Church Leaders: The Next Generation

Christian Reformed Home Missions serves the churches, ministries, and members of the Christian Reformed Church through partnerships that work to fulfill Christ’s mission.

The will to lead, challenge, and inspire the denomination is part and parcel of who we are and can be seen through

  • the practice and promotion of persistent prayer;
  • identification and recruitment of dynamic church planters;
  • training, mentoring, and coaching of lay ministry leaders;
  • encouragement of classes and congregations, and
  • provision of appropriate financial assistance.

Through more than 200 diverse ministries, Home Missions works to bring the gospel to North Americans in new and mission-focused churches, on college campuses, in small groups, and in other areas where there is a need for mission work. The following stories show how Home Missions is working to transform lives across the United States and Canada.

Like many religious institutions, the Christian Reformed Church is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of qualified leaders.

With an average of 55 pastors retiring every year and many congregations still without pastors, there has rarely been such an overwhelming need for congregational leaders, pastors, church planters, campus pastors, and other leaders.

That’s why Home Missions’ fall 2007 orientation for new church planters was so encouraging. The biannual event, held in Grand Rapids, Mich., attracted a dynamic group of new church planters and interns who are passionate about leading new churches and multicultural ministries.

Diverse in age and ethnicity, these new leaders represent the next generation of the CRC. Here are just a few of them:

VICTOR KO is a Korean pastor who served Third CRC in Kalamazoo, Mich., for more than eight years. Then he felt the Lord abruptly call him in a completely new direction: to Edmonton, Alberta, where he and his family knew nobody.

“I was called to plant an intentionally multicultural church there,” Ko says. “Not just Korean, not just Hispanic, but also Russian, French, and lots of Canadians—all of God’s people worshiping together.”

He says he had no church planting team in place in Edmonton, but he wasn’t worried: “God also told me, ‘I am not sending you alone. I have people waiting for you already. Find them!’”

MATT ATKINS and SEAN HALL at Mosaic Church in Bellingham, Wash., are creating a Christian community that seeks to be the “hands and feet” of Christ.

“The whole point of Mosaic is being a blessing to our community,” says Atkins. “Whether it’s through spending time with the local population living with AIDS or delivering meals to the homeless, we want to serve our community and God’s creation.”

BEN KAAT is a 2006 graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary who recently completed a Home Missions-sponsored internship at Sanctuary CRC in Seattle, Wash., before branching off on his own to start Awake, a brand new ministry focused on bringing the gospel to the needy in the largely unchurched Seattle metropolitan area.

Kaat’s new church will specifically serve downtrodden residents of a crime-ridden neighborhood known for drugs and prostitution.

“There isn’t a church anywhere in sight for miles around there,” says Kaat. “But the people living there desperately need God’s grace. As I lead this new church, I hope to show people that we are awake to God’s presence in the world.”

KURT RIETEMA is a former missionary to Mexico who recently was an intern with Pathway Community Church, a new Home Missions church in Olathe, Kansas.

Rietema is planting a new ministry called The Mustard Seed, affiliated with Pathway, that will serve the needs of the residents in the upper-middle-class suburbs of Kansas City.

“These are successful people who think they have everything,” he says. “But we hope to help them re-imagine what life could be like in Christ, as opposed to gaining wealth and climbing the corporate ladder.”

Home Missions’ Leadership Programs

Home Missions identifies, recruits, trains, and mentors dynamic young pastors and other leaders through the following programs:

Internships

An internship is a one-on-one mission leadership training opportunity that provides on-site application of biblical studies and practical work to hone ministry skills. There are three types of internships through Home Missions:

  • Formal. Intended for people enrolled in an accredited academic program of a seminary or Bible college.
  • Nonformal. A non-accredited work-study program individually customized for people preparing for ordained ministry in the CRC.
  • Academic. Available for people enrolled in Kuyper College or Calvin Theological Seminary, this internship combines online education with in-ministry training and mentoring.

Residencies

A residency is a program designed for people new to ministry or lacking church planting experience. It includes coaching, an intensive boot camp training period, and orientation.

Leadership Development Networks

A Leadership Development Network (LDN) is a three-year “on-the-job” training course in which future evangelists and new church developers receive classroom instruction in biblical/theological knowledge, ministry skills, and spiritual formation. Trainees also are involved in a local church ministry where an experienced leader mentors them and helps them develop ministry skills and spiritual disciplines.


Home Missions at a Glance

For more than 100 years, Christian Reformed Home Missions has provided leadership assistance to classes and congregations of the CRC.

In response to new challenges—crises of faith, spiritual questioning, a growing diversity—Home Missions is restructuring itself to provide more effective ministry initiatives and support. The goal is to lead the CRC in its mission to recapture Jesus’ compassion for people (Matt. 9:36) that will result in lasting fruitfulness (John 15:16).

Working through 12 ministry teams across the United States and Canada, Home Missions provides ministries that impact people’s lives:

  • New Church Development. Our goal is to equip and support local ministry teams as they identify opportunities and start churches that are scripturally and culturally relevant.
  • Campus Ministries. Our goal is to help initiate and support programs that instill a Reformed worldview into campus conversations for both intellectual and spiritual learning.
  • Leadership Development. We help local mission teams identify and equip emerging leaders to spearhead the church’s mission.
  • Mission-focused Churches. Changing neighborhoods and stretched resources make outreach more difficult. Home Missions helps congregations assess strengths, address challenges, and revitalize ministries.
  • Spiritual Formation. Small groups provide an intimate and personalized opportunity for people to grow in God’s love. We help churches and classes to identify and equip prayer coordinators, and we increase the number and extend the reach of small group developers.

