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The idea for the “Encourage, Equip & Inspire” event at Delavan Christian Reformed Church in Delavan, Wisc., started when Jessica Viss, chair of the church’s outreach team, talked to Trudy Ash, regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries, about an invigorating way to kick off the ministry year. 

“They were looking for a way to encourage their volunteers, breathe a little life into their programs, ... (and) learn what they could do to help enhance existing ministries and programs,” Ash said.

As ideas for an event at the church came together, FFM extended an invitation to other CRC ministries to join based on the topics folks at Delavan CRC wanted to explore. Some of the workshops were: 

  • How to Engage in Spiritual Conversations 
  • Supporting Parents in the Faith of Their Children
  • Strengths Approach to Community: Transformation of People and Places
  • Best Practices for Using Technology in Worship

These workshops were led by 13 speakers from six different denominational ministries and organizations, including World Renew, Raise Up Global Ministries and Coffee Break, Worship Ministries, and Calvin Seminary. A few were in person, and the rest were brought in via Zoom. 

Delavan CRC welcomed ministry leaders in neighboring communities to participate as well. About 35 people engaged in the workshop day.

Excitement for an in-person event kicking off the ministry year ran high. Participants in lunch discussions around one of four different topics—worship, children and youth, leadership, and evangelism—were so invested in conversation they had to be prompted to go back to the scheduled workshops. 

“There were lots of good, practical questions of how we do things, but also good, reflective space to talk about why we do it. And I think that, to me, was one of the more encouraging questions,” said Chris Schoon, director of Faith Formation Ministries.

At the end of the day, participants were invited to list three takeaways on a sticky note and share about one of them. One member of Delavan CRC said that although he didn’t currently know the names of many of the children and young adults at his church, he was going to commit to learning their names and getting to know them.

“That type of intergenerational relationship encourages the faith of older people as well as the willingness and sense of belonging of younger people,” Schoon said . “Taking that step will transform the church.”

Inviting collaboration between denominational organizations and ministries for a daylong event was an experiment for both FFM and Delavan CRC. Working alongside ministry partners met the needs of the church and best used the collective strengths of different ministries. 

As one participant shared, “The group of congregation members that showed up today and the group of speakers and workshops you offered fit together like a puzzle. Thank you for helping us fit these pieces together.”

Another participant said, “God was here in a mighty way.” 

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