10088 Prairie Knoll Ct.
St. John, IN 46373
Mobile: (941) 302-1281
2104 Campbell Street
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Office: (815) 464-9181
Mobile: (765) 237-7678
President: Bob Wierenga (Wisconsin)
Vice President: Vacant
Past President: Edie Lenz (Illinois)
The Regional Synod of Mid-America wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The Third Annual Celebration of Women in Church Leadership will be held Saturday, March 4, 2017; 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Come for a day of celebration, encouragement and equipping. All RCA, CRC and ecumenical sisters welcome!
. A Youth Corresponding Delegate to General Synod is still needed for this year’s RCA General Synod taking place in Holland, MI at Hope College from June 8-13, 2017. This non-voting delegate is one who is somewhere around traditional college age. In addition to participating in the regular business of the General Synod, the youth corresponding delegates meet and do things together. It is anticipated that the youth delegates have given some thought about the possibility that God may be calling him or her into ministry, but that does not necessarily mean that a decision has been made. It is an intention of the participation in General Synod as a youth delegate to help that person discern hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice. Do you know of someone who might be a candidate for this youth delegate? Please contact Chad.
Mass Incarceration RCA Gathering – As requested by General Synod 2016, the RCA is planning a meeting about the issue of mass incarceration. RCA members who are interested in working on and engaging this issue and can attend the meeting. The meeting will be held on March 10 and 11, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any other state or province in the United States or Canada.)
Here are some of the goals for this gathering:
1. Increase awareness of mass incarceration.
2. Root responses to criminal behavior and mass incarceration in our identities as followers of Jesus.
3. Equip people to share fruitfully with others about mass incarceration.
4. Identify ways for congregations and individuals to address mass incarceration.
5. Invite people to be part of a mass incarceration learning community or advocacy effort.
Be on the lookout for more information in early January 2017. If you have questions about the upcoming meeting, please feel free to email email@example.com.
The RSMA annually gives out Urban Ministry Grants. In 2017 we will be supporting ministries such as: a Director of Multi-Cultural Worship, a Violence Prevention ministry in the inner-city, and other ministries that seek to reach out to people who are typically thought of as “the least of these.” These ministries seek to missionally impact urban areas within our region. Your church can help support these ministries by giving to our Urban Ministry Fund. This “asking” is $4 per church member and $2 per Sunday School participant. Any amount given is used completely to fund these ministries. For more information, contact Chad.
News from Camp Manitoqua Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center’s fall retreat season has begun. At this time, we are offering groups a 15% discount on any retreat booked for December 2016 or January 2017. Please contact Ken at 815.469.2319, or at firstname.lastname@example.org for availability.
Summer Staff: Have you considered spending a summer in ministry? Applications for 2017 summer staff at Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center are available online at www.manitoqua.org/jobs and are being accepted starting in November.
STORIES OF CELEBRATION
We share stories of celebration to glorify God. This month’s story comes from Transitional Pastor, Bruce Wilterdink. Bruce is serving at First Reformed Church in Waupun, WI until the end of 2016. He will then begin another transitional ministry at Trinity Reformed Church in Waupun. We hope these stories inspire and encourage others in our region. If you’d like to share what God is doing in your church, please email Chad.
Every Sunday for the past fifteen months I have walked into and out of worship services with my walking stick. This walking stick has been a symbol to the congregation and to me of the journey of transition that we are walking together. First Reformed Church of Waupun, Wisconsin and I began this journey in September of 2015 and will complete it now on Christmas Day. There are five things I set out to do and the congregation has joined me in.
LISTEN: We have listened to each other. Early in this journey the people heard my messages on the healing that God could provide for their discouraged spirits, their negative emotions, their frustrated disappointments and their misunderstood divisions. I also heard from them through a study of their history, a SWOT analysis and in a multitude of formal and informal conversations.
LEARN: As the journey continued we learned about each other and learned more of what it means to be God’s people. We learned to pray as a series of messages focused on how Paul prayed for the churches. We learned about church leadership through another series. We learned to worship and work in some new ways. The adults learned about church issues and changes as we studied the book, “Who Stole My Church?”
LOVE: We grew in our love for each other. We realized that sometimes we disagreed, but we still could respect and appreciate each other. We initiated a G.I.F.T. (Greet, Introduce, Follow-up, Thank) plan to enhance our relationships within the church and with our visitors.
