Gazing up: Family matters and faith
Saskatchewan adopts new churches, blows budget, prepares to restructure
Fellowshipping around tables in Borden’s community centre (meeting place of Riverbend [MB] Fellowship) Mar. 8–9, 2013, the Saskatchewan MB (SKMB) convention feels like a family reunion – and like many such gatherings, it was not without difference of opinion as the executive presented an ambitious budget and structural changes.
An Upward Gaze was the final in a trilogy of Saskatchewan Conference of MB Churches annual convention Healthy Heartbeat themes, including An Inward Look and An Outward Focus. “The moment the focus is just on us, we become ingrown,” director of conference ministries Ralph Gliege cautioned the family: “The good news of the gospel must be shared.”
At Friday evening’s well-attended worship service, two Saskatchewan-raised members of MB Mission’s Team 58:12 to Central Asia spoke on keeping the gaze “on target” despite distractions like fear, doubt, or overconfidence. In a context where a simple communication task may require your more-linguistically-adept eight-year-old child’s intervention, it’s easy to get discouraged and wonder how to share the gospel with your neighbours, said one missionary, but when his gaze is fixed on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2), he can serve faithfully and leave the results to God.
“Faith” budget expands
Saskatchewan MBs passed a budget that draws down reserves and anticipates increased giving. “The reserves were built up by people’s worship,” said newly appointed director of finance and congregational services Pat Dergousoff. “This money is missionally minded; it’s a faith budget.”
- Per member norm (recommended donation from churches to conference) increased from $65 to $70. The board of management is considering changing the norm to a percentage based on giving. Members affirmed this direction. “The goal is equity,” said Rick Guenther (Hepburn).
- For the first time, a fundraising income line of $10,000 was added to the budget.
- Board of management saw increases, mostly connected to the creation of a full-time director of finance and congregational services.
- After factoring out Canadian conference contributions to church planting initiatives, the 2013 budget of $560,330 reflects a 10 percent increase over the previous year; an 18 percent increase over the actual, says Dergousoff.
Delegates expressed concern about the sustainability of the ambitious increases. “Two-thirds of churches don’t even meet the norm, why increase it?” asked Nathan McCorkindale (Philadelphia MB, Watrous).
“Are we following legalism or grace?” challenged Peter Block (Forest Grove, Saskatoon) in the face of hesitance toward the budget proposal. “If it’s grace, then there’s no problem.”
Grace Fellowship intern Clay Bitner thanked the conference for the funding which allowed pastor Murray McLellan to work full-time (“it’s huge”), and projected the church will soon be in a position to contribute instead of draw funds. “Our wallets will follow our hearts,” he said. One delegate committed to personally giving toward the Saskatchewan conference.
With Gliege’s impending retirement in 2014, the executive board is planning to restructure.
Executive board advisor Tony Martens presented the proposal. An executive director would be added to the staff team and the current boards restructured into a leadership team (responsible for strategy and evaluation; chosen by and accountable to the constituency) and ministry team (responsible for tactics and activities; composed of staff and volunteers).
“This frees up the director of church ministries to be on the ground instead of attending national meetings,” said Martens.
“This adds a layer,” cautioned Hepburn pastor Rod Schellenberg. “The strength of this family has been the connection between the churches and Ralph and Dwayne [Barkman, Harvest Saskatchewan team leader]. We need to be cognizant of that.”
The 2014 convention will approve the new structure, but “I don’t want anything rubber-stamped,” said SKMB moderator Todd Hardy. “2014 will be a transition year of asking hard questions.”
The executive board slate was filled this year after two years of Hardy working alone: secretary Lucille Wall (Bridgeway, Swift Current), assistant moderator Phil Gunther (Parliament, Regina), and two non-voting advisors Tony Martens (Riverbend, Borden), and Terry Rapsey (Blaine Lake). Effective January 2013, part-time secretary-treasurer Pat Dergousoff was taken on as full-time director of finance and congregational services.
Every person plays a part
Gliege and Barkman called up one person after another to speak about the work of the Saskatchewan conference.
Harvest Saskatchewan is in the process of forming a church planting board that “preserves the vision of the past and widens to include the C2C vision,” said Barkman.
- With funding from ongoing initiative Project Reach Your World, Grace Fellowship set up a literature and information booth at the University of Saskatchewan’s new student orientation.
- “It’s one thing to know God is faithful, it’s another to trust him to come through.” Faith River Christian Fellowship, Saskatoon, intern Steve Schmidt, whose background includes a little bit of everything (Roman Catholic family, summer camp conversion, Alliance church attendance, studies at Bethany College), “watched church happen” and learned about trusting God.
- “Think of how to invest in this generation of leaders,” urged Darlene Klassen who will serve as liaison to national leadership development director Ron Toews.
The BFL highlighted their ministry questionnaire, urging churches to administer it as part of their candidating process.
Northwest Community Church (Meadow Lake) pastor Dan Stobbe had a “coming home”: in anticipation of his Mar. 17 ordination, he gave his testimony in the very room where he graduated high school. From unexpected candidacy in Foam Lake, Sask., to Killarney, Man., to Meadow Lake, Sask., where he currently shepherds a small congregation, mentors young associate pastors, and facilitates a small group of people on the fringes of church and society, God has asked him to “be available.”
Fruit of partnership
“The fruit of partnership is starting to emerge,” said Barkman, also C2C Network regional director (Saskatchewan). The conference officially received C2C Network church plants Grace Fellowship, Saskatoon, pastored by Murray McLennan, and The Compass Church, Regina, pastored by Blair Allen.
A half-dozen from Grace Fellowship testified to the church’s role in introducing them to the life-changing good news of Jesus, and newcomer John Yoder said his family nearly missed the service on their first visit because they received such a warm welcome in the foyer.
“When you’re a church planter, you always feel you’re in way over your head,” said Allen, thanking C2C and Saskatchewan for their support – and God for unasked-for opportunities. So many Chinese-speaking new Canadians have begun attending The Compass Church, the congregation holds an EAL sermon study before the service to introduce words and concepts.
Bethany College celebrates its students. Responses to a recent alumni survey indicated that contrary to trends detailed in the EFC’s Hemorrhaging Faith report, 95 percent of Bethany graduates are currently connected to or involved in a local church. Additionally, the Volunteer Mentoring program has become normative at the college, with more than 80 percent of students engaging a mentor. Having re-evaluated and made changes in the academic program, the college is embarking upon an exhaustive two-year process of reaffirming accreditation.
Redberry and West Bank Bible camps celebrate leadership development of youth and young adults. A “temporary community” develops each summer that gives many children their first taste of Christian family, said Redberry administrator Joeline Magill. With the appointment of a new executive director, Dave Seeley, Redberry is ready to tackle challenges: develop a consistent sustainable cash flow, offer fair remuneration for staff, explore creation of a monthly giving plan.
West Bank director Jerry Dennill is entering his 10th summer. He highlighted completion of a new swimming pool as “a testimony to God’s goodness,” and expressed thankfulness for God’s guidance and provision.