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News from the Regional Synod of Mid-America
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Small Town & Rural Church Planting Conference: Wednesday, October 15, 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm at Bethel Reformed Church in Sterling, IL.  Presenting are: Brian Steenhoek, church planter of a Midwest town under 5,000 people, will be speaking about his experience in planting a church in a small town and offer guidance on what worked for his church and what did not work.  There will be time to ask questions following his presentation to integrate his experience with your own church context.  Ben Ingebretson, Church Multiplication Consultant of the Synod of Mid-America, will present “5 Core Values of a Parenting Church” as well.  Joel Rohde, worship leader of North Ridge Community Church, will be leading a time of worship and prayer.  Any church leader is welcome to attend.  Please contact Tim Truesdell if interested.

This month's featured blogger is Tim Ehrhardt.  Tim blogs at  exploringchurchministry.blogspot.com. Tim writes: "I am a lover of Jesus who happens to be an ordained pastor in the Reformed Church in America, as well as a husband, father, and grandfather. I believe that everything in church ministry and life is to revolve around grace."  If you are a blogger and would like to have your blog highlighted in an upcoming issue of the synod's newsletter, please email Chad Schuitema.

Regional Synod Mailing Address - A reminder that the mailing address for the synod has changed to P.O. Box 2147, Valparaiso, IN 46384.  Please update your contact information.  We have also closed the physical office that was located at Camp Manitoqua, but still support Manitoqua and will continue to partner with the ministry and hold meetings there.  

2015 Salary Schedule, Rules, and Guidelines for the region are now available by clicking HERE. Alternately you may access this document on our website on the resources page.

"Habits of the Heart" for Healthy Congregations  
with Parker Palmer.
 We live in a time of deep divisions and polarization, both within the church and in the wider culture.  Now more than ever, church leaders are called to embrace the healing and reconciling work of Christ as we seek to build healthy congregations than can engage their differences in more faithful, life-giving ways.  What most us lack are the tools to actually do it.  Pastors and lay leaders throughout Wisconsin are invited to join together at this workshop and learn tools and methods for building bridges across our differences and building up the body of Christ.  For more information and to register, click Here.  This event is presented by the Wisconsin Council of Churches.

Ridder Church Renewal: If your church may be interested in Ridder Church Renewal a new group of churches and teams will be starting in   the Fall of 2015.  A preview event to learn more information, ask questions, and learn what RCR is all about will be held at Heidel House in Green Lake, WI February 6 & 7.  For more information, contact Chad Schuitema.

News from Camp Manitoqua
Teacher’s and Parents:  Have your preschooler’s class attend Camp Manitoqua’s Fall Preschool Days, an edu-fun day for preschool groups, for an autumn hands-on learning experience, Tuesday, October 7, 8, or  9. This outing includes a native animal hike, camp fire stories, playing our kid-sized Candy Land game, our pumpkin patch, and more – costumes encouraged! For more information visit Manitoqua.org, or call our office at 815.469.2319.  RSVP required for this classroom attendance.

Experience Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center’s Oak Leaf Festival, an autumn event for families, youth groups, and more on October 11, from 10am-3pm.  Activities include tree & wall climbing, creation exploration, family scavenger hunts, campfire, inflatable jumpies, wagon rides, autumn arts & crafts, and food treats. $6 admission fee (2 and under are free), additional costs for treats and climbing. All details available at our website: www.manitoqua.org.

Storm the base, capture the flag, and win the game! Camp Manitoqua and Retreat Center invites you out to one of the most epic days of paintball you will ever experience on November 1 from 10am – 4pm! Come play a full day of paintball on our wooded course. Space is limited; ideal for youth groups or young adult ministries; registration processed on first come first serve basis.  Cost is $36 (includes gun and mask rental, 1000 paintballs, and a box lunch). Register online at Manitoqua.org by RSVP by October 29. For High School and older.  Questions? Call the office at 815.469.2319.

Enjoy a taste of fall at the Red Oak Luncheon, a pleasant occasion for seniors, at Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center on Wednesday, December 3th.  Coffee & Rolls will be served at 10:30am.  Our program will begin at 11:00am with lunch to follow at 12:00pm.  Tours of the grounds will be available after lunch.  Cost for the event is $10.00.  Please make reservations at 815-469-2319 by November 30.
 
