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Unique Internship on Neighborhood Outreach

August 16, 2022
New Hope members make dry soup jars for their community.
New Hope members make dry soup jars for their community.

New Hope, an emerging Christian Reformed church in East Hamilton, Ont., is hosting a unique internship for Classis Hamilton and surrounding churches toward helping adults explore neighborhood outreach and ministry with people in need.

“New Hope was born out of a desire to create a worshiping community embedded in its own neighborhood and committed to enfolding people experiencing poverty,” explained Steve Dykstra, pastor of mission and discipleship at New Hope CRC. “We’re eager to share what we’ve learned, and we are appreciative of help along the way.”

At the same time, the church hopes that this project can meet some of the spiritual needs of its participants.

So what makes this internship so unique? While many internships are geared toward teens and young adults, this opportunity is for existing leaders of any age who desire to learn about neighborhood ministry and caring for the poor. In fact, adults over the age of 45 are specifically encouraged to apply.

“In my previous church,” Dykstra said, “we spent a lot of time discussing an article from The Banner titled, ‘Pew or Canoe,’ which talked about ‘the unexpected black hole’ of middle-age attendees in churches.”

“Something noticeable happens when the kids leave home and you’re an empty nester,” the author, Gary M. Burge, wrote. 

“You’re about 50 to 60, active in the peak of your career, and you have an entirely new set of questions.  . . . But the church really doesn’t find you again until you retire or spend some time in the hospital. It’s the 50-something ‘black hole.’ You’re not young, but neither are you elderly, and the natural bridge to the church’s children and youth ministries has disappeared.”

The article points out that many people entering into the empty-nest or retirement stage of life are asking questions about the role of church in their life, and how to live out their faith with people in need. 

“We hope this internship can be an outlet to explore these questions,” Dykstra went on to say. “While this internship is for anyone, the focus on urban ministry makes it a good fit for those with diaconal experience.”

The church hopes to attract participants who desire to learn about church and neighborhood ministry and worshiping with people experiencing poverty; are willing to commit to serving at and attending New Hope services for 4-8 months; and can share what they’ve learned with their home church.

This pilot project is funded through Resonate Global Mission and Classis Hamilton Home Missions, and all project materials will be made freely available to reproduce.

"This is such a unique opportunity to live into Resonate's priority of equipping and encouraging congregations in gospel witness," said Beth Fellinger, Resonate's Regional Mission Leader for Eastern Canada. "New Hope is a young congregation with great connections to the community and they know they have an opportunity to help others learn about the connection to poverty, transiency and offer something that can be shared back to other congregations. Most internships are offered to young people but this is one for those who are empty nesting and looking for opportunities. I think we are going to see more occasions to share with each other what we have learned about living into our communities."

Applications for this internship opportunity are still being accepted, and New Hope CRC hopes to launch the internships this fall. You can learn more by reading this handout or by contacting Dykstra

“We’re excited about the opportunity for this project to be a model for other churches across North America,” Dykstra said.