Classis Hamilton, a regional group of churches in Ontario, recently held a talk-show style panel discussion to talk about a vision for how churches and Christian schools can interact to disciple youth.
Panelists Jules DeJager, Hubert Krygsman, and Dawn Wolthuis.
The event was prompted in part by a recent report about the high rate of young adults leaving the church. The event was held at Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Flamborough but also streamed live, with viewers’ comments and questions projected onto large screens.
Panelists included Jules deJager, executive director for Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools; Hubert Krygsman, president of Redeemer University College; and Dawn Wolthuis, president of the Institute for Christian Studies.
DeJager commented that faith in our youth culture is moving more from the head to the heart. “Christian education is exploring the areas of engaging the hands and heart, not just the head knowledge. The current generation wants things to be so experiential. . . . How do we do this in our churches as well?” he asked. Wolthuis also posed a question about the church. “What are churches going to look like in the future? . . . We’re soon going to see churches and groups that are decidedly different.”
The discussion spanned a broad range of topics, from parenting styles and mentoring programs to the effects of technology and the need for authenticity. Comments from the audience indicated a general feeling of competition between church and school and a desire among church leaders for concrete suggestions on how to work together to help students work out their faith in their lives. Andrea DeVries, an elder at Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ont., said that although there was no big solution provided, there was lots of helpful discussion.
“We need to coordinate our efforts. I liked the example of having the Christian school do their big Christmas event every other year and the church do something the other years—I often feel that every group wants to do everything for the child, and so there’s too much overlap,” she said. “Also, as school has moved in the direction of ‘lifelong learning,’ we should also move that to the church programs, so that we don’t get members tuning out because they’ve ‘been there, done that.’ Christianity should be promoted as lifelong learning also.”
Kevin deRaaf, pastor of Faith CRC in Burlington, closed the discussion with a comparison to the story of Nehemiah, suggesting that our “walls” also need some rebuilding, and that we should follow the example of falling on our knees and asking God for help in doing his work.