Camp Manitoqua also has job postings:
Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center is now hiring cooks, kitchen assistants and part-time housekeeping staff. Cooks must have food service experience; sanitation license preferred. Call 815-469-2319 for an application or contact Salli for kitchen positions and Don for housekeeping.

This month's Story of Celebration comes from Pastor Bill Flavin at Trinity Community Church in Brown Deer, WI.

Having gone to a reformed college I quickly learned that one of the important get to know you questions around campus was to tell others about your home church.  By this, the person wanted to know about the place where your family were bonafide members.  And for the longest time, that was a church home to me, the place you got offering envelopes, a mailbox, and were on the official list.  

Community Night is a ministry of Trinity Community Church that has been in existence in its current state for two years.  At Community Night we serve a free meal, followed by adult classes, activities for children, and youth group for middle school.  The hope of this night is to invite in those not regularly part of our church.  One of those women was Janus.  Janus lived near church, and her parents were neighbors of a member of Trinity.  Janus was a semi-regular attendee of Community Night over the first year of its existence.  

One afternoon Janus called my office wanting to talk.  Her husband had died at just thirty three years old, suddenly overnight.  They were planning the services, and she needed a pastor so she called the pastor of her “home church,” Trinity Community Church.  Janus, like a number of those who we meet at Community Night, have no church home or at best a loose affiliation with a church.  They come to youth group, meals, and exercise classes that happen at Trinity.  If asked, they would tell you that Trinity is their “home church,” yet you will not find their name on membership rolls, or consistory nomination forms.

Janus’s story did not end at the funeral.  She continued to come to Trinity for meals, and to talk about the struggles she had on now being a young unexpected widow. She came with questions of faith, finding God in the struggles, and seeking Hope in the darkness.  About eight months after the funeral, we had the pure joy of hearing Janus reaffirm her faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior and to be welcomed formally into the body of Trinity Community Church.  It all started with a woman who called the place she ate a warm meal with kind people once a week, “home.”


*Telling our stories is a way for us to encourage each other and to share what the Spirit is doing through the churches and people of our synod.  As you share yours, others may be empowered to do similar things or the Spirit may use it as a starting point for another idea to reach people for Christ.  We encourage you to share!

If you would like to share a story for a future issue, please email chad@msyn.org

Dealing with Criticism...
 
If you are a pastor or leader in the church and you are moving forward in God's mission and vision for the future there is one thing you will not escape - the sting of criticism.  This is nothing new in the life of the church because even the Apostle Paul had to deal with criticism from the very beginning (read II Corinthians).  I often hear pastors say there are way too many "bosses" in the church where I serve.  When one of those "bosses" is quite opinionated and says some harsh words usually our reactions and defenses immediately rise up and we do what we do when anxiety invades our system.  If we don't learn to manage our anxiety well in those instances we can become very angry, or discouraged or even consider resigning from ministry.  I know because I have been there.  So what are some positive ways to handle our critics and deal with criticism?  How as a pastor can one grow thicker skin without sacrificing a soft and compassionate heart?  In his recent blog, Thom Rainer suggests seven ways to deal with criticism:
 
"1. Don’t take it personally.  Most criticisms are not about you or your character.  They are simply about a different opinion or perspective.  Some may have no logical basis; they come from a deeply hurting person.  I learned once that one of my most vocal critics was dealing with the death of his son.  He needed my compassion, not my defensiveness.
 
2. Pray for the critic.  I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am still amazed at the power of prayer.  Especially at how often my fallible perspective changed when I started praying for my critics.
 
3. Develop a winsome spirit.  Defensiveness and bitterness never help.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  Have a joyous spirit.  Rejoice in the Lord always (there is something biblical about that).
 
4. Be a transparent leader.  Criticism often reaches greater depths and frequency when people sense the pastor is not being upfront about an issue.  A transparent leader will receive the benefit of the doubt more times than not.  That pastor will not eliminate criticisms, but they will be less frequent and intense.
 
5. Pray for your own attitude (that prayer thing again).  Pastors are not perfect.  They can have bad attitudes, see critics as the enemy, or exhibit a spirit of defensiveness and even retribution.  Pastors must constantly be on guard with their attitudes.  Not only will they deal with ministry more effectively and in a godly way, they will develop thicker skins.
 
