Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert

Renewal Lab Journey

The Renewal Lab is a multi-year journey that the Christian Reformed Church of St. Albert has embarked on to address the culture and missional strategy of the congregation. We are journeying with 5 other churches in the Edmonton area under the leadership of Keith Doornbos, the Executive Leader of Church Renewal Lab from Calvin Seminary. The Renewal Lab has been designed to come along side any congregation seeking to revitalize ministry by regaining a focus on their missional calling.

The Team

We started this journey in the summer of 2018 and it's expected to be approximately 2 years long. These are the members of the Renewal Lab team:

  • Pastor Tony Maan (Elders & Pastor focus)
  • Nathan Bootsma (Music Ministry focus)
  • Douwe Spriensma (Prayer focus)
  • Mary Ann Maan (Faith Formation and Outreach focus)
  • Amy Summers (Children's Ministry focus)
  • Erika Maan (Adult Discipleship focus)
  • Joel Buisman (Youth/Student Ministries focus)
  • David Appell (Deacons Ministry focus)
  • Kevin van Popta (Tech / Welcoming / Enfolding Focus)


Objectives

The Renewal Lab objectives include:

  • Identify a congregation’s unique mission and vision
  • Develop strategies for making more and better disciples
  • Change the atmosphere through congregational health
  • Become Gospel-centered in all aspects of ministry
  • Implement the Priorities of the Acts 2:42-47 N.T. Church


Listen, Imagine, Do...

The two year journey is split into 3 distinct phases. From Fall 2018 to Spring 2019 we went through a "Listening" phase which included readings, prayer, congregational involvement, sermon series and more. Currently we are in the "Imagining" phase until late 2019 where we really start to imagine and plan out that various ways we look to renew our focus as a church body. After that we will begin our "Do" phase into 2020 where we start implementing parts of the vision, keeping a high level of involvement and strategy from the team to help find successes moving forward.

Meanderings Blog Posts

From time to time we have had team members share information about the Renewal Lab on stage during the Worship Service. We have also had members take over Pastor Tony's Meandering space in the bulletin to share ideas from the Renewal Lab. Here are the write ups:

January 27, 2019

Thank you to Mary Ann Maan, a member of our Renewal Lab Team, as she shares these thoughts with us:

One of the overarching emphases of our Renewal journey is to become more missional. That can be an intimidating thought. Overwhelming, maybe even a little scary. We already do reach out in many ways, it’s true. We are “fabulous in the foyer” – sharing hands, hugs, coffee, smiles, listening ears, encouraging words. Time and again we’ve been commended on how friendly an atmosphere, how welcoming a church. We also help out in a number of parachurch and community agencies – The Mustard Seed, The Community Village, Edmonton Native Healing Center, our Friendship Club to name just a few. As well, we host events to which we invite our neighbours, such as the Rodeo barbecues, and our recent Ukrainian dinner. These, according to the Renewal coaching we are receiving, are very important “toe holds,” in the name of Jesus, in our community.

We exist, God’s Word teaches, to obey the Great Commandment (Matt 22) – to love the Lord above all, and our neighbour as ourselves – and to carry out the Great Commission (Matt 28) – to go out and make disciples of Jesus,

baptizing them, and teaching them to walk in God’s love. As we together read Acts, Ephesians, Colossians and more, we witness and experience God’s power in the New testament churches, through triumphs and challenges, and we see phenomenal growth! Why did the Lord lead us here? To this place in our journey? For such a time as this? Because He has plans for the CRCSA – like He did for Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Antioch, Philippi. We saw His hand among us as we recalled our history on a recent Saturday evening together. And we believe He is leading us into our ‘next steps’. God with us! Emmanuel! In our new testament church – the CRCSA – He is with us in the form of His Word and Holy Spirit, who provides us with ALL we need to go forward with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

In “The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit” (Presbyterian Renewal Ministries International), we are reminded of the functions of the Holy Spirit in relation to the church: The Holy Spirit is the agent who incorporates believers into the one body of Christ (1Cor12:13), lives in the church (1Cor 3:16), builds the church (Eph 2:22), inspires her worship (Php 3:3), directs her mission (Acts 13:2,4), appoints her workers (Acts 20:28), gives gifts to the church (1Cor 12: 1-11), anoints her preachers (Acts 2:4, 1Cor 2:4), guards the gospel (2Tim 1:14), and promotes her righteousness (Jn 16:8, 1Cor 3:16; 6:18-20). Wow! What an amazing God we have! We are not asked to do the impossible. No, He gives us All we stand in need of to carry out His plan. We just need to walk in tandem with Him. He is our ALL in ALL!

