community engagement

6 Ways to Stay Motivated this Summer

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Summer is finally here! In Canada, we cherish these long-awaited months as they seem to go by faster and faster each year. We can’t wait to spend time outdoors, on the water, or just plain relaxing – or all three! No matter what part of the country you live in, we Canadians love these dog days of summer. And let’s admit it Deacons; you’re also hoping to take a bit of a break right about now.

And yet! Many still have to go to work every day and don’t get us started on the work around the house that needs to get done! Unfortunately (or fortunately!), the church is no different. There are still ministries to run and for Deacons, offerings still need to be collected and counted each week, benevolence work still needs to continue, and planning ahead for the Fall isn’t going to happen on its own!

So, how can your diaconate (and church!) get the rest you need AND stay motivated during these sweet summertime months?

Here are 6 ways:

  1. Stay Plugged In! With routines and schedules turned upside down, it’s easy to spend less time with God. In the summer months, make it a priority to spend even MORE time with Him. Read your Bible, pray and worship God in a rich variety of ways over these next couple months. To some this may sound like more work, or one more thing to do in a season when we are desperate for rest. But remember: “You gain a new excitement for life and your purpose when you are plugged in to Christ.” (Matt Brown) This must be any ministry leader’s first priority. Why not use the online Today devotional to keep you on track!

“You gain a new excitement for life and your purpose when you are plugged in to Christ.”

Matt Brown
  • Take this new season to do some strategic thinking: Summer can be a great time to evaluate your ministry and mission. Does your Diaconate have a vision? How is it going? What goals have you set and reached? Which ones still need to happen? Does your Vision still line up with your church’s? Are the ministries and programs you run still effective and sustainable? Why not spend one evening as a team of deacons to do some reflection and sharing. Here’s one tool to get you started!
  • Learn Something New! Summer time is a great time to focus on leadership development. While attending a conference isn’t always possible, have each deacon read one non-fiction, ministry-related book this summer and share what you learned with your diaconate and church. Sound boring? Do it with your feet up under a big shady tree with a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. Here’s a great one hot off the press, or ask us if you need any other suggestions!
  • Take Your Meetings Outside! Move your deacon’s meetings outdoors or to a different location than the church building. Some churches have even met at a local organization that they support, like their local food bank or a youth drop-in centre. This will not only breathe some life into your meetings but it can be a great way to stay connected to the agencies you support.
  • Catch Up on Your Visits: While many would argue that church members want to be left alone in the summer or that they are too busy for a visit, we guarantee there are many in your church who AREN’T busy and who are even lonelier in the summer. This article from Huffington Post (UK) is quite interesting and eye-opening! Want a more “local” opinion? Here is another one.
  • Plan a Fun Summer Outreach Event! Here in Canada, summer is the IDEAL time to show and share the love of Christ with our neighbours and remind them that God (and His Church) doesn’t take a vacation. Movie nights, free car washes, ice cream socials, and community picnics are all tried and true events that will bring people together and offer gospel moments. And don’t forget to encourage your individual members/families to reach out. Here are some great (non-threatening!) ideas: invite a neighbour or shut-in over for a backyard BBQ, go clean up a neighbourhood park, offer to cut an elderly neighbour’s lawn, water plants for your vacationing neighbours, or offer to babysit for a mom or dad who needs to run a few errands kid-free! And why not have members share about their experiences in September during a morning worship gathering?

So how did we do? Which one are you going to try this week or this month? Let us know in the comments below, share on our Facebook page, or send us a direct message at dmc@crcna.org. Your story could inspire and encourage other deacons and churches.

From “Identity Crisis” to Identity in Christ

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Providence CRC’s Community Opportunity Scan Opens New Doors into the Community

The congregation members and leadership team might not have said it outright, but Providence Christian Reformed Church was experiencing an identity crisis.

The congregation had a 30-year foothold in their Beamsville, ON, community, one of the sleepier spots along the QEW corridor. But, while the church was originally built in a rural setting, surrounded by the orchards and vineyards of the Niagara Greenbelt, it had become more and more of a suburban area.

As a church, Providence had a lot of strengths. “We’re friendly and welcoming to people who are at different stages on their faith journeys,” said Katie Riewald, Director of Community Connections. “We’re unified and responsive when there’s a need or crisis. We have capable and willing young leaders.”

But the problem wasn’t a lack of love for Christ or their neighbours. (When is it ever?) Steve DeBoer, lead pastor at Providence, shared that the church was “in the middle of some congregational changes that were challenging the church, and causing some stress.” One of these was a sudden shift in demographics, with the average age in the church dropping significantly, and a rapid influx of young families. Riewald also adds that there was “a collective lack confidence in how God was using us.” The congregation craved a sense of clarity on how to intentionally engage with their community.

Enter the Community Opportunity Scan.

Community Opportunity Scan? What’s that?

In its simplest form, the Community Opportunity Scan — otherwise known as a COS — is a tool for churches to learn more about the community around them. It’s also a way for members of a congregation to start conversations with their neighbours. Most importantly, though, it’s a program inspired by the love of Christ and the Great Commission — Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations.

A Community Opportunity Scan is a tool for churches to learn more about the community around them.

Typically, a COS goes through three stages…

  1. Defining your community — Once a team of 5–8 church members is created, your diaconate defines a geographical area that your church wants to get to know.
  2. Gathering information — Doing background research on the assets within a community, and the demographics that make it up, gives your church’s team the context it needs.
  3. Conversations & listening — This is the key piece. Your team interviews members of your community, opens up conversations… and most importantly, listens well.

The whole process is one bathed in prayer and discernment. And it goes beyond identifying needs. It also affirms the unique gifts and assets in your community and your church. The end result shows churches — and their deacons, especially — clear areas to pursue justice and work with community partners.

How the Process Looked for Providence

About 13 years ago, DeBoer attended the Diaconal Ministries’ Annual Day of Encouragement. While there, he learned about the COS process. He wanted to start doing one with Providence, but the timing never felt right.

Things changed when the church made the decision to hire Pastor Mike Collins as a Community Pastor in 2016. One of the main objectives of his job description was to lead the congregation through a COS. “For the COS to be led with integrity, we needed help,” DeBoer recalls. “Having Pastor Mike join us, with the experience he had, gave us confidence to move from talking about it to actually doing it.”

When Pastor Collins came on board, he saw immediately that Providence Church was ready! “I knew the COS was a great tool for any church who desires to realign their compass to face towards local mission opportunities,” he shared. “The COS helped [Providence] focus around that singular cause. It helped to pave the way for building significant community partnerships, identify the potential to transform neighbourhoods and areas within its own church that needed to change. The church grew in its understanding of how God’s Kingdom was forming outside its doors.”

