2104 Campbell Street
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Office: (815) 464-9181
Mobile: (765) 237-7678
President: Jason DeVries (New Thing)
Vice President: Bob Wierenga (Wisconsin)
At-Large Members: Dale Buettner (Illiana-Florida), Scott Stephan (Illinois), Chad DeJager (Chicago)
How well do you do engaging difficult conversations? What if there was a way in which we could differ on an issue, and engage this difficult conversation in a healthy way? In our day to day world, we encounter many such conversations – often in destructive ways. Unity in the face of disagreement is hard work. What should we do when the stakes are high, we disagree strongly, and we all care deeply about the outcomes?
Often, we engage in destructive conflict and make things worse or we walk away, resigned and cynical. How can we hold on to what we believe and also stay connected to those who see things differently? How do we stay calm and thoughtful when the emotions in and around us are so powerful?
In this workshop, we will learn principles and practices for managing ourselves as the tension around us and in us rises. We will learn how God will help us grow our own maturity in the face of conflict in ways that help us to be healthier and more effective in our congregations, our classes and our families.
We will learn:
To see our own anxious reactivity so that we can make different choices.
To learn how systems (such as congregations, classes and families) react to anxiety in ways that make things worse
To focus on changing ourselves instead of changing other people
To remain calm so that we can think creatively and effectively
To act out of our deeply held values despite pressure to do otherwise
To stay connected to others without being defined by them
To see all these principles and practices in the life of Jesus as a crucial part of our discipleship
On August 1 from 9AM to 4PM CDT at Ebenezer Reformed Church, Morrison Illinois you will have an opportunity to learn how to engage difficult conversations from Trisha Taylor and Jim Herrington. Jim and Trisha have been working together for some time now to help others engage difficult conversations. This could be of help to your work, your marriage, your greater family, your church, and even to yourself. The RCA is in the middle of a need to have a difficult conversation about the issues that tend to divide us. In order for us to make God honoring decisions about these matters, it may help us to learn a bit about having healthy conversations. This workshop is for pastors, consistory members, and anyone in the local church.
To register, send your name, email address, and church you attend to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 20. Simply pay a $10 fee at the door to cover lunch.
General Synod 2020 took place June 6-11 on the campus of Hope College in Holland, MI. For a recap, click HERE.
The RCA and the CRC are collaborating to Equip Churches for Renewal – The Reformed Partnership for Congregational Renewal (RPCR), a collaborative effort between the CRCNA and RCA to focus on equipping and supporting congregations as they journey through renewal. The RPCR is considered a “third space” for the denominations; as of January, it became a separate legal entity, with neither denomination holding ownership. Learn more about this exciting partnership by clicking HERE.
Faithward – a new RCA resource for propelling faith forward. At Faithward, we’re helping Christians expand their imaginations for loving and following Jesus. We’re offering tools and models for discerning God’s invitation to us as Christians. And we’re encouraging and equipping Christians to live differently in every area of their lives—for the sake of the church and for the sake of the kingdom. Click HERE to check it out.
The RCA’s Board of Benefits Services Employee Assistance Program provides free, confidential Christian counseling either at at an outpatient clinic in your area or via an online telehealth session. Up to 3 sessions per issue are provided at no cost to any employee of an RCA church. Some common issues addressed are depression, anxiety, work-related problems, marital issues, family issues, substance abuse, and others. The 24 hour hotline number is (833) 244-2490. For more information click HERE.
News from Camp Manitoqua Camp Manitoqua is in full swing for its summer camps – please pray for campers to have a meaningful encounter with Jesus and for staff to be used in a fruitful and powerful way!
THOUGHTS FROM WAYNE
Implanting the DNA of Small Groups… Last month I shared about my awesome vision mission trip to Manaus, Brazil, and the mission and ministry focus of the Igreja Presbiteriana de Manaus (IPM) Church. One of the things that has brought so much transformational life to this church and community is the spiritual formation of children, youth, and adults through Bible study and small groups. The focus is building authentic relationships and moving people out of the church and into the community and beyond, to widen the circle to love and care for the needs of people and share the Gospel simultaneously. This strategy for discipleship not only reaches people for Jesus, but it restores the lives of broken people – the homeless, the drug-addicted, the abused women, children and men, the refugees, and gives hope to the hopeless. How does it happen to begin with a few small groups and fail? But then to start again and grow to 60 small groups; now today multiply to 480 small groups; and have a future goal of 1,600 small groups. How do pastors and church leaders implant that DNA of multiplying small groups to dream of planting 100 new churches – 10 in Manaus, 10 across Brazil, 40 in Riverside villages of the Amazon, and 40 in indigenous areas.