- Mary Ann Maan

January 13, 2019

Thank you to Erika Maan, a member of our Renewal Lab Team, as she shares these thoughts with us:

Some one recently told me “The Great Commission” is pretty clear, this is what we are to do “... go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-19).

Yes, sure that does sound pretty simple, go and make disciples and baptize them. However after reading this over again my biggest question is what exactly is a disciple and am I a disciple? I believe I need to be a disciple before I can go and make disciples. When looking up the definition of a disciple in the dictionary it says, a follower or student of a teacher, leader or philosopher. Jesus says in John 13: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another, As I have loved you, so you must love one another, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Paul calls followers of Jesus to “...be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Following Jesus, loving everyone and transforming my life are just a few ways to be a disciple. Wow, these three seem like they would take some time with Jesus, studying and praying. If I would like to be a disciple I have to take time to learn more about who I am following, so I am able to teach others about who he is. I have to be conscious about how I treat others and to love them, so when others see me they will see a disciple of Jesus. And I have to transform my life so that there is no question as to whom I am a disciple of.

Part of the Renewal lab Journey is to follow The Great Commission. We need to be a church that is full of disciples of Jesus and going out to make disciples. It starts with each one of us first. We need to be disciples to make disciples. To start we need to say we follow Jesus, we need to love one another as Christ has loved us, and to be transformed “... which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” (Colossians 2:27) If we can accomplish this, then we can help others to accomplish it as well.

- Erika Maan

Dec 23, 2018

Thank you to Amy Summers, member of the Renewal lab Team, for sharing her thoughts with us this week.

At this time of year, most of us are looking forward to Christmas, a time for laughter, togetherness and celebrating the birth of the Saviour. As I am enjoying the festivities (and business) of the season, I am also reflecting on the past year and the one to come.

One of my favourite things about this time of year is that the first day of winter is behind us as is the shortest day of the year. I love that by Christmas Day, we are already experiencing a few more moments of sunlight than we did just days before and soon, we’ll see the sunrise happening earlier. The rising of the sun is an inspiring act in and upon itself. It supplies warmth, renews the heart and gives hope. Now, as we are slowly receiving more of this light, I can’t help but think of the symbolism of God’s own Light entering the world. Jesus provides us with warmth and comfort. He helps us to renew our hearts and minds and gives us hope for the future.

This is truly one of the best times of the year. It reminds us of the story about the birth of a baby that ends in the greatest sacrifice, yet also gives us reason to sing “Joy to the World!” As we continue to enjoy all that this holiday has to offer, let’s not forget the ultimate purpose of the season. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

- Amy Summers

Dec 9, 2018

We are continuing in the listening phase of our Renewal Lab journey. Renewal requires us to respond to God’s call to enter into a deeper relationship with Him, a renewed commitment to walk with Him, be in communion with Him and seek to do his will. This will in turn affect how we live in community with each other.

God has been seeking us ever since Adam and Eve hid from God in the beginning. Jesus came to tell us about God’s love for us, to restore our relationship with God our Father and to show us how to live in and maintain this restored relationship with Him.

Meditative prayer is one way to enter into His presence and listen to Him.

This calls for us to lose ourselves in His presence, trust Him and listen to His Spirit testifying to our spirit. We move from our human planning, striving and doing to being a child of God. He knows every need and concern already before we bring it to Him in prayer, and he has a perfect plan. So, the real issue is that we do not know what our role is in His plan:

Are we open to let God reveal his plan to us as we pray, meditate and read the bible, even as we live our busy lives?