The Results: A Church on Mission with Jesus!

“We have a congregation that is actively learning to lean into what it means to follow Jesus in a missional way.”

Katie Riewald

Ultimately, the end result was a sharpening of Providence’s identity. With clear, tangible ways to engage with their community, they’re no longer in “crisis.” And it’s not just a “win” for the church, either — it’s a win for the community too! “We have a congregation that is actively learning to lean into what it means to follow Jesus in a missional way,” Riewald shared.

More specifically, some of the things that the COS helped Providence identify were:

  • There are lots of services in Beamsville, but most are working in isolation to each other. They found the isolation was detrimental to those who needed access to services. There were gaps, repeated services – and nearly no collaboration at all. This was especially highlighted by the fact that one school they talked to had incredible resources and access to support from the community, but another school, perhaps even more in need, was completely lacking – and they were only a few blocks apart!
  • There are a lot of churches supporting the same causes. Because of this, Providence now limits their key partners. By narrowing their focus, their congregation now has something tangible to engage with. “Once we were able to more clearly demonstrate what we were going to do and why,” said Riewald, “there was high buy-in and enthusiasm from the congregation.” Today, Providence has identified three main causes to support in their community: The Convos Youth Zone, Community Care of West Niagara and the Grimsby Life Centre.
  • There needed to be more coordination for the church’s community involvement. The results of the scan, combined with enthusiasm of the congregation and willingness of partners — as well as the fact that Providence has no team of deacons — resulted in the decision to hire a part-time Director of Community Outreach. This person’s job is to live out the results of the scan, connect with Providence’s key partners, build new relationships and help the congregation love and come alongside their community.

For Providence Church, “the COS was an important part of a larger 2-year Love Lincoln Campaign in pushing us to love our community,” DeBoer shared.

Some Practical Advice on Conducting a COS

Outside of the results, Riewald also shared some more practical tips for churches who are either going through or thinking about starting a scan.

  • Make sure that a comprehensive Communication Plan is in place BEFORE you start, so that the church is engaged in what’s happening. Having clear communication between the team who is interpreting the results and leadership (pastor, elder board, council, deacons, etc.) is essential so that all sides know what the expectations are.
  • Train your volunteers well on how to conduct, record, and transcribe interviews, as well as on how to initiate conversations and explain what the COS is and why it is important. Be sure to lay out your biases, assumptions, and expectations before you start and continually check in so that they do not dominate the discussion.
  • Have someone in place whose job (either volunteer or not) it is to run the scan, and limit the amount of people who have say over interpreting the results.
  • Remember that the COS is a tool – it’s not going to tell your church exactly what to do, but it will help your church start having those discussions. DeBoer reminds churches that “the COS gave us a reason to engage our community leaders—from principals to business leaders to elected officials—providing the start to a conversation we could build on. The kinds of questions the COS had us asking showed them we were thinking beyond our walls, and that we saw them as valuable.”

Dan Galenkamp is a former employee of Diaconal Ministries and we’re excited to have him join our writing team! He is a freelance writer who likes to write about issues of justice and how churches respond to them. He lives with his wife (and two very fluffy cats) in Jordan Station, ON.


Deacon’s – Don’t Go It Alone!

For deacons, when it comes to getting to know your neighbourhood and engaging with your community, it can be difficult to know where to start. For those who have tried outreach — you know how messy it can be to interact with those who have little experience with a church. There’s no clear-cut way to do it.

If you, your diaconal team or your congregation are feeling stuck — or if you’re wondering if your church is having the right impact in your community — going through a Community Opportunity Scan with Diaconal Ministries may be just what you need! Our team has been involved in diaconal work for decades. We understand the awkwardness and messiness that can come with talking to strangers or those on the margins.

Through a COS, you and your church can discern opportunities to…

  • Create awareness of local issues
  • Engage in community partnerships
  • Evaluate existing programs
  • Begin new initiatives

If that sounds like something you’re looking for, get in touch with our team today. We’d be happy to chat with you and your diaconate! You can also visit our website to look at the Key Elements of a COS or take our quiz to determine if your church is ready!

Is It Making A Difference? – Gateway’s Extreme Weather Shelter, Part 3

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(Pictured above: A pictures taken of outside the shelter. There are no signs, but this “homeless cart” gives evidence of its presence. These carts start to arrive a few hours before the shelter begins some nights. Photo Credit: Monica deRegt)

This is the final article in our 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Here’s the first article if you missed it – and the second one.


The Extreme Weather Shelter operated by Gateway Church has offered over 160 individuals a dry place to rest this winter. So, is it making a difference? For some guests, like Larry (you can read his story HERE!) the experience has been life-changing. For others, there is no way of knowing what impact, if any, the shelter has made, other than a one-night reprieve from the cold, wet streets of Abbotsford. Is that enough?

The same could be said of the impact on the congregation. There is evidence of community and relationships developing; attitudes are being challenged and sometimes transformed, and deeper conversations are beginning about faith and justice, homelessness, and poverty. But there has also been opposition; people who worry that we are enabling the homeless. Others struggle with the fears and risks that come with opening their building to individuals who may be involved in dangerous and unpredictable activities like drug addiction, violence, and untreated mental illnesses. And some members are concerned that hosting the shelter will negatively impact other outreach efforts. Is it worth it?

The truth that many of the volunteers have discovered is that homelessness – for those who live it and for those who try to help – is a messy journey with no easy answers.

The Shelter’s sleeping area set-up for another night

“It’s not just about Christian love and all of that,” says volunteer Dianne Mulder, in answer to the question of what advice to give to other churches considering hosting a shelter. Mulder and her husband, Al, decided to help out at the shelter to try to find their own answers about why people are homeless. They have learned that the answer is different for everyone, and that a dry place to sleep makes a different impact on each person. Some are more appreciative than others. “It’s not going to solve the problem; it’s just going to help in a small way. It’s brutal and it’s real and you are dealing with people who don’t think like you.”

Houweling believes the shelter is making a difference, not just to the homeless, but to the church as well.

Gord Houweling, who had a cup of coffee thrown in his face the morning after his first night volunteering at the shelter, shares a similar sentiment.  “It is easy to preach ‘turn the other cheek’ but it is difficult to practice when there is absolutely nothing in it for you.”

But Houweling believes the shelter is making a difference, not just to the homeless, but to the church as well, explaining that his own view of the homeless was challenged when he realized he knew the family of one of the guests. “How can this ministry do anything but impact our congregation? Has it changed how we view the marginalized? I would say yes in that at the very least members are talking about it. For those members who have a difficult time accepting this ministry, it is because God is working to help them process how they feel about the marginalized.”

