boelkins, 82, Facebook has become a way to connect with Christian Reformed pastors.
Boelkins, who started the Facebook group four years ago, says it has filled a need for more than 300 pastors.
“I love this group because we can get support, explore questions, and debate issues in [an] encouraging way. This is our coffeehouse!” said Reggie Smith, pastor at Roosevelt Park Community CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Facebook group, called “Pastors of the Christian Reformed Church,” hosts discussions on ministry ideas and sermon topics as well as commentary and devotional recommendations.
“When you ask a question or express a concern in this forum, you have many eyes looking at something in ways I didn’t or don’t see,” said Aaron Greydanus, pastor at Drenthe CRC in Zeeland, Mich.
The group is closed, which means that only members can see the posts.
“We found that many pastors, especially those serving churches, wanted to be careful about what they put out there. They wanted a more insulated environment in which to write,” said Boelkins. “We have had some animated discussion on theological topics. These tend to evoke emotional discourses.”
One discussion on the Belhar Confession stretched 92 comments long.
“Some posters can be more biting in their comments than I’m used to, [but] all posters are more than willing to take feedback and dial back their intensity when asked,” explained Norm Zylstra, a CRC member who is an administrator of the group.
The group builds community among pastors regardless of geographical distance.
“As a pastor in the Maritimes, it provides a wonderful forum to connect with colleagues, classmates, and friends, who don’t feel so far away anymore,” said Daniel Brown, pastor at John Calvin CRC in Truro, Nova Scotia.
“I knew from experience that many pastors feel isolated from time to time, and that having an opportunity to be together in a new way may serve some people’s needs,” Boelkins said.
Zylstra and Boelkins encourage pastors to join if they aren’t already part of the group.
“Come get a taste, and see if there’s something for you,” said Zylstra.