“How about we post that question on The Network?”
This is what Marilyn VanOostrum suggested to her husband, a deacon, after a council meeting.
The deacons had been asked to consider a new name for the benevolence ministry. There was concern that the term “benevolence” might not make sense to younger members or others in the community.
So when the question came up, VanOostrum thought of The Network (crcna.org/Network). She became aware of the site through the Christian Reformed Church’s Safe Church Ministry and knew it was a gathering place for people across the denomination—a place to ask ministry questions and compare notes with people in other churches, a place where anyone could post.
After posting the question “What Do You Call Your Benevolence Ministry?”, VanOostrum received several responses. “We had a great experience using The Network,” she said, “and the responses we received were very helpful and prompted rich discussion among the deacons.”
Another Network user, Rachael Klein, checks the site regularly to see what other churches are doing to glean ideas for her own congregation, Sussex (N.J.) CRC. When that church began to explore the idea of printing its own photo directory, Klein turned to The Network.
After posting her question, Klein received feedback from peers that “helped reinforce the direction we were thinking of going and gave us really good suggestions about how to do it.”
These practical ministry questions are what makes The Network special. Since the site launched in February 2010, its value has always come from the participation of the community. By connecting pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, musicians, and many others, we learn with—and from—each other.
Now, 10 years later, the site has over 60 different ministry topics that reflect the wide variety of roles and passions of God’s people. Users serve as elders, nursery coordinators, and small group leaders. They are planting churches, leading worship, and serving coffee.
As they serve, they are asking questions, discovering great tools, and learning, thanks to the Network. The impact of this sharing can be seen in part in the numbers:
- Page views average over 85,000 per month and are still growing.
- Nearly 600 ministry questions have been posted (over 95% with responses).
- Dozens of new blogs, resources, and church positions are added each week.
These numbers tell the story of a community that is active and growing. They are stories of individuals but also of the whole. When we step back, these questions, stories, and resources come together to reflect a vibrant tapestry of ministry in churches across our denomination.