Church members Heather and Aubrey Postma decided to volunteer because they struggled with the hopelessness and frustration of knowing how to help with the enormous problem of homelessness. Both agree that it has been very eye-opening and has changed the way they understand and care about the people living in the homeless camps in their city.

As individuals we aren’t asked to solve all the problems, but we are called to do something to answer the Biblical call to care for the poor and needy.

“As individuals we aren’t asked to solve all the problems, but we are called to do something,” Heather shared, adding that she doesn’t see how anyone could argue against the Biblical call to care for the poor and needy in this way. “Hosting the shelter so that one person stays dry for one night and gets one good night’s sleep is reason enough to participate.”

A BIG thanks to Mrs. Monica Kronemeyer deRegt for writing this 3-part story for Diaconal Ministries Canada.

Monica is a freelance writer and Academic Counselor at Abbotsford Christian School. She lives in Chilliwack, BC, with her husband and three children.


Moving Forward

Through their partnership with BC Housing, as well as with the assistance of several dedicated volunteers, the Extreme Weather Shelter at Gateway Church is here to stay. Each year, the Shelter runs from November 1 to March 31 each year. The criteria used to determine when the Shelter is open is the temperature and weather conditions: 0 degrees or colder (with or without windchill), a posted weather warning (of rain, snow, cold, etc.), and/or if snow is on the ground. If the shelter is opened on a Friday night, it will remain open for the entire weekend (until Monday morning) in order to accommodate the Shelter’s guests. There’s no easy way over the weekend to let guests know if it will be open or not, so leadership at the Shelter feel this is the kindest and simplest way to deal with that issue.

At the end of every season, Lead Pastor Marcel deRegt and Shelter staff take time to evaluate what worked well and what needs improvement for the following year so that they can continue meeting the needs of their guests. While there are members who wonder if the Shelter should be open continuously, from Nov. 1 to March 31, others aren’t sure this is necessary or sustainable, given the amount of volunteers it requires.

Please pray with us for the staff and volunteers of the Shelter as well as the congregation at Gateway Church as they continue to lean on God for wisdom and direction in their pursuit to show Christ’s love and mercy in serving the homeless in their surrounding community.  Pray that grace and understanding abound, both within the givers and those who receive.

Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator for Diaconal Ministries Canada

Gateway’s Extreme Weather Shelter – Larry’s Story

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Diaconal Ministries Canada invited guest blogger, Monica deRegt, to write a 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

While writing the last article, Monica felt led to also share this personal story of her experience in meeting Larry, one of the Shelter’s patrons. You might remember seeing Larry’s picture in Part 1 HERE of this series. Also check out Part 2 by clicking HERE!


Larry was sitting alone at a table in our fellowship hall one Sunday in January, waiting for church to start. On the table in front of him was a single rose wrapped in cellophane. I knew he was one of the guests from the Extreme Weather Shelter we host in our gymnasium. I had met him before; he attends our Sunday morning services regularly. Combatting my inner voice that convinces me I won’t have the right words, I decided to go over, say good morning and talk with him.

Larry enjoying a beverage in Gateway’s gymnasium.

Larry turned out to be quite the conversationalist! He shared part of his story with me, explaining why he struggled to earn enough money at his part-time job to cover rent in our town, and how that was what originally led him to our shelter. He has since made a connection with one of our members who helped him find an affordable place to rent. He then complimented me on my freshly manicured nails and I was immediately ashamed and flattered at the same time: how pretentious and rich I must appear to this man, I thought. And yet, it also surprised me that he would notice and take the time to pay me the compliment. He explained, as if knowing I might be feeling uncomfortable, that one of the things he appreciated about being in our church was being surrounded by men and women who value themselves and take good care of themselves. His past was filled with many people who did not make those choices.

“I’ve met some really good, close friends here. Friends that really care about my health.”

Larry has found community at Gateway, saying that he experienced tremendous support through the shelter, where he felt treated like an equal person. Because of that, he wanted to show his support to the church by coming on Sundays to see what it was all about. He enjoys talking and having coffee with the members who come early before the services.

“I’ve met some really good, close friends here. Friends that really care about my health.”

Larry has become a regular face at Gateway’s community events as well. He participated in the Arts and Crafts Fair, selling prints of his beautiful drawings.

Larry is making a difference in the lives of people at Gateway.

And the rose he had with him? Larry takes a flower to church every Sunday so he can give it to a woman who looks as if she needs to feel appreciated. Larry is making a difference in the lives of people at Gateway.

Thank you Monica for sharing this story with us!


The Top 5 Things Gateway Church Discovered Running an Extreme Weather Shelter

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Above Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash: (I met Michael in a Boston subway station. I told him I liked his sign. “What matters is what it means to you,” he told me. I asked what it meant to him. “Doing a deed or expressing kindness to another person without expecting anything in return,” Michael said. I love approaching strangers wherever I go. Listening and talking to them teaches you about people and how similar we all are to one another. Just like Michael, we’re all seeking human kindness.)

This is the second article in a 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. You can read the first article here.


When Gateway CRC decided to host an Extreme Weather Shelter in their building three years ago, the staff and volunteers knew there would be a lot to learn. Some were expected – that there would likely be drug issues, and that members of the congregation would have mixed emotions and reactions, and that the needs could be greater than anyone had imagined – but there were other unexpected surprises along the journey, too. Gateway Church wanted to share these learnings with other churches and groups who might be considering a similar venture in their community.

So here they are – the Top 5 things that Gateway Church discovered about running an Extreme Weather Shelter:

