I first met Liz Tolkamp at the Inspire conference in Windsor, Ont., in 2019. I quickly realized she had a heart for people and further for children, restoration, justice, Jesus, and the church. Though she might not be comfortable with the description, in my opinion she is a model of leadership for the church.
Liz is a Faith Formation Regional Catalyzer in British Columbia, a children’s pastor and ministry coordinator at Willoughby (B.C.) Christian Reformed Church, and a member of the Restorative Practice Task Force of Classis British Columbia South East, and she is nearly finished with a Master of Science in Restorative Practices with the International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP).
In my conversations with her, I am often reminded that every part of our lives provides an opportunity for restorative leadership. For example, I was on a Zoom call with Liz on Jan. 6, discussing ways we could collaborate on catalyzing restorative practices. Unbeknownst to us, there was an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. While the world was demonstrating so clearly why restorative practices are necessary, Liz and I were digging into specific ways we as the church could use a restorative approach in our life together. I recall our conversation that day focused on the importance of raising children with honor and dignity and on how discipleship from cradle to grave might include a restorative approach that creates safe spaces for children and adults to form identity in Christ while strengthening relationships as the covenantal body of the church.
What would our world look like if conflicts were used as opportunities for strengthening relationships? What would leadership look like if we led from a restorative framework?
Restorative practices are ways of being with one another in which conflict is an opportunity to strengthen relationships and create thriving communities. The restorative framework provides language that helps us see how we affect one another, how we navigate shame, and how we can make right where harm has occurred. (The article “An Overview of Restorative Practices” on The Network shares more about the practices’ history in the CRC and further defines restorative justice and restorative practices.)
Liz often reminds me that restorative practice is not merely about responding to conflict or harm within a community, but is a way of being together to be proactive in the ways we affect one another. It is evident from my many conversations with her that Liz models a Christ-like leadership that seeks to be with others in ways that look like the restoration Christ brings to all areas of life. I look forward to continuing to learn from and with Liz as we both dive deeper into what it looks like to lead restoratively at all levels of our lives and in the church.