Southwest Community Church moves forward with church health consultation

Since 2015 Sam Breakey has been CBWC’s church health strategist, working with congregations to revive their sense of mission and calling. He brings an outside perspective to churches who are re-evaluating themselves. The process is heavy on listening. Sam facilitates discussions with leaders, lay leaders and congregants to identify the church’s strengths and weaknesses, areas of opportunity and limitations within the community. It’s no silver bullet, but if the congregation is willing, it will be a catalyst for a revitalized church.

 

We spoke with Southwest Community Church in Kamloops, B.C. who recently consulted with Sam, to learn what the impact has been on their church. Earlier this year, head pastor Shane Wiebe and the leadership team were working on a two-year plan. They wanted to revive their ministry, but were feeling stuck on the how-to.

 

 

“We were struggling to grow, and struggling financially. There was a feeling that though many of us were serving our community on an individual basis, we were floundering to connect with the community in a unified way,” Shane said. “We felt like the church was on an unsustainable pace.”

 

Enter Sam. He started by listening to Shane and the Board about their concerns. Together they came up with a series of questions for the congregation, aimed at discernthe heart of their mission and calling.

 

 

The questionnaires went out, and the church quickly received more responses than their average Sunday attendance. This is unusual, Sam says. Most churches hope for about a 30 to 40 per cent response rate—Southwest Community Church got 117 per cent. It’s evidence of how hungry the church is to turn the page, and how engaged they are to do the work together.

 

The survey was just the start. The next step was a weekend of discussion facilitated by Sam, where the church could talk together about the pressure points.

 

“When Sam came and shared with us the results on Friday evening, it exposed some of the elephants in the room and really gave us a chance to talk about things openly,” Shane said. They were able to talk about feelings of grief over people who have left, and a sense of resignation that followed. “People were feeling like, ‘Why should I do outreach when this is going to happen?’”

 

 

Equally as healing was the realization that the congregation is more vibrant than they thought. As an outsider, Sam was able to point out signs of life in the church that they hadn’t recognized before.

 

“That was really affirming for our church to see,” Shane said. “We realized that many of our people are acting missionally, we just aren’t doing it together. We don’t have a good sense of what the church was doing, so we feel like it’s dying. We realized we’re healthier than we thought.”

 

From here, with a new sense of openness and hope, the church is continuing on a re-visioning process. The first of three town hall meetings was focused on asking ‘What kind of a church do we feel God calling us to be?’. The next meeting will review the results and start asking, ‘How?’.

 

Of the process working with Sam, Shane says, “It really scratched where we itched. We all walked away feeling like the steps forward aren’t rocket science; they’re simple. Having an outsider’s opinion let us see ourselves with fresh eyes, and gave us honest, objective feedback.”

 

“We feel so privileged. The two-thousand-something plus expenses that we paid is peanuts to what we gleaned,” he added.

 

Sam, who’s consulted with 23 churches since starting this role in 2015, was impressed with the level of engagement at Southwest. “Shane brought a deep hunger for church to move forward,” he said. “Some churches are hoping for a silver bullet, but Shane was looking deeper than that. He was looking for how he and others could be put on the right track. It wasn’t just about, ‘come and fix us’, or ‘come inspire us’, but ‘how can you empower us to do these things ourselves?’ I left thinking that Shane and the elders had an even deeper commitment to their church. This is the first church that I’ve heard of that within three months, they already have three town hall meetings laid out. They see it as an action plan to follow through, it isn’t a one-time event, this is a catapult.”

 

He’s careful to point out that the real power of this process is when congregations listen together to what the Lord is saying to their church, about their past, present and future. Sam is just one facilitator of Christ revitalizing the church.

 

Sam Breakey is based in the Edmonton office, but is available to all CBWC congregations. Contact Sam at sbreakey@cbwc.ca or contact your Regional Minister to find out more about the Church Health Engagement Process. Note, there is currently a waiting list.


This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 10 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

 

Getting UNDRIP into legislation

Since Canada officially agreed to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2016 (after initially voting against it), little has been done to actually implement the Declaration.

Romeo Saganash’s Bill C-262 would change that. The bill is short and to the point. It would simply legislate a responsibility for the federal government to adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as it has promised to do. Specifically the bill would require the federal government, in cooperation with Indigenous peoples, to:

  1. Make sure Canadian laws are in harmony with UNDRIP,
  2. Develop and implement a national action plan to achieve UNDRIP’s objectives, and
  3. Report annually to parliament on progress made on points 1 and 2.

The bill had its first reading in April 2016, and the second reading is expected in Fall 2017. In order to move on to more rigorous debate and a third reading where it could become legislation, the Bill needs a majority vote from the House of Commons at the second reading.

