In the charge to the deacons, it states that “benevolence is a quality of our life in Christ, and not merely a matter of financial assistance.” Benevolence involves a lifestyle of love, respect and compassion.
To that end, Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) has developed “Guidelines for Benevolence” to help address attitudes and behaviors that deacons will need as they walk with their neighbours. This resource also provides some useful ideas to help deacons develop guidelines around helping, a plan of action when providing long-term help, and a way to identify people who will be able to partner with others in this ministry.
DMC’s “Guidelines for Benevolence” was adapted for use in the book, Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, also an excellent resource for deacons.
Deacons are normally known to be older and more experienced people in life. You won’t think of, nor even associate a 22 year old journalism student who is still trying to figure out what to do in life with the position of a deacon.
I was asked to think about taking the position earlier this year with no strings attached. I answered that I would pray about it. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant about being part of the church council or even being a deacon. Why? That’s because I had no idea what was expected of me and what was going to be my role as a deacon/council member.
I prayed, asking for guidance and asking for an answer -prayed for an answer about whether it was right to say yes, or if I was not yet ready to take on such a responsibility. The more I was asked, the more I responded that I was praying about it. However, every time I tried to dodge the question, I would get this dysphoric feeling and I couldn’t come to the obvious conclusion that God was telling me something. Every time I tried to justify why I couldn’t be a deacon, I always seemed to have a fog of uncertainty lingering around me.
But still I tried to ignore that sign. Until one day I was talking with one of the elders about the position and the needs and responsibilities of a deacon. I was asked if I had an answer; they needed one soon. For some reason, a curious feeling entered me and it felt just right to say “Yes, I’d be honoured to be a deacon.” I was shocked with my response. I didn’t feel bad or even try to take my response back. Instead, I felt happy and content.
After being installed as a deacon, I barely even remember what happened or how the church reacted. My focus was more around the fact that my time wasn’t just mine now but it was enclosed in God’s own hourglass.
At 22, I took a leap. At 22, I took a chance. And, at 22, I trusted God to take over a decision that I know I had no control over. You see, at 22, I realized I wasn’t too young to take on a challenge. A situation I figured would be exacerbated by a busy student life became a blessing in the Hands of God. Aside from assurance from God, I also received earnest and welcome votes of confidence from the congregation which made me more comfortable and optimistic.
It has been about three months now since I have been installed as a deacon and I cannot deny being euphoric for the past months, tackling things that will help the church grow and approach more people. I also learned that God will use you at the right time, at the right moment. It might not be your own time but God knows when you are ready.
It’s just a matter of trusting him and knowing that everything will be fine.
-written by Jake Pinasen, (new) deacon at All Nations Christian Fellowship in Toronto, ON
In July 2014 I had the privilege of travelling to Colorado from my home province of Saskatchewan. There I joined about 70 other women, from 6 different countries, for “The Freedom Climb”! We summited 7 mountains, each of them over 14,000 feet elevation, in 4 days. We were dizzy from the altitude, with aching muscles and blistered feet. However, we were also filled with joy, gratitude, and an overwhelming sense of God’s presence.
Why would I, a stay-at-home mom to 3 preschool children, choose to do this? Because by participating in The Freedom Climb, I have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of women and children around the world who are suffering in ways that I cannot begin to imagine in my comfortable life. Our climb up the mountains is symbolic of the difficult, treacherous climb to freedom faced by victims of human trafficking around the world today.
The Freedom Climb is a project of Operation Mobilization, and the purpose is to create greater awareness and promote significant advocacy against modern day oppression, slavery and exploitation in the world. Participants commit to raising funds and awareness for various projects that specifically prevent, rescue, and restore victims of human trafficking.
During our time in Colorado, we had the opportunity to learn more about some of the Freedom Climb projects from individuals who are actually working in Zambia, Guatemala, and India. Their stories are heart breaking! The need is real! These projects are providing vulnerable women with occupational training so they can have sustainable income; they are providing vulnerable children with a hot meal and help with their homework; they are educating families about options other than ritualized prostitution for their young daughters. Most importantly, they tell people about God’s love, and the saving grace of Jesus.
The first Freedom Climb took place in 2012 when a group climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and since then the Freedom Climb has taken place in several different countries. 2016 will see the Freedom Climb coming to Canada for the first time! In August 2016, women will be gathering in Fernie B.C. to climb in the beautiful Canadian Rockies.
It has been a joy and an honor for me to participate in the Freedom Climb. I am excited to be climbing again next summer in Fernie. I believe that by raising funds and awareness through this great cause, I am obeying God’s call to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (Proverbs 31: 8-9 NLT)
If you are interested in joining us in Fernie next summer, I encourage you to pray about it, and step out in faith and obedience. Women of various ages and fitness levels can survive and thrive on the mountains! This is an opportunity to stretch ourselves, get uncomfortable, and be a voice for God’s precious children whose voices are not heard in our world. The links below have more information, including details about registration. I am also available to discuss my experience and answer any questions!
