Why do Zuni Christian Reformed Church (ZCRC) and Zuni Christian Mission School (ZCMS) consider themselves to be a "mission" organization?

Throughout their long history, the Zuni people have repeatedly endured the infringement of outside groups seeking to dominate them (e.g. the Navajo, Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans.) Zuni has "survived" by frequently accommodating outsiders but never fully adopting their ways. The same is true with the Christian faith. Traditional Zuni religion has always exerted a powerful influence on Zuni families and even today, the Reservation's religious climate is closed to outside religious beliefs.Cultural, religious, and kinship loyalties make it difficult for Zunis to embrace Christianity. Those who show interest in Christianity or identify themselves as Christians risk being highly criticized by community members and may be estranged from their families. It is estimated that less than 2% of the 10,000 people on the Zuni Reservation are practicing evangelical Christians. In many respects, the Gospel and traditional Zuni religion stand in opposition to one another, thus the Mission's presence in the Pueblo hinges on maintaining a respectful relationship with local Tribal entities. Even the property on which the Mission is built is leased from the Tribal government. With these realities, it is easy to understand why the church and school in Zuni operate with a missionary mindset, not unlike missions in some settings abroad. 

What is the relationship between Zuni Christian Reformed Church and Zuni Christian Mission School?

Since their beginnings over 100 years ago, ZCRC and ZCMS have worked together in bringing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Zuni. While high-profile and intrusive evangelism is discouraged, Zuni's Tribal and religious authorities have high regard for the long-term commitment of the church and school to the overall welfare of the community. Tribal authorities appreciate the loving and benevolent care provided to Zuni families through the various ministry programs of ZCRC. Similarly, the community acknowledges the high-quality educational program delivered by ZCMS that provides an alternative to the Public School system. Together, the church and school support and complement one another through shared facilities, inter-connected staff, pooled resources, and unified ministry programs.

Q  How do the church and school work together?

Even though the church and school are separately incorporated and have separate governing bodies, the two bodies work as a single ministry, each with distinctive roles.

The church serves the school:

  • The Church Council is an advisory body to the School Committee [Board].
  • Church members serve as School Committee members, chapel speakers, and classroom resources for the school.
  • The church administers a scholarship fund to assist Christian parents in sending their children to ZCMS for elementary school and Rehoboth Christian School for high school.
  • The church provides resources to school families who have special needs.

The school serves the church:

  • The school faithfully plants the seeds of the gospel in the lives of the students through their years at ZCMS. Often fruit is not seen until many years later when, as adults, some come to faith and join the body of believers.
  • The school directs school families with particular needs to the services of the church.
  • School children contribute music to church services.

What affiliations and fiscal relationships do ZCMS and ZCRC maintain with the Christian Reformed denomination?

A ZCRC and ZCMS were established as ministries of the Christian Reformed Church (first under the Board of Foreign and Indian Missions and later under the Board of Home Missions). ZCRC became an autonomous Christian Reformed Church, affiliated with Classis Red Mesa, in 1987. ZCMS remained under the fiscal and administrative control of Christian Reformed Board of Home Missions until 1992 when it became a self-governing mission school.

The mission is grateful for its long and fruitful relationship with the Christian Reformed Church. Both the church and the school continue to receive annual grant funding from the Christian Reformed Church through the Board of Home Missions. This support has been and continues to be critical, particularly for the school. While local contributions through tithes and tuition have steadily increased, the mission continues to depend on outside gifts to sustain its ministries. With the blessing of Christian Reformed Home Missions, the church and school now have the responsibility of representing Zuni Mission directly to the Christian Reformed constituency. This also means applying for grants from the denomination.

Q Are the ZCMS and ZCRC ministries in Zuni financially linked with Rehoboth Christian School and Rehoboth Christian Reformed Church in Gallup?

No. Zuni and Rehoboth share a common history and both were, for many years, directly administered and fully funded by the Christian Reformed Church. During those years, Rehoboth was the administrative and service center for all mission stations on the Navajo and Zuni Reservations. Thus Rehoboth has often been perceived as synonymous with Native America Ministries in the Southwest. After Christian Reformed Home Missions gave governing responsibility to individual churches and schools, Rehoboth no longer coordinated business services on behalf of the denomination.

