Equipping Deacons

A New Year: setting goals as deacons

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The beginning of 2015 may feel like a new start after the break for Christmas. Of course there is some continuation of existing ministry patterns and activities; however, some of those activities may follow the established agendas of past leaders or they may cause your diaconate to lose focus because of old dilemmas and diverse passions.

Consider the beginning of a new year as a gift, an opportunity to review, reconsider and resurrect energy and focus!

Set some goals in your diaconate for the next 6 months, but also for the long-term (goals which might take 2 – 3 years to realize and implement).

Why set goals?  They will…

  • provide a focus for ministry.  Meetings can be repetitious and reactionary or, alternatively, they can be places to develop meaningful, just-filled ministry.  Decide next steps to meet your goals.
  • give you, as a team, a common purpose based on your charge.  Time can then be set aside each meeting to note the steps taken to achieve the goals.
  • help you to be accountable to each other as each person with unique gifts works to contribute toward the goals.
  • assist you in evaluating time and efforts together as a diaconate.  Are your time and gifts in diaconal ministry being used to love God and your neighbour?
  • serve to offer the experience of accomplishment. Take time to celebrate positive outcomes!

At your next meeting, re-consider your ministry goals and focus on those that will also engage your church members:

Diakonia, as the work of service that restores shalom, is not confined to any particular office but belongs to the church as a whole. The calling of deacons is not to perform that service on behalf of the church but to equip, empower and enable the church to live out its own diaconal calling.”  (Diakonia Remixed Report to Synod, 2012)

The multiplication of ministry will happen with the pursuit of shared goals.  The division of the workload will follow as congregational members are invited to be involved!!

–written by Katie Karsten, Justice Mobilizer for Diaconal Ministries Canada

Need some help? Click here to find a workplan template from Diaconal Ministries Canada (under Workplans & Handbooks).

NEW! Devotions for Deacons #5

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Here is the fifth 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 3 to focus on deacons and compassion.

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 #5

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

Beyond a Bed: tools for deacons who want to walk alongside

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A deacon is in the waiting room of a community walk-in clinic. There is a woman beside her, slumped in her seat. She is dozing lightly; she looks exhausted. After a number of minutes, the woman seems to abandon hope of a nap. She stretches, sighs and sits up. The deacon beside her begins a conversation. It doesn’t take long until the woman shares how tired she is. She doesn’t have a bed and is having difficulty sleeping on the floor. Not to mention the nagging cough that has plagued her for months. As the deacon’s name is called and she rises to go and see the doctor, she tells the woman she wants to help and asks her for her phone number.

On Sunday at the deacon’s church there is a notice in the bulletin, asking for the donation of a bed and mattress. There is prompt response and the deacon calls the woman from the clinic to arrange a time to bring over the bed. The woman tearfully accepts the gift and begins to share more of her story. It is a story of broken relationships, untapped potential, and a lack of opportunities. There is so much behind the story and the deacon is sure the church can continue to help.

This is now more than a bulletin announcement, more than the donation of a bed. It has become about Carol. About her life. Her future, her gifts and her needs. Hopefully it will become a long-term relationship. There is beautiful potential here, which will only be fully realized by a church prepared to walk alongside and a diaconate which has discussed and decided how they are able to help.

Although this story is only loosely based on an account told by a CRC deacon, the usefulness of guidelines for helping and benevolence is real. Who will we help? How often? What boundaries might be needed? Where can we refer those whom we cannot help? Guidelines are intended to help deacons establish a framework for responding to people who request help.

Does your diaconate have something in place?

If not, check out these tools developed by Diaconal Ministries Canada staff.

Focus on Stewardship: Hope CRC in Thunder Bay

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Hope CRC in Thunder Bay, Ontario recently shared how they weave the theme of stewardship throughout their month of worship in September.