  1. The Need for Dry Socks… and more – In addition to space, bedding, meals, and volunteers, it was quickly noticed that the shelter guests had other practical needs, like the importance of a dry pair of socks. Volunteer Coordinator, Teresa Spyksma, was surprised at how many pairs they have handed out so far. Gateway is also in the process of installing a washer and dryer in the church as providing clean and dry clothes for the guests meets another practical, yet important, need.
  2. The Amount of Work and Time – Head Coordinator of the Shelter, Jenny Vanderheide, shared that it took way more hours than she expected to organize all the volunteers, saying it takes about 8 volunteers per night to run the shelter: 5 to provide food and 3 to cover both shifts. Gateway staff have also learned that the shelter work isn’t necessarily over when morning comes. They found that many shelter guests, attracted to the hospitality, did not want to leave in the morning or would find reasons to spend more time in the area. This presented new challenges, but also unique opportunities and lasting relationships, and certainly involved a steep learning curve regarding how to respond in a way that was suitable for the church and for the clients.
  3. The Presence of Drugs – One of the biggest challenges with running the Extreme Weather Shelter is the reality of drugs. While it is somewhat possible to prevent the use of drugs on the property, avoiding the evidence of drug use that comes with it (paraphernalia, needles, etc.) is a bit more difficult. Staff and congregation members have had to learn how to manage this as well as respond to the fears that inevitably go with it. Something else that surprised Spyksma was why homelessness and drug-use seem to go hand-in-hand. “I used to believe that people got addicted to drugs and [then] ended up on the street – homeless,” she remarked. “Now I have learned that it is much more common to have other situations cause the homelessness and once on the street, people turn to drugs.”
  4. The Prevalence of Mental Health Issues – Many of the people who come into the shelter have a variety of mental health issues, apart from addictions to drugs or alcohol. In fact, in many cases, this may be the underlying cause for homelessness or addiction. Supporting these people might be the greatest challenge at the Shelter, according to the coordinators. Dealing with the drugs and mental health has helped the church realize the importance of partnering with organizations who are already equipped to deal with these situations.
  5. The Joy of Building Relationships – Coordinators, staff and volunteers consistently share the same experience – as Vanderheide says, “You become attached to these people when you see them night after night and wonder where they are when they do not show up one night, and hope and pray that they are okay.” Spyksma explains how hearing the heart-wrenching stories when she talks one-on-one with the clients helps her to feel more empathy and love. She says she knows that the clients feel the impact of this as well, as some come in just to sit and chat or to pray with the volunteers after something has happened to them. The relationships being built go both ways, as some of the guests have become protective of the church and have taken sacrificial steps to safeguard the building and volunteers from any perceived danger. Other guests have found housing and job offers from connections with church members, and one gentleman regularly attends Gateway Church on Sunday mornings because of the relationships that are being formed.

The biggest surprise expressed by those involved with the shelter is that they feel so blessed to be part of it.

Although there has been a lot more learning and work than unexpected, the biggest surprise expressed by those involved with the shelter is that they feel so blessed to be part of it. Spyksma sums it up beautifully: “I had NO idea that I would love this work. I love being able to actively serve this marginalized community and try to show through my speech and actions that they are valuable, worthy of respect, and ultimately loved.”


Monica Kronemeyer deRegt is a freelance writer and Academic Counselor at Abbotsford Christian School. She lives in Chilliwack, BC, with her husband and three children.

“How could we say ‘no?’” Gateway CRC responds to need for homeless shelter

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(Pictured Above: Larry, one of the shelter’s guests who has also started to regularly attend Gateway, sitting in the church gym.)

This month, guest blogger Monica deRegt will be writing a 3-part story on the Extreme Weather Shelter opened up by Gateway Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. 
Our theme for December has been “Helping Without Harming” and we hope this story inspires churches to trust God and follow Him into their communities, despite the risks and the unknowns, in order to be a light in this world.


When Gateway CRC (Abbotsford, BC) designed their new building over a decade ago, they knew they wanted it to be a facility that could be used by the broader community. They planned for a large auditorium with a suitable stage for concerts, a spacious banquet hall for rentals, and they kept the original gymnasium and classrooms that were part of the old school building, to be used by groups within and outside of the church. What they didn’t envision was receiving an urgent request on a cold December day in 2016 for additional space to accommodate homeless men and women living in their neighbourhood.

When Jesse Wegenast, director of 5 and 2 Ministries, a local organization that ministers to homeless people, approached Gateway, he was hesitant at first because he had been turned down by every other church he had asked up to that point. But, desperate to find space for 30 beds for people who needed to get out of the cold as soon as possible, and knowing Gateway was a large facility, he decided to take his chances.

Within a week, Gateway’s gym was transformed into an Extreme Weather Shelter that remained open for over 70 nights during a long, cold winter. 5 and 2 Ministries operated the shelter and provided the staff, along with support from the City of Abbotsford. Gateway provided the space, warm meals every night for the guests, along with custodial services and other needs as they arose. In 2017, Gateway took over and managed the shelter on their own, with guidance from the Extreme Weather Shelter Action Committee of Abbotsford, and funding from BC Housing.

So how did it all come together? It wasn’t without its challenges, some of which are still being ironed out as the church heads into the third winter hosting the shelter, shared Gateway’s Executive Pastor Marcel deRegt. Because this ministry arose out of an urgent need, none of the typical ministry planning and preparation took place.

“But how could we say ‘no?’” deRegt asks. “We are the church, this is what we are called to do as believers.”

“But how could we say ‘no?’ We are the church; this is what we are called to do as believers.” 
Pastor deRegt

So, they said yes and decided to figure it out as they went. The learning curve was steep as most Gateway members had very little experience with homeless people prior to opening the shelter. There was some fear and misgivings, a lot of eye-opening moments, as well as a few frustrations. But mostly there was a genuine desire to help even if everyone didn’t know exactly what to say or do. Many responded in the only way they knew how – with food. Empty crockpots stacked up beside the church mailboxes each morning were a testament to the dozens of meals that members would drop off each night. Some members volunteered to sit with the homeless people in the evenings. A group of people came together early on Christmas morning to share a pancake breakfast and Christmas gifts with the shelter guests.

When Gateway took over the management of the shelter in 2017, more planning and paperwork needed to happen. DeRegt and the rest of the staff and council worked closely with the local Salvation Army and BC Housing to sort out funding and other details such as bylaw changes, as well as hiring a coordinator to oversee the program and manage the volunteers.

Lasting relationships have been formed with some of the guests, and hearts and lives have been transformed within both the congregation and the shelter. 

Last year, the shelter provided a dry bed and a warm meal for over 450 individuals. But more than that, lasting relationships have been formed with some of the guests, and hearts and lives have been transformed within both the congregation and the shelter.  


Monica Kronemeyer deRegt is a freelance writer and Academic Counselor at Abbotsford Christian School. She lives in Chilliwack, BC, with her husband and three children.

Finding Joy in Diaconal Work; A Deacon’s Story

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[Pictured above: In June, Clearview CRC joined other Oakville churches for the 10th Annual Oakville Community Food Drive to help restock the shelves at the Oakville Food banks and The Compass. Clearview’s members reached over 1,600 houses in their neighbourhood to help advertise the food drive, thanks to more than 120 volunteers!]

Back in June, Diaconal Ministries Canada posed the question, “Why are Deacons needed at Classis & Synod”. We were pleased to hear what other deacons and ministry leaders had to say and one particular email came from Ada Kloet. She and her husband are members at Clearview CRC in Oakville, Ontario. Not only that, but Ada and her husband, George, are both deacons – the first husband-wife deacon ‘team’ in their congregation. Erin Knight had the pleasure of talking to Ada about her experience growing up in the CRC and also about serving as a deacon.

