Synod 2017 discussed declining church membership and responded with a few directives. Synod is the annual gathering of the Christian Reformed Church.

According to an overture (request) that came before synod, CRC membership dropped more than 13 percent in the last decade. The overture asked for a strategy to reverse the trend and for progress reports.

In synod’s response, no specific strategy or progress reports were proffered. Rather, synod instructed church, agency, and educational leaders to “seek out best practices and resources” for church renewal and share these practices with the churches.

Synod also urged collaboration as people work toward renewing the church and directed that a list of resources be given to churches. Lastly, synod told the executive director “to keep the call to prayer for church renewal continually before God’s people.”

James Kralt, Classis Thornapple Valley, asked his colleagues to be sensitive when passing out advice to shrinking congregations. “If you know a church is struggling, make sure you listen too. Hear the struggles, the heartbreak, the things they tried to do that didn’t work.”

“The way we think about membership is changing and needs to be [reexamined],” said Brian Tarpy, Classis Central Plains. “We want membership to be meaningful.”

“I appreciate that the CRC is a very organized, well-structured denomination,” said Cameron Fraser, Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan. “However, that can lead to assumption that church renewal comes through more study committees. . . . I would respectfully submit that our emphasis needs to be in prayerful practice in life and deed.”

Synod wrapped up the session with an unusual prayer that was described as “Korean-style.” The delegates prayed out loud all at the same time. This resulted in a prayerful din, as each asked God for renewal in the Christian Reformed Church.

Synod 2017 is meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., from June 9-15. For continuous coverage, download the Banner app on your mobile device or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases and the webcast, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

About the Author

Roxanne Van Farowe is a freelance writer.

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"Thvigorous, continuaplanting of new congregations is the singlmoscrucial strategy for 1) thnumerical growth of thBody of Christ in any city, and 2) thcontinual corporatrenewal anrevival of the existing churchein a city.Nothinelse--not crusades, outreacprograms, para-church ministries, growing mega-churchescongregational consulting, nor church renewal processes--wilhavthconsistent impact of dynamic, extensivchurcplanting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement. But to those who have donany studat all, it is not even controversial."  Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church