Synod 2023 received the Council of Delegates’ review of Ministry Shares Reimagined—the revamped system by which pooled money is collected to fund shared ministry in the Christian Reformed Church. Synod, the annual general assembly, directed the denomination’s general secretary to implement some improvements. It also asked to continue the review into next year, particularly reaching out to congregations that are not currently contributing ministry shares.
Last year’s synod asked the Council of Delegates to examine how congregations were responding to the revamped Ministry Shares program, which in 2019 switched from requesting a prescribed, per-member amount to inviting church councils to pledge their own, determined amount.
After reviewing trends in denominational giving, seeking input from among its members and classis stated clerks, and having conversations with deacons and classis treasurers, the Council of Delegates suggested some changes. Synod 2023 adopted all of them:
- Provide greater flexibility in the pledge process cycle, allowing churches to determine their pledge cycle based on their fiscal year.
- Suggest to the churches what would be a reasonable amount to cover basic/core denominational operational costs as part of their pledge.
- Provide to the churches and classes more information on pledges and giving results, including what comprises the basic/core denominational costs.
Drew Sweetman, Classis Muskegon, who reported for the committee that recommended adopting the changes, also proposed continuing the review of the ministry shares system, including asking the Council of Delegates to “conduct a survey or make personal contacts targeted to churches that are not currently participating in the ministry share program. Ninety-eight percent of the people who responded to the first survey “attend churches that (already) participate in ministry shares. We want to hear from those who don’t,” Sweetman said. He also recommended the Council study other, similar denominations to compare systems and “work toward a new vision for future ministry-funding mechanisms.” Synod requested that the Council of Delegates recommend “further changes to the ministry share program based on the findings of the above.”
Adrian de Lange, Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan cautioned against spending time on further study, while accepting it was necessary. “We wonder why ministry shares are going down and we commission a study that will use up this year's ministry shares to hopefully gain more ministry shares for next year?” he asked. After telling a story that illustrated a poor way of dealing with conflict—blame the past, restructure, or give up—de Lange insisted, “It's not a funny joke—this is where we are, brothers and sisters. … We need to pin it on ourselves and allow Christ to work in our own lives,” before expecting material change.
The committee that recommended the review concluded, “A further reimagined ministry share system is needed to enable the CRCNA to perform essential functions and to engage in ministry in North America and around the world well into the future.” Synod agreed but did not give the Council of Delegates a timeline for completing the further review.
Synod 2023 is meeting June 9-15 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod. Visit crcna.org/synod for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.