Women's Leadership has joined with eight other Christian Reformed ministries to better equip and encourage congregations. We've all come together under the new name Thrive (read more about the name change).
While our name may have changed, we’re still as committed as ever to support churches and ministries in creating a culture for men and women to thrive in ministry. The journey of women in the CRCNA entails a long history and legacy of women using their God-given gifts and callings in local and global missions.
The Christian Reformed Church's first official study of the role of women in the Church is found in a 1973 report. Before addressing the issue of ordination, the study committee's report listed Biblical principles—the first of which was this: "Christ's redemption and restoration results in a oneness of the sexes and does not allow for any discrimination in the congregations (Galatians 3:28)." While it took many years for the CRC to reach a conclusion that there are two different perspectives and convictions on the issue of women in ecclesiastical office, and that both perspectives honor Scripture as the infallible Word of God, the basic principle for all of us is found in this verse in Galatians. We participate together as the body of Christ and the Holy Spirit provides gifting for those who emerge as leaders in a wide variety of ministries. Romans 12:6-8 provides a reminder of the different gifts given to each of us; seven are listed with this instruction concerning leadership: If it is to lead, do it diligently. May the care and conscientiousness our leaders provide be used mightily by the Spirit; whether we lead or are led. Thanks be to God for equipping women and men with these gifts.
Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America (2014-2020)
What We Do
Thrive affirms and supports women in all levels of leadership. We help Christian Reformed churches and ministries create a culture in which, together, men and women thrive in pursuit of God’s mission in the world.
We invest in the future of women, ordained and non-ordained, to connect and explore new opportunities and resources to grow as leaders.
We come alongside Christian Reformed churches and ministries to create a discernment process for integrating women in new and existing leadership roles and ministry contexts.
We partner with formal and informal groups as well as denominationally-related institutions to strengthen our capacity to develop leaders for today’s challenges.
We envision men and women fulfilling their callings and using their gifts as they carry out God’s mission in the world.
Women’s Leadership Advisory Team
The advisory team assists Thrive by clarifying the vision and strategic process for empowering, developing, supporting, and celebrating women and ethnic minority leaders in the CRCNA local churches, ministries and denominational offices.
Kristy Bootsma is an MDiv student at Calvin Theological Seminary in her second year of study. She served an internship in the Leadership Diversity office in the summer of 2019 with Denise Posie, focusing mainly on the women's ministry of the CRC. She was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, and is determined to be a listener and a learner in regard to the experiences of women in the CRC. She is excited to bring her experience and learn from others as a woman pursuing ordained ministry.
Violetta Diamond is Elder and Clerk at the Washington D.C. Christian Reformed Church (CRC). She has been a delegate to Synod twice and served on the Safe Church Advisory Committee. Violetta is pleased to apply her passion for empowering others and addressing women's issues in this capacity. Before moving to the D. C. area, she served as GEMS counselor, Youth Group Co-Director, Elder, Sunday School Teacher and Education Administrator at East Side CRC. Violetta holds two Bachelor degrees and her occupation has been in the labor field. She is a widow, has a son and a daughter and many others that she considers her children.
Cynthia Fair lives in Sacramento, CA, and has been a member of the Living Stones Christian Reformed Church for over 20 years. As an active member of the church, she has served in many ways, including Vacation Bible School, Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, Director of Christian Education, choir member, and deacon. She has served as an appointee under both republican and democratic governors of the State of California. After 34 years of working in the public sector managing government budgeting and auditing offices and working as a legal analyst, Cynthia is now retired.
Karen Helder is a licensed social worker with a MSW degree from the University of Iowa. She has served as a Director of Women’s Resident Life for teen girls and their families at Dordt College (now Dordt University), Director of Professional Services at Wedgwood Christian Services for 16 years, and a Regional Director of Operations at Bethany Christian Services for 15 years. She is now retired and serves in several roles: an elder at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of Kuyper College, and a member of the Professional Consultation Group for Clinical Pastoral Education at Pine Rest Mental Health Care. She cares deeply about assisting leaders to grow in their strengths so that they can serve God and others faithfully and well. Her deepest prayer is for wisdom and discernment as she interacts with women.
Jana Vander Laan
Jana Vander Laan is currently serving as co-pastor with her husband Mike of Sahali Fellowship CRC in Kamloops, British Columbia. Her previous callings include Pastor of Congregational Care at CrossPoint CRC in Brampton, Ontario (2010-2014) and Resident Pastor at Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan (2007-2009). She is also the mother to two school-aged children. Together with her family she enjoys alpine skiing, hiking in the mountains, and gardening in the church-sponsored community garden.
Lesli van Milligen
Lesli van Milligen is ordained in the CRC and has co-pastored in both Canada and the U.S. with her husband, Tom. She presently works as a Faith Formation Regional Catalyzer for Eastern Canada-Winnipeg to Halifax. Along with supporting local congregations in strengthening their cradle-to-grave faith formation practices, Lesli has trained with NextLevel Leadership and is passionate about building into the next generation of leaders through leadership workshops for youth, young adults, and church councils.
Kristen deRoo VanderBerg is the Director of Communications and Marketing for the CRCNA. She spent 17 years working for World Renew which included helping the organization launch a gender task force, develop a commitment to gender mainstreaming, conduct regular gender audits, and develop its organizational gender plan. In her current role, she looks to reflect the value of diversity in denominational communications and seeks to tell stories that reflect the diverse voices of our churches.