Do we dare to live in this way of constant expectation that God will reveal himself and guide us in our day to day living?

Are we willing to stop trying to convince God to give us what we want or think we need, and allow him to care for us and give us direction through walking in his presence?

Are we willing to act and be His presence as the Body of Christ, the church, in a broken world?

I know from experience that God will answer our prayers when we seek him in this way. The question is: do we dare to listen to Him or do we, like Jonah, run away and hide from God’s call?

- Douwe Spriensma

Nov 18, 2018

Thank you to David Appell, a member of our Renewal Lab Team, as he shares these thoughts with us:

Four Directional Listening:

We are in the “Listening” phase of the Renewal Lab Process /Journey. This first phase is six months long followed by six months of the “Imagine” phase and then one year of the “Do” phase. Today I’ll focus on four directional listening. I know you may be thinking, "I have enough trouble with one directional listening and now you want me to listen in four directions!" In a word, yes. Listening “from Above” is about what God is saying in His Word about His Will and His Way. Our exploration of the book of Acts is one example of how we are engaging in this type of listening as is contemplative prayer where we intently, patiently and quietly listen for the Spirit’s speaking and leading. In order to enter into this type of prayer we must halt our busy and often disruptive internal dialogue as we open our hearts and minds to hear from our God. We encourage you to practice this type of prayer. Be gentle with yourself as this type of prayer maybe something new to you and therefore may present some challenges. Do not be discouraged, keep trying and practicing and you are sure to see improvements. Contemplative prayer also addresses listening "from Within” which is listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying about what we are uniquely to do.

Another vital component in the listening phase is to listen “from Among”. In other words what is the congregation saying about gifts and passions? Have you thoughtfully and prayerfully considered your own gifts and passions? How might you share these gifts/passions? What are our collective gifts and passions as a church body? Fourthly we need to listen “from Outside”. This speaks to what our community/culture is saying about needs and opportunities. As with the other types of listening we are already doing some meaningful things in this regard e.g. community garden, rodeo community lunch, work with the Mustard Seed Church and the ENHC (Edmonton Native Healing Centre) to name a few. What else might we do? What needs exist in our community, especially in St. Albert? For example how might we reach out to those who are homeless in St. Albert (of which there are 138 as of October 25,2018, up from 85 in 2017)? How might we help those fleeing abusive relationships? We encourage you to listen to God’s leading. We challenge you to live and love boldly and trust in the ways we may be led even if it involves stretching us beyond our comfort zones.

Renewal or revitalization involves learning from the past in order to live in the present so the church can change the future (paraphrase of Harry Reeder from his book “Ember To A Flame”). God has done much in us and through us and now we must turn our attention to actively listening to how we individually and collectively can live now and change the future for His glory!

- David Appell

Nov 11, 2018

Thank you to Kevin Van Popta, a member of our Renewal Lab Team, as he shares these thoughts with us:

Listening to God. It’s not something we’re always wired to do. Through the Renewal Lab journey we’re in a time of active listening, trying to seek out where God is leading the Church. But listening can be hard. It can mean giving up control, and accepting that we don’t know what’s best. It can mean opening ourselves up to ideas outside our normal comfort

zone.

What does this time of active listening look like to you? For the Renewal Lab team so far, it has meant a focus on contemplative prayer and readings of scriptures (such as the Acts readings and discussions). And sometimes dreaming big. But the team is a small subset of the larger church. We’re extending an invitation to all regular attenders to open yourselves up to what God may be saying to our congregation. How do you effectively listen to God’s voice? What is God saying to you? Is there a growing need in our church or community that isn’t being met? Is there a triumph that needs celebrating? Is there a success story that should be built up into something even greater?

We hope that an outcome of this whole process is a clear, Christ-centered path forward. One that we can follow into the next stages of the life of the church. However, this process was specifically chosen because it emphasizes the journey as the important part, not the outcome or some concluding vision statement. Our hope is that the activities of Renewal Lab help us dive deeper into scripture, deeper into prayer, into deeper connections with each other and into deeper relationship with our Creator.

