A new Women's Ministry website offers a range of resources for ordained and nonordained women serving in various capacities in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
The website features a section for ordained women; another section provides resources for equipping, cultivating, and developing women leaders; and another offers a booklet and video chronicling the legacy of women “using their God-given gifts and callings in local and global missions” in the history of the Christian Reformed Church.
Jana Vander Laan, copastor with her husband, Mike, of Sahali Fellowship CRC in Kamloops, B.C., has already found the new website and its resources valuable.
“Within a few days of the website launch, I was chatting with two of my fellow mentors at a community program for empowering moms,” she said.
“We mentors are all Christians, yet we represent many different denominations. These two mentors were discussing the topic of women in ordained leadership within the church. One of them expressed her desire to do a biblical study on the topic, especially since her church does not even allow women to serve as deacons.”
It turns out the new website has a number of resources, one of which includes links to documents explaining the positions of women’s ordination from a biblical and Reformed perspective and how “the CRC denomination commits to remaining united despite our differing positions."
Vander Laan also told the women on her church council about the new website and encouraged them to take a look at it.
“One of our deacons was excited to find a link to the CRC Elder's Handbook. She had read the Deacon’s Handbook but was curious about the role of elders.”
Vander Laan also emailed two recently ordained commissioned pastors, one in northern Washington state and one in Classis B.C. South-East, to tell them about the website, specifically encouraging them to consider joining with others to discuss issues related to ministry.
But the site isn’t only about women in ordained leadership positions. “It’s also for women who lead in the Christian Reformed Church in a variety of nonordained ways,” said Kristen deRoo VanderBerg, who serves as director of communications and marketing for the CRCNA and is a member of the women’s leadership advisory team.
“Our denomination holds two views about women in ordained church office, but in all of our congregations there are women serving and carrying out acts of leadership. This site equips them to think about their leadership and develop their leadership skills.”
Denise Posie, director of Leadership Development: Women’s and Ethnic Ministries for the CRC, is pleased with how the site is already filling needs. And she looks forward to how the site will be used going forward — especially with two additional resources to be added to the site yet this year.
“We will offer a tool for churches and ministries titled ‘Ten Ways to Create a Culture for Men and Women to Thrive in Ministry’ and a women’s ministry e-newsletter, which communicates resources, events, and stories of God’s work in using women in our churches and communities to make a difference,” said Posie.
As she has developed women’s ministry resources, Posie said, she has collaborated with Rev. Liz Testa, who works in Women’s Transformation and Leadership for the Reformed Church in America.
“Rev. Testa and I enjoy our friendship and sisterhood as we serve and lead God’s people in facing today’s challenges,” said Posie. “CRC and RCA women are excited about each opportunity when we come together; we strengthen our relationships and encourage each other to faithfully respond to God’s call.”
Testa said she has been pleased to see how the CRCNA has grown in the area of women's ministry over the past few years.
Posie, she said, has thoughtfully led a movement toward better equipping women to use their gifts and to live into their God-given callings as well as helping congregations create, as the new website says, "a culture where men and women thrive in pursuit of God's mission in the world.”
“This lines up so beautifully with what has been happening in the RCA,” said Testa. “Denise and I pray, dream, and strategize ways our ministries can collaborate now and in the future — creating networks and resources for lay and clergy women, as well as congregations.”
The new website, she added, is fresh and clear — and easy to navigate.
Karen Helder, a women’s leadership advisory team member, said that ordained women elders and deacons as well as nonordained women leaders in the CRC can, at times, experience being very alone in their leadership roles.
“Especially in churches where women’s leadership gifts are only beginning to be used more fully, women can wonder if they are the only ones experiencing this newness,” she said.
“There are new responsibilities and details of the work/ministry that one has never experienced, such as the details of serving communion, how diaconal duties are divided, the role and responsibilities of classis attendance, etc. There is, at times, a complexity of new responsibilities that can seem daunting.”
The new website can help address these issues and “provide helpful educational and support tools. These tools can give a sense of awareness, competence, and knowledge of how to use one’s gifts and where to turn for assistance. We are working to develop the website in ways that will help make it ever more useful to women leaders in the church,” said Helder.
Among the resources on the new website are several leadership and ministry articles and documents, including This Is What a Leader Looks Like (from Missio Alliance SheLeads Summit 2017); CRCNA Position Statement on Women in Ecclesiastical Office; and Leadership in Times of Change by Rev. Kathy Smith, associate director and program manager for grants programs at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. In this article Smith recommends various resources for pastors, worship leaders, and all other church leaders going through a time of change.
“This site matters to ordained women in the CRC because it is a hub for resources and encouragement for women leaders,” said Sarah Roelofs, director of the CRC’s Chaplaincy and Care Ministry.
“The site will also serve as a beacon for women discerning their calling into ordained ministry in the CRC by sharing the CRCNA's positions, statements, history, and future vision,” she said.