Last month’s column ended with these words: “As we look forward, may we also look to the Lord, submitting our plans to his.”
I made this suggestion in the context of the planning we do, not only within each of our congregations but also for the work we do together by way of our shared Ministry Plan.
Synod 2015 reviewed the emerging Ministry Plan and endorsed its contours, finding agreement not only about the future we believe God desires for us but also the strategic focuses that will align with and help to shape the ministries of more than 1,000 individual churches.
Let me say a few words about what this Ministry Plan is—and isn’t. First, as I mentioned in last month’s column, it is a collaborative effort, born from a series of meetings with Christian Reformed church leaders in a variety of locations across North America.
That process identified challenges many of our churches are facing, ranging from how to engage young people in a way that keeps them connected to how to identify, develop, and empower leaders to how to remain relevant and responsive in the face of social changes that are turning our once-comfortable world upside down.
The CRC’s Board of Trustees—which carries out the work of synod throughout the year—picked five of the challenges as strategic priorities. These became the foundation for the Ministry Plan. Others will be added as the plan continues to develop.
So do not expect a fully-fledged Ministry Plan to show up in your mailbox anytime soon. And do not expect denominational staff in Burlington, Ont., or Grand Rapids, Mich., or Palos Heights, Ill., to tell you what you need or what you should be doing. (You wouldn’t want that anyway!) Rather, all of us together are preparing for a journey, much as members of a sports team prepare for a big game well before they climb aboard the team bus.
But this metaphor is only partially helpful. Boarding the bus for an away game suggests a destination. But in our case, the destination isn’t ours to choose—it’s the destination God has picked for us. Our job is to focus on the qualities we need for the future God desires for his church, and then step into the places where God is already at work as he reveals them to us.
At classis meetings this fall we have begun sharing the contours of the Ministry Plan, asking delegates to identify the places where the plan aligns with the needs and desires God has placed in the hearts and minds of their congregations.
I hope that after your elder or deacon or pastor returns from a classis meeting at some point in the coming year, he or she will ask you to help identify those points of common focus, grouped into areas such as Church and Community, Faith Formation, Leadership, Identity, or Collaboration.
The next step will involve the channeling of denominational resources to congregations in ways that further the work of the Spirit in the ministries of your church.
Nothing glitzy; nothing handed down from above. But together we will be working on a plan to assist each other in our local ministries as well as those carried out by denominational agencies and ministries. Stepping forward in faith into the places where God would have us.
The Blanket Exercise
Synod 2015 encouraged churches to use the Blanket Exercise to deepen our understanding about issues we often ignore.
What is the Blanket Exercise? It’s a simulation that combines history and geography in an experiential way to promote learning. While your grade 11 history book may have told about the patterns of exploration, settlement, and displacement, those are just words on a page.
The Blanket Exercise allows us to live into the experience in a way that helps to place human history, with all its warts and shortcomings, into God’s story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.
If you would like to know more or are interested in arranging to hold a Blanket Exercise at your church, please visit crcna.org/BlanketExercise.