Join us in a renewed effort to create and develop disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. And through it all, if you have thoughts on what you believe God may be saying to our church, please feel welcome to bring these to the team members at any time.

- Kevin van Popta

Oct 28, 2018 Renewal Lab Reflections

Today our Worship Director, Nathan Bootsma, brings his thoughts on renewal. Thank you, Nathan!

We’ve all got our own stuff. Work, kids, soccer, ballet, music lessons, friends, and family. House payments, car payments, insurance payments, student loan payments, tuition payments. Maybe a loved one has gotten into some trouble and needs our help, or we have an aging family member who depends on us. Maybe we are that aging family member who needs help but doesn’t want to be a burden. Life is busy and stressful, and can be overwhelming at the best of times; and if we let it it can take up all of our mental and emotional space.

I have been recently reflecting on how we worship and what makes for the most meaningful time of worship, and I think I have come across something very powerful. It might seem simple or insignificant but it is a major factor in how we experience our time of worship, and that is our mental state and our willingness to engage.

In our Renewal Lab meetings we have a time for silent prayer where we try to acknowledge what may be getting in the way of us listening to what God is trying to put on our hearts. Each meeting so far it has become incredibly clear to me that I am so distracted by my thoughts, insecurities, self doubt, and ideas for our church born out of a longing to have meaningful and powerful services that there is no room for God to speak to me over the noise I am creating.

So I stopped, quieted my soul, and listened. And in the quiet God gave me the lyrics to The Heart of Worship:

When the music fades and all is stripped away, and I, simply, come. Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart. I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required... I’m coming back to the heart of worship. It’s all about you, Jesus. I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it. It’s all about you. It’s all about you, Jesus.

On top of all the stress we carry with us day to day, coming to church and entering in to a space of real worship can be extremely hard because not only are we carrying the burdens of our day to day life but there are the added distractions of Sunday morning. For me it’s noticing the guitar that’s not quite in tune or being too wrapped up in how a song is being done. For you it may be the nerves that come with being a reader that Sunday, or looking through the bulletin and noticing there are 3 songs you don’t like, or seeing that there is both communion AND a baptism so it’s going to be a long service.

I encourage you as we go through this renewal lab process that you take it also as an opportunity to renew your worship practice. Take all your stress into the church with you. Recognize what might distract you and give it all to the Lord in prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you! Come into our time of worship with an open mind and an open heart, free of stress and distractions, and allow yourself to be swept away by the Holy Spirit- you may be surprised at what can happen when you get out of the Lord's way.

- Nathan Bootsma

October 14, 2018

Over the next two years members of the Renewal Lab Team will be contributing their thoughts in the church bulletin on a regular basis. This week Joel Buisman reflects on spiritual growth and renewal in light of a funeral he attended. Enjoy, and thank you, Joel!

This past Tuesday, Mandy and I attended Doug M.’s funeral at West End CRC. As family and friends shared stories it was clear, Doug could not only plan the perfect golf getaway, he had a desire for Christ that was felt by everyone that knew him. He always loved the challenge of grappling with big questions about faith and relationship. The family spoke about how Doug saw every moment, whether it be building a deck with a neighbor or painting an apartment with a daughter, as a way of living out God’s story for the world. Doug always challenged himself to connect his stories, whatever he was doing, with God’s.

This has really been on my mind over the week as it relates to the health of our church and our journey through renewal. What does a healthy church value? Moreover, what should a healthy church look like? Last week Pastor Tony suggested that though membership is important, growing in relationship and sharing in spirituality is truly the foundation for a healthy church. It is the moments we share with each other, in whatever capacity, that will help carry us forward as a church. One of Doug’s many mottos was if ever possible, say ‘yes’. This was always his way of creating new stories which could build new and better relationships. It seemed he never under estimated the transforming power of being in relationship and sharing in communion.

I guess my challenge as we journey together on this path of renewal would be to use our stories as an opportunity to grow in relationship and faith. Let us try to find God in everything that we do, to connect our story with His and together we can help God lay the foundation for a healthy and vibrant church.

- Joel Buisman