The newest issue of the RCAToday is out featuring stories from our region and across the denomination.  You can check it out here.
News from Camp Manitoqua
Registration for Camp Manitoqua’s Summer Camp – 2016 begins February 1st. Remember to register early for preferred dates. Visit for more information and to register, or call our office at 815.469.2319.

Fathers and sons, join Camp Manitoqua and Retreat Center for our Forge weekend retreat, March 11-12, 2016. Designed to give fathers the opportunity to commission their sons to begin the process of becoming men through biblical teaching and hands-on learning. Visit for information and to register or call the office at 815.469.2319.

Join Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center for a one-day paintball event, March 19, 2016 called New Horizon, for ages 7th grade and up.  Experience a full, memorable day of paintball built on our wooded course.  For more information or to register online visit or call the office at 815.469.2319.

…This month’s Celebration Story comes from Heartland Community Church in Lafayette, Indiana.

Heartland Community Church Mortgage Pay-Off
On December 9, 2015 Heartland Community Church received the great gift of paying off its mortgage – 15 years ahead of schedule! The total interest saved was $84,274. We, Pastors Stephanie and Brandon Smith, who have been at Heartland for just six months, have been absolutely blown away at God’s faithfulness to this congregation, which was originally established in 1888 as First Reformed Church. The people here have responded to God’s goodness through generous giving of time and resources, wise financial stewardship, and bold perseverance. Heartland is of modest size – 100 confessing members – in a modest community (Lafayette, Indiana), yet the Holy Spirit has worked in and through this body of Christ to do extraordinary things – and we praise God!

In the late 1990s First Reformed began to see the need to expand their facility to accommodate more ministry. Stepping out in faith, they purchased 36 acres of land, though they held off construction until the land was paid in full. Following this, some rough years ensued where membership and giving declined. Yet God remained faithful, and God’s people did, too. After a vigorous capital campaign and two years of meeting in an elementary school, doors opened in 2009 to a beautiful new building (designed and built by our very own congregants!) called Heartland Community Church, so named as a sign of our intention to be in and for the community. Since 2009 God has drawn here a wide variety of new members, a thriving childcare ministry was established, and youth activities and local missions have blossomed. Through continuing generosity and wise stewardship, Heartland’s $190,000 mortgage was paid in just 4.5 years! All the while, the church kept its commitment to tithe at least 10% of its income to local and global missions.

So what does this mean for our future? We are still prayerfully discerning, though many ideas are in the works. Possibilities include a building expansion to meet the increasing needs of our youth and childcare programs, greater support for existing ministries, and dreams of starting new ones. The freedom of being debt-free has brought great energy and joy to our church as we prayerfully discern where God might be calling us next. Most of all, we are overflowing with gratitude for God’s abundant faithfulness.

*We share stories to celebrate what God is doing in the midst of the churches within our region.  To share a story of celebration, please contact Chad Schuitema.

The Season of Lent…

I’ve heard of a tradition that on Palm Sunday some churches send palms home with everyone.  The people then place these palms in a noticeable location in their homes so that every day they see the palm and are reminded of Jesus and His march toward the cross.  As the weeks and months go by, the palm of course dries out.  Finally, after nearly a year, the brown and curled palms are taken down and brought back to the church building where they are burned and the ashes saved—saved, that is, for Ash Wednesday.  On this day, which is February 10, it is the tradition of many Christians to take the ashes from last year’s burnt palms and rub them in the form of a cross on the forehead.

In the Old Testament, whenever people really wanted to express the sincerity of their mourning, grief, and repentance, they would dress in sackcloth and sit in ashes.  It had to have been a miserable feeling but that was exactly the point.  The misery they experienced in the body through the ashes was an expression of the misery they felt in their souls because of their sins.  Of course, very few people today still cover themselves with ashes, but the principle of remorse for sin still remains.  Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent that commences on that day is a time that Christian tradition has set aside for us to be particularly mindful of what Jesus has done to secure our forgiveness.  During these forty days, we reflect with solemn gratitude upon the agony and suffering that Christ bore for our sakes.

Additionally, as we contemplate our Savior’s cross, we also think about our own cross.  Lent reminds us of Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Yes, Christ gives us joy and peace, but self-denial is also part of what it means to follow Him.  As such, some folks purposely give up something during Lent—desserts, coffee, red meat, chips, etc.  They do it to remind themselves that sacrifice is part of what it means to follow Jesus, and they do it as a reminder that a much greater sacrifice was made for them.

Have a meaningful season of Lent.

– Wayne Van Regenmorter

Wayne’s contact information:
10088 Prairie Knoll Ct.
St. John, IN 46373
Mobile: (941) 302-1281

The following are some links you may find helpful…

10 Truths of Churches that Do a Great Job with Leadership Development (Part 1) – Ever wonder why some churches ministries grow and multiply rapidly and others don’t?  While there are many factors, one of the key accelerants to planting more churches, starting more campuses, or deploying more people to impact a city is how diligent a church is in leadership development.  The first 5 of these 10 truths are found here.

10 Ways to Revive a Dying Church – It isn’t easy being a part of a church that is struggling for whatever reason, but there are unique gifts that a struggling church can offer. It just takes a willingness to step out into the unknown, a commitment to change, and an acceptance to give up the things that may be holding your congregation back from doing something only God knows.

Five tips for achieving lasting change in congregations – These Union for Reform Judaism Synagogues formed communities of practice and each community of practice wrote a report on their experience and included a list of “best principles” for achieving lasting, meaningful change within a congregation.

Build a Culture of Listening – This business article translates over to the church as we seek to not only listen to our leaders but our whole congregations as well.

9 Things That Worked in the Church a Decade Ago That Don’t Today – What used to work, doesn’t. Not anymore.  The challenge is to know what’s stopped working and what hasn’t.  Not everything that worked a decade ago in the church was great. But the truth is many churches saw growth anyway.  And that’s changing and will continue to change.  What got you here won’t get you there.  Here are nine things that used to work in ministry a decade ago that aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be.

The End of Sermon Time as We Know It – The author says, “But frankly, we’re kidding ourselves,” he continues. “Not only is culture moving us all toward shorter attention spans, God’s design for how people learn works against the 30-minute monologue. The Sunday morning sermon is by and large an antique, malfunctioning mode of communication.”  Discover a different way to communicate the Gospel.

5 Ways to Care for Your Elders – We tend to be very pastor-centered in our church life. Pastors are often viewed as spiritual CEOs, and “things fall apart” when none is around.  But the New Testament concept of Christian congregation finds its strength in elders, not pastors. Pastors, in fact, were understood to be “teaching elders” (1 Timothy 5:17), collegial equals with the rest of the elder team. Elders provide maturity, stability, spiritual integrity, and thoughtful direction to congregations. From the very beginning, elders were appointed in every congregation by the Apostles to care and shepherd the flocks of God (Acts 14:23).

Chad’s Contact Information:
2104 Campbell Street
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Office: (815) 464-9181
Mobile: (765) 237-7678

Ben Ingebretson has been facilitating the church planting movement since 2013.

Ben’s Contact Information:
765 Eastridge Dr. NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Mobile: (616) 481-7566

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