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Doing it Differently: Empowering Deacons to Serve

Posted by | Equipping Deacons | No Comments

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! Second Devotion for Deacons

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Here is the second devotion for deacons in the latest set from Diaconal Ministries Canada.

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. 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 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 #2 with resources

Download Devotion #2 without resources

Visit the web page with the first devotion.

A Shared Vision

Posted by | Doing Justice | No Comments

It has often been said that a few of the church’s members do all of the work!  I began to ponder about how that unfolds.  I wondered:  Are we receptive and responsive for all to share their capacity and their gifts?  Is there a “welcome” for all to contribute?

Studies have shown that 1 in 5 people struggle with a kind of impairment which also could be called a disability or a special need.  This could vary from a mental diagnosis to a visual impairment to a chronic, long-term illness.

How do we offer respect, dignity and value to a percentage of people who might not be engaged in church life as they might like because of the myths, misunderstandings and barriers surrounding their circumstances?  One of the primary calls of the deacons is to extend mercy to those in need.  It may be obvious when a walker or wheelchair is visible, but more often the challenges related to disabilities happen behind closed doors.

This morning’s breakfast brought these thoughts to mind. A mother shared her experiences of isolation even though her son’s mental health struggles are well-known throughout their community. The seat next to her on the bleachers at the baseball diamond remains vacant!  She experiences being alone in her journey because no one seems sure that it is helpful to be “with” her.  She needs presence and acceptance.  Pat answers, unreal assurances, pious platitudes, suggested fixes and reasons for the suffering of mental illness are not necessary!

In that spirit, Diaconal Ministries Canada, through its network of deacons, partners with Disability Concerns by connecting with Disability Advocates in congregations. Together, deacons and advocates might seek out those who need support and invite everybody to contribute their gifts, passions and abilities to the church’s ministries, mission and leadership.  When a church engages in “asking and listening” with people who have disabilities, that church will help to cultivate dignity, inclusion and involvement.

How valuable for the different organizations of the body of Christ to encourage and support each other’s missions and values!!  As our churches become active and visible places of inclusion, they will also become attractive and welcoming for any neighbor seeking community.

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

Click here for DMC’s justice resources related to those with disabilities.

Click here to be re-directed to Disability Concerns website.

National Aboriginal Day: June 21

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Join with churches across Canada to respond to the call for reconciliation with indigenous peoples. There are many resources available to help you learn about what reconciliation might look like, and there are opportunities  to act, advocate and be involved individually and as a church.

  • For background information on Aboriginal justice in Canada, and more information, opportunities and resources, navigate through the justice pages of the Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) website.
  • Learn about the resources available for Aboriginal Sunday from the Canadian Aboriginal Committee of the Christian Reformed Church.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of and response to God’s call to let justice flow like  a river personally and communally through DMC’s partner, The Office of Social Justice.
  • Join the conversation about social justice in the CRC through the do justice blog. Read the recent piece written by Shannon Perez (Canadian Ministries’ Justice and Reconciliation Mobilizer) on the “courageous act of being vulnerable at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

Pray that God will continue to prompt and equip the church to respond in love to our Aboriginal neighbours.

NEW! Devotions for Deacons

Posted by | Equipping Deacons | No Comments

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

Operation Manna Partner: Mosaic Centre in Edmonton, Alberta

Posted by | Engaging Community | No Comments

Mosaic Centre has been a recipient of Operation Manna (OM) funding for the past 4 years. In addition to the financial seed money that OM has gifted us, we have also been blessed by excellent mentoring from Diaconal Ministries Canada.

During this time, we have grown from a “green” start-up ministry into a valuable and healthy community resource. We serve over 500 homeless and impoverished individuals from northeast Edmonton, and receive referrals of people in need from local businesses, police, social agencies, and residents. The people who use our services have developed a respect for the area and have move into healthier lifestyles. In the area directly around Mosaic Centre, the crime rate has even dropped by 20%. Every day we witness lives impacted and changed as we build relationships with our community members and offer Christian hospitality.

Throughout the past winter and with the help of staff and volunteers, community members gathered around a wholesome meal on Sunday evenings to hear God’s Word and openly share their thoughts and questions. At the end of April, the community expressed disappointment in losing the extended winter hours. They requested, however, that “Mosaic church” continue to meet -something that has always been a part of Mosaic’s vision. Once again, volunteers have stepped up to host this weekly gathering for the community.

For more than 5 years now, Mosaic Centre has also been included in the curriculum of some of the area high schools. As a result of stories shared in one school, a student was moved to sleep outside for 6 months through the bitter Alberta winter in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the homeless and Mosaic Centre. Collin Messelink’s story was shared by the media, and many people learned about, and donated to Mosaic. People who had never considered the lives of a homeless individual were moved to view them as neighbours.

Every day at Mosaic Centre is a gift as we open our doors and meet new people. The community comes to trust and confide in staff and volunteers who help them to make positive life changes. We are grateful to Operation Manna for walking with us during these past 4 years, and we look forward to what new adventures God will bring through the doors of Mosaic Centre.

-written by Linda Deveau, from Mosaic Centre

There is more information about the Operation Manna program on the Diaconal Ministries website.

Go to the Mosaic Centre’s website for more information on Mosaic and the story about Collin Messelink.

Updated Resources

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Be sure to check out the following resources for deacons, updated and reformatted.

Guidelines for Benevolence sm


Guidelines for BenevolenceThis resource offers suggestions to help deacons develop priorities and set boundaries as they reach out in love to their neighbours.



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Growing as a Community of DeaconsThis resource provides practical ideas to help deacons capitalize on opportunities for growth and development in their meetings.





Drinking Downstream: The Church and Residential Schools

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We Drink Downstream from Christian Reformed Church on Vimeo.

Danielle Rowaan, Justice Communications and Education Coordinator for CRC Canadian Ministries, writes the following about the video:

“If there is one single area of Canadian life where Shalom and right relationships are most needed, the relationship between indigenous peoples and other Canadians is certainly in the running. And where there are broken relationships, the followers of Jesus Christ are called to be. This video, developed by several CRC agencies, shows a gathering of CRC members from a number of churches who attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) event in Vancouver. They gathered afterwards to talk about the experience and what it means for the Church. The TRC is a chance for indigenous people to tell other Canadians about their experiences of the residential schools that operated for more than 100 years in Canada.”

Diaconal Ministries Canada collaborates with several CRC agencies in the area of social justice. Browse our web pages for more information and resources related to Aboriginal justice.

Too Busy to Pray? Not Necessarily…

Posted by | Equipping Deacons | No Comments

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.





Operation Manna Offering: May 4, 2014

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In many CRCs across Canada, the Operation Manna offering will be held on May 4, 2014.

Operation Manna is a program of Diaconal Ministries Canada. The offering for this program provides an opportunity for CRCs across Canada to support each other as they love their neighbours and bless them through community ministry.

It works like this: the offerings received on May 4 form a fund which provides successful applicants with expertise from staff, support, development help and grant money for community ministry. Each CRC in Canada is eligible to apply to the Operation Manna Program for help and support in creating or growing its community ministry.

For the offering, Diaconal Ministries Canada produces the OM 2014 brochure and a video (posted online on Vimeo, a video-sharing website). These resources help to tell the story of Operation Manna, and to help CRC members learn about the exciting ways their giving directly impacts lives and communities. God is at work! And the CRC is joining Him at work in their communities.

For more information, please visit the Operation Manna section of the website.