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B.C. Church Leaders Meet for Inaugural Conference

October 25, 2023
Photo courtesy of Classis B.C. South-East

More than 140 church leaders and staff from 18 Christian Reformed congregations recently gathered at New Life Christian Reformed Church in Abbotsford, B.C., to attend the first ever Classis B.C. South-East Leadership Conference.

The goal of the one-day conference was to offer training, information, and lively discussion on a variety of topics for elders, deacons, staff, and ministry leaders of local congregations, said Justin Carruthers, pastor of Gateway Community Church and one of the event planners.

Too often, said Carruthers, as he and a few others believed, the training at an individual church for members of the church council have been limited to just a topic or two.

“We . . . talked about how difficult it can be for one church to plan and manage a training because there are new elders and deacons who may need appropriate safe church or abuse of power training, but there are also returnees who would like to learn from a plethora of other important topics that fall under their purview,” he said. “However, that adds layers of complexity and cost that are often out of reach for a local church council.”

So he and the others decided to ask other churches if they would be interested in pooling their funds, resources, and imaginations to form one large conference for all of the churches in their classis.

“That way we would have the necessary margin to produce a well-planned conference to bless our leaders,” he said.

Ultimately, the leaders in this effort, said Carruthers, decided to “invite gifted leaders to teach our councils, pastors, and staff on important topics that include, but are not limited to, safe church matters, abuse of power, church governance, pastoral care, missional identity, discerning God's will together, mercy ministries, elder preaching/teaching, and more.”

Members of the leadership team included pastors from Gateway Community Church, New Life CRC, Living Hope CRC, Cornerstone CRC, Willoughby Church, Langley Immanuel CRC, Trinity CRC, and Missions Hills Community Church.

Over a period of several months, the organizing churches were able to put together a wide-ranging training event, held Sept. 16, 2023, that offered participants a variety of breakout sessions based on their interests and ministry roles.

“It was great to gather with so many churches who share a passion for leadership in Jesus’ church,” said Kevin Lobert, a youth pastor at Langley Immanuel CRC.

Dick Kleingeltink, an elder at Langley Immanuel who also attended, said: “I was really encouraged by the idea that we are all here to serve – the day was really rich.”

The event began with a time of worship in the New Life CRC sanctuary – and that “was a great way to start the day,” said Darryl Wind, another elder from Langley Immanuel.

Chris deWinter, lead pastor at Langley Immanuel CRC, opened the conference with a reflection focusing on John 4 for cues to a model for missional church leadership.

In the second main session, deWinter talked with Mark Glanville, an associate professor of pastoral theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., about the value of being innovative in the work you do as a leader. Glanville is the author of Improvising Church: Scripture as a Source of Harmony, Rhythm, and Soul, a book soon to be released in early 2024.

Glanville, also a professional jazz musician, illustrated from the piano his reflections on how jazz improvisation can be “a compelling analogy [of how congregations] . . . have expressed [their work] in creative and compelling ways in the new context of an increasingly post-Christian age.”

Various breakout sessions and seminars took place throughout the rest of the day. Pastors, business people, deacons, and elders from the local classis and beyond led these meetings. Some of the topics addressed included the following:

  • “Crucial Conversations: How to Embrace Conflict with Christian Truth and Love”
  • “Making a Caring Visit”
  • “Diaconal Ministries Benevolence Policy and Guidelines”
  • “Tracking Pastoral Care”
  • “What Is a Restorative Congregation?”
  • “Tips for Visiting People with Dementia”
  •  “Welcome Home: Supporting Refugee Resettlement in Your Church”

Joanna DeVries, an elder at Willoughby Church, said she appreciated that her church had the chance to attend the conference.

“In particular I found Ken Ritsema’s workshop on ‘Crucial Conversations: How to Embrace Conflict with Christian Truth and Love’ very helpful as it gave guidelines on having those difficult conversations,” she said.

“I heard from other leaders that they appreciated the workshops they attended as well,” she added. “As a leadership group we were able to sit together at the end of the conference, and everyone expressed appreciation for the workshops they attended.”