Britt (Iowa) Christian Reformed Church wanted to revitalize its ministry, but the 135-member church wasn’t quite sure what steps to take. “We felt we were moving,” said member Dennis Schoenwetter. “We felt we had pretty good unity in the church and kind of knew where we were going.”
The members of this small church found encouragement after joining a network of other smaller CRC churches that included fellow Iowa churches Woden CRC and Kanawha CRC.
The network focuses on improving and strengthening the churches as they work together. With the guidance of Rev. Larry Meyer, smaller church specialist with Christian Reformed Home Missions, each church committed to attending 15 network sessions over a three-year period.
Schoenwetter said Britt CRC’s participation in the program sparked a youth soccer outreach to the Britt community. The church also experienced a major restructuring based on six key ministries and received help with securing a new pastor.
Sharing ideas and challenges were key elements of the meetings. “We learned to concentrate on developing our strengths rather than spending all our time worrying about our weaknesses,” Kanawha’s Larry Cooper said.
Meyer said the network helps participants focus on the importance of prayer. “We’re in a spiritual battle,” he said. “We’re not just trying to help an organization recruit enough members so it can continue. The network is helping churches not only to survive but to thrive. The churches are learning to do whatever God asks—not just what they’re comfortable doing, what they prefer to do, or what they’ve always done.”
Meyer acknowledges that there is no easy road to church renewal, especially for a small church. “Church renewal is spiritual renewal; it is an ongoing progress. We need to help the network teams as they carry their learning and insights back to their councils and congregations.”
Three Michigan churches have formed a second network similar to the Iowa pilot program.
Organized churches with 100 or fewer adult members or 150 or fewer total members are welcome to participate in future networks. For more information, contact Larry Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.