“Over the last 10-15 years, Bethel CRC transformed from the church ‘out on the highway’ to the church that loves the community.”
This is how Diane Leferink describes what God has been doing in Bethel CRC in Acton, Ontario. Many things have undoubtedly contributed to this transformation, but in 2007, the church started a Community Opportunity Scan (COS) –to find out more about their neighbours and community and to find places and people with whom to partner for the good of the community. Diane was part of the leadership team for Bethel’s COS.
The COS is a process of discovery, a way of affirming the unique gifts and assets in the community and in the church. After listening to the community, the church then begins to prayerfully discern opportunities to partner with their neighbours to share Christ’s love and bring sustainable change. That change might look like an initiative or a program, or it might be awareness and action around an injustice or need. It is, however, always about relationships. Sometimes the church comes through a COS with a clear direction for community ministry. Sometimes it may be less clear, but no less fruitful when it is led by the Holy Spirit.
For Bethel CRC, the COS helped the church make “great connections with schools, agencies and individuals” that they “really didn’t have before or at least not at the same level,” says Diane. “Those COS conversations were really important.” And, she adds, “the good work continues on!”
Bethel CRC is “shining light” and “showing love” to their community. According to Pastor Ray Vanderkooij, the pastor since 2003, the church is “blessed to be having an impact in the community of Acton and beyond.” This impact extends in a special way to the youth of the community. They are involved in an Alpha course in the local public high school. They are also exploring sports opportunities with the youth of the community, creating a community youth group, and engaging the youth in a local mission week in the community. Together they are taking the lead to address the issue of youth homelessness in Halton Hills.
The deacons are also very engaged, continuing to “share in the community, very intentionally supporting the local food bank.” The GEMS and Cadets worked with the Scouts and Girl Guides to lead a food drive. The church is involved in “Food for Life,” and opens up their facilities to the community for meetings and events. The church is also a voice on the Community Support Network for Halton Hills, and its housing taskforce.
These, and other, activities and ministries are working to transform both the church and the community. The COS, says Diane, “really helped to get things going.” Pastor Ray adds that “many individuals make valuable missional impact in their neighbourhoods and in community groups, which is the most exciting to see, and which we are encouraging as we seek to grow a stronger missional heart in our church family.”
Want to learn more about the Community Opportunity Scan? Click here.