Churches all across Canada have voiced support for the Bill, some have even joined marches calling on MPs to vote in favour at the second reading. Our own Jodi Spargur, who founded a CBWC affiliated ministry, Healing at the Wounding Place, has come up with an overview of the Bill and its importance, and suggestions on what our churches can do to be part of it. Following is an adapted FAQ for those interested in the issues.

NDP MP Romeo Saganash put forward Bill C-262 as a private member’s bill. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

 

What is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)? Why is it important?

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a human rights instrument adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007—after more than two decades of negotiations between representatives of Indigenous peoples and UN member states. The Declaration is an opportunity to deepen and expand conversation about how we make decisions and about how we live well in this land together.

The Declaration describes “minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” It covers a lot of aspects of life, particularly where Indigenous peoples’ ways of living, spiritual practices and distinct culture intersect with States and industry. The Declaration articulates their rights, and suggests ways for States and other organizations to interact with Indigenous peoples. It applies to the 350 million Indigenous peoples around the world, including the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada.

After initially voting against the Declaration, in 2016 Canada officially agreed to support it, “without qualification.”

At our 2017 Assembly, CBWC delegates voted to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in response to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

 

  1. Does the UN Declaration give Indigenous peoples new rights?

No. It affirms Indigenous peoples’ inherent, or pre-existing, collective human rights, as well as the individual human rights of Indigenous women, men and children. It applies existing human rights standards to the specific historical, cultural and social circumstances of Indigenous peoples.

While it does not automatically change Canadian law, courts (and Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and human rights bodies) often rely on declarations to interpret human rights. The Declaration is an authoritative instrument to clarify, interpret and expand the meaning and scope of domestic laws.

 

  1. What is Bill C-262?

Bill C-262 is a private member’s bill, currently in draft form, that would ensure Canada’s laws are in harmony with the UN Declaration.

The bill affirms that adhering to the Declaration is central to Canada’s nation-to-nation reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for.

We believe that Bill C-262 is valuable encouragement for the Government of Canada to move forward on achieving the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

  1. How will the UN Declaration help mend the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada?

The TRC calls the Declaration a framework for reconciliation and is “convinced that the UN Declaration provides the necessary principles, norms, and standards for reconciliation to flourish in twenty-first century Canada.” Of the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action, no less than 16 lift up the Declaration, summoning governments, churches, businesses, law societies, libraries, and more to learn, adopt, comply with and/or implement its minimum standards.

In other words, if we desire the health, dignity, and well-being of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, implementing the UN Declaration is a critical way forward. 

The UN Declaration can be considered a blueprint for justice, reconciliation, healing and peace. Throughout history, Indigenous peoples’ human rights have repeatedly been denied – the direct cause of the broken relationship that needs to be reconciled. To create a better future, Indigenous peoples human rights must be respected, promoted, and protected. The UN Declaration is an essential tool for governments, institutions and leaders to work in cooperation with Indigenous peoples to change the existing paradigm, reject colonialism, and ensure Indigenous peoples’ rights are honoured without discrimination.

 

  1. What does “free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)” mean?

Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) comes from Indigenous peoples’ inherent right to self-determination by affirming their right to say “yes” or “no” to resource projects that impact their lives and futures. FPIC requires that Indigenous peoples have access to all relevant information and sufficient time to make decisions based on their own forms of decision-making while free from coercion. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the “full consent” of Indigenous peoples is required on “very serious issues.”

Articles 10, 19, 27, 28,29.2, 30, 32.2 refer directly or indirectly to FPIC. In the Declaration, the term “veto” is not used. The facts, law and the rights of all concerned must be duly considered in all cases. When, after due process, Indigenous peoples say no to a development project, the project proponent has the option of judicial review, as would happen in any other type of similar situation. Projects may be stopped, changed, revised, rerouted – the options depend on the facts and the law in each case.

If a resource development project has support from some Indigenous communities and not others, companies must not exploit divisions by, for example, offering inducements to some communities. (Which is common practice currently.) In essence, if different Indigenous communities have different positions on a pipeline, for example, the route may need to be changed or the project otherwise modified to address concerns. Twenty-five yesses do not mean that five nos are not valid.

 

  1. What does it mean for churches to affirm the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their spiritual traditions?

Article 12 affirms that, “Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.”

 

Affirming rights to spiritual traditions speaks to two concerns. First, a need to respect other spiritual traditions especially in light of our history in Canada. Churches and governments in Canada criminalized Indigenous spiritual ceremonies like the Sundance and Potlatch, and used Indian Residential Schools to aggressively indoctrinate cultural and spiritual beliefs. Violating the rights of Indigenous Peoples access to their spiritual traditions is part of the colonial legacy. Respecting rights means sharing one’s faith, but not imposing one’s faith.

