Note: This article references a program that has since been disbanded. Contact information for the program has been removed since the original publishing of the article.
For the 1,200 non-ordained ministry staff working in Christian Reformed congregations, having their credentials recognized encourages and equips them. It also sets standards for experience and education in their chosen profession, whether that is administration, church education, outreach, worship, or youth ministry.
So the Pastor-Church Relations office of the CRC has established an accelerated program for staff who already have extensive experience in their role.
According to a report from that agency’s staff ministry team, credentialing will help congregations and the denomination more fully recognize the contributions of non-ordained staff. “As we raise the standards and expectations, ministry staff will be better equipped to serve the church. We also hope that, through credentialing, the door to serving the denomination will be opened a little wider for experienced, professional non-ordained ministry staff,” the report states.
Although a credentialing process had already been in place, the new accelerated version will recognize and distinguish staff who already have professional experience and education, explained Jeanne Kallemeyn, staff ministry specialist with Pastor-Church Relations. This new process will allow this group to receive their credentials much more quickly and go on to establish credibility and encouragement to others who follow.
Laura Keeley, director of children’s ministry at 14th Street CRC in Holland, Mich., said that the credentialing system will provide the denomination with a database of professional, qualified people for congregations to choose from when hiring new staff.
“While some members of my congregation know the work that I do every day, credentialing will acknowledge that I have the professional background, experience, and expertise needed for this position,” Keeley said. “Just as teachers are required to meet standards to be certified, credentialing will provide that standard for my profession.” Liz Tolkamp, children’s pastor at Willoughby CRC in Langley, British Columbia, feels that this process was long overdue, and that credentialing will give validity to the ministry aspect of the specialized work that is done by non-ordained ministry staff in areas that don’t require a Master of Divinity degree.
“Credentialing recognizes the ministry role of the person hired in that position. It will help churches to encourage ministry staff in professional growth in the specific ministry area,” Tolkamp said, adding that ministry positions outside of her classis and in other CRC churches will now be a viable option.
“Acquiring the status of ‘credentialed’ will hopefully eliminate the need to go through the entire classical process for ordination should I seek a ministry position in another church and/or classis,” she said.
The new requirements for the accelerated process requires either three years of experience in a staff ministry position and a bachelor’s degree in a related field from a college or seminary associated with the CRC or seven years of work experience in a Christian Reformed congregation, and significant professional development.