Sam Hamstra is the founder and leader of ChapterNext, a Chicagoland-based consultancy dedicated to helping congregations open new chapters of dynamic and life-transforming ministry. Since 2007, Sam has been helping congregations turn the page so that they can begin writing new chapters of dynamic and life-transforming ministry. He can help you and your congregation as a pastor search consultant, preaching coach, conference speaker, and church consultant.
Sam has been prepared for this work by nearly forty years of service to the local church. He has served five unique congregations and one Christian college. Through it all, he has experience as a youth pastor, solo pastor, senior pastor, worship leader, church planter, and college chaplain. As a consultant, his ministry is now expressed through teaching, writing, consulting, and coaching.
Sam is also an Affiliate Professor of Church History and Worship at Northern Seminary. In his role at Northern, he has the privilege of teaching and mentoring the next generation of church leaders. In addition, he has been trained as an interim pastor and is affiliated with Interim Pastor Ministries.
In recent years, Sam has broadened his ministry into music, the focus of his undergraduate studies. As a pianist and keyboardist, he has begun writing songs for the church. His first, the hymn “Once Again,” is being used by congregations throughout the country. He has also arranged some older hymns for use by contemporary Christians.
Sam and his wife, Debbie (Ploegman), reside in the Chicago area. They have enjoyed nearly forty years of marriage; they have been blessed with four children and two grandchildren, all of whom live in the Chicago area. In his spare time, you will find Sam hanging out with his family, watching a baseball game, playing piano, or fishing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
ChapterNext is now an international church consultancy through the addition of Keith Knight, the newest member of the ChapterNext Team. Keith, who lives in Guelph, Ontario, has held a life-long passion for the church and a more recent passion to “connect the right pastor to the right church.” He serves as the executive director of the Canadian Christian Business Federation, a national association of Christian business leaders who long to connect their faith with their vocation. He has served for six years as the stated clerk (administrator) of Classis Huron of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
Keith brings to ChapterNext an extensive background in leadership development, communication and marketing. He has served as communication director in the Christian Reformed Church, communication director for The Presbyterian Church in Canada, and as interim editor of The Anglican Journal. Before that he served as editor for various daily and weekly newspapers in Ontario.
Keith is broadly ecumenical. In fact, membership in the Canadian Christian Business Federation includes Christians from every denomination in Canada who share a passion to reflect Christ in their working lives.
Keith has been married to Marian, a registered nurse, for 42 years. They have five married daughters and 12 grandchildren. Three of the daughters married Americans (blame American colleges) and live in Palm Bay, FL and Seattle, WA. The other two live in Hamilton ON.
His passion for the church is recognized through his experience as a seven-term elder, often serving as chair of council and usually in a setting where the church was ‘vacant’. He understands the ‘vacant church’ culture and the struggles that search committees face as they attempt to find a suitable pastor to fill their needs. That passion was been heightened more recently as he dealt with a number of separations between church and pastor in area congregations. He says he experienced a sense of helplessness, watching pastors and councils struggle. He says he regularly wished that the denomination employed ‘bishops’. “ChapterNext does more than a bishop could,” he says. “A bishop could strategically move pastors around. ChapterNext carefully and intentionally connects qualified pastors to suitable congregations … so that both can flourish.”
Chris Cano is the first addition to the ChapterNext team. Chris Cano grew up in California and became a disciple of Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount, CA. He and his wife, Kim (married in 1995), were discipled and deployed into ministry at Emmanuel where Chris received his call into pastoral ministry. Chris graduated with his Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2009 and was ordained the same year in the Reformed Church of America. Before joining ChapterNext, Chris served Living Hope Church in Palos Heights, IL as a member of the pastoral team.
Chris and Kim have two incredible kids, Karissa and Joseph (age 3). Kim is not just a great mom, but is also a Human Resources Director for Boeing. Chris loves spending time with his family, exercising, playing and watching all kinds of sports. Chris is also passionate about worship in a multicultural church while leading others in the areas of discipleship and evangelism.
Chris,who lives in Long Beach, CA, serves ChapterNext as a coach, workshop leader, and church consultant. He is also the go-to-guy for pastor assessments administered by ChapterNext.
Vanu Kantayya, the Teaching and Connections Pastor for Rock Church (Rockford, IL), designs and implements a growing number of ChapterNext surveys, including the “Congregational Wellness Survey.”
Upon graduating from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in June 2012, Vanu had the opportunity to study at the Jerusalem University College in Israel for several weeks which served as a capstone for her Biblical education. In September of the same year, she joined the Pastoral Team at Rock Church in Rockford, IL as their Teaching/Connections Pastor.
Vanu’s forte is teaching Scripture with attention to the historical and cultural context; however, the Old Testament is her area of special interest. She enjoys teaching adult Sunday School, Wednesday night Bible study, leadership training, preaching and other aspects of Pastoral ministry as needed. Her role in Connection involves assimilating new people into the vibrant body life of the Church, small-group ministry and organizing events for connection.
Vanu is married (25 years) to Vivek, who serves Rock Church as an elder. Currently, Vivek is the Head of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford. Together they served as missionaries in Egbe, Nigeria from 2000-2003. She has two daughters, one of whom is working in Urbana, IL as a 4th/5th grade teacher and the other who is a sophomore at Loyola University, Chicago. Vanu enjoys traveling to experience the art, architecture and food from all over the world!
Benjamin Stewart is the leadership guru on the ChapterNext team. Ben is the Executive Pastor of Christian Life Center in Tinley Park, IL and the founder of FocusONE. He represents a new breed of church consultant. While honoring traditional approaches, he creates an environment of change by working alongside church leaders instead of just taking an outward approach. Having seventeen years of vocational ministry experience, Ben has had the honor of working with some of the world’s largest ministries (which together have reached over 3 billion people). From leadership development to strategic planning, conflict resolution to church renovation, Ben’s passion is to work with local churches to reach their greatest potential.
As a member of the ChapterNext team, Ben specializes in congregational leadership training and development, such as:
· Team development – developing focus and synergy within the team
· Ministry development – everything from worship to children’s ministry
· Strategic development – from planning to performing
· Assimilation – closing the revolving door and connecting members to involvement
· Discipleship groups – bridging the Sunday experience into weekly community connection
Ben has been married to his amazing wife, Nilla, for thirteen years. They have been blessed with six children.