What makes IPM small groups thrive? The pastors of IPM shared five characteristics of healthy small groups:
1) The small groups must meet outside the church building. They meet in homes, restaurants, bars, street corners, parks, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., but not in the church building.
2) Small groups must meet once a week to build relationships and consistency. Each group has a host, a helper, a leader, and a future leader being trained. There is a supervisor of many small groups, a coordinator of more small groups, a district leader of 10 coordinators, and 2 regional leaders.
3) Evangelism must be a vital part of the DNA of the small group.
4) Discipleship must be a core value of a small group which means one-on-one mentoring, praying, listening and caring.
5) Multiplication of the small group is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth and overcoming the obstacle of stagnation. The size limit of a small group is 16, then it must multiply. The principles of multiplication are based on the story of Jethro and Moses in Exodus 18. Intentionality again is a key word for small group ministry.
What can the North American church learn from our brothers and sisters in the global south? What have we learned from Protestant churchgoers?
Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger conducted a study of 2,300 churches sponsored by 15 denominations, and they asked some 3,000 churchgoers about spiritual formation. What they discovered is that one of the five items most predictive for spiritual maturity was participation in a small group. What makes a small group thrive? Here are the five elements they discovered.
“1. Mission orientation
First, every small group should be mission oriented and focused on becoming part of and following God in His mission for the world. When someone becomes a believer, he or she takes on the responsibility of being globally minded; this mindset contributes to his or her spiritual growth and maturity.
2. Word-driven mentality
Second, small groups need to be firmly rooted in the Scriptures, which are a source of life and growth. Sharing life’s struggles and encouraging one another is a healthy part of any community. But too much sharing can make the group seem like a support group. The needs people share in the group need to always be hedged-in and examined through the lens of Scripture.
3. Multiplication mindset
A third aspect of transformational discipleship groups is a multiplication mindset. The purpose of a group is to eventually reproduce into another group that is making and growing disciples of Christ. This element of small groups helps members stay open to change and inviting to new people. In order for this element to function properly and most effectively, church leaders need to relinquish ministry and leadership into the hands of believers in their church and not cling tightly to power. While groups can multiply under the leadership of an elite few in the church, the possibility of growth is minuscule compared to what occurs when the laity are leading their small groups.
4. Stranger welcoming
A fourth element of small groups is that they are welcoming of strangers. Small groups must always be aware of new people in the church and new people in their groups. Intentionality involves creating a welcoming and relational environment for new people. Without this the group becomes inward-focused and loses sight of the mission to make more disciples.
A fifth and final component of transformational groups is a kingdom-focused mindset. Groups need to stay focused on what God wants to accomplish in their time together, not how they can be the most exciting small group in the church. Groups cannot exist for the sole purpose of emotional support for its members, but must find their place in God’s greater plan of advancing his kingdom.”
What I have observed in the characteristics of small group ministry focused on spiritual formation and discipleship in Brazil also translates well in what Stetzer and Geiger discovered. Stetzer says, “Transformational discipleship can happen when small groups are focused on God’s mission, His kingdom, and His word. And when they are welcoming to strangers and intent on multiplying. All of this begins when people move out of the pew and into circles in order to be in community with one another and provoke one another to love and good deeds. This is essential.”
If the churches in North America is going to make a spiritual and social impact on the communities where we are placed, small groups will be essential not only for spiritual growth and maturity of church members but to reach our neighborhoods with the good news of the Gospel.
Want to Start Discipling But Don’t Know How? – Many Christians feel they should be discipling others but don’t even know where to start. This simple article will give you some helpful advice on avoiding some pitfalls and engaging in discipleship.
How to Have Difficult Conversations: Three Practices – For the leader, putting others in their place by demanding change requires zero vulnerability or humility, let alone empathy or compassion. And for the one being led, they typically walk away feeling called out and shamed, not understood and empowered. Additionally, the underlying frustrations are rarely resolved. Not really. It tends to produce mounting frustration that pops up somewhere else, usually resulting in a resignation, either forced or voluntary. And…consider coming to the Illinois Classis Workshop on Difficult Conversations!
Defining Moments are What Make Good Leaders Great – Defining moments are an important component of the leadership process. Done well, they can not only lead our churches forward but also teach us about who we are as leaders. Here are three steps to becoming a better leader in defining moments.