Secondly from a Christian perspective this right is also concerned with creating room for Indigenous cultural expressions of Christian faith for those who are converts to Christianity, remembering and defending the idea that Christian faith is not limited to a single cultural expression. The church is enriched through the diversity of all tongues, tribes and nations bringing their unique contributions to worship.

The right to practice spiritual traditions is an inherent right and is essential to the reconciliation process. It is one of the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world.

 

  1. Will implementing the Declaration be difficult?

Yes. The legacy of colonialism is deep and painful. Reconciliation is hard work emotionally, mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. We will need to learn history and spend time building relationships. We will have our assumptions challenged and be forced to face our fears. It takes courage to offer your voice and your action to the work of reconciliation, justice and peace-making. At the same time, the gifts of forgiveness, healing, hope and community are rooted in the God’s promises to be with us and to guide us.

 

8. How do I talk to my MP about this?

Meeting with your MP is an important part of participatory democracy. The aim of this meeting is to convince your MP, regardless of their party, that implementing UNDIRP is essential to reconciliation, and that Bill C-262 begins the process of making Canadian laws consistent with the Declaration. All MPs can and should be open to dialogue regarding the Declaration. If yours is already in support, you can affirm this action. If your MP has concerns about the Bill, it’s an opportunity to discuss their concerns and let them know they have constituents who support Bill C-262.

 

Plan a meeting

  1. Find out who your MP is. (Enter your postal code in the search bar)
  2. Phone their local office and request a meeting regarding Bill C-262.

 

Prepare for your meeting

  1. Get a few people together. Read the UN Declaration and Bill C-262 together.
  2. Discuss the parts that are particularly important to you, or which you have questions about. It is important that you address these together before your meeting. Write down the questions and discussion points you wish to raise with the MP. Make sure everyone who will be at the meeting is comfortable with these points.
  3. Assign speakers to address each point; this ensures everyone participates, the messaging is clear and no one on your team is surprised by what is being said.
  4. Prepare a half page document that summarizes your position to give to your MP. This summary should include: The names of the people on the delegation.  The name of the church you attend. Why do you feel strongly about this issue? Why is the faith community involved in this matter?

 

Suggested Speaking Notes

  • Acknowledge the territory you are from, and you are meeting on (if different).
  • Explain your commitment to reconciliation.
  • What is your understanding of Bill C-262? Make sure you really understand it. Here’s a video of Romeo Saganash talking about the Bill. His speech includes parts of his own story, which might add to your understanding of why UNDRIP and reconciliation are important.
  • If your MP raises questions about the Declaration’s consistency with law, explain that your understanding of Bill C-262 is to address these concerns and establish a legislative point of entry for these issues to be resolved.
  • If your MP raises questions about FPIC or the economy, address with the Q&A point #5 above.

 

Suggested questions

  • I support UNDRIP and its implementation. Do you?
  • It is my understanding that private member’s bill C-262 implements the UNDRIP. Will you support this bill at second reading?
  • If other members of your party do not support this bill, will you vote in support of it?

 

Tips for your meeting

  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointment.
  • Always be polite and remain calm. Your MP is a person with hopes, fears, gifts and challenges just like you. Your MP may or may not agree with you, but becoming annoyed or confrontational will never achieve a positive meeting outcome. Respond to friendliness if it is offered. Be a strong but composed advocate.
  • Be prepared for questions you haven’t anticipated. Decide as a group ahead of time who is best suited to field these kinds of questions.
  • Do not take up the entire meeting time. After presenting your statement, and addressing your questions, allow your MP time to ask questions and express his or her views.
  • If your MP doesn’t know the issue well, he or she may ask “What do you want me to do? Or What role can I play? Be prepared to suggest that he or she support Bill C-262 when it comes to a second reading. Ask him or her to raise questions about the bill at meetings with his or her party.
  • Do not run longer than the time allowed for the meeting.
  • Thank your MP for taking the time to meet with you. Make sure you give your MP the half page statement about who you are and what you have asked for.

 

Next steps

  1. Take a photo with those who met with you. Send the photo and copies of responses to your church community and to CBWC.
  2. Tweet and do a Facebook post about your meeting.
  3. Send your MP a follow up email or letter: 1) reminding them who you are and when you met. 2) Thank them for meeting with you. 3) If your MP has made any commitments about the Bill, remind them of what they said.