You can support the work of Home Missions with your church offerings on Easter Sunday, March 23. For more information, visit www.crhm.org or call 1-800-266-2175.

Multicultural Ministry Spreads Wings in Florida

On Sunday mornings, Rev. Felix Fernandez looks out into his congregation and sees Turkish, Dominican, African American, Dutch, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, and Colombian people, all praying, singing, and worshiping together.

It certainly doesn’t look like a traditional Christian Reformed church. But in many ways, New Heart CRC is representative of what the next generation of CRC churches will look like.

“I believe that this kind of multicultural congregation is the future of the church,” says Fernandez. “We want to be international in our worship, gospel-centered in our teachings, intimate in our fellowship, and holistic in our evangelism.”

Although New Heart, formed last year in Orlando, Fla., is still holding worship services at an area Episcopal church, the diverse congregation is growing quickly. For example, New Heart has hired a part-time coordinator for its new children’s ministry. That person is teaching an “education hour” and leading children’s worship.

“Outreach to children in the community is one of our passions as a church,” Fernandez says.

Fernandez believes so strongly in his multicultural mission that he is training other gifted leaders to form additional ministries.

“We are passionate about transforming the hearts of the unchurched and strengthening the community of Orlando for the kingdom of God,” says Fernandez. “We want to make that happen through ministry multiplication.”

—Ben Van Houten

Campus Ministry: Faith and Food

The supper hour was fast approaching. Joe and I had just returned from the grocery store. It was 5:30 p.m.—time to turn the oven on. Within a few minutes, six other students walked in the door to join us in creating a few curry dishes.

One of the female students was someone I had only recently met. She had participated in our previous Collective Kitchen. During that first kitchen, she was quiet but very open to carrying on a conversation. She wasn’t shy; she just didn’t know anyone.

Chantal—one of our student leaders—had met her in class earlier that day and had invited her to join our Collective Kitchen.

There’s nothing new about hosting a Collective Kitchen—lots of churches are doing it. But our Collective Kitchens are placing a unique stamp on this campus ministry.

It’s not a complicated affair: We purchase local and (mostly) organic groceries together, we prepare between four and six dishes, and we divide up the meals in an attempt to stock the students’ freezers. It saves them from eating fast food or other unhealthy alternatives.

The student that Chantal invited to that first Collective Kitchen has attended every one since. She’s also been to our weekly community dinners. While preparing the curry dishes, we talked about her faith, or lack thereof. She has hardly ever set foot in a church but was intrigued by our community and our conversations.

The Spirit has already been at work in this student’s life. Collective Kitchens are a new addition to our hospitality lineup, but they’re already serving as a great way to reach out to those whose faith has taken a back seat. They’ve been a place of renewed conversations and Spirit-driven friendships. Maybe our parents were right—there is something special about doing dishes together.

—Jamie Vanderberg is a Home Missions grant-funded campus minister at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. His ministry includes a Collective Kitchen, where students come together to plan and prepare meals.

New Team Offers Vision, Support for Church Planters

As the head of Home Missions’ newly formed Church Planting Development Team, Rev. Jul Medenblik knows how lonely it can be to start a new church.

“Church planters can feel isolated and sometimes wonder if there is a community of support,” he says. Medenblik, in fact, was in that position himself in 1995, when he started a church in Illinois.

Today, the former attorney is still pastoring that church, New Life Church in New Lenox, Ill., and hopes to take some of what he learned and apply it to his new role as leader of the Home Missions Church Planting Development Team.

The team is working to help foster church planting and development in the United States and Canada and build momentum for healthy, organic, multiplying, and sustainable church planting movements in the CRC.

The team will have input from two other Home Missions church planters: Randy Rowland of Sanctuary CRC in Seattle, and Kevin Schutte, who pastors Pathway Community Church in Olathe, Kan. Other members are Javier Torres, coleader of the Home Missions Hispanic and Southeast U.S. Team; Laura Posthumus, Home Missions Program Manager for Teams/Grant Relations; and Julee Holcomb, Home Missions administrative assistant.

The new team will also provide leadership for the work of Home Missions’ regional church planting and development teams. “We hope to not only cast vision and provide the teams with resources but also come alongside church planters to offer our support,” says Medenblik.

­—Ben Van Houten

Small Group and Evangelism Conference

Small group leaders and others with a heart for evangelism are gearing up for In Community, the Small Group and Evangelism conference sponsored by Home Missions. The conference will be held July 18–20, 2008, at the Westin Hotel in Lombard, Ill., near Chicago.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Timothy Brown, Pastor Harvey Carey, and Joyce Heron Rees. Conference participants will be able to customize a breakout track from a variety of sessions led by small group and evangelism specialists.

For more information, visit www.crhm.org/conference.

About the Author

Ben Van Houten is a senior writer for Christian Reformed Home Missions.
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