Equipping Deacons

Caring

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Every diaconate wants to demonstrate that they know how to care for those who are going through difficult times. Caring for persons who are traveling through some difficult times is an important part of the deacons’ calling -for those who are within their church family and also those outside of their church community.

Every diaconate has vouchers or gift cards that they can make readily available to those people who need a hand to get through some tough times. This is often necessary and seems the only way out. At our diaconal meeting, someone will be assigned to hand out a gift card and we move on to the next item on the agenda.

Does this then only become a role that we perform rather then really show that we care? Should we send our deacon on her/his way with a gift card and not also offer a prayer that God will use this as an opportunity to show that care involves our hearts -that we do not just hand out a card but also take the time to involve ourselves in their suffering?

If we are the hands and feet of Jesus then finances are only a part of what we want to give. Bringing hope will mean walking along side of them in their journey. Demonstrating that we care is more than a financial fix. It is the being there with them that may bring more healing then anything else you may offer

-written by Len Bakelaar (Diaconal Ministry Developer, Classis Huron)

Resources for Deacons: “Guidelines for Benevolence”

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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.

 

Too Young?

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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

Group of people having a discussion.

Reverse Mentoring: A New Learning Curve

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“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.

Getting started:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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

Synod 2015 and diaconal ministry

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Dear Deacons:

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

Summer Reading

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toxic charityIf 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)

Developing Spiritual Gifts: mentoring deacons and more

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“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

The Taskforce report on Elders and Deacons roles in ministry has presented opportunities for teaching and unpacking how leaders in the church can integrate word and deed ministry practically. DMC staff has spent time reflecting and building on our Ephesians 4 vision for diaconal leadership. These insights have sparked innovative development of resources for churches to identify spiritual gifts in members of the congregations and how to mentor others in developing those gifts.

To this end, DMC staff has designed new resources and a workshop to support churches in discovering the gifts within the Body of Christ. Please consider if these resources would interest your local church:

  1. Discovering Spiritual Gifts – this workshop includes a personal gifts questionnaire, teaching surrounding spiritual gifts in general, the specific gifts and how to implement them. It concludes with a component called “Releasing Ourselves and Others for Ministry” that teaches engagement and interdependence within the community of believers.
  1. Asset Mapping in the Congregation – this resource uses the principles of ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) to discover the gifts of a faith community and its resources. This tool works well in conjunction with the Community Opportunity Scan in bringing to light areas where the gifts within a neighbourhood can connect with the gifts of a local church.
  1. Mentoring Planthis resource includes teaching around mentoring – what it is, biblical basis, and what it could look like. We have also developed a general plan for more experienced deacons wishing to mentor new deacons. DMC staff can collaborate with a deacon team to customize a mentoring strategy.

Holding the Ephesians 4 vision for diaconal leadership can transform the way we look at calling people to the offices of elder and deacon. The challenge of equipping and preparing lay leaders in the church is also our opportunity. From there, the task of leadership includes equipping others for works of service. We hope that these further workshop and resource offerings from DMC can assist churches in raising up leaders, mentoring young people in discovering their gifts, and using the assets of a faith community for God’s kingdom work.

Looking for more resources for deacons? Click here!

Connecting with Our Muslim Neighbours

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Disability Concerns, the refugee office of World Renew, the Office of Social Justice and Race Relations are a number of CRC agencies which partner with Diaconal Ministries Canada in the work of justice.

Partnerships with other networks, programs and agencies continue to strengthen the possibilities and the ways that the church engages in a spirit of mercy and justice with its diverse neighbours.  Noted recently by a prominent and respected sociologist, Reginald Bibby, one of the primary means of growth in the Canadian church will likely be immigrants.

Along with new immigrants adding to our population’s ethnic diversity, our country also experiences increased diversity in religions.  Muslims are settling into many of the neighbourhoods of our Christian Reformed Churches.  Currently one quarter of all immigrants to Canada follow the Islamic faith.  In fact, Muslims in Canada are currently 3.5% of our total population.  Within 15 years, this is projected to double.

The Christian Reformed Church desires to equip its members to confidently and intentionally engage with their Muslim neighbours.  This is evident in the re-commitment to The Salaam Project,” a ministry of Christian Reformed World Missions and other partners.

Four areas of focus will better equip CRC congregations in Canada to engage with Muslims.

  • Dialogue– proactively seeking to develop relationships with Muslim brothers and sisters
  • Witness– living lives of joy as examples of Christ’s love
  • PeacemakingSalaam will provide a voice for peace between Muslim and Christian in Canada and around the world.
  • Hospitality Salaam will help to bring down barriers to hospitality.

According to the recent Salaam proposal, CRC congregations may begin, with assistance, to understand barriers that Muslims have to hearing the Gospel.  With God’s help, these barriers will be brought down and our engagement with Muslims will be enhanced and blessed.

The potential to re-engage Muslim ministry in Canada is promising!  Muslims in our community provide an opportunity not to be lamented or ignored. Engaging with our Muslim neighbours is an opportunity to share life with its joys and challenges!!  Most of all, it is our significant and urgent opportunity to share the Gospel in both word and deed!!

The current Muslim ministry leader is Greg Sinclair who may be reached through the CRC Burlington office at gsinclair@crcna.org.  He will welcome your learnings and your questions as he seeks to give leadership to this significant project.  To explore through a host of resources, follow this link.

The above photo is courtesy of Mission Montreal (a partnership of various CRC agencies)

NEW! Next Devotion in the series

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Follow the link below to download the eighth devotion for deacons in the latest set of devotionals from Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC).

In our conversations with deacons across the country, DMC often summarizes the ministry of the deacon into 4 areas: community ministry, compassion, justice, and stewardship.

This devotion is the second of three which will focus on deacons and justice.

Each devotion is available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions.

We pray that you will be blessed by these devotions, and that, together, your diaconate may grow and deepen its relationship with each other and the church and community you serve.

Download devotion 8

Visit the devotion webpage for the earlier devotions in this set, as well as the complete first set of devotions.

Deacons Challenge Congregation to Participate in Reverse Offerings

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When Rachel Vroege (Regional Ministries Developer -West) from Diaconal Ministries Canada visited the Deacons of Bethel CRC in Saskatoon last year, one idea she presented to us was that of a Reverse Offering.  We were immediately taken with the idea, and went about trying to make it work for our local Rosthern Food Bank.  We explained to our congregation what a reverse offering was, and how it worked.

On March 8th our offering bags were passed around and everyone pulled out slips of paper which had items listed on them as suggested needs for the Food Bank.  The results were amazing and the large amount of items that we took to Rosthern on March 27, 2015 speak to the many blessings we as individuals and as congregation feel we wanted to share. There was excitement in the air!

The Rosthern Food Bank people were slightly overwhelmed by our gift.  They had been running short of stock and as one of the ladies quietly said to me, “The Lord supplies.”  They asked how we had raised this amount of items.  When we told them about the “reverse offering,” the word and explanation quickly spread from one helper to the next.  I can just imagine that there will be a series of Reverse Offerings in the surrounding churches.  Great idea Rachel, and Thank You Lord!

-Jean de Beer, Diaconal Ministry Developer for Saskatchewan

(in the above photo: Bethel CRC Deacons l-r: Karen Jacobi, Liz McLean, Calvin Vaandrager, and Henk Vandenbrink)

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