Alone steeple serves as a reminder of where South Olive Christian Reformed Church stood for more than 100 years.
Nearby, however, is the new church building, built in the late 1990s. Stained-glass windows, wood trim, and the belfry bell from the old church are part of the new structure.
Located north of Holland, Mich., South Olive is emblematic of many small- to medium-sized Christian Reformed congregations. Generations have worshiped here, yet new people have been drawn as well.
As with every church, South Olive CRC wrestles with the balance between supporting local ministries and paying the ministry shares that support the denomination’s national and global ministries. The recession has made this tougher in recent years.
The CRC’s ministry shares program raises about $25 million a year to help support ministries across North America and around the world in places such as Haiti. Congregations are asked to contribute based on their number of active adult members.
In the past, South Olive paid 100 percent of its ministry shares to the local classis (regional group of Christian Reformed churches) and to the denomination. Recently, the congregation has kept up their commitment to the classis, but their ministry shares to the denomination have dropped somewhat.
However, they remain committed to the CRC and do what they can to support the mission of the broader church. “We are not a well-heeled congregation, but we are generous,” says Rog Brandsen, whose family roots go back to the church’s founding.
“The CRC has done a great job over the years by reaching out to the world,” says Brandsen. “We are proud to be part of that. Denominational identity is very important to the people of this church. We are part of something bigger than just our church.”
About 330 people belong to the church, and many of its ministries exist to reach young people who will form the next generation of the church.
Rev. Jerry Dykstra, executive director of the CRC, visited South Olive CRC recently for its 125th-anniversary service. He says he was pleased to see how healthy and vibrant the church is. There are many churches in the denomination like this one, Dykstra noted, saying he was moved by the “engaging spirit” of South Olive.