First Reformed Church of Zeeland
Greetings from the Study Team! It has been a busy month since our last update. Over the last several weeks, the study team has convened in meetings led by our Regional Synod Consultant and team members have also done a number of church visits.
One of the assignments given to the Study Team was to visit other churches that are thriving. The goal of this task was two-pronged. One was to gain insight into staffing solutions. Another was to gather innovative ideas that have contributed to making their ministries especially effective. The members of our team, in groups, have been visiting several recommended local churches on various Sundays. These visits provided insight into how each church does ministry, demonstrated how various congregations are trained to carry out their mission, and also provided opportunity to see staffing make-up in action. While we missed our own church family while away, these visits offered fresh perspectives for outreach and unique staffing models.
A striking element that our team noticed at the churches we visited was that these congregations have been trained, in their own unique setting, to make visitors feel exceptionally welcome. Whether a church was staffed and run like ours or not, our team members observed a unique tone of hospitality. For example, at one church, members were given a 3 minute clock on the screen during which time they greeted each other and welcomed new faces. It was much more than a brief handshake; it felt like the body of Christ embracing one another. What a great idea for members and newcomers alike to connect!
We had the opportunity to sit down after services with the pastor of one of these churches that has some amazing things going on in their midst. In this church, nearly 40% of their congregation is made up of children, so a huge emphasis is on Sunday morning children’s programming. The number of kids wasn’t the most amazing thing, however. This church of about 400 people has a rotating group of 170 volunteers who work in the children’s ministry. If you do the math, that means roughly 80% of their adult congregation members are involved in some way in Children’s programming!
Another unique aspect of this specific church is that their mission (and I paraphrase) is to “be” the church in the community outside the church walls, to “do” less in-church programming. When their pastor shared some of the specific things this church up to was, my thought was: Why aren't all churches doing outreach like this? THIS is the stuff that Jesus would do on Earth in 2017, the 'woman at the well' moments. Here are a couple of examples:
Besides our church visits, the team continues to work diligently at our task of preparing two alternate staffing models for the administrative consistory to consider. The deacons on our study team, who have been poring over the 2017 budget and preparing for the 2018 budget year, are able to supply the team with a picture of our available resources, which our church works to steward wisely.
A good deal of discussion has gone into whether certain programs should be reconsidered in favor of focusing more energy and resources on other aspects of ministry. We have also considered how current staff roles might be re-imagined to meet the needs of our congregations. For example, the expectations for a youth or children’s director’s may be shifted from doing all the work personally to recruiting and training parent volunteers to share to work, or the expectation of a youth pastor may be shifted toward ministering to both the youth, as well as their parents.
From our church studies, we have seen some churches with staffing models similar to what our own has been in the past. We have also been to churches that staff innovatively. For example, at one church, the preaching pastor is the only full time employee for their 350-400 member congregation. The music director is an accountant by trade and works for the church about 10 hours per week. The two Children’s Directors share a position. While very different from our own current reality, this gave us at least an idea of the possibilities available due to both ingenuity and volunteerism.
Our team, as a reminder, is not a decision-making body. The task given to us by our consistory is to gather information and create several possible staffing solution models that can then be used by consistory for decision and then by our search team.
Please continue to uplift pray the Study Team in prayer. The upcoming meeting on September 27, is especially pivotal as we plan finalize staffing models to hand off to the administrative consistory and as we revisit our church’s vision. As we have witnessed during our church visits, a God-breathed vision has the power to transform a church and a community. Won’t you pray to our Mighty God with us, as the song says, “Show us, Show us your power!” We long to see the power of God at work in the lives of each member of First Church and in the Zeeland community.