So you get to go to a classis gathering!
If you’re reading this, it means that you’ve been selected by your council to attend a classis meeting of Classis Grand Rapids South. It might be your first gathering or maybe you haven’t been to classis gathering in a while.
Either way, we want you to have an understanding of what happens at a classis gathering and how you might participate in a meaningful way. We hope that this will be an opportunity for you to be inspired by God’s work in other churches and to connect other church leaders.
How do I prepare for a classis gathering?We want to start with what we think might be the most important question on your mind (other than if there’s food at the gathering — by the way, there usually is food — at least cookies but sometimes a whole meal). What is expected of you in terms of getting ready for a classis gathering?
- PRAY: Spend some time in prayer. Pray for God to help you understand what’s going on, pray for classis—that we make wise decisions and pray for God’s Kingdom to come.
- READ: If you take time to read through this orientation page, we think it would help you get an idea of how classis is structured and how a classis meeting is structured
- SCAN: If you don’t have enough time to read everything on this web page, it might be helpful to scan a certain section where you’ll get an overview of what goes on at a classis meeting.
- REPORTS: You’ll probably get some reports before you get to a classis gathering. It would be great if you could read through those and understand them as best you can.
- PRINT: If you like to work from a hard copy, print out a copy of the agenda and all reports. If you don’t have a printer, there will be several printed copies of the material available at the gathering.
- Computer: If you’d rather work from your laptop/tablet/mobile device, many of our churches have Wi-Fi available. The Stated Clerk will let your pastor know if WI-FI will be available.
What is Classis?
A Classis in the Christian Reformed Denomination is a group of congregations who are associated together for the purpose of helping each other with their ministries and outreach programs. Churches in a classis are generally in the same geographical area.
There are 48 classes in the CRC, 11 in Canada and 36 in the United States, and one with congregations on both sides of the border. There are five Classes that cover the Grand Rapids area: Classis Grandville; Classis Grand Rapids North, Classis Grand Rapids East, Classis Thornapple and Classis Grand Rapids South.
What is Classis Grand Rapids South?Classis Grand Rapids South includes 16 congregations and covers an area of Grand Rapids stretching from our Northern most congregation in downtown Grand Rapids to the Southern-most congregation in Wayland Michigan. Our Classis includes churches ministering in a variety of settings—from urban settings to rural settings (see the map below).
What does Classis do?
We work together and support each otherWe pray for, celebrate with, cry with and listen to each other. We offer help to each other when we are able to do so. We also partner together in ministry when it is helpful.
We keep each other on trackWe hold each other accountable to stick to the historic Christian faith in our church’s teaching and actions.
Connect with our denominationOur classis is an essential link between our local congregations and our denominational ministries and agencies.
What happens at a classis gathering?
How often does classis gather?
Classis usually meets 2 times a year. There are two meetings that happen at the same time each year— in March and October. Depending on the amount of material needed to be dealt with the gatherings might start at 4 pm or later, though occasionally we have an all day meeting.
Who is delegated to classis gatherings?
Every church in the classis sends a pastor, an elder and a deacon.
What’s on the agenda for a classis gathering?
A classis gathering has five parts:
- Gathering Together
- Old Business
- New Business
What happens in each part of the agenda?
1. We Gather Together (Officially)
You might think of our gathering together as having two parts.
- We want to gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ who care for each other and for our churches. For this reason we will have conversation as we gather together and will open with a time of worship and prayer. We are a family gathering.
- We also gather together as an “official” group to do the business of the classis. Since classis is made up of different delegates at every gathering, we need to make sure we know who is representing what churches and we must agree that everyone is recognized as belonging so we can conduct official business. This part of gathering together can feel a bit formal—but it’s essential for us to do this.
Here is how we accomplish those two things:
- Arrival—delegates arrive, get name tags, pick up any additional or new reports, sign the Covenant for Office Bearers if they haven’t already done so and greet fellow delegates
- Opening Worship/Devotions/Prayer
- Officially “constituting” classis
- Roll Call of churches and delegates
- If a church forgot their credentials a motion is made to “seat” the delegates from that church
- Appointment of Committees
- We always need a committee to take a look at the credentials to see if a church has written down anything they want to bring to classis
At some meetings we need a team to count ballots or do another activity.
2. Old Business
Sometimes there are matters that did not get finished at a previous meeting. They are often dealt with first. If there is old business, the chair of classis will seek to provide sufficient background to whatever is being dealt with so all can participate in discussions.
3. New Business
These are going to be matters that we need to deal with together that fall outside of our normal committees or that need to have some special attention. Matters that fall under new business might be:
- The examination of a person who is going to be ordained or commissioned.
