Honoring Our Stories – All women are invited to “Honoring Our Stories”, a one day Women’s Retreat to be held at Downers Grove Community Church, from 10 am-4 pm on April 16.  Lively music, prayerful reflection, interactive workshops, and meaningful fellowship will be led by:
Rev. Liz Testa, denominational leader
for RCA Women’s Transformation and Leadership
and Lesley Mazzotta, Director of Spiritual Formation for Community Reformed Church and
Christ Episcopal Church in Manhasset, N.Y.
The theme to encourage, equip and empower will guide the program for the day.  Through interactive sessions, story-sharing and personal reflection, local women will connect, communicate and collaborate.  Local leaders Rev. Marge Vander Wagen and Rev. Jewel Willis-Thomas warmly welcome you to join us on April 16.  Registration will be at includes the retreat, lunch and snacks.

The Church on the Edge Forum – The Forum presenter on June 20 – 24, 2016 is Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, a Presbyterian (USA) minister whose writing, speaking, and teaching is anchored in theological wisdom and fresh sociological insight. She’s a sought-after keynote speaker, especially on the topic of ministering with a new generation of Christians.

When we look at our religious landscape, we can clearly see new growth arising in denominational churches, as people plant worshiping communities and revitalize existing congregations. While each gathering looks different, according to its context, there are patterns to the renewal. What are some common characteristics? What sort of needs are these churches meeting? What can existing churches learn from new congregations? We will explore these questions with Carol Howard Merritt, “Church in the Making” columnist for the Christian Century.

Rev. Carol Howard Merritt (@CarolHoward) is a Senior Consultant for the Center for Progressive Religion, the award-winning author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation (Alban) and Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation (Alban), and a frequent contributor to books, websites, magazines, and journals. She is a regular columnist at the Christian Century where her blog, “Tribal Church,” is hosted.   A founder and host of UNCO, an open-space “unconference” that attracts church leaders across denominations, Carol is also known for co-hosting a thought-provoking podcast, God Complex Radio, with Rev. Derrick Weston. Visit:

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.

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 Christ Community Church in Lemont, Illinois.

New Fruit in Mission
Late last summer our existing approach on missions had reached the end of its life-cycle.  What we had done for decades (a team with monthly meetings, global support commitments and occasional service opportunities for the congregation) was no longer connecting with the congregation or fostering relationships with the people we hoped to bless.  The team was frustrated, divided about the way forward, and concerned that a cause they loved would be dropped.  Through a process of prayer, many conversations, some research and the permission of the former team we engineered a new structure.

We built three missional communities gathering around a cause or passion and empowered our deacons to maintain support for our global mission partners. Each missional community has a champion, a core team and a growing community around that need, finding partnerships as often as possible.  The causes that emerged for our community were; the hungry, the hurting, and the at risk youth.

The fruit of the adjustment has been exhilarating for those involved and those of us watching and waiting our turn.  No longer is one team meeting to debate funding, brainstorm ideas or engage a congregation.  Instead, passionate individuals are forming teams that are actively building missional relationships.

It’s no longer just talk about the least of these, now we know the hungry, the incarcerated and the struggling to make ends meet by name.  We are serving the hungry, clothing the naked and praying with inmates.  It’s the relationships that make the difference, we just needed a structure that allowed us to have more relational connectedness.  Slowly our hearts are breaking and being reformed by God’s work among us.

*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.

Good Communication and Listening…

I experienced a fruitful time of learning again this weekend at the Wisconsin Ridder Retreat in Green Lake, WI.  One of the skill sets that was talked about is a new way of listening.  We were told that normally we can listen for about 6 seconds then we go into an agree/disagree mode with whoever is communicating and we stop listening.  In our minds we develop reasons (dozens of them) why we agree or disagree with the person speaking.

Communicating well is also an important part of the fruit of good listening which takes a lot of work to master.  Much of the anxiety and conflict within churches is the result of poor communication which results in poor listening.  Just because someone hears you say something as a pastor or church leader on a Sunday morning does not mean that people are listening.

Rick Warren in his blog identifies seven skill sets that will help other people to listen when you speak.  He follows the guidelines from the Bible:

1.    “CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME!  Timing is the first key.  You may be ready to talk, but are they ready to listen?  Never drop a bomb!  “There is a right time and a right way to do everything.” Ecclesiastes 8:6 (GN)

2.    PLAN YOUR PRESENTATION.  Think it through first.  Especially plan your introduction and your supporting illustrations.  Don’t start with the detail.  In TV they move from the long shot to the medium shot to the close up.  “Intelligent people think before they speak.  What they say is then more persuasive.”  Proverbs 16:23 (GN)

3.    BEGIN WITH HIS OR HER NEEDS.  A listener is always asking “Why should I listen to this?” and “How will it benefit me?”  If you answer those two questions up front, you will have their undivided attention.  “Speak only…according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29

4.    LISTEN FIRST!  We get into trouble when we make assumptions.  Be willing to hear the other side out first.  “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.”  James 1:19

5.    SAY IT POSITIVELY.  No one likes to hear bad news.  Learn to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time.  You are never persuasive when you are abrasive!  If you have bad news, say it up front in a factual, non-personal way.  Then quickly move into a constructive mode.  “The mature person is known for his understanding.  The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is.” Proverbs 16:21 (GN)

6.    CLARIFY YOUR CONCLUSIONS.  Summarize and recap what you’ve said.  Be specific.  Restate what you’ve decided on and what you haven’t.  “Agree with each other in the Lord.” Philippians 4:2b

7.    END WITH AN ENCOURAGING WORD.  Exit lines are important.  Even if the discussion was heated and you both took some heavy shots of criticism try to end on a high note.  “A word of encouragement does wonders!”  Proverbs 12:15 (LB)”

In what ways can we be more intentional about growing better communication and listening skills?  Where can we find ways to practice these principles?

– 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…

7 Steps to Incarnational Mission in the Neighborhood – These 7 steps are about making the Gospel visible in word and deed in our neighborhoods.  There is also an entire section on this blog called Neighboring 101 that is worth checking out.

How to Shape Your Church’s Culture – Perhaps the single most helpful development from leadership studies to aid the church in Great Commission work is the study of organizational culture. In fact, in his groundbreaking work on organizational culture, Edgar Schein notes that “leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin.” Leaders neglect the reality of their church’s organizational culture to their own detriment.

Storytelling, Video and Your Church – Imagine you want people to understand how important your church’s alms program is to your community. You could just have someone get up and read off some stats and say “it’s important.” Or you could tell a story. But how would you begin to tell that story? This article shares six points of story and plot as seen in many Pixar films that will help you structure your tale for maximum impact.

There’s a Proven Link Between Effective Leadership and Getting Enough Sleep – In our hyper-connected, 24/7 world, many of us are losing sleep — literally. Our own survey of more than 180 business leaders found that four out of 10 (43%) say they do not get enough sleep at least four nights a week. Such sleep deficiencies can undermine important forms of leadership behavior and eventually hurt financial performance. This article will explore the link between sleep and leadership before discussing solutions that can improve both individual well-being and organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

Revitalizing Church: Some Helpful Resources – Leading a church through a turnaround or revitalization process isn’t easy. The process is labor intensive and not always appreciated or joined by everyone in the church. A turnaround is unique for every church.  In this blog, Ed Stetzer compiles a list of some great resources.

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

Copyright © 2016 Regional Synod of Mid-America, RCA, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences

Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp