Purposeful Living Helps Congregation Connect, Engage
At Rose Park Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, the Purposeful Living process is helping members of the congregation move beyond surface-level relationships to deeper levels of fellowship, sharing their life stories with each other and discovering God's calling on their lives.
"We have gotten to know each other in our congregation at a completely different level than we ever knew each other before," says Tracy VanOpstall, Rose Park's community life pastor.
Purposeful Living is an RCA resource for personal renewal. Download it, along with a facilitator's guide, at www.rca.org/consistory.
VanOpstall first encountered Purposeful Living, a personal renewal process, in seminary. "The first time I went through that resource I absolutely fell in love with it. It was just amazing to go through and tell your story to somebody else--and not just how I had done it before, but really see the threads of how God has worked through your story and be able to share it that way."
When she started at Rose Park in 2009, she recognized that the resource she'd learned so much from in seminary could be a useful tool for helping members of Rose Park.
Starting Purposeful Living at Rose Park
VanOpstall and her husband, David, also a pastor at Rose Park, decided that life groups--groups of people who meet together to fellowship, study, support one another, and share life together--would be an ideal setting to introduce Purposeful Living to the church. They began by taking their own life group through the resource.
"It has been absolutely mind-blowing to me how powerful this has been," VanOpstall says. "I had people come up to me afterwards, one on one, with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘I never knew that God was calling me to this. I never looked back and saw these threads of God working in my life.'"
After their life group had finished working through Purposeful Living, they encouraged each couple in their group to gather a new group of people to take through the process. "Dave and I meet with the life group leaders on a fairly regular basis, and we've gotten amazing feedback," says VanOpstall. "It was way better than I ever could have imagined. Never underestimate what the Holy Spirit's going to do!"
Impact in the church
"Not everybody in the church has gone through Purposeful Living, but the people who have are engaged in the church's mission on a much deeper level than they ever used to be. I think when you understand a little bit about what God is calling you to and what your purpose is, it's easier to get involved."
After working through the Purposeful Living process, one life group realized that God was calling them to greater community involvement. They began by throwing birthday parties for Rose Park's shut-ins. Their most recent offering is free date nights for parents--members of the life group offer free babysitting so mom and dad can get out of the house and enjoy some time together.
VanOpstall says that even though the idea of sharing your life story can be incredibly intimidating for some people, the Purposeful Living process is ideally structured to help people who are hesitant to share open up. "This resource really guides you through how to [share] on a level that is very nonthreatening, even to somebody who has grown up in a kind of community where you don't say those things."
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