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 10 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

 

Refereeing in the Kingdom

We’re looking forward to the Banff Conference in early November. The team over at Church Planting has been studying up by reading David Fitch’s book, Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape The Church For Mission. Here, Joell Haugan, our Heartland Church Planting Director, reflects on the reconciliation chapter. Thanks to Church Planting for sharing this with us! 

 

By Joell Haugan

 

What strikes me most about Fitch’s approach to reconciliation is the stress he places on presence (yeah, I know, it’s in the title to the book). We in church ministry often get called on to help mediate situations and, more often than not, we end up being an arbitrator or judge. And, more often than not, we end up rendering a decision that offends one party or the other….or both!

 

Instead, Fitch shares, being faithfully present in the situation means coming together in the conflict not so as to render a verdict but to be present with the ones in conflict, and to be Spirit-led into finding the heart of Jesus in the matter.

 

That sounds like a lot of work. And it goes against the roll-up-our-sleeves-and-fix-it mentality that many of us have as pastors. But, actually, it sounds Biblical.

 

When I reflect on how Jesus managed his little church of 12, I see an amazing commitment to long term faithful presence. And, I wonder, how many times Jesus mediated conflicts with them (I’m sure they were many)? His faithful, long-term presence with them was what turned them into a band of brothers that set the world on fire. Mark 10 recounts the time there was jockeying for positions in the coming kingdom. A huge conflict arises and Jesus’ management style kicks in, as exemplified by the phrase “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Conflict was defused. Disciples were left pondering and realizing that they needed to get their priorities sorted for the kingdom’s sake.

 

It also sounds like something that will not be possible when people in conflict walk in off the street. There needs to be relationship. There needs to be trust. There needs to be mutual submission between all the parties. And, actually, that mutual submission needs to start not with the conflicting parties, but with the leadership… the “referee” in this case.

 

Aside: wouldn’t it be nice if when an NHL fight breaks out the referee would sit with the two players in a private room (the “quiet room” for concussion protocols will probably be available) and have them enter into being present and attentive with each other and having the ref demonstrate mutual submission as they listen for discernment… oh, wait. Nevermind.

 

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It won’t work in the NHL, but it is the right way to approach conflict in the Christian Church League (CCL). Yes, sometimes folks aren’t going to allow for this kind of laborious process to bear fruit… but fruit we will bear if we bear with it. As we plant new churches and grow/refresh existing ones, learning to lean on God’s direction while we practice this faithful presence is going to bring about Kingdom relationships and Kingdom change.

 

It’s going to be cool. I may not like it because it cuts down on my ability to just walk in, speak from my own wisdom, and walk out to head back to my office and write blog posts. But, I think it’s the right thing….er….way to do.

 

Joell

 

PS. Here’s the 7 disciplines Fitch lists:

  • The Discipline of the Lord’s Table
  • The Discipline of Reconciliation
  • The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel
  • The Discipline of Being with the ‘Least of These’
  • The Discipline of Being with Children
  • The Discipline of the Fivefold Gifting
  • The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 10 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Stories from the office: Regaining Charitable Status

Continuing a periodic series of articles exploring the work of CBWC’s Calgary office. The Calgary office is the hub of daily operations, and lots of great stories come out of their work.

 

“One Accord is pastored by a guy, Thomas, who works full time. He often works nights. He pastors out of the goodness of his heart,” said Alberta’s regional minister Dennis Stone. “They have a church that’s mostly paid off in an inner city section of Edmonton with some loyal people.”

 

 

In transitioning from one volunteer bookkeeper to another, some CRA reporting information got missed, and the church found themselves out of compliance with charitable status rules.

 

“There were no ill intentions, things just got missed,” Dennis said. “They have an empty lot beside the church that gets used as a parking lot, and the city of Edmonton wanted to tax it because it wasn’t being used enough.”

 

CBWC staff stepped in to help navigate the registration with CRA. Between Victor Ku, CBWC’s finance director, Shannon Youell, the church planting director who’s also an accountant, and Dennis, the paperwork got sorted and both Edmonton and CRA were satisfied.

 

“We connected with CRA and processed some steps which took a number of months. They were able to get their registration number in the end,” said Dennis. “It involved a few people and things turned out pretty well.”

 

Is your church facing a business-related issue? Get in touch with your regional minster to find out what CBWC resources are available to help.


This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 10 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Miraculous Harvest of Hope in Moosomin, SK

From a half-section of vacant farm land in Moosomin has come a resounding donation for the fourth year in a row. Farmers, local companies and a gaggle of volunteers just pulled off the wheat harvest, netting 9,000 bushels that sold for $65,000. All the profits will be sent to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and will then be quadrupled by the Canadian government in a four-to-one matching program.

 

Dozens of farmers and volunteers helped bring in the harvest, and a local vendor donated lunch for the crew.