- Dealing with a challenge that a church is facing—it might be that a church and a pastor are struggling in their relationship or a church might be trying to figure out if they need to close their doors
- Dealing with an opportunity that is available to us as a classis—maybe a conference that is coming up or a new church that is starting
These are going to be matters that we need to deal with together that fall outside of our normal committees or that need to have some special attention.
- Reports from Classical Support Ministry Individuals and Teams
- Stated Clerk—the stated clerk reports on his or her activities since the last gathering of classis. The report will often talk about correspondence received or sent and other such matters. As a classis we will vote to approve the work of the Stated Clerk.
- Classical Interim Committee—The Interim Committee does administrative work on behalf of classis. This report includes matters such as accepting and sending ministerial credentials, following up on any assignments given to the Interim Committee by classis, and providing updates on any classical level ministry position (E.G. Regional Pastor).
- Treasurer—The treasurer will provide a written report regarding the finances of Classis.
- Report of the Committee to Examine Credentials
- Reports from the Ministry Teams and individuals of classis
- Established Church Development
- Spiritual Growth and Prayer
- Diaconal Ministries
- Ministry Leadership Team
- Church Visitors
- Church Counselors
- Prayer Coordinator
- Communications Coordinator
- Reports related to our relationship with the denomination
- Report of the delegate to the Council of Delegates
5. We Depart
It’s important that we leave well—affirming and supporting each other, even if we may have disagreed during a meeting.
- We say thanks to the host church
- We agree to our next meeting date
- We close in prayer
- We chat as we go
Who may speak at classis gathering?
Any of the delegates are welcome to speak to any of the issues classis is dealing with. One of the challenges of classis is that many delegates only attend one or two meetings during their time on the council of their church. This makes it hard for delegates to feel comfortable understanding what’s going on or feeling they might have something to contribute. PLEASE—don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions. We are the church TOGETHER!
At times someone who is not a delegate to classis is “given the floor” (allowed to speak at classis). Most often when someone who is not a delegate speaks at classis it is to provide information for classis, not to speak for or against anything classis is dealing with.
How are decisions made at a classis gathering?
Cheatsheet for classis
Classical Interim Committee
When a church is without a pastor, classis provides a classical counselor from outside the congregation to advise the church in all matters pertaining to the calling of a new pastor.
Appointed by classis, church visitors are typically two-person teams that connect with a set number of churches within the classis on a regular basis. Churches are also welcome to call upon church visitors for advice should problems arise. The church visitors are expected to provide written reports of their work to classis.
A document that shows how our congregations have agreed to live together and organize ourselves. It is divided into 86 “Articles” that describe the role of individual churches, councils, classes, and synod.
Classical Interim Committee
Made up of the Stated Clerk, the co-chairs of classis and the chair of this team, this group supports classis by doing much of the administrative work.
Council of Delegates (COD)
is the governing board of the Christian Reformed Church. As an ecclesiastical governance entity serving in the interim of synod (highest authority), the COD provides governance by means of the authority delegated to it by synod and with its synodically elected membership representing classes or serving in at-large capacities
Covenant for Officebearers
This document is signed by all delegates to classis, signifying their agreement with the official creeds and confessions of the church.
Credentials are the official papers that a church provides naming the delegates from that church and any matters the church wants to discuss at classis.
Established Church Development Team
Established Church Development Team
This team focuses on helping already existing church to grow healthier in every way — worship, outreach, pastoral care, administration and spiritual growth.
Newly ordained pastors, as well as those entering the CRC from other denominations, are required to have mentors for the first five years of their ordained ministry. Mentors are experienced pastors, usually from within the classis, available to help with personal and spiritual matters, professional practices and pastoral formation.
The Prayer Coordinator works to create an environment of prayer in our churches and our classis.
Regional pastors are active or retired pastors who provide support to active clergy in the classis. Regional pastors build relationships with pastors, commissioned pastors, and their spouses through regular contact and conversation, assist in arranging mentors for new pastors, and seek to be available at all times, and especially during times of particular challenge or opportunity.
The stated Clerk ensures accurate records/ minutes of all classis proceedings, manages the various communications of classis from routine correspondence to official communications relative to ministerial credentials, congregational status and overtures to synod. A stated clerk also ensures that the protocols and decisions of the classis conform to the Church Order of the CRCNA.
The synod of the CRC represents the churches of all the classes. Synod meets annually in June with 192 delegates: one minister, one elder, one deacon, and one other officebearer from each classis.