Dear Friends: In January, we had to say goodbye to our 12 year old lab, Gracie. Gracie was just about the perfect dog for our family and it was so hard to not have her in our lives anymore. I was not prepared for that kind of grief. Fast-forward 4 months as we recently welcomed a new puppy into our family. Roxy is another labrador retriever and she was 8 weeks old when we got her. Roxy is…uh…a pistol! She is feisty, playful, eats everything and puts everything (even rocks) into her mouth. She’s had accidents and she wakes us up in the middle of the night to take her out. In my mind I remembered Gracie being potty-trained in 2 days, sleeping through the night in 3, never biting anyone, always coming when I called her, and listening to every word that came out of my mouth. But the reality is that we had much the same experience with Gracie because puppies are pretty much all like that. I tell you this story because I was reminded again about how we “color” our memories. We forget about how hard things were at different times and we nostalgically believe that things in the past were better than they were. We may look back 10 or even 20 years and think life was much easier, but the truth is that it probably wasn’t as easy as we remember. Each experience, each era, each year has its own challenges. Why do we remember things differently? One reason that I’m focusing on this morning is because God is with us through good times and bad. God equips us for challenges we face and carries us when we feel we can’t continue. Because we are not alone through hardships, because God helps the crooked paths become straight, we remember things differently – gracefully even. When you are overwhelmed by today or this week or this year or even this decade, remember God will never leave us or forsake us. Remember who God has been for you in the past and be reminded that he will be the same for you today and tomorrow. — Chad
The Regional Synod of Mid-America and the Reformed Church in America are partnering together for one more webinar: Local Mission in a Pandemic on May 11 at11am Central Time. To join the Zoom, click HERE. This webinar will have Spanish subtitles.
The RSMA and Churches Learning Change is partnering together to have 3 webinars this summer to help churches engage difficult conversations in a healthier way. We will teach skills like having Container Conversations, utilizing Authenticity in these conversations, and maintaining Integrity even as we disagree. These skills relate to things like Vision 2020, a polarized culture, and generally having hard conversations in our lives. To watch a video describing these webinars further, click HERE. Save June 3, September 9, and November 4 (all at noon Central) and plan on joining us on Zoom with this link.
RCA Flourishing Churches Grant – thanks to the generosity of the Church Growth Fund of the RCA, if your church wants to increase its missional capacity, consider applying for one of the 2021 round of Flourishing Churches grant. There are five $50,000 grants available to help congregations repair or improve their building for outward-focused ministry to the community. You can find more information and get the application HERE. Applications are due by May 14.
Digital Communication Strategy: The new normal of the pandemic has accelerated the church’s move to digital spaces. Any church looking to connect with its members and neighbors during this pandemic has had to increase its focus on developing an online presence. This four-week course on digital communication strategy is designed to help you adapt to the new reality of church attendance, digital engagement, and audience identification and communication. Course begins August 10; early bird registration opens May 4 and will be led by Sung Kim. Click HERE for more info and to register.
The RCA is offering “Be Nice” training on May 18 at 1pm CDT to increase positive understanding of mental health, as well as provide a tool for individuals in one-on-one conversations. For some, faith is the number one protective factor in mental health—make sure that your faith community is prepared with the tools to begin these conversations about mental health, and empower members with resources, hope, and understanding. This training is for any leader who needs a starting point in leading difficult conversations with empathy and care with the next generation around mental health. To learn more and register, click HERE.
Lilly Endowment Awards RCA And CRCNA $1.3 Million Grant For Generation Spark – As part of a new initiative centered on nurturing the faith of youth and young adults, Lilly Endowment Inc. has approved a $1.3 million grant to support the collaborative work of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA). The five-year grant will enable the continuation and expansion of Generation Spark, a mentorship program that Hope College began in 2017. To read more, click HERE.
Learning Cohort: Flourishing through Change and Disruption – consider joiningthis six-month learning cohort consisting of instruction, discussion, reflection, and application on leading in liminal times, coping with resistance to change, unlearning old behaviors, discovering new ways of making difficult decisions, and creating the right conditions for congregations to grow and thrive in a COVID and post-COVID world. It starts June 24, and runs once a month through December. To register and get more information, click HERE.
Join RCA General Secretary Eddy Aleman in praying and fasting for racial justice and reconciliation on May 25. This is an opportunity to join together with others across the RCA to confess, repent, and pray for justice and reconciliation. To learn more, click HERE. For resources on racial justice and reconciliation, visit the RCA’s Dismantling Racism resource page.
Free Christian Counseling for Pastors and Church Employees – 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 Registration for Camp Manitoqua’s summer day programs is open. Programs available for registration include day camp, encounter camp and SAM’s camp. All programs are day programs. For additional information, visit Manitoqua.org/Summer
Camp Manitoqua is hiring college-aged students for summer 2021. If you or someone you know loves children and is interested, please visit Manitoqua.org/jobs to read more and apply.
To get the most up to date information about Camp Manitoqua, please check out their updates HERE.
LINKS YOU MAY FIND USEFUL
How to Reach the People who Have Stopped Attending – It’s a challenge that has been around for decades, but it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Members who were once active have stopped attending worship. What are some options to reconnect with these members?
Why I Don’t Ask “Would Your Community Miss Your Church?” Anymore – Karl Vaters writes: “If your church disappeared tomorrow, would your community miss it?” It’s a big question that church leaders love to ask when assessing a church’s mission and impact. The expected answer for a healthy church is supposed to be “yes, our church has such a positive impact on our community that if we weren’t here we would be missed.” It feels like a great question. I’ve used it a few times myself. But I’m backing off from it now because it has some serious flaws, all of which are unintentional.
5 Rules for Engaging Taboo Subjects in Churches – Are certain topics off limits in your church? If so, people may feel their real-life problems and concerns simply aren’t welcome in the church. Elizabeth Hagan suggests five rules for engaging tough topics bravely, honestly and openly.
Let’s Re-Envision Normal – Along with the hard lessons of the pandemic, churches have learned things that can make them healthier for clergy and congregants, Alex Will writes. Temporary solutions have become regular practice. Creativity has been unleashed – what else can we learn?
Events Aren’t Dead, Just Different – This article acts as a checklist for how to hold events in this COVID-19 world. It’s an in-depth examination of how things are different, why they are different, and how we can continue to hold events in safe ways.