2104 Campbell Street
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Office: (815) 464-9181
Mobile: (765) 237-7678
President: Jason DeVries (New Thing)
Vice President: TBD
At-Large Members: Dale Buettner (Illiana-Florida), Bob Hoffman (Illinois), Bob Wierenga (Wisconsin), TBD (Chicago)
A Small Church Essentials Learning Community is starting soon. The Regional Synod of Mid-America will be studying Karl Vaters’ book Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250. A description of the book can be found here.
The learning community will take place online and will be discussion-based with an emphasis on getting into action in response to what we are reading. It’s kind of like a book study, but with an emphasis on reflecting on what we’re learning from the book and putting the new information into practice.
We will be meeting every other Thursday from 11am-12pm beginning August 30. We’ll plan on meeting for approximately 9 sessions ending just before Christmas. All meetings will take place online, via Zoom Online Video Conferencing.
If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and order the book wherever you buy your books..
The Reformed Church in America is partnering with the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) to host a Growing Young Cohort in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is an incredible opportunity for up to 30 RCA churches to transform their ministry to teens and young adults using research-based strategies to help young people love your church. The Growing Young Cohort includes:
– Two in-person summits
– Regular online webinars
– One year of personalized coaching
– Comprehensive online diagnostic tests
*Registration is already underway and will end on November 20. To learn more about this opportunity and how your church can register, email email@example.com.
A New RCA Monthly Newsletter for Deacons is now available. If any of the deacons in your church are asking for clarity about their role, looking for more ways to connect your church with the community, or thinking about how to better equip the rest of the congregation, let them know about this newsletter. They can sign up here.
The RCA’s Board of Benefits Services Employee Assistance Program provides free, confidential Christian counseling either at at an outpatient clinic in your area (Pine Rest in Grand Rapids), 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.
For Church Treasurers: Remitting pastor’s retirement to Fidelity will be going exclusively online at the end of 2018. Paper remittance with contribution checks will no longer be accepted. More information will be coming later this year to help churches prepare to begin to make these contributions online.
The Regional Synod of Mid-America’s Ministerial Excellence Fund. The purpose of this Fund is to assist with alleviating some of the financial pressures facing clergy in their pastoral ministry. This fund is made available to both Ministers of Word and Sacrament and Commissioned pastors rostered in Illinois Classis, Wisconsin Classis, and Illiana-Florida Classis. Each classis began this fund with $10,000 which was matched by the Reformed Church in America for a total starting balance of $20,000 per classis. You will need to download and read the Ministerial Excellence Guidelines prior to filling out an application. Once the application is filled out, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
News from Camp Manitoqua Teachers and Parents: Have your preschooler’s class attend our Fall Preschool Days, an educationally fun day for preschool groups, at Camp Manitoqua and Retreat Center, Wednesday, October 3 and Thursday, October 4. This outing includes a native animal hike, campfire stories, playing our kid-sized Candy Land game, our pumpkin patch, and more. For more information visit www.manitoqua.org/events, or call our office Mon.-Fri. 8:30am-5pm at 815.469.2319. RSVP required for this classroom attendance.
Experience the Oak Leaf Festival, an autumn event for families, youth groups and more at Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center on October 6th, from 10am-3pm. Activities include tree climbing, creation exploration, family scavenger hunts, campfire, inflatable jumpies, wagon rides, autumn arts & crafts, and food treats. $6 admission fee (2 and under are free), additional costs may apply for treats and climbing. All details available at our website: www.manitoqua.org/events.
Storm the base, capture the flag, and win the game! Camp Manitoqua and Retreat Center invites you out to one of the most epic days of paintball you will ever experience on October 20 from 10am – 4pm! Come play a full day of paintball on our wooded course. Space is limited; registration processed on first come first serve basis. Cost is $36 (includes marker and mask rental, 1000 paintballs, and a box lunch). Register online at www.manitoqua.org/events by October 15. Ages: 7th grade and older. Questions: call the office at 815.469.2319.
Retreat season has begun at Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center. At this time, we are offering groups a 15% discount on any retreat booked for December 2018 or January 2019. Please contact Todd at 815.469.2319, or at email@example.com for availability.
STORIES OF CELEBRATION
We share stories of celebration to glorify God. This month’s story comes from Rev. Dale Buettner and Community Reformed Church in Lafayette, IN. If you’d like to share what God is doing in your church (or classis), please email Chad.
Travel with me, for a moment, to Jackson County, Kentucky. The population is 13,368. The unemployment rate is 8 percent. 60 percent of the land in the county consists of the Daniel Boone National Forest, which is unpopulated and therefore is not part of the tax base. There are 100 churches, the average size being 30 people.
So, adding all of that up, we find this:
An area that was started by hard work and pioneering efforts is now one of the poorest counties in the nation. And, though it is located in the buckle of the nation’s Bible belt, less than a fourth of the people attend church.