 

Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies working together to end global hunger. They support international programs to meet immediate food needs and promote food security; they’re involved in policy development related to ending global hunger; and they work to engage Canadians in the global movement to end hunger. There are 212 growing projects in Canada like this one.

 

The Moosomin Harvest of Hope rents 280 acres of land from an absentee landowner, cultivates it, and donates all the profits. Not all the supplies and work are donated; between rent, seed, fertilizer and some equipment expenses, costs are expected to be around $15,000. They grew canola last year which is a high profit crop. The land can’t produce canola every year, so the group rotates in wheat every second year.

 

To date, they’ve raised a quarter of a million dollars. With matching, it’s more like $1,000,000,000.

 

Interested in sponsoring an acre of this remarkable project? For every $1 they save in expenses, $4 of profit is generated with matching. Rent per acre is roughly $200/year (though they’ll gratefully accept any size of donation). If you’re interested in supporting the harvest for next year, cheques can be made out to Harvest of Hope and mailed to The Harvest of Hope c/o Moosomin Baptist Church, Box 57 Moosomin, SK, S0G 3N0.


This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 9 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Meet Larry Schram, the new B.C. Yukon Regional Minister

Larry Schram’s call to ministry 35 years ago isn’t the kind normally expected from a pastor. In fact, he says he entered ministry entirely against his will. “I was dragged into it by the hand of God,” Larry says. It was in the early 80s during a catastrophic economic crash that sent interest rates through the roof and stalled the economy. Larry needed work, and First United Mennonite needed a pastor.

 

“They sought me out to come on staff. I hadn’t applied, I never really considered it. Because everyone knows that pastors are weird.” Word.

 

So he said no, but they came back a second time.  “By that time I was desperate enough, and they were desperate enough, and God was gracious enough,” Larry says. “To this day I really don’t know why they recruited me. They saw something in me that I did not see.”

 

It took a couple of years to learn he loved it, and he soon realized there was nothing else he’d rather be doing.

 

“Getting a front row seat of seeing the Holy Spirit work in people’s lives. Just those holy moments of, you know, someone coming to faith in Christ, having the lights go on for someone and they’re able to take that step of transformation, seeing people move towards health and wholeness and healing. Those moments when people join their lives in marriage, parents standing up with a child that they want to dedicate to the Lord, sitting by the side of the bed when a saint gets ready to pass into glory. Those are moments—well, I’m starting to tear up here giving that list,” Larry says.

 

Stepping away from the front lines to become the regional minister is not without mixed feelings. “I loved pastoring. I loved those holy moments of pastoring, and I knew I would not have a lot of those in this role.”

 

But he’s excited for the new opportunity of encouraging and affirming pastors in the throes of ministry. “I do know that God has called us to this role, and I do get encourage people in those roles to remain faithful and stay the course. To be resilient where God has called them. That kind of thing really excites me,” Larry says.

 

“Jesus is always building his church. he is always building his people. He is always using them to build his kingdom. We just don’t always have the eyes to see and the hearts to believe, but, he is. I love being able to go into a church, and get some sense of what Jesus is doing in those people and affirming it, encouraging it, seeing it. That’s a powerful thing.”

 

Larry and his wife have relocated from Summerland to Surrey for this job, which he’s one month into. Wondering how you can pray for them? Pray along with Larry: “I am praying that I will be so full of the spirit with discernment that I will always be able to point people to Jesus, who is always standing with his people. Just to have the eyes to see and the joy to be able to remind people that Christ is with them.”

Welcome to the region, Larry!

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 9 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

 

Imaginative Hope for our Youth

We’re hemorrhaging youth from our churches. The kids are missing. Millennials (roughly defined as those who reached adulthood near the turn of the millennium) made news for high attrition. They were mostly raised in church, and mostly left church as they got older. But their successors, Generation Z aren’t leaving; they’ve never been to Sunday school at all.

 

“It’s a crisis,” says CBWC Children & Families Ministry Coordinator Sherry Bennett. “The majority of Canada’s Generation Z has zero church experience. They have no memories of Sunday school.”

 

 

The Canadian Baptists Youth & Family Team, made up of representatives from all the Canadian Baptist denominations, wanted to find out what was happening with the kids. They put heads together for a few days last year to identify obstacles and opportunities in ministering to 10-18 year olds. Their findings are compiled in a report called Imaginative Hope.

 

They identified seven obstacles to youth engagement with the church.