For many of us growing up in the CRC, it felt at times that we were simply a part of our ‘parent’s church’. Our fathers and mothers were busy serving their time on Council, helping out with Sunday School or children’s ministries, being part of the choir perhaps, or fill-in-the-blank. Our parents diligently and faithfully served God and their church with their time AND resources. While most work was done inside the church walls, some ‘outreach’ was also being done, like sponsoring a refugee family or collecting food for the local food bank. And while all of this work was good and helpful and kingdom-building, many of the younger members would sit in the pew and think, ‘is there more to this Christianity thing?’

Enter Ada Kloet. She, too, grew up in a Christian Reformed church with her father being a “career elder”, as Ada puts it. This meant he would be “on for 3 years and off for 1”, and repeat! While Ada respected her parents and their beliefs and the value they put on church, she and her husband, having children of their own, began wondering if there was ‘something more’. This wondering led them to leave their church for a time to learn and discern. After some years away at another local church outside of the CRC denomination, George and Ada were both led back to their CRC congregation with a new mindset and a fresh sense of contentment. They had discovered a new way of ‘doing church’ – a new way of living out their faith day-to-day – and they were excited to come back and find that their former church was also changing. And even more so, that this Christian Reformed congregation was not alone.

Ada and her husband had discovered a new way of ‘doing church’ – a new way of living out their faith day-to-day – and they were excited to come back and find that Clearview Church had also changed.

Ada remembers her father saying often, ‘It’s time to hand the keys over to the next generation. I may not always agree with how things are done or how the next generation decides on the issues but we must move forward.’ And Ada agrees. “Something is happening in the CRC overall,” she shared. While she isn’t entirely sure where it came from, she sees the denomination echoing the need for change in order to move forward; a desire to step out in faith, coupled with a desire for unity.

When Clearview CRC realized the need for change and the need to be more intentional in reaching out into their community, they knew they needed help. So they brought on a staff member to help get their church on track. Over the years the job evolved into a “Community Engagement Specialist” position. The purpose of this position was to help the church grow in their love for God and for people in their community. The church is located in Oakville, Ontario, which has the reputation of being a city with primarily “rich” people, but, just like any other town in any other province, there are many who struggle day-to-day. So their church began to reach out by holding community dinners and a community cooking group, running a year-round food pantry, holding bible studies, being a part of a Justice Film Festival, and more.

The church has discovered that collaboration in ministry helps them offer more wholistic assistance to the people they are serving. Their church really owns the ministries listed above and most are done in collaboration with other agencies in their city or region. Networking with local agencies who can assist their church not only helps the church (so they aren’t trying to do it all), but also the individual person or family receiving assistance: if someone else can do it better, let them!

This was also seen in a personal way for Ada. Being a retired nurse, she has a heart for helping people deal with loss. Griefshare was a program that Ada became a Facilitator for and she was trying to get it off the ground at Clearview. Unfortunately, she was having trouble finding people within the church with the same passion and desire to help her. She began looking outside her church walls, which was “perhaps what God wanted in the first place!” she says. Ada reached out to another local church and discovered they had nine (9) people on their team. Ada now works with this church to provide this important and impactful ministry to those going through loss.

Collaboration has also found its way into their Church’s Council. A couple years ago, Ada and her husband, George, agreed to let both of their names stand for the office of Deacon. While this wasn’t typically the ‘norm’, when the casting of lots was done and both of them got it in, it seemed to them that God could be affirming this kind of ‘teamwork’. Being a Husband-Wife team has been a wonderful way of doing diaconal ministry: Ada says they are able to share the burdens and challenges of their roles with each other and offer one another advice and encouragement. More recently, other husbands and wives at their church have become elders and deacons through the casting of lots, which has been further confirmation from God that He was approving this type of ‘collaboration’ in diaconal work!

In her role as deacon, Ada was chosen to attend the Toronto Classis meetings and also Synod this year. She has found attending these meetings to be enlightening and encouraging. She went in with an open mind and was willing to listen and learn. When asked about deacons being seated at these larger denominational gatherings, Ada said she has come to realize that Deacons are called to serve the church just like the elders and pastors are and they oversee so many important ministries: community engagement/outreach, worship, stewardship/benevolence, justice, etc. According to Ada, if the Council is charged with leading the local church and deacons are also part of that Council, why wouldn’t deacons be seated at Classis and Synod?! This point is echoed in the “Top Reasons Deacons Are Needed at Classis & Synod” sheet DMC recently put out: it is about the full representation of the church. When deacons are missing from major assemblies, the full voice of the church is not heard, nor is the full ministry of the church under discussion (from Diakonia Remixed).

For Deacons who are still hesitant and unsure of being part of these large gatherings, Ada encourages them to be okay with being the ‘newbie’: “everyone is at that place at one time or another and will experience the same learning curve,” she says. Being a part of Classis and Synod will help deacons experience a better connection to other CR churches and to the denomination as a whole, which has been Ada’s experience.

Ada believes being a part of Classis and Synod will help deacons experience a better connection to other CR churches and to the denomination as a whole.

Moving forward, Ada continues to be excited about how God can use her to do His good work. Her ‘advice’ to other deacons would be to first carry each other’s burdens, pray, and worship together – and THEN work together. She would also tell deacons to encourage each other’s passions, no matter where that may lead someone to serve. In their own diaconate, one deacon had a passion for stewardship and was led to serve in a different ministry and they have learned to celebrate that!

As Ada shared with us in her initial email, “My father would be glad today to see enthusiasm about people’s faith and he would be glad to see the church moving forward in 2018 in unity and hope for a bright future.”

Thank you Ada for sharing your story – about your personal walk with God and about your experience serving as a deacon! To God be the Glory!

Story by | Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator at Diaconal Ministries Canada


What’s YOUR Story?

What have you learned by serving as a deacon? What has been a highlight? What has been the most challenging? Share your story with Erin, our Communications Coordinator.

Manitoba Church on Mission to Bless its Community

Posted by | Doing Justice, Engaging Community, Uncategorized | No Comments

Mission statements are wonderful, aren’t they? They tell us exactly what an organization is all about. It proclaims to the entire world, ‘This is why we exist!’ It gives us a clear picture of what motivates a certain group of people to do what they do.

For instance, here’s one:

“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

Can you guess whose mission statement that is? Nike! It’s spot on, right?

Or this one…

“To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…To create value and make a difference.”

Hmmm, that one’s a bit tougher. Could it be a church or faith organization? Nope! It’s Coca Cola. But again, makes sense, eh?

At First CRC in Brandon, MB, their mission reads like this:

“To foster Christian growth, develop our spiritual gifts, and engage our local and global community through acts of love, mercy, and justice all for the glory of God.”