Deacons actively encouraged and challenged different leaders and groups to be intentional about stewardship:

1. Council was asked to think of ways to incorporate stewardship discussions into their visits in September.

2. The praise team was encouraged to find songs on stewardship for worship during the Sunday services.

3. Each year, the pastor would be challenged to preach on different types of stewardship; however, because Hope CRC is currently vacant, those leading the reading services were encouraged to find sermons about stewardship online (where there were many good ones from which to choose).

4. Each week during the month of September, little “blurbs” on stewardship were printed in the bulletin.

5. The deacons scheduled stewardship-related offerings during the month of September.

How does your church incorporate stewardship into the worship and life of your church? Leave a comment and let us know.

Looking for resources on stewardship? Click here to find a few that Diaconal Ministries Canada has compiled to get you started.

(the 5 ideas above were adapted from a piece written by Susan Otto, Chair of Deacons, Hope CRC)

NEW! Devotion for Deacons #4

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Here is the fourth 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 first of 3 to focus on deacons and compassion.

Each devotion is available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions. Alternatively, you may choose to simply download the devotion without the accompanying material.

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 4

Download devotion 4 without resources

Visit the devotion webpage for the first 2 devotions in the second set, as well as the complete first set of devotions.

NEW: Third Devotion for Deacons

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Here is the third 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. The first 3 devotions focus on deacons and community ministry.

Each devotion is available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions. Alternatively, you may choose to simply download the devotion without the accompanying material.

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 3

Download devotion 3 without resources

Visit the devotion webpage for the first 2 devotions in the second set, as well as the complete first set of devotions.

Deacons and Transitions

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It’s that time of the year again. And it may feel like your diaconate is starting all over.

Here are some suggestions to ease the transition for your new deacons and for your diaconate as you move forward together.

10 Important Transitional Issues to Consider:

(follow the links for resources connected to each transitional issue)

  1. What deacons do: Re-read and discuss the “charge” to Deacons.
  2. How to start well: Check our website for devotions.
  3. Build Community and form a strong team: Click here for some suggestions.
  4. Gifts for Ministry: Examine what gifts you have around your “diaconal table.”
  5. Organizing your ministry plans: Develop a Diaconate workplan.
  6. Schedule a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) visit: Who are they?
  7. Develop your ministry: Guidelines for setting an offering schedule, benevolence, etc.
  8. Diaconal Ministry Shares: Why do we pay them?
  9. Diaconal Ministries Canada: Interested in our Annual Report?
  10. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check out the FAQs or contact the Diaconal Ministries Canada office (Madeline).

Doing it Differently: Empowering Deacons to Serve

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Has your church found it difficult to get people to serve as Deacons and Elders?

Our church definitely has experienced this phenomenon in the past few years.  I think our record was more than 8 “no’s” before we got 1 “yes.”  Now that’s pretty sad.  One of the things we were discovering was that people agreed to serve in the role of Deacon or Elder and then, once they found out what it was like and what the expectations were, they found that it didn’t really fit with their gifts.  We also discovered that we didn’t really have adequate training to ensure that new office-bearers felt comfortable in their roles and were able to succeed in fulfilling the church’s expectations.   This left us in an awkward spot. And, yet, the church really needs people to serve in those roles to meet the needs of the community.

This year, we looked at how to improve -to create a more informed decision, and also to better equip those in service.  One of the first things we wanted to do was make the idea of serving less intimidating. So how did we do that?

Well, we invited God into the process.

First, we had people approach potential candidates and ask them to consider praying about the opportunity to serve.  Then we invited them to an information session. This was an amazing experience.

At this meeting, we gave each candidate a job description, highlighting some of the expectations.  Then the best part was hearing from current Deacons and Elders, who shared powerful, personal testimonies of how God really equipped them to fulfill these roles.  Many times they felt inadequate, but God showed up and they were blessed and able to do more than they possibly imagined.

At the end of the meeting, candidates were asked to go and continue to seek God’s will and pray for this opportunity.  They would also receive personal follow-up from a current Deacon or Elder to address any further concerns or fears.

