June 30, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters of Oakwood Church,

Since early spring, as Pastor Kevin Heeres informed us of his departure, the Council began conversations to discern the future of our congregation.  Our congregation continues to invest in important Kingdom work while, at the same time, membership decreases and age increases.  As we now find ourselves without a pastor, these realities have us asking, “what’s next?”

Recently, the Council became aware of a ministry birthed out of Calvin Seminary and the Christian Reformed Church, in cooperation with the Barnabas Foundation, called the Center for Church Renewal.  The CCR has multiple ministries for revitalizing the church, including a Legacy Project. This project helps congregations – in a shorter amount of time – to name their current reality, determine best “next steps”, and assist congregations, when necessary, to finish well.  The Center for Church Renewal has assisted over 25 CRC congregations in the last 6 years with this proven process.

The Center for Church Renewal is thankful for the opportunity to assist Oakwood Church in discerning her next steps of ministry in the Belding/Greenville area.  We trust the Lord will lead and guide us by His all-powerful Holy Spirit.  The Council encourages you to embrace this discernment journey with hope and thanksgiving, knowing that the Church of Jesus Christ always flourishes as the beloved Bride of Christ (Eph 5:27, Rev. 19:7).   

This is an 8-10 month listening coaching process.  There are realities to face.  We wish to be wise, Spirit-led, and open to this new chapter in the life of Oakwood Church.  It is our hope and prayer that we honor the mission of Oakwood Church in its effort to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and evaluate its strength to make disciples for the glory of God and the spread of the Kingdom, while at the same time humbly and honestly looking at our resources and investment of ministry energy.  We wish to walk into God’s throne room with our hands held open, offering everything we love about Oakwood as a gift to Him and obediently doing what God has next for us as a family of believers.

Our coach through this process is Rev. Pete Byma.  Pete began his ministry career in diaconal consulting.  After receiving his Masters in Church Education from CTS, he worked with CRCNA Home Missions in the 1990’s coaching churches in Congregational Master Planning (CMP) and Natural Church Development (NCD).  After receiving his MDIV in 1997, he has served 4 churches in 4 different Classes.  He has assisted struggling and hurting churches in evaluating their ministry within each Classis.  In 2013 he began formal church coaching work on a limited part-time basis by forming his own LLC Churchassistcoaching.org.  Pastor Pete is married, and has four children and eleven grandchildren.

The first step of this discernment process is to begin 40 days of discernment and prayer. We don’t want to push forward into anything that is not God’s will for Oakwood, so from July 1-August 11 we will be reading Scripture and seeking God’s face in guided prayer together. Join us every Tuesday evening at Oakwood at 7:00pm if you’d like to pray as a group with others. (see attachment below)

Next, the members of Oakwood will be asked to take an assessment survey, which we as the Council recently took.  This 35 multiple-choice question survey is online through a link we will share with you via email next week (if you would like a hard copy please contact Carrie in the church office).  It can be completed in 10-15 minutes.  We humbly ask that you take this survey seriously, so we can have an accurate “picture-in-time” of our ministry at Oakwood. The survey will be open from July 8-21.

Following congregational completion of the survey, we will hold a Friday evening + Saturday morning retreat for the survey results to be shared with the congregation. That retreat is scheduled for Friday evening August 23 and Saturday morning August 24.

We will also be looking for Oakwood members to participate in a “Renewal & Discernment Team” during the Legacy Project. This team will work with Pastor Pete on evaluation and discussion about Oakwood’s future, and could then become the start of a Pastor Search Team. If you are interested in being part of this team, please contact Mike Wittenbach (president of Council).

Finally, we have Sunday pulpit supply filled through August, and will seek to employ an interim pastor for 6-9 months to preach on Sundays and support our members one day during the week.

Thank you for your willingness to journey with us as a congregation, as we listen to each other and most importantly listen to the LORD as He leads His Bride, the Church.


Oakwood Council