Wow, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Isn’t this what being a Christ-follower is all about? Isn’t this what church is all about? Loving God (fostering Christian growth and developing their spiritual gifts) and loving others (engaging their local and global community through acts of love, mercy, and justice all for the glory of God). It’s simple, comprehensive, and theologically sound.

Now while a mission statement clearly communicates what an organization is trying to accomplish, and even why they are trying to accomplish it, sometimes the HOW is where things get a bit messy and a bit more difficult.

For First CRC, they’ve been discovering that one practical way for them to fulfill their mission is to partner with a community ministry where one of their members is already serving! They call this new initiative “Opportunity to Bless”, or OTB for short. OTB was a ministry Pastor Doug VandeKamp (a former DMD no less!) heard about at a Brandon Ministerial Association meeting back in April. Pastor Vern Kratz of Calvary Temple shared that his church’s OTB ministry had been one of the biggest catalysts for moving that church from being inward-focused to becoming outward-oriented and that caught the attention of Pastor Doug.

Shortly after that initial conversation between the two pastors, OTB began at First CRC. Here is a quick look at how the OTB ministry works at First CRC:

  • The church compiles a list of agencies where their own church members are involved. Anything from the local MCC Thrift Store to the Crisis Pregnancy Centre to Youth for Christ. Once the OTB partner is confirmed, the church approaches a different agency each month to ask what some of their practical needs currently are (e.g. diapers, baby food, etc.). Prior to the next month starting, a presentation is given in church to challenge the congregation to bring in the needed items and place them in a designated collection area;
  • Knowing there may not be a ministry every month with a local CRC connection, the church’s council, who fully endorses this new ministry, can also be asked for their input on other ministries/opportunities in their community. Another option is to pair up with Calvary Temple (which started the OTB ministry) and support whatever their monthly cause is or to check with a neighbouring church to see what local agencies its members support and lend them a hand. The ultimate goal is to provide the congregation at First CRC an opportunity to bless a local agency;
  • On the final Sunday of the month, a member of the organization’s leadership is invited to come and share how the OTB items will bless their organization and to retrieve the items collected over the month.

The OTB ministry had been one of the biggest catalysts for moving that church from being inward-focused to becoming outward-oriented.

The above logo was designed by Emily Campbell Baker, a member of First CRC in Brandon, MB. Here’s her explanation for her design: “The logo is simple, yet fun – hence the playful typeface used for OTB – because blessing others brings joy! A somewhat hand-rendered quality gives the logo a home-grown, hand-crafted touch – not perfect, crisp, or clean by any means. This is appropriate because even though humans aren’t perfect, the church is still blessing others through their actions and the things they do and say.
“Lastly, the top of the “T” from “OTB” overlaps with the crook of the heart, which creates an abstract cross that sprouts from the middle and wraps around into the heart shape. It is a reflection back to Jesus, who is the ultimate blessing, blesser, and the reason behind it all.”

Besides OTB being a natural and practical fulfillment of their church’s mission to ”engage [their] local community through acts of love, mercy and justice,” the leadership is discovering there are so many benefits for their church and its members, and of course for their community. First and foremost, Pastor Doug hopes this will be a constant reminder to his church’s members that God is always at work in their community and that they can be a part of His work in a variety of ways! One of the best aspects of this ministry is that everyone can be a part of this exciting new venture! No matter a person’s age, background, or abilities, each member can be involved by buying and dropping off donations, offering prayer support, by spreading the word, and more. And since First CRC is a small congregation with only one (1) deacon currently (normally they have 2-3), a ministry that engages their entire church, with little-to-no volunteer recruitment needed, also makes a lot of sense.

One of the first recipients of the OTB ministry was the MCC Thrift Store in Brandon. Shelly, the manager, had never been to a Christian Reformed Church before and knew little about the denomination, but one of her volunteers at the store is a member at First CRC. With a special birthday coming up, the church wanted to honour this particular member by donating to one of her favourite charities. This member suggested the MCC Thrift Store so the church got in touch with Shelly. Since most thrift stores see an abundance of donations come in each day, Shelly wondered if the church could help their thrift store bless one of their partners! Several times throughout the year Brandon Correctional Centre, the local jail, calls upon the thrift store to see if they can donate clothing for someone who is set to be released. Often times the men being released have nothing to their names but the outfit they arrived in so a few more pieces of clothing can offer them a sense of dignity and a good start. Shelly asked the church is they could collect Men’s Plus Size clothing (something they typically never have enough of at the store). When Shelly was asked to come to First CRC the last Sunday of the month, she thanked the congregation for their kindness and support and took home three stuffed Rubbermaid totes of men’s clothing. She was struck by how a church she knew nothing of would want to help her so that she could help others in the community that depended on her agency. It reminded her of how no matter what church we attend or what faith-based agency we work for, we are all part of GOD’S CHURCH. And ultimately, Shelly remarked, it’s about what GOD is doing in us and through us: “The more we see what God is doing in the community, the more we can marvel at Him.”

“The more we see what God is doing in the community, the more we can marvel at Him.”

While this new ministry continues to unfold, “part of the delight,” remarks Pastor Doug, “will be discovering God’s blessings along the way as this ministry gets up and running.” As members of the church continue to learn about what it means to live on mission through the OTB ministry, he hopes more and more will be inspired to invite a friend, neighbour, or coworker to help out.

What a beautiful way to help the light of God’s love shine as the church works together, on mission!

(A big thanks to Pastor Doug for sharing this story with Erin Knight, and also to Shelly for her contributions.)

What About Your Church?

  • What is your church’s mission? How does your diaconate live that out?
  • What new ministry has your church recently begun? How is it going? What are you learning?
  • Do you think an OTB ministry would work at your church? Why or why not?
  • Does your diaconate have some ideas but you need help flushing them out? We have Diaconal Ministry Developers (DMDs) and our Regional Ministry Developers here to help you out!

ENGAGING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY – Part 2; Make Love Your Goal!

Posted by | Engaging Community, Equipping Deacons, Uncategorized | No Comments

Now while Frankie Goes to Hollywood may get credit for our title above, it actually goes back to a verse in 1 Corinthians 14 (RSV): “Make love your aim…” and the ever-popular verses from the previous chapter as well:

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (The Message, vs 3-7)

In the Form of Ordination for Elders & Deacons (2016), we read that “Deacons serve by leading and equipping the church to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities. In imitation of Christ’s mercy, deacons teach us to love God, our neighbors, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts.”

Did you see it? Did you see that that one, vitally important word? It’s small, but so significant. It’s the word that anchors that entire first paragraph. What is it?

It’s LOVE.