LEAD: People arose to new places of leadership. Some led in worship by giving a testimony, by reading scripture or leading our worship songs. Others led in the search process as they worked to discern God’s leading. A new youth director and AWANA leader were hired. New ministry teams were organized and met throughout this year to give some new leadership and ideas to the congregation.
LEAVE: This month I leave with a firm belief that First Reformed is at a better place and is ready for its new pastor, Pastor Barry Lang who will come in January. I leave confident that the Lord will use this church to grow His kingdom. I leave with praise to the Lord for what He has done and with anticipation of what He will yet do through a new pastor and a renewed church.
THOUGHTS FROM WAYNE
Pastors “Don’ts” for Christmas…
Getting ready for Christmas . . . what do you visualize when you think about that? Extra events to prepare, special worship services, small group Christmas gatherings, advent sermon series preparation, people to visit in nursing homes before Christmas, eating too much chocolate. Maybe you think about stringing up dancing lights, carefully selecting gifts, sugar cookies with dashes of sprinkles, festive gatherings with friends and family, enjoying a good movie by a crackling fire or perhaps the memory of the loss of a loved one over the year. We pack in a lot of things into getting ready for Christmas.
Margaret Marcuson reminds pastors of 7 “don’ts” to keep in mind through the busy days of Advent which lead up to Christmas.
“1. Don’t neglect to take at least five minutes a day for yourself. Light a candle. Read a few verses of Scripture that aren’t a part of sermon prep. Listen to some music you love. 2. Don’t feel guilty that you don’t get to everyone on your shut-in/needy parishioner list. If you figure out the time available and what you have to do, you’ll see it’s not possible. Do your best, and connect with the others in January. 3. Don’t think the worship experience all depends on you. Yes, worship planning and preparing are vital. Yet you know as well as I do that something mysterious happens in worship. People can be touched even when you aren’t perfectly prepared. God’s Spirit is at work in Advent and Christmas worship, beyond anything we can imagine. 4. Don’t eat everything that people want to give you. It will sap your energy, and you need your energy. Eat a little, or eat a little more of what you love. And get some protein while you’re at it. This is not about “good” and “bad,” but sustaining yourself through these next days. 5. Don’t forget your extended family. You may not have time before Christmas, but think now about someone from your wider family to connect with on Christmas Day or after. And while you’re at it, think about your favorite Christmas childhood memory. It may give you a boost. Here’s one of mine: The year my mom made us new Christmas stockings out of felt. I still have mine. 6. Don’t worry about end-of-year giving. Even if it looks tight, you can’t control what people give. Worrying will not cause them to give more. Practice celebrating what the church has received this year, and trusting there will be enough. 7. Don’t miss out on worship. It’s not easy to worship when you are leading and/or preaching. You can miss the worship experience completely. Can you find a way to worship anyway? A few ideas: pay attention during the Advent/Christmas candlelighting, if your church does it. Throw yourself into singing your favorite carol. Listen to the choir or worship team rather than thinking about what you have to do next in the service. Pay attention to the Scripture, rather than thinking about your sermon.”
I pray in our preparation for Christmas that God will open our minds and hearts to the truth that Christmas was birthed out of the realization that mankind could not redeem itself from its own mistakes. Christmas was a God’s response to bring mankind back to Himself, to restore the original intent of what God designed us to be in relationship to Him. Christmas was God being relentless in His love toward us. God became human as He was born to an impoverished teenage couple in a backwater town called Bethlehem that was located completely off the map of importance. He entered the world about as far from any kind of political or religious stage that He could find. And the endgame of His birth which we call “Christmas” was the fact that thirty-three years later He would die to pay the price to have us restored to an infinitely loving God that we had ignorantly walked away from. In whatever ways we are get ready for Christmas, let’s remember that Christmas is our single hope. It’s God’s greatest gift. It’s God’s ultimate triumphant in restoring the world despite our delusions of what we might be able to do on our own.
Five Keys to Renewing Evangelistic Growth in Your Church – Most churches reach fewer lost and unchurched people than they did in the past. It is no longer necessary to be a part of a church to be culturally accepted. That pool of immediate evangelistic opportunities has been reduced dramatically. Is there hope? Absolutely! Thom Rainer is observing churches in North America that are truly making an evangelistic impact. Most of them transitioned from evangelistic apathy to growth. Though there is no formulaic approach or magic-bullet program, these are five common themes I see repeatedly.