Finally, we asked candidates to make a decision.  And we had an incredible turn-around!  This year, we have 3 new deacon positions available, and we actually have more candidates than positions for the first time since many of us can remember.  Soon, we will be letting God choose those who will be serving Him in the roles of Deacon and Elder.

Our next step is to work with the new leaders by equipping and encouraging them in their roles.  We plan to have some mentoring from more experienced Deacons and Elders.  To help newcomers understand their roles, we will also take advantage of denominational events, such as the Day of Encouragement, and resources like the Deacon and Elder handbooks.

It’s important to note that we did not develop this process ourselves.  It is a treasured best practice among other CRCs which ServiceLink learned about, has documented, and passed on to many other churches.

I pray this will be a blessing to your church as you continue to think about how to invite people into serving and leading in the church.

-written by Lesley Millar Toussaint, Diaconal Ministries Canada Board member, Classis Toronto

NEW! Devotions for Deacons

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Since the last release of a set of devotions specific to deacons and written specifically for use in deacons meetings, there have been requests for another set.

Today Diaconal Ministries Canada is publishing the first devotion in a new set.

In our conversations with deacons across the country, we often summarize the ministry of the deacon into 4 areas: community ministry, compassion, justice, and stewardship. This new set will include 3 devotions on each of these areas.

A new devotion will be posted each month on the blog for the next 12 months. Each devotion will be available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions. Alternatively, you may choose to simply download the devotion without the accompanying material.

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

Download Devotion #1 with resources

Download Devotion #1 without resources

Too Busy to Pray? Not Necessarily…

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A few years ago, Willow Creek Church pastor and author Bill Hybels released a cleverly-titled book: Too Busy Not to Pray.  In my mind I know it is true: so many things need to be prayed about, with so much happening in my life and so many needs in the church.  But, in my life, when I am honest, I acknowledge that–too often–I am indeed “too busy to pray.” What to do?

How can we, whatever our role, be a bigger blessing to the people we serve as we strive to deepen our prayer life?  Here is something that has helped me, and I hope (and pray) that it will help you, too: take advantage of moments when you sing, and use a simple song as a framework for prayer.

These moments may include commuting in your car, folding laundry…or my favourite: power-walking on a treadmill.  A simple song that can work is, “In Our Lives, Lord, Be Glorified” (Lift Up Your Hearts #861 or “Lord, Be Glorified” in Sing! A New Creation #43).

The first verse goes like this:

          In our lives, Lord, be glorified, be glorified; In our lives, Lord, be glorified today.

Other verses mention, “In our homes, Lord…” “In your church, Lord…” and “In your world, Lord…”

The verses are easily adaptable to any ministry you would like to pray about.  So, let’s say you are a deacon commuting to work…your singing-prayer could go like this…

          In First CRC, Lord, be glorified, be glorified;

          In First CRC, Lord, be glorified today.

Then, the following verses could go like this…

          Through the deacons, Lord, be glorified…(etc.)

          Through the elders and other leaders, Lord…

          Through our pastor, Lord…

          Through our general membership, Lord…

          As we serve the community, Lord…

With some creativity (and flexibility with the syllables!) you can make the prayer especially relevant to any ministry situation…some examples:

          As I finish my workplan, Lord…

          As we develop our COS, Lord…

Of course, these song-prayers don’t have to be “solo-only.”  Why not sing this prayer at your next meeting?  As the Spirit leads, you can ask for suggestions for each of the verses, up-front or in-between verses: “In the foodbank, Lord!” “Through our small groups, Lord!” and so on.

Yes, we are busy.  But we are too busy not to pray.  May the Lord be glorified (and the people you serve be blessed) as you take advantage of singing-moments as opportunities for prayer.

 

Doug VandeKamp is a Diaconal Ministry Developer for Classis Toronto, and also a Pastor available for a call in the Christian Reformed Church.

Click here for more information on Diaconal Ministry Developers (DMD) or to find the DMD for your Classis.