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A deep desire to build awareness about youth homelessness. A collective kitchen providing cheap meals and a place of community. What do these two things have in common? Both are the fruit of a ministry called the Ridder Initiative.

The Ridder Initiative is a 30-month church renewal commitment for CRC and Reformed Church in America pastors and church leaders to engage in personal faith renewal. It is funded in part by Christian Reformed Home Missions.

A team of five to seven leaders from a congregation journey together to grow in leadership styles, engage in deep reflection, and create authentic communication.

The group is assigned homework and meets together monthly to share lessons learned. The comprehensive end goal is to equip leaders to become more missional within their communities, but that process needs to start with personal transformation.

Pastor Ray Vanderkooij from Bethel CRC in Acton, Ontario experienced personal conviction from his Ridder experience.

“God showed me that if I am going to be meaningfully connecting with people who are marginalized, I needed to step into meaningfully ministering to the seniors in my ministry,” he said.

Vanderkooij has since begun visiting seniors on a regular basis, opening the way for sincere conversations.

Willemina Zwart, pastor at Good News CRC in London, Ontario, and her team are nearing the end of their 30-month journey.

“I have much more accountability and consistency in my spiritual disciplines. Ridder has grown my propensity and capacity for adaptive leadership, building in time for deep reflection.”

Personal renewals have led to community revivals. A space of receptivity developed through Ridder Initiative experiences, coupled with the power ofthe Holy Spirit, created a deep desire within Bethel CRC to fight youth homelessness in their neighborhood.

There are currently discussions about practical solutions to this problem, including opening church facilities, engaging social services, and meeting with local politicians. “It is a devastating issue and one that has really captured our hearts,” Vanderkooij said.

Another influential partnership that has indirectly been affected by Ridder is the collective kitchen that has blossomed within Good News CRC. Once a month, eight members from the community prepare food in bulk and take home 25 single- serving meals.

This facilitates fellowship along with providing inexpensive, nutritious food. “What is fascinating to me is the unique connection this ministry has to Ridder. God made two railroads tracks: a core group of discipled leaders through Ridder and a group of volunteers doing the actual outreach initiative. We needed both of these things happening simultaneously.”

Zwart highly recommends this program. “I really encourage churches to look into doing this. It will bless their pastors and make them better teachers. I am wiser and more rooted in Christ in the way I need to be.”

Pastor Vanderkooij agrees. “Ridder is beyond anything I have experienced. It is both a journey of personal inner transformation and staying in step with the Spirit in following God in a mission.”

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