-written by Karen Jacobi, deacon and member of Bethel CRC in Saskatoon, SK
The Freedom Climb: www.thefreedomclimb.net
www.om.org (Registration information about Fernie 2016 under “Events” tab)
Karen Jacobi- Karen_nauta@hotmail.com
“I was listening to the Lord and to my heart.”
This is how the Safe Room along the Highway of Tears came about. A simple tugging on the heart and, as Bart Plugboer would testify, when you listen, God will use that to do good.
Bart Plugboer is the Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) for Classis British Columbia North-West. Last January, DMDs from across Canada met together in Abbotsford, BC, to share with and learn from each other. During that time, Bart asked for prayer around the “Highway of Tears,” a 724-kilometer stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia. While this nickname at first may sound like hyperbole, it represents real pain and sorrow that many residents in northern BC have experienced.
Between the years 1989 and 2006, nine young women went missing or were found murdered along this stretch of Highway 16. By 2007, the RCMP had expanded their investigation of disappeared or murdered women to eighteen. Local residents maintain that there were, and still are, unofficial and unreported disappearances. The debate continues, but the vast majority of people in the northern part of the province believes the disappearances amount to over 30 women, many of which are of aboriginal descent. Some even say over 40.
Regardless of the evidence under investigation or an accurate figure, the reality of the injustice on this length of road remains. As followers of Jesus, we are called to do more than stand idly by. Bart believes that, too. The five Christian Reformed Churches that he serves as a DMD are all along this stretch of highway. So when, as Bart says, “the Lord put on my mind that I should do something about this,” he began to talk to the RCMP and local motels to work with him in establishing a Safe Room along this route. They agreed. Now, if RCMP officers see someone hitchhiking past 7:30 p.m., or need a safe place for a victim of domestic violence, they will put that person up in the room for the night.
Bart’s heart for justice and the way he lives it out is one example of how all Christians are called to “do justice” in their community. As Bart says, “all in God’s love I can do this.”
Will you, like Bart, listen to the Lord and to your heart, and allow God’s love to help you respond to injustice?
Diaconal Ministries Canada will get you and your church started. Contact our Justice Mobilizer, Dan Galenkamp (firstname.lastname@example.org) and check out our online resources.
“The church needs young blood in its veins. Our strength for holding the faith may lie in experienced saints but our zeal for propagating it must be found in the young.” Charles Spurgeon
These words by British preacher Charles Spurgeon were written over 150 years ago but communicate a clear vision for young and old working together in building God’s kingdom. This vision can be realized through the effective use of “reverse mentoring”.
Here at DMC, we’ve promoted the use of a deacon mentoring plan for the raising up of younger or more inexperienced leaders. But mentoring does not just work in one direction. We can benefit in amazing ways from younger leaders who are more conversant with culture, technology and social context.
“Reverse mentoring” was pioneered a decade ago by General Electric CEO Jack Welsh in order to bring GE up to speed on the latest in technology. Welsh required more than 500 of his top executives to find a younger, tech-savvy mentor to teach them how to use the web and understand e-business.
Of the organizations using reverse mentoring, 41 percent of respondents used the method to share technical expertise, while 26 percent said their executives gained youthful perspective. (The poll was conducted by The Center for Coaching and Mentoring as reported in American Way magazine in January 2004.)
What if church leaders followed this example and used reverse mentoring to gain understanding of our rapidly changing emergent and post-modern culture? How could technology platforms and ministry come together (blog posts, Facebook, Twitter)? Could this build bridges between generations – closing the knowledge gap and empowering younger leaders?
Reverse mentoring can take place within existing church programs and structures. It doesn’t require a lot in the way of new processes, just the ability to match up people of different generations and encouraging them to exchange ideas and challenge each other.
- Create a “focus group” of high school or college students and invite their feedback on social justice issues, politics, current social movements and community ministry. What are their passions and interests? What do they feel is God’s place for them in the church, in ministry? What draws them closer to their faith? Welcome their analysis and criticism. Take notes, and take their comments to heart and prayerfully consider the implications for ministry.
- Meet monthly with a younger person to learn more about the emerging generations. Ask about ways to involve them in church life and leadership. Become a willing and intentional student; a humble protégé, instead of the mentor.
- Ask teachers or professors what their students are talking about these days. What are the hottest bands, TV shows, movies, and political issues?
If everyone involved approaches the relationship with a soft heart, we can learn things that will help us bring the gospel to all of our worlds while enjoying a kind of fellowship that is available in no other way. A great blessing will come when we recognize the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in the young and the old – let’s close the generation gap.
For further reading:
“Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them” by Earl Creps
The following was sent out by the CRCNA Communications:
With the refugee crisis on many people’s minds, questions have come in to various agency and ministry staff about what the CRC is doing to help.
A number of communication items have recently gone out from our office to address the refugee crisis and how churches can respond to the issue and to the needs of refugees.
