Betty-Ann Coleman had a simple question. An administrator at Westside Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Kingston, Ontario, she was unsure about a certain aspect of The Bridge, a smartphone app created in partnership with the CRCNA. Coleman sent an email with her question to the CRCNA denominational office.
It would have taken just a few minutes to email the reply, but that’s not what happened. Dorothy Vandersteen, who supports The Bridge, noticed Coleman’s work hours listed in the bottom of her email message. Like many church administrative assistants, Coleman works limited hours during the week. It so happened that she’d been working right as Vandersteen was responding to the message.
Vandersteen made a split-second decision to call instead of email. She thought this would be a little more personal and would allow her to take time to listen.
Vandersteen is one of several people involved in the denomination’s new Connections project. Begun as a three-year pilot project in 12 classes in the Midwest, California, and southern Ontario, the goal of Connections is to bring denominational resources to Christian Reformed churches in ways that are responsive and easily accessed. Taking time to listen is a key part of Vandersteen’s job.
In this case it paid off. A two-minute answer to Coleman’s question turned into a longer conversation about how the denomination can better recognize and serve administrative assistants working in Christian Reformed churches.
Coleman found out that Vandersteen and some Connections coworkers in Ontario were planning events specifically geared toward church administrative assistants. Vandersteen learned that Classis Quinte already does something like that during one of its meetings each year.
As the two women talked, they began to strategize ways to collaborate. Vandersteen had the ability to bring resources to the table, and Coleman had the experience of meeting annually with other church administrators. She knew what would be helpful information and what wouldn’t. The biggest payoff, however, was the relationship that was begun.
The real story isn't about creating a better event. It’s not even about how overlooked church administrators are. The real story is about how a simple change of mindset could allow denominational ministry staff and a local church to collaborate instead of simply coexisting.
This is what the Connections project is all about. In collaboration with all of the ministries of the CRCNA and an increasing number of classes and local churches, the Connections project works to foster greater relationships between local churches and the ministries available to serve them.
It includes regional staff such as Vandersteen who deliberately build connections with specific classes of churches. It also includes a one-stop phone number (1-800-272-5125) to call for answers to all types of ministry questions, a single web page (crcna.org/resources) that allows users to search for thousands of resources, and an online chat feature on every page of crcna.org.
Thanks to support from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Connections project will soon be expanding to all classes of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, with all CRCNA ministries shifting their posture toward serving local congregations.