Before we continue talking about engaging with our communities, let’s get one thing straight: if it’s done with the wrong intentions, It. Will. Fail. While this may seem obvious because hey, ‘we love because He first loved us’ and all that good stuff, let’s take a minute to just realign our hearts and minds, and our motives. If churches aren’t creating and executing their ministries out of a place of genuine love and care, people will quickly become ‘problems to solve’ and our ministries will become solely needs-based. Doing the work of a deacon is not about putting people on a conveyor belt and having them go through your “system” in order that they leave a satisfied customer and hopefully never need your help again.

So we’ll say it again, MAKE LOVE YOUR GOAL!

If churches aren’t creating and executing their ministries out of a place of genuine love and care, people will quickly become ‘problems to solve’ and our ministries will become solely needs-based.

Good, so now that we’ve got that straight, let’s move on…

HOW DOES A CHURCH BEGIN ENGAGING WITH THEIR COMMUNITY?

STEP 1: FIND OUT WHERE GOD IS AT WORK!

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: in order to effectively reach our community, churches must FIRST see where God is already at work. Yes, folks, this is true: God is, and always has been, moving and working in your community. The beautiful part is that churches get to JOIN HIM!

Take a minute and read (or re-read) our recent blog post entitled “Listening to Our Communities,” where we were reminded HOW to discern and discover where God is moving and working. If we only focus on meeting the needs of those we aim to serve, our ministries will fall flat. Even Jesus didn’t meet every single need. Instead, He remained faithful to the mission God gave Him and followed His Father’s leading, even amongst the pestering of the people and even his own disciples! Jesus took time to get away and ‘check in’ with God, through times of solitude and prayer. Remember that all we do to build God’s kingdom here on earth begins and ends with PRAYER. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14.

This leads us to our next point.

STEP 2: GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD!

In that post mentioned above, we touched on ways to get to know your community. Sociologist James Hunter writes: “Faithful presence in the world means that Christians are fully present and committed in their spheres of influence, whatever they may be: their families, neighborhoods, voluntary activities, and places of work.” In other words, to faithfully engage the world means we must be fully present within it. Every church has a unique location – within a city and, even more specifically, in a particular neighbourhood in that city. If we look close enough and pay enough attention, churches can discover that most have a well-defined identity and many of the neighbours will have common interests. Showing that your church cares about what’s important to them is one of the best ways to engage with your community. Each church must devote time thinking about what their neighbours value, what they spend their time and resources on, and ways you can build relationships with them through those things.

For example, for churches close to a city’s downtown core, there will likely be events like street fairs, art shows, music festivals, park cleanups, and community yard sales that draw the community together. Churches in these neighbourhoods could engage with their neighbours by having church members volunteer for these events, host booths, allow attenders to use your parking lot or washroom facilities, or be part of the planning or committee meetings. This could also open up the door to invite the community to some evangelistic-type events at special times of the year, like Christmas!

If your church is in a lower-income area, your neighbours’ biggest concerns are likely to be some of their most basic needs: food, shelter, jobs, transportation, education. Your members might help meet some of these needs, and thereby gain neighbours’ trust and attention, through soup kitchens, clothes closets, literacy programs, and such.

Churches that find themselves in the suburbs surrounded by lots of young families may find their neighbours’ lives revolve around their kids. Churches here may want to host some events throughout the year that provide activities for the kids and expose neighbours to the gospel. Vacation Bible School, an annual Easter Egg Hunt or a free Community Picnic could provide opportunities to not only get to know your neighbours, but for these people to get to know you/your church and start building relationships.

Engaging with your community will need both strategy and effort, especially when your church’s members don’t necessarily live there. Finding ways to show your neighbours that your church cares about the same things as they do will help you build long-lasting and genuine relationships with your neighbours. This is absolutely essential if your church is going to make an impact in your surrounding community.

Showing that your church cares about what’s important to your neighbours is one of the best ways to engage with your community.

These first 2 steps are echoed in the story we posted last week about Meadowlands Church in Ancaster. This church desperately wanted to engage with their immediate neighbourhood but were having trouble finding common ground with them. It wasn’t until they started praying to God, intentionally and specifically, that a window of opportunity opened up. God’s answer to their prayer was nothing they would have ever guessed or imagined themselves, but that really shouldn’t surprise us, should it? In the Bible we see God do this time and time again, and perhaps you’ve experienced this in your own personal life too. When we say “Yes” to God, we don’t always know where He’ll lead us, BUT we know He will guide and sustain us. (Psalm 55:4) Take a minute to read their story and how God is working in them and through them to reach their neighbourhood in Ancaster. It’s important to note that Meadowlands’s goal isn’t to just ‘fix the problem’ of vandalism, which they likely couldn’t do anyway. That’s the best part of this story: instead of letting that stop them, they have decided that it would be more important and impactful to simply bring the surrounding neighbours together to show them that the church CARES about what they care about and that they want to work together for a better community!

They’ve made LOVE their goal! 😀

STEP 3: GET DOWN TO BUSINESS

Perhaps you are like Meadowlands Church and you are having trouble finding where God could be opening doors or understanding what is really important to your surrounding community. In order to assist churches, Diaconal Ministries Canada has developed a hands-on, practical tool called a Community Opportunity Scan (COS). A COS is a comprehensive process of discovery that will open doors to exciting possibilities for churches to engage in their communities. First and foremost, a COS is an exercise in LISTENING and DISCERNING; it will not only identify needs, it will also affirm the unique gifts and assets in the community and in the church. Through a COS, churches will get to know the people, organizations, resources and needs of their community first-hand. With this information churches can discern opportunities to…

  • Create awareness of local issues
  • Engage in community partnerships
  • Evaluate existing programs
  • Begin new initiatives

Churches can explore Diaconal Ministry Canada’s COS Tools and Resources page on their website and discover how they can begin to learn more about their own church neighbourhood and community. DMC is able to provide support and consultation to churches conducting a COS. Beyond this, churches that are ready to start or grow a new community ministry can receive additional funding, consultation and resources when they apply to become an Operation Manna Partner.

What About YOUR Church?

Where is your church at in the journey of engaging with your community? Have you just begun to seek where God is at work? Have you started praying intentionally for God to open up doors? Does this work get ‘assigned’ to a committee in your church or are all of your members on board with living missionally? Has your church done a COS and it’s gone nowhere and you need a re-boot or some help? Has your church done a COS and now you are ready to get down to business but you need help? Does your diaconate struggle with animating your congregation to go out and love their neighbours?

Share your stories and questions with us – we are HERE TO SERVE!