To keep you all informed, here is a link to the letter that went to churches throughout Canada: Announcement: Refugee Issues and Resources
In addition, bulletin announcements went to all Canadian churches:
REFUGEE RESOURCES – The local church needs to consider its approach to the refugee crisis. Especially considering Iraq and Syria, we have the opportunity to get engaged. Understand how your church can serve the stranger in your midst by visiting the ‘Refugee Issues web portal’ on the CRC Canada page at www.crcna.org/Canada/social-justice-canada/refugee-issues. There your church will find everything from worship resources to small group studies, an online video for worship settings, and even a doorway to sponsor a refugee.
SYRIA CONFLICT RESPONSE – World Renew is responding to the horrific violence that has torn apart the Middle East and forced millions of people to become refugees. For more than three years, World Renew has been providing food and other assistance to displaced families in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Please help us continue this ministry. Gifts received from Canadians by December 31 will qualify for a 1:1 match from the Canadian government. Call 1-800-730-3490, visit www.worldrenew.net/donate or mail your gift marked, “World Renew Syria Conflict,” to World Renew, 3475 Mainway, STN LCD 1, Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8. Those interested in helping refugee families as they begin a new life in Canada, should contact Rebecca Walker (email@example.com).
Various news stories have also gone out about the refugee crisis:
As well, we have been working with partners of the CRC; the Canadian Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the World Council of Reformed Churches have all promoted our content.
I’m Dan Galenkamp, the new Justice Mobilizer for DMC. As a recent graduate of Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, I’ve been eager on finding work that incorporates my faith and my enthusiasm for helping others.
I have a real passion for justice and reconciliation. From the humble beginnings of a high school law class—where I learned about the concept of restorative justice—to the end of my time at Redeemer, I have found myself with a keen interest in how I can help those less fortunate and those in need. I recently led a group of high school graduates in a discipleship training program that culminated with a month of volunteer work in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We worked with families at a youth drop-in centre in the low-income area of Belfast, led school assemblies and church programs, interacted with the homeless, and learned how to properly articulate our faith to others.
I have high hopes for the Christian Reformed Church. I believe we have been called to manifest God’s kingdom here on earth, and a large part of this is in the area of justice. To me, the chief responsibility of those seeking justice is to bring about the Lord’s shalom, or peace. This requires reconciliation in our relationships with each other, with ourselves, with creation, and with God to the way they were intended to be.
I look forward to working with the team at DMC to help empower communities and deacons all over Canada.
Connect with Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a significant year for deacons in the Christian Reformed Church. The 2015 Task Force report approved some important principles for diaconal ministry in the 21st century. The report addressed the role of deacons in congregations and communities as well as the role of elders. And, Synod approved deacon delegation at Classis & Synod.
So, what’s up with deacons going to Classis & Synod? And, what’s up with the upcoming changes to the Church Order? I will try to summarize some of the more significant decisions. Please feel free to call DMC staff and Board of Directors if you have any questions.
- Both Deacons and Elders give leadership to distinctive areas of ministry. However, deacons and elders also have some common areas of ministry. (see changes to Article 12 & 25). “It is not simply that the church has deacons, but rather it is the case that the whole church is itself called to diakonia (works unto others)” (2013 Report page 4 & Ephesians 4:11-13). Deacons are important ministry leaders.
- Implication? Deacons are not to just perform diaconal ministry on behalf of the church, but to mobilize and equip the church to fulfill its calling.
- The proposed changes to the relationship of elders and deacons point to the importance of the two offices working together for the sake of God’s mission. The CRCNA agencies are committed to supporting our congregations to strengthen their missional and incarnational presence in our communities.
- Implication? Dialogue is needed at the Council level and Classis level meetings on how to strengthen the partnership of these two leadership roles. Contact DMC staff for suggestions.
- The 2015 Report was also guided by the ‘principle of parity.’ This parity is best demonstrated by diaconal presence in the major assemblies of the church. This is “not about equal representation but about the full representation of the whole church which these offices represent” (2015 Report page 329). For this reason, we recommend that each classis examine their agendas to reflect these new changes (see changes to Article 34).
- Implication? Diaconal involvement should be invited to shape agendas at Council and Classis.
At many classes across the country, deacons have already been included. But with the Church Order changes adopted by this synod, each church now needs to send an elder, deacon, and a minister to classis meetings unless “great distance or other weighty reasons” prevent them from doing so.
What implications will this have for your leadership role, your church, and the denomination as a whole? Together we hope to shape the answers to this question. So, let’s continue the conversation. Let us know how we can support you along in this journey at Classis or at your local church.
-written by Hans Kater, National Director, Diaconal Ministries Canada
for more on Synod 2015, click here
If there’s one book that you might want to read on charity, I recommend Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help.
Lupton’s 40 years of experience in community development in Atlanta have led him to claim that charitable giving is “either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help” (page 1).
But, you may ask -is Lupton correct? Can charity be toxic? Are we actually harming people with charity? Good questions!
These questions are very important for congregations and other ministry organizations that are facing declining revenues. In fact, these questions are the first step needed to assess the sustainability of our ministries.
These are good questions that I will not answer. However, Lupton’s short book provides answers as well as practical steps toward transformative charity.
Have a great summer and HAPPY READING!
-written by Hans, Kater (National Director, Diaconal Ministries Canada)