  1. We, as Canadian Baptists, have neglected our own spiritual health and wellness. Youth and children are looking for substantial, transformative faith. A separate research report, Hemorrhaging Faith that was part of the instigation for CBYFT’s strategy, lamented “that too many youth ministries were ‘holding tanks with pizza,’ even though youth desired a faith that transformed their lives and the world.”
  2. Church structures are resistant to change, which discourages young leaders. “The pace of change is faster than the pace of learning,” Dr. Gary Nelson says. (Dr. Nelson is President of Tyndale University and acted as a key facilitator at the CBYFT summit)
  3. We have not engaged well in the significant issues of our time. I overheard a quip from a well-respected leader the other day who said “I’ll say the same thing about same-sex relationships that Jesus did: nothing.” Witty, but ultimately a cop-out. This approach does not cut it with Generation Z. “Our failure to address these significant issues well has led the younger generation to conclude we are ignorant, apathetic or judgmental,” Imaginative Hope says. The team zeroed in on three key areas that our youth want to engage with: sexual identity, mental health, and the treatment of our Indigenous communities and other marginalized people.
  4. We haven’t built strong intergenerational relationships. In Hemorrhaging Faith, first-person research found that 76 per cent of so-called rejecters (youth who had been exposed to church, but rejected the faith) felt leaders were not able to help them with tough questions. Youth want adults to talk to about difficult ideas and questions.
  5. Discipleship that’s chiefly focused on conforming behaviour doesn’t ring true for young people who are asking if this faith really works, if it really makes a difference in their lives and their world. They need discipleship from people who are changed, and they need guidance toward true transformation from the living God.
  6. Following on this, we the Church have underestimated the true transformative power of God. “We have stopped trusting in God’s mighty, supernatural power through the work and leading of the Holy Spirit and shamefully ignored the impact of the Gospel,” Imaginative Hope says.
  7. Finally, we have embraced a culture of consumerism within our churches. We have failed to model Kingdom values of generosity and compassion.

 

Yowza. That’s heavy list of observations. Thankfully, it doesn’t end there. The team pushed further and identified five opportunities for our churches to respond.

  1. Build bridges. “This generation is looking for what unites rather than divides. Our churches and denominations need to be places of strong unity, while embracing great diversity. We need to be defined by what we are for, rather than what we are against,” they write.
  2. Connect the generations. This generation wants adults who will speak into their lives, who believe in them.
  3. Let them lead. This is a self-starting entrepreneurial leadership heavy generation. They have opportunities to lead in many aspects of life, but so far not so much in the church. We need to listen to their ideas and dreams, and include them in church doing.
  4. Speak up! Older generations sometimes think young ones aren’t that interested in spirituality, and hesitate to bring it up. But the iGeneration is open spirituality and they want trusted adults to talk with.
  5. Seek biblical justice together. Young people are globally aware, and we can be instrumental at connecting their desire for justice with deep biblical understanding.

 

The BC Youth & Family Team are calling for disproportionate resources to be focused on youth and children immediately. It’s a crisis situation that won’t get better without an all hands on deck response. CBWC’s Children & Families Ministry has all their hands on the deck, and are ready to support your churches.

 

How is your church’s children and youth ministry doing? Need help? Have a story to share? Get in touch with Sherry Bennett, the Children & Families Ministry coordinator at sbennett@cbwc.ca or Youth Director, Tammy Klassen at tklassen@cbwc.ca.

Download the full Imaginative Hope report here and find other resources on www.imaginativehope.ca


This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 9 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Join us for 77 days of Prayer

Leaves are changing colour. Sap retreats to the roots to hibernate safely underground. Sunset comes sooner and sunrise is slower. And we turn again to prayer, to attentive listening.
CBWC has a new Executive Minister, and as we all look ahead to the next years of work and ministry, first we’ll settle into prayer, “a silence in which another voice may speak.”
Starting October 1, Rob has initiated 77 days of prayer and discernment, and you’re invited to participate.
“Will you join together with us as we earnestly listen and discern for God’s leading,” Rob writes, “and from that, by faith, seek His blessing?”
The idea is to find a group of three to pray with once a week, either in person or over video conferencing. There’s a guide here with a Scripture and prompting question for each week. One person out of the three is asked to record what comes up during prayer, and share them with Rob’s office (email: prayer@cbwc.ca or call 604-225-5916).
“I can’t help but wonder,” Rob writes, “what it would sound like to God to have people from 170 churches and ministries all asking at the same time for the direction He would have us take for the next five years.”
First Baptist in Nelson, BC is one of many churches who have committed to participate. They’ve integrated the prayer guide into their ongoing ministries.
“We’re coming into a new season with new initiatives in our church locally, so I want to spend the time in prayer this quarter as well,” says pastor John Thwaites. Instead of starting a separate new initiative around the prayer triads, FBC Nelson is integrating the prayer guide into their regular ministries & prayer times.
“We’re going to have a bunch of evening prayer times, so we’ll use this as a guide for how to pray for our denomination and also what’s going on locally here,” John says. “I love that this is the beginning of Rob [Ogilvie’s] term, that he’s bathing it in prayer.”
The church has printed out the bookmarks and prayer guides for bible study leaders and ministry staff to hand out, and have instructed them to incorporate the prayer guide into what they’re already doing. “So for their closing prayer, this week they’ll read Colossians 3:12-17 together and ask, ‘what is God’s desire for us as a people of compassion?’” John says. “I love the bookmark idea, because it’ll be in someone’s Bible or on their fridge, so they get reminded while they’re doing what they were already doing.”
“Too often I create plans, and then I stop and ask God to bless them,” Rob writes. “I know, it’s backwards. If we really believe that God has gone before us, then we need to begin by asking him for those ideas, and then to be attentive to the way he directs us.”