Now Zuni and Rehoboth are separate organizational entities. Each has separate governing boards, separate organizational structures, and separate operational budgets. There is a persistent and commonly held misperception that financial donations given to Rehoboth also provide monetary support for the mission programs in Zuni. This is not true. Each organization is responsible for raising its own operating funds. The Zuni Reservation's depressed economic realities make outside fund raising critical and its unique cultural context requires sensitive and low key approaches to outside fund development.

Q  What are the similarities and differences between Zuni and Rehoboth?

Zuni and Rehoboth share common spiritual and historical roots in the Christian Reformed Church's outreach to Native American people in the Southwest. Zuni and Rehoboth have always maintained high levels of respect and support for one another, including close spiritual, personal and collegial bonds among staff. Professional relationships, consultation, and the exchange of ministry ideas continue to stimulate and enrich the ministries in both places.

Rehoboth Christian School has historically served people from the Navajo Reservation from its 162-acre campus located on non-reservation property just east of Gallup. By contrast, the Zuni Mission ministers exclusively to people living on the Zuni Indian Reservation and operates from a 1.6-acre tribally-controlled property located in the heart of Zuni Pueblo. The vastly divergent cultural, social, and economic realities of the two ministry settings have necessitated that Rehoboth and Zuni develop distinctively different ministry styles and approaches as they address the unique needs of their respective target populations.

In recent years, Rehoboth Christian School has successfully shifted its focus to become a fully independent Christian school (K-12) that emphasizes high academic standards while serving an ethnically diverse student body of about 400 students. ZCMS continues its distinctive status as a "Mission School," providing Christ-centered education (K-8) to about 75 students from mostly non-Christian, economically challenged families who live on the Zuni Reservation. Since ZCMS goes only through the 8th grade, Zuni students who wish to continue Christian education into high school are encouraged to enroll at Rehoboth.

Zuni Christian Mission School and Rehoboth Christian Schools have a professional partnership through an annual partnership agreement. Zuni and Rehoboth Christian Reformed Churches are both members of Classis Red Mesa of the Christian Reformed Church.

What is the relationship of the Zuni Christian Reformed Mission and the Red Mesa Foundation?

The Red Mesa Foundation was established in 2000 as a nonprofit organization to develop and manage land assets received from Christian Reformed Home Missions for the benefit of Christian Reformed ministries in the Red Mesa Classis. Pursuing this mission, the Red Mesa Foundation seeks to encourage, inform and financially support the churches of Classis Red Mesa and the schools of Red Mesa Christian Schools Association. Zuni Christian Reformed Church and Zuni Christian Mission School are among these ministries.

What unique challenges face the Zuni Mission?

Despite laudable efforts by tribal and government authorities, the Zuni community faces a variety of social, economic and health problems. Zuni is ranked as one of the poorest communities in the nation with an average household income of $22,559 (2000 census). Many families are ravaged by alcoholism, substance abuse, and family violence. Serious health issues, including diabetes, depression and suicide, burden many families. These factors render life expectancy in Zuni well below the national average. Non-Christians believe that the practice of traditional Zuni religion is an avenue through which blessing should come, but they acknowledge that there are no certainties.

These realities impact the ministries of both church and school. Zuni Christian Reformed Mission has the privilege to announce to this generation of Zuni people the goodness of God and His loving intentions towards them.

What is the long range vision for ministry in Zuni and what are the prospects that your efforts will be fruitful?

A Zuni people are deeply spiritual. Many recognize that the choices they have made have not met their deepest spiritual needs. Recognizing that Christianity poses a different Way, adults seek out Christians to inquire about the Christian faith and to express their unfulfilled longings. Parents who desire a different way for their children enroll them in the school. In these ways, church attendance and school enrollment steadily grow. Other factors positively impact ministry: Zuni Christians have prominent roles in leadership and governance at the Mission as well as in the community. Positive relationships and partnerships have developed with Tribal entities and resources. Nuturing support from constituencies outside of Zuni for volunteers, planning, and financial support continues to bear fruit.

In 2004, ZCMS, with input from ZCRC, embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process to define a vision for the future of ministry in Zuni. Called "The Winds of Change," the plan calls for an ambitious program to broaden and strengthen a.) educational and related services to meet ever-changing community needs; b.) internal staff support structures; c.) relationships and communication with constituencies outside of Zuni. d.) The "Winds of Change" plan also set in motion a major building and capital fund project to replace the "temporary" facilities built after the fire in 1971 and is reconfiguring the entire Mission compound to increase functionality and effectiveness. Read more about our current initative The Building Program: Foundations of Faith - Faces of Promise.