Drugs are a problem. Lack of job opportunities is a problem. Some in the community are saying corruption in the local government is a problem. The needs are enormous. Much is broken. And yet, something else is unavoidably obvious: The beauty of the land is breathtaking, and the residents who live there have a deep, loyal connection to it. They know what it means to be thankful, and they know how it feels to persevere in hope.
In the midst of all this, The Reformed Church in America, though typically not thought of as having a presence in the American South, has had a continual and fruitful ministry in Jackson County for over 100 years. Grace Covenant Ministries consists of a RCA Church that meets in 3 locations within the county. The Annville Institute is a sprawling campus that consists of 5 non-profit outreaches to Jackson County and beyond. Struck by the pertinence of such a ministry, our church (Community RCA in Lafayette, IN) decided to take a 5-day trip to Jackson County in July of 2018.
The ministry is somewhat overwhelmed with needs at present. They have a shortage of staff, limited funds, and a long list of repairs that are needed at the Annville Institute just to keep the ministry moving forward. But, they eagerly and lovingly housed, fed, and gave work assignments to the 20 of us from Lafayette in July. Several installed a new ceiling and roof for a family whose house had been badly leaking for several years due to a bad roof. Several worked in a local thrift store that benefits the community. Several cleaned the house of an elderly woman who had, among other items creating unhealthy living conditions, mason jars full of food from 1978. And several did repair work around the campus itself.
I won’t glamourize it. I was not an easy week. It was not only tiring, but segments of it were discouraging and frustrating. The accommodations were rustic to say the least, so sleeping and showering were not necessarily the most rewarding parts of the week. But a couple of irreplaceable things happened: First, the unity, fellowship, and love that developed within our group was astounding. Second, the incredible people of Jackson County, Kentucky taught us how to give thanks, how to persevere, and how to love where God has placed us as well as the people who dwell there with us.
More information on The Annville Institute and Grace Covenant Ministries can be found at:
Being A Decisive Leader…
A few years ago, Chip and Dan Heath wrote a book: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. The authors wrote: “Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret.” I wonder how many times as leaders in the church or in other organizations we make decisions without waffling or wavering.
Recently Rick Warren wrote an article on how to be a decisive leader. He said that one thing that will create stress for a pastor, a staff and even a congregation is being indecisive. He likened it to a form of double-mindedness which James (James 1:8) says leads a person to be “unstable in all his ways.” Warren says, “part of the problem is that we complicate decisions, often factoring in information that isn’t really important, relying on our own wisdom while failing to specifically seek God and his wisdom.”
He suggests when we find ourselves stuck over a decision that we go back to the basics with these four steps:
1. “I admit I need God’s guidance to make any decisions.
None of us can see the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow—much less next year or 10 years from now. The Bible says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). On the other hand, God knows everything that has happened to you, that is happening to you, and that will happen to you. In order to keep our ministries heading in the direction God desires, we have to go to him for guidance in making decisions.
2. I ask in faith for direction.
James 1:5-6 says, “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (TLB).
God is willing and anxious to give you wisdom in your ministry. But you need to expect that He will answer your prayer for guidance. Often, we ask God for guidance, but then we walk away without waiting for his answer. When we think our decisions depend totally on us, it only increases the stress level. When we ask God for guidance, we need to then begin looking for his answer. He will provide it.
3. I listen for God’s response.
God designed you to hear his voice. Job 33:14 says, “For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it” (NIV). God speaks to us through His Word, His people, circumstances, and impressions, among other ways. You need to be sure you’re listening to those “channels” so you can hear what the Lord is saying to you.
4. I trust God when I don’t understand.
You’re already familiar with Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV). This is another reminder that you can’t figure everything out on your own. You’re a pastor—not God. And only God can tell you the best direction to go when you are making ministry decisions.”
God wants us to lead into clarity, not into confusion. The four steps that Warren suggests gets back to the basics of Scripture where trusting God provides that guidance that is needed.
Strategies for Diffusing Team Conflict – Your staff is in the middle of a huge project — and stress levels are rising. A small misunderstanding between two team members can lead to a mistake that the whole group then needs to pitch in and take care of — and if you’re not careful, resentment and disagreement can fester and make everyone less than productive. Need to step in? Use these proven tips to restore harmony and get everyone back to doing their best work.
The Country Is Polarized. How Can Christians Help? – The founder of a nonprofit that facilitates courageous conversations in churches about difficult topics hopes that its impact will spread beyond the sanctuary to society as a whole. This interview with Rev. Alan Hilton explores his book: A House United: How the Church Can Save the World.
Is Your Church Resisting Necessary Change? Try This Helpful Strategy – What does a pastor do when change is needed in order to reach a changing community – or simply to keep the current congregation alive – but we’re met with resistance from the very church members whose support and energy are needed to get the job done? Karl Vaters’ most important advice to pastors facing this dilemma is easy to state, but very difficult to do. Don’t attack their comfort zone, ease their fears.