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 9 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Restoring Life Through Creativity

Westview ARTS Academy was founded in 2016 with the help of a CBWC Opportunity Grant. One year later, founder and Director Elaine Hileman wrote this article to share the story of how the ARTS Academy ministry has been going.


Susan arrived in Calgary a few years ago with her two children after fleeing a harrowing case of domestic violence. Alone, broken, and tired, she wondered how to even begin to rebuild their shattered lives. With no biological family to turn to, she turned to her newly found spiritual family, the Christian church, for hope and comfort.

Initially, the church was supportive, but before long they judged the challenges of single-parenting and the trauma her children were experiencing from domestic violence. Some church members, misguided but well-intentioned, suggested that Susan give up her oldest child for adoption. They knew of a couple in the church who were eager for another child, and whom the church members felt would be more capable parents than Susan.

This unexpected betrayal from the very people she looked to for guidance, support and encouragement left Susan reeling. Disillusioned, angry and confused, she quietly shut herself and her children away for nearly six months. She was lonely, discouraged and distrustful of the church.

After some gentle nudging from a friend, she decided to give God’s family another try. When she hesitantly walked through the doors of Westview Baptist Church, she had no idea how God was planning to creatively put her life back together.

Part of a mosaic-mural being pieced together by families of victims of drug related killings in the Philippines. Photo by Vincent Go

 

Around the same time, God was working in my life by nudging me to start an arts academy at Westview Baptist Church. Inspired by years of working in ministry, education and the arts, I proposed starting a professional, affordable and Christ-centred arts academy at Westview. Church leadership immediately supported my vision and encouraged me to apply for an opportunity grant from CBWC. I did, and after receiving a generous start-up grant, founded the Westview ARTS Academy.

Last fall, our professional instructors began teaching art, dance, drama, and music classes to over one hundred students, from 3-year olds to adults. The Academy runs classes in painting, sculpture, ballet, choreography, banjo, guitar, voice, theatre and more.

People are generally excited by the ARTS Academy, but I think some are confused at why it’s a ministry of our church. I however, often wonder why arts academies aren’t a natural part of every church. Being created in the image of God is a mysterious thing, and one thing it means is that we can’t help but be creative. It is part of our nature. And creativity isn’t just exercised in traditional arts, but in all aspects of life. Our goal with the ARTS Academy is to give people permission to explore and grow their God-given nature. As Eric Liddell famously said in Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” I echo it by saying, “When I paint, I feel God’s pleasure.”

 

Susan heard our vision for the ARTS Academy at a Sunday service and introduced herself to me, offering to volunteer.

“I was drawn to the ARTS Academy because I think that there’s truth in the statement, ‘Once an artist, always an artist.’ However, it was a part of my past that remained buried underneath some unpleasant memories,” she said.

“I was resistant initially, despite feeling drawn. But once I met Elaine and she shared her vision for the academy, I felt compelled to be a part of it. I knew that this was a step on the path of healing and restoration the Lord was walking me through.”

When I first met Susan I didn’t know she was a single mom, let alone one who had been through so much trauma. I also didn’t know how much talent accompanied her offer to volunteer. Later, I learned that the very hand she painted so beautifully with had once been broken by her ex-husband in a fit of jealousy and in an attempt to keep her from ever creating again. I felt such awe at God’s work in restoring that part of Susan’s life as well as everything else He was doing to bring her physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

