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Letting local contexts shape what we do.

A few years back, with a desire for spiritual renewal, Maple Ridge Christian Reformed Church (Maple Ridge, B.C.)  realized that in order to move forward they would need to listen – to the Holy Spirit, to their congregation, and to their community. The church’s pastor, Tim Sheridan, had first-hand experience with Diaconal Ministries Canada’s Community Opportunity Scan (COS) and he knew how valuable the process could be. So, with their full leadership on board, Maple Ridge began the COS journey in May of 2018.

A team was formed and met several times throughout the year to gather and analyze information about their surrounding neighbourhood and their congregation. As part of the process, the COS Team interviewed 15 community members, including those from local businesses, faith groups, schools and community agencies. More importantly, the church prayed.

“Prayer is central to this process,” noted Sheridan. “Churches should not rush into [a COS] without a proper prayer foundation.” Prayer meetings were held and prayer walks were organized. People were encouraged to pray at different locations throughout the city and also for issues in the local paper.

Through the COS, the church discovered how much their surrounding neighbourhood had changed. It also brought to light the prevalence of youth mental health issues and isolated seniors in their community. When the COS Team met with Katie Sullivan, a Trustee with the local school board, she mentioned a program they run where seniors go into local elementary schools to build relationships and mentor the students by reading aloud to them – with a particular focus on immigrant children.

“This was a wonderful example of discovering an asset in the community and discerning ways we can join in with what God is already up to in our community,” Sheridan said.

Throughout this journey of discovery, Maple Ridge’s COS Team found the support and resources offered by Rachel Vroege, the Western Canada Regional Ministry Developer for Diaconal Ministries, helpful and necessary, particularly toward the end of the process, when their team worked through all the information gathered to find common threads or connections.

“In the past, we’ve had churches go through the COS process without the help of Diaconal Ministries,” Vroege recalls. “For many of them, they found it to be quite frustrating and overwhelming. Our Regional Ministry staff can offer invaluable insight and support each step of the way to help deacons and churches see the entire process through.”

There is now a team working alongside Maple Ridge’s Council, discerning next steps and finding ways to be more intentional about the ministry that they do with their community.

“When I think about ministry, I want our local context to shape what we do,” said Sheridan. “The COS process gives a hands-on way to work that out. I think every church should do one.”

To learn more about Community Opportunity Scans, visit diaconalministries.com/newground.

This article was made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.

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