“We Need to Deal with the Numbers”

“We Need to Deal with the Numbers”
Steven Timmermans, executive director of the Christian Reformed Church
Photo by Gayla R. Postma
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It’s time for the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) to set its priorities, according to its executive director, Steve Timmermans.

Timmermans addressed Synod 2019, the annual leadership gathering of the CRC, Saturday evening.

The declining membership of the denomination can look dramatic, but “we need to deal with numbers in completely accurate and clear ways,” he said. For example, one reason for an overall decline in membership is that people are having less children. The number of professing members actually grew in the early 2000s.

But in the last decade, even the number of professing members has dropped, reaching a total decline of about 10 percent in the last 20 years – a comparable drop to that experienced by mainline Protestant denominations in North America.

“These last ten years we’ve seen something happening,” he said. “It’s time to start reassessing what our priorities are. Time to listen. Time to share the anxieties, and the longings and desires that we hold. We need to look at numbers so that the Holy Spirit can speak into the plans we’re making for our ministry plan.”

The church must listen to its members, and then act, Timmermans said.

The denomination’s ministry plan, Our Journey 2020, is about listening, prioritizing, and acting, he told delegates: “It’s important that together we’re bringing a sense of purpose and direction to local ministry. We have to prioritize – we can’t do everything. But some things are so compelling we have to do them immediately.”

Timmermans conducted a quick poll of delegates to discover their ministry priorities. Delegates’ top priorities included connecting churches to their neighborhoods, equipping members to be missional, and finding ways to engage the younger generation.

“Pay attention to the numbers, but don’t spend all your time hypothesizing,” Timmermans concluded. “Rather, act in step with the Spirit. We are blessed, and now we have to be a blessing to others.”

Synod 2019 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 14-20. For continuous coverage from our award-winning news team, download the Banner app on your mobile device or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted on The Banner’s dedicated Synod web page several times daily. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.