“In my life, before Christ began to set me free, the heaviness I was carrying didn’t allow room for creativity. When you are in survival mode, some things just go. They are not essential,” Susan said. “In my marriage, I felt that life was draining from me. Creativity, random emotions, fun, humour, the ability to laugh… all these things fell to the wayside. It wasn’t a fast thing, or all at once, but as the years passed away, so did ‘life’. So did hope. At times, there seemed to barely be enough room for breathing, let alone creating! It sounds dramatic, but this is the truth. I did not begin to re-surface from the depths of this until I made a confession of faith in Christ. Overnight, even though nothing in my outward life had changed, the breath of life came to me and hope was born in me. I struggled against this foreign feeling of hope, but ultimately, it remains, and, as we remain in Him, our life is slowly restored. Creativity is Him. He is the Creator. His creative expression brought this earth to life and all that is in it. It went from darkness and chaos to beauty and life—and life in abundance! ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water… and so it goes. God speaks and it happens. God forms, and it becomes. God breathes, and human life becomes. We are made in His image, in His likeness, and so we too, can create, form, mold, shape, become… and we can use these gifts to bring light, beauty and truth to the world around us, and bring glory to Him, pointing to Him, the One who created all things.”

Trinity Dancers from Light of the World, an original Christmas production by Westview ARTS Academy students and instructors.

 

Beyond restoring our individual creativity, I believe God also wants to restore the church’s united creativity for His glory and to be a light to a lost world. Currently, the church only embraces a fraction of the arts, and funds even less.

The goal of Westview ARTS Academy is not to create “Christian art,” but to create artists who communicate God’s truth, beauty and love. Christian art is often segregated art. It is art for Christians; art meant to entertain believers, or art that is considered safe. Art created by Spirit-filled believers will challenge unbiblical worldviews and make people reflect on life, rather than giving them clichés.

This is a long-term investment in Christian discipleship and artistic training and it requires engaging professional artists who will impart their Christian worldview and technical skills to our students, but it is an investment we are excited to be making.


Elaine Hileman is the Director of Westview ARTS Academy. To find out more about Westview ARTS, visit their website: www.westviewartsacademy.ca

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 8 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here

Opportunity Grants Awarded

The CBWC has awarded $55,000 in Opportunity Grants in 2017. Opportunity Grants fund innovative ministries that churches and partner ministries would otherwise be unable to afford. The following grants were awarded:

Centre for Healthy Aging Transitions, Vancouver, BC — $10,000 for Re-Engaging Retired Pastors, phase 2. Many pastors have experienced loss of connection from the churches and organizations that they served faithfully for many years, some with poor salaries and minimal retirement packages. These retired pastors have a wealth of experience in spiritual care and counseling, and have stories that can enrich the lives of others. There is little clergy care offered to retired pastors, but they could be mobilized to help one another: older adults helping their peers live well. CHAT is developing an online network to facilitate this connection, provide training, and gather at symposiums.

Hillside Church, North Vancouver, BC — $13,200 for North Shore School of Mission. Hillside Church is establishing a ministry internship program for their 20-somethings. The program includes church-based service, college-credit theological education, and short term missions. With Columbia Bible College as a partner, students will be able to earn undergraduate credits during the 12-month intensive. The CBWC grant will be used to renovate a classroom space. Operating budget funding has been provided by Hillside Church, other supporting organizations, subsidized tuition from Columbia Bible College, and tuition paid by participants. Stay in touch with the school or find out more details here: https://www.schoolofmission.org/

Gull Lake Baptist Camp, Lacombe, AB — $25,800 for a new multipurpose recreational space. A new flat surface space with surrounding boards, bleachers and a storage shack will expand the activities possible at the Gull Lake Centre. The camp has many fun activities, but almost all of them require trained staff (climbing, boating, canoeing, archery, etc.) A playing surface can be used as a skating rink in the winter, and infinite possibilities in the summer. Construction is starting this fall to be ready for winter rentals.

Broadway First Baptist, Winnipeg, MB — $6,000 for Tapestry: Healing Retreat for African Immigrants. Broadway First Baptist is providing a free weekend retreat each fall for women who are recent immigrants to Winnipeg, especially those connected to the Shalom Church in Winnipeg, while building relationships with the women of Broadway-First. Because there are tribal struggles that come from African into Canada, time spent getting to know each other and learning to tell one’s story is so vital. The first retreat was held in 2016. This opportunity grant will fund 2017 and 2018 retreats.

Since Opportunity Grants began in the early 1990’s, more than $4 million has been provided to support the ministries of CBWC churches and their partner ministries.

In this round of funding, Opportunity Grants received four requests for a total of $121,200. All requests were granted, but one was for a lesser amount than requested. Opportunity Grants are awarded annually; the next deadline for applications is April 30, 2018. To get an application form, visit the grants and loans section on the church life resources page: https://cbwc.ca/resources/church-health/

This article was published in Volume 13, Issue 8 of Making Connections. Subscribe to the Making Connections monthly newsletter here