What exactly are you talking about when you talk about “resourcing/resources”?

Church leaders across the CRC are asking good questions.

  • How can we more effectively reach out to, and engage, the community we're a part of?
  • How can we better recruit, equip, and retain volunteers?
  • How can we engage teens and young adults in the life of the church?
  • What’s the best way to start thinking about a new church plant, building addition, mission statement, or staffing model?
  • How can we have better conversations about race, refugees, or sexuality?
  • What are other churches doing about ministry shares, missionary support, or health care benefits for staff ?

Resources in the context of the Connections Project are any kind of outside tool a congregation might use to address questions like these. A resource could be a person or group of people, another congregation, a book, a conference, a model, a Facebook group, a season of coaching, a cohort or learning community, an expert, a website, a ministry or an agency of the CRC (or another denomination or institution), a partnership, a local non-profit, etc.

Our goal is to empower regional leaders to curate available resources and create partnerships and networks in your region to help connect churches to those resources.

Why this focus on regional resourcing?

In the past, when churches in the CRC needed to access denominational resources or were looking for resources, there was not always a clear way to connect with someone within the CRC who could help. One of the advantages of being part of a denomination is having a built-in support system of partners in ministry. While some churches find this sort of network among other congregations in their local communities or within their classis, many congregations and local leaders often feel isolated from both other congregations and the quality resources they are searching for. Often, when denominational ministries and agencies have engaged in resourcing, their efforts are seen as disconnected from the needs of local congregations because they are coming from Grand Rapids or Burlington, where local/regional ministry contexts aren’t always recognized.

The Connections Project is experimenting with a “regional resourcing” approach where the resourcing of congregations is carried out by leaders from the region who are familiar (or can become familiar) with the contexts of the congregations in their region. Our  hope is that congregations will have a local go-to person who will be aware of both CRC resources and a diversity of other local and more widely available resources.

We also want to bring congregations who share a common regional identity together to discuss opportunities and challenges, form partnerships to explore those opportunities and challenges, and help each other take the next step in discerning how God might be calling them to advance God’s kingdom in their communities. 

How’s this all going to work?

The Connections Project is a three-year (July 2016-July 2019) project focusing on resourcing congregations in three regional networks:

Southern Ontario: Classes Hamilton, Huron, Niagara, and Toronto
Southern California: Classes Greater Los Angeles, California South, Ko-Am, and Hanmi
Midwest: Classes Central Plains, Northcentral Iowa, Lake Superior, and Wisconsin

Each region has a regional team comprised of one or two Resource Catalyzers and two to four Regional Coaches. These roles are filled by pastors and ministry leaders already working in and with congregations the region.

Resource Catalyzers serve as the first point of contact for resources in the region. They are networkers who will build strong relationships with congregational and classical leaders. They will listen to understand the pressing issues and the questions that are being asked by congregations. They will organize yearly learning events and facilitate the formation of cohorts.

Resource Coaches will be the one walking alongside congregations and cohorts to help them discover and connect with the resources that will best fit their needs and context.

Who is paying for all of this?

The CRCNA has received a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to fund the Connections Project.

How will the Connections Project fit in with coaching already going on in the region?

Think of the regional Connections Project team as curators and facilitators who 1) know the many available resources in the region, 2) point people towards resources that might be particularly helpful in a given situation, and 3) check-in regularly to see how things are going, solicit feedback and point to new resources as necessary. Coaches already active and trusted in the region are the types of resources the Connections Project team might point a church towards.

Another way to look at the role of the Connections Project team is to think of it as the clerk at a store like Home Depot. When you walk into the store, they are there to greet you and listen as you explain the project or problem you are working on. After listening, they walk with you through the aisles, pointing out tools that might fit your needs. In the end, they leave the actual selection of the tools up to you but do their best to provide guidance as to what’s available and what others have found helpful.

How will the Connections Project fit in with other classical projects?

Because the Connections Project is regional in nature, it will operate with a wider scope than most classical initiatives and projects. In some cases, it may operate more in the background, supplementing and assisting your classis’ current initiatives. In other cases, it may play a key role in bringing ideas and people together to experiment, explore issues, and solve problems. Since local leaders will be helping to run the project in your region, there will be plenty of opportunities to develop responsive and agile approaches and partnerships with on-going projects.

What are the actual goals laid out in the grant proposal?

  1. Develop and/or identify a training program—focusing on learning in community—for Connection Project Resource Catalyzer and Resource Coaches that will enable them to effectively resource and connect with congregations.
  2. Host regional gatherings where congregational teams gather for learning, connecting, and the formation of cohorts.
  3. Engage with cohorts and individual congregations to meet resourcing needs.
  4. Create and foster relationships between congregations and regional Resource Catalyzers and Resource Coaches.
  5. Resource congregations so that they experience enhanced ministry.
  6. Intentionally disseminate ongoing learning with the goal of replicating the resourcing model in additional, and ultimately all, classes.

How will you be measuring the “success” of the project?

There are a few ways. One will be if our teams can connect with and engage in resourcing conversations with an increasing number of churches throughout the three years of the project. Another will be how often churches return for continued conversations about resources. Beyond those more quantitative measures, we hope that our work will inspire stories of congregations connecting with resources that help them more effectively do ministry in their context. We hope to hear more stories of churches connecting with each other to ask questions about what works and what doesn’t. We hope our cohorts establish a rhythm of sharing their learning each year at the resource gathering. And we hope that through our work our denomination’s ministries and agencies become more aware and responsive to the resourcing needs of our congregations.

If a successful model(s) is developed, how can it be sustained after the Lilly Endowment, Inc. funding runs out?

Great question. It could be that we are awarded a second grant to continue our work. Or perhaps the models we develop will be incorporated into the work of an existing agency or ministry of the CRC. Perhaps resourcing roles become so valuable that classes begin to carry this role forward. We don’t know, but we feel led to use these three years to try out different things as we seek to  find ways to support churches in meaningful ways.

How does this connect to the CRC’s new ministry plan, Our Journey 2020?

Our work intersects with all of the desired futures outlined in the plan but really resonates with Desired Future 5: Collaboration.

We will work together – locally, regionally, nationally and bi-nationally – to live out our five-fold calling in ways that are effective, efficient, responsive, cross-culturally competent, accessible and sustainable.
Our Goals
Our congregations and ministries will discover and develop ways of working together that are responsive to local needs and opportunities.
Our denominational agencies and ministries will develop ways of connecting churches with services and resources that are appropriate to their contexts, as well as opportunities to participate in mission outreach and evangelism in ways that make the best use of our various callings, gifts, and resources.