Whatcom County Anticipates Active Zone Status
The Whatcom County KEZ will be hosting a catalytic event this coming Nov 3. Speakers will include Larry Doornbos (CPD Leader, CRHM), Tim Vink (CMT Coordinator, RCA), and Julius Ted Medenblik (President of Calvin Seminary). Among other things, they will go through MissionInSite training and present an awareness raising video about church planting with the KEZ. On top of the MissionInSite training they are also going to have an awareness raising video about church planting.
“There is a growing excitement of people believing that God is doing something here,” says Allen Likkel, Co-Leader of the Whatcom County KEZ. The collaboration between the two denominations has influenced congregations to think more missionly. Leaders in these churches are learning to come together and meet monthly. Congregations on both sides have committed to supporting the other denomination’s church plants. And now that they are becoming an active KEZ, churches are realizing that they will be supported and endorsed in their endeavors. “This gives them encouragement,” says Allen, “it is like the National group (i.e. Implementation Team) is saying ‘good job.’” These churches will really be able to benefit from the “catalytic funding” to get projects going that were only talked about before.
The Whatcom county apprentice zone will soon be transitioning into an active zone. This transition is set to take place the first of November. The zone recently held a meeting led by Ken Eriks, director of congregational mission (RCA). The meeting took the leaders through a process, looking at where they (the Whatcom KEZ) were as an apprentice zone as well as looking forward to moving forward as an active zone.
Prior to becoming an apprentice zone Whatcom County already existed as a cluster of CRC/RCA congregations together. This cluster managed to plant six churches. Allen says “coming into this KEZ system we had an advantage because we were really hitting the ground running in terms of collaborating in church multiplication.” That being said, once they became an apprentice zone the KEZ has worked hard at living out the four E’s (Empower, Expand, Evaluate, and Prayer). They have done this beginning with blessing church plants with intensive coaching. Through coaching they are able to focus on the individuals of the church. They are working at giving people a stronger awareness of the talents and abilities that God has given them to use in his Kingdom. “We work to design strategies and to work out of their unique strengths.” In terms of Expanding, Whatcom has done this by clustering and sharing information among churches. This enables churches to take on opportunities that they would not be able to take alone. In terms of Evaluating, they have been committed to upholding the established standards of assessment and discernment. The last of the four E’s is prayer. Whatcom County has worked to get Alvin VanderGriend, a national prayer leader who is located in Whatcom County, on their team. Alvin has been giving him a full time prayer staff that has covered all that the Whatcom KEZ does. They are currently working at forming a contract to appoint Alvin to head a prayer group mobilized for each project.
Looking at where Whatcom County is now compared to where they were in the past is amazing. In the past there had been a long tradition of culture working independently as denominations (CRC and RCA) along with independent congregations. They have been making great progress in closing the separation between the two. Another challenge that Whatcom County faced was that overall churches in the area had little experience in planting churches. This meant that there was a lot of training to be done. Churches had to understand what it meant to be a parent church. That being said the Whatcom County KEZ already has six plants that are well underway and three new projects involving the Punjabi, Hispanic, and Vietnamese peoples. In terms of expanding, the KEZ is also looking at a potential campus ministry at Washington University. They are also exploring connections that they have with the Lummi Native Americans who live on a reservation in the Whatcom area. People are very excited to see what is to come out of those connections.