6. Focus on the majority.  It may often seem more people are against you than with you.  The minority critics can seem so loud that we get the impression most everyone is against us.  I recently heard from a pastor who decided to move.  When he announced his resignation to the congregation, they gave him a standing   ovation of affirmation of his ministry.  He said later that day that he probably would not have left that church, had he known so many people supported him.
 
7. Look in the mirror.  We are all wrong sometimes.  Some criticisms of us are not without justification.  The pastor will gain more respect and credibility with a response that admits mistakes and apologizes."
 
When criticism stares you in the face remember these words:  "Know this, my beloved brothers/sisters:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."  (James 1:19 ESV)  Working on relationships with those who are your critics is a sure sign of emotional maturity.  Having a conversation over lunch with your worst critic may not totally solve the issue, but time spent with those who disagree with you gives everyone the opportunity to communicate, to learn and grow and adjust ones behavior.  How well are you able to stay connected even with those with whom you disagree?  When we keep our focus on what God has called us to be and do while valuing the relationships of those we lead including our critics, the journey into God's preferred future is reachable, and relationships can be sustained and treasured in the long haul.
 
I found this article in my "Gems" file by Kent M, Keith entitled "A letter to African pastors - The Paradoxical Commandments"
 
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered...
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives...
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies... 
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow....
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable...
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds...
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs...
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight...
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them...
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth...
Give the world the best you have anyway.
 
I continue to remind myself that Jesus was criticized, most of the apostles were martyred for what they believed, and the Old Testament prophets' blood was spilled because of their critics.  Jesus willingly went to the cross driven by the shouts of an angry mob that wanted Him dead - but the grave could not hold Him - He arose!  How will you rise up and respond through those tough times of criticism?
 
--Wayne Van Regenmorter
 
Wayne's Schedule
September
15:  Conference Call, Office
16:  Synod Staff Meeting/Merrillville, IN
17:  Office/Coaching
18:  Meeting/Orland Park, IL
19:  Meeting/Chicago, IL
20:  Off
21:  Sunday Worship
22:  Office
23:  Wisconsin Servant Team Meeting/First Reformed Church/Cedar Grove, WI
24:  Meeting/Dyer, IN      
25:  Meeting/Lemont, IL
26:  Office
27:  Off
28:  Sunday Worship
29:  Meeting/Hobart, IN
30:  Meeting with Task Force/Calvary Reformed Church/Orland Park, IL
October
1:  Office
2:  Office
3:  Meeting/Tinley Park, IL
4:  Off
5:  Sunday Worship


Wayne's contact information:
10088 Prairie Knoll Ct.
St. John, IN 46373
Mobile: (941) 302-1281
Email:  wregen@msyn.org
The following are some links you may find helpful...
RIP, Average Attendance: Church attendance is no longer a good predictor for vitality in the church. Instead, we are encouraged to measure how a person engages a congregation.

A Metric that Matters: Continuing with the counting attendance theme, here we learn about what may be more important to count: people who are truly involved and participating in the life of the church.
9 Habits that Lead to Terrible Decisions: The Harvard Business review studied data on 50,000 leaders and discovered these habits.
Churches Must Provide A Space Where People Can Be Themselves: In too many congregations, people fight over trivialities. They bully each other over doctrine, tradition, lifestyle or political views. Power struggles are more common than generosity.  Does your church provide the kind of space where people can belong and be themselves - a place where people are safe and treated with respect?


Chad's Schedule:
September 
15: Office
16: Staff Meeting, Merrillville IN
17: Office
18: Coaching, Ridder Church Renewal Catalyst
19: Office
22: Office
23: Office
24: Coaching
25: Faithwalking Sheboygan Planning Hangout
26: Office
29:  Staff Meeting, Merrillville IN
30:  Office
October 
1:  Office
2:  Coaching, RCR Catalyst
3-4: Faithwalking Retreat, Sheboygan, WI


Chad's Contact Information:
2104 Campbell Street
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Office: (815) 464-9181
Mobile: (765) 237-7678
Email: chad@msyn.org
Copyright © 2014 Regional Synod of Mid-America, RCA, All rights reserved.


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