ENGAGING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY, Part 1 – Why Bacon & Monorails May Not Be Working

Posted by | Engaging Community, resources, Uncategorized | No Comments

Before any church can truly begin to engage with their surrounding community, it’s important to take time to listen and get to know who they are! While this may sound like a no-brainer, I think if we’re honest we can all tell a story from our own personal lives of a time when we didn’t take the time to truly listen and understand the other person. This likely led to mistakes being made and perhaps even a broken relationship. Our human nature tends to lead us to jump to quick conclusions and put people ‘in a box’ so to speak.

In the month of March, we spent the entire month looking at the art of listening. In our blog post entitled “The Art of Listening –Part 1”, we unpacked what real listening is (and isn’t!).  Part of this post was a funny, but truthful, video of a woman complaining about a constant pain in her head. Check it out again (or for the 1st time!) here:

While we can laugh at this situation, it would be wise for us to stop and ponder this for a minute. How many times have we, as deacons or as regular folk, met with someone inside or outside our church and within 5 minutes (or less!) we have already figured out what their problem is and how it can easily be solved, IF they would only listen to us. Yet, perhaps if we had taken the time to properly listen and understand, we would have discovered there was so much more going on and, even better, that other person would have left feeling valued and important and a relationship would likely have begun.

So what if, as deacons, we actually took the time to sit down and listen to the people we are trying to serve to hear their stories, hear about their experiences and really listen to understand. This could potentially change the entire way churches engage with their communities!

Bacon & Monorails

One church shared recently that for the past couple of years they held a yearly festival in their church parking lot for the surrounding neighbourhood. While we can’t remember all the details of the day/event, we do remember that the theme was….bacon! (How do you forget THAT?!) There was bacon-everything and they aimed to make it a fun, family-friendly, non-threatening event to get to know their neighbours and invite them to get to know their church. Yet, since the event’s inception, the church members have been quite disappointed with the turnout. They have sat and scratched their heads, unable to answer why no one in their neighbourhood has been attending. Who doesn’t like bacon? What could be more appealing and non-threatening and enticing than bacon-wrapped everything?! In a meeting with other local deacons, one person in the group commented that perhaps many in their surrounding neighbourhood were Muslims. Big pause. Blank stare. Huh? What does that have to with bacon? Oh, wait… What this person was trying to point out was that if many people in that church’s “backyard” were Muslims, they would NEVER partake in a “bacon festival” as they don’t eat pork or any pork byproducts. Huh!

Now while this was likely not the reason the festival fell flat, it certainly made those in the room stop for a minute to think. IF WE DON’T KNOW WHO THE PEOPLE ARE THAT MAKE-UP OUR SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES, then how do we know what they like, what they need, and what they care about? If, in fact, many in that neighbourhood were practicing Muslims, nothing about this event would bring them to this church’s doorstep, even if it did include a 3 Ring Circus and free face painting. Reversely, it could even be considered a bit offensive, or worse – ignorant! It would only serve to highlight how disconnected that church was from their immediate neighbourhood; the people they perhaps should know the best!

It’s a very tricky business when a church (or anyone for that matter) comes into town and starts telling people what they need and why they need it. It reminded me a bit of that old Simpsons episode where the town calls a meeting to decide what to do with a budget surplus. Some great ideas are shared about real and urgent needs in their town until in walks Mr. Lyle Lanley, who, with a flashy song and dance, convinces the town they need (and want! and must-have!) a Monorail.

It’s no surprise that if you watched the entire episode, you find out the Monorail did NOT work out – at all! – for a number of reasons. While these examples of Bacon and Monorails may not be ringing any bells for you, can you and your diaconate think of a time when your church has been ‘guilty’ of this kind of behaviour? Has your church or diaconate ever thought you knew what your community needed or wanted or that you had all the answers for them? Well, okay, of course we can all agree that ultimately yes, we do have the one and only answer – aka Jesus Christ, who died for the entire world because He loved each one of us so much. And yes, we should want to share that good news with everyone we meet. So if that is our ‘end goal’, perhaps we can all agree that there are good ways, and not so good ways, to go about doing that.

If sharing the Good News of Jesus is our ‘end goal’, there are good ways, and not so good ways, to go about doing that.

Leading With Your Need

A few years back a speaker shared his story of engaging with his community and he stressed the importance of churches “leading with their need”. Unfortunately, we can’t remember who said it (so maybe we’ll take credit for it!), but it reminded us of the story of the Woman at the Well from John 4. Even before this woman and Jesus met in the middle of the day at the city’s well, we know that Jesus knew her entire story – because he was Jesus! But when we read this story, we see that He did not immediately address her situation, or come down on her with condemnation, or give her answers to her problems (which were many). He started by asking her to draw water for Him; He asked something of her. Again, Jesus didn’t need her help and she was the last person He should have even been talking to, but He did it anyway. Why? He wanted to create level ground between the two of them and talk to her human-to-human. This story clearly, and beautifully, depicts Jesus’ humanness. His somewhat simple request broke down barriers immediately and opened up the conversation between the two of them. And perhaps this is why she felt free to speak to Him the way she did. What a wonderful example for us to study and learn from – and then follow.

While sharing the Good News of the gospel is, and always should be, our ‘end goal’, perhaps we can all agree that there are good ways, and not so good ways, to go about doing that. Building good, healthy, and sustainable relationships with the people in our communities helps us ‘earn the right’ to be able to share that good news. Just as Jesus shows us.

Building good, healthy, and sustainable relationships with the people in our communities helps us ‘earn the right’ to be able to share that good news.

If we’re honest, we can likely agree that churches (and church people) can have the tendency to come in and try to ‘rescue’ people and tell them what they need to start doing (and stop doing!) but this ‘rescuing’ can actually create distance and resentment and often prohibits long-term change because ZERO relationship has been established. It can give people the impression that Christians are pretty self-righteous and that they believe they have all the answers. It tells others that if they just do what we say, their life will turn around and be better than they could ever imagine. BUT! When churches and believers first lead with their need, they instead approach their communities (and the individuals in it) by finding ways to say, ‘What can YOU contribute?’ and ‘How can we work together for a better future in this community and all who live in it.’  WOW! What a change in posture! What a role reversal! When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, He first showed her that she mattered and that she had something to offer. Then, and only then, was He able to find out more about her so He could explain to her that there was a ‘better way of doing life’. And what happens next is absolutely astounding and amazing! She ran and told all of the townspeople (the very people who despised her, gossiped about her, and likely excluded her) the good news of who Jesus was. And this here is ultimately how a community finds lasting transformation as we agreed upon earlier.

This month we’ll continue learning about how we can discover who our communities are and how we can reach them effectively with the love of Christ.

What About You?

Has your church made any blunders when it comes to engaging with your community/neighbourhood? What have you been learning? Does your church have a big “win” they’d like to share about how you have found ways to connect with their surrounding community? Share your stories with us!