Hoping to expand the kingdom of God by equipping workers, Classis Heartland of the Christian Reformed Church is launching a residency program to help churches grow outward-focused mission workers, and to help ministry graduates get an initial placement after college. Available to the congregations of this regional group of churches in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas, they hope to have “residents” in place by January 2020.
Kevin Muyskens, pastor of Immanuel CRC in Sheldon, Iowa, told The Banner, “We are intending to target Dordt University and Northwestern College (Orange City, Iowa) students with a heart for Christ and for ministry.” Muyskens, along with F Street Church pastor Jeff Heesprink, championed the residency idea to the classis’ home missions committee. Heesprink’s church in Lincoln, Neb., is already working with this type of model.
“We have been working towards being a place where we raise up and send out leaders from our beginning. For me, it is my personal experience of how I came into ministry and what I believe was Jesus’ model,” Heesprink said. At F Street, interns have regularly come to serve for a number of years, helping out with community development, pastoring in developing discipleship and helping with the youth group, among other activities.
With the classis-wide residency program, any Heartland congregation can apply to stretch their ministry dollars and make a placement more feasible.
“We have taken this step because many of our church plants are not able—and may not ever be able if the micro-church trend continues—to support a full-time minister with the amount of debt typical for a seminary student with a Master’s of Divinity,” Muyskens said.
Adopting the new program at its September meeting, classis earmarked $10,000 for the residency in 2020. Churches can apply for 1:1 funding, up to $5000, for their individual plans.
Congregations will be expected to engage in at least a nine-month relationship with their resident, to provide a mentor and a learning environment as well as “at least five hours a week in ministry,” Muyskens explained. “While raising up possible church planters is a big focus and purpose, we are also hopeful that even those who do not continue into church planting will be leaders in missional ministry within congregations as staff or lay leaders.”
Muyskens said the classis home missions committee, on which Heesprink and Muyskens serve, will regularly review the new program as part of their ongoing mandate. “Each approved resident and the respective church leaders must meet with the home missions committee during the residency so that we can learn from each other,” Muyskens said.