Equipping Deacons

6 Ways to Stay Motivated this Summer

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Summer is finally here! In Canada, we cherish these long-awaited months as they seem to go by faster and faster each year. We can’t wait to spend time outdoors, on the water, or just plain relaxing – or all three! No matter what part of the country you live in, we Canadians love these dog days of summer. And let’s admit it Deacons; you’re also hoping to take a bit of a break right about now.

And yet! Many still have to go to work every day and don’t get us started on the work around the house that needs to get done! Unfortunately (or fortunately!), the church is no different. There are still ministries to run and for Deacons, offerings still need to be collected and counted each week, benevolence work still needs to continue, and planning ahead for the Fall isn’t going to happen on its own!

So, how can your diaconate (and church!) get the rest you need AND stay motivated during these sweet summertime months?

Here are 6 ways:

  1. Stay Plugged In! With routines and schedules turned upside down, it’s easy to spend less time with God. In the summer months, make it a priority to spend even MORE time with Him. Read your Bible, pray and worship God in a rich variety of ways over these next couple months. To some this may sound like more work, or one more thing to do in a season when we are desperate for rest. But remember: “You gain a new excitement for life and your purpose when you are plugged in to Christ.” (Matt Brown) This must be any ministry leader’s first priority. Why not use the online Today devotional to keep you on track!

“You gain a new excitement for life and your purpose when you are plugged in to Christ.”

Matt Brown
  • Take this new season to do some strategic thinking: Summer can be a great time to evaluate your ministry and mission. Does your Diaconate have a vision? How is it going? What goals have you set and reached? Which ones still need to happen? Does your Vision still line up with your church’s? Are the ministries and programs you run still effective and sustainable? Why not spend one evening as a team of deacons to do some reflection and sharing. Here’s one tool to get you started!
  • Learn Something New! Summer time is a great time to focus on leadership development. While attending a conference isn’t always possible, have each deacon read one non-fiction, ministry-related book this summer and share what you learned with your diaconate and church. Sound boring? Do it with your feet up under a big shady tree with a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. Here’s a great one hot off the press, or ask us if you need any other suggestions!
  • Take Your Meetings Outside! Move your deacon’s meetings outdoors or to a different location than the church building. Some churches have even met at a local organization that they support, like their local food bank or a youth drop-in centre. This will not only breathe some life into your meetings but it can be a great way to stay connected to the agencies you support.
  • Catch Up on Your Visits: While many would argue that church members want to be left alone in the summer or that they are too busy for a visit, we guarantee there are many in your church who AREN’T busy and who are even lonelier in the summer. This article from Huffington Post (UK) is quite interesting and eye-opening! Want a more “local” opinion? Here is another one.
  • Plan a Fun Summer Outreach Event! Here in Canada, summer is the IDEAL time to show and share the love of Christ with our neighbours and remind them that God (and His Church) doesn’t take a vacation. Movie nights, free car washes, ice cream socials, and community picnics are all tried and true events that will bring people together and offer gospel moments. And don’t forget to encourage your individual members/families to reach out. Here are some great (non-threatening!) ideas: invite a neighbour or shut-in over for a backyard BBQ, go clean up a neighbourhood park, offer to cut an elderly neighbour’s lawn, water plants for your vacationing neighbours, or offer to babysit for a mom or dad who needs to run a few errands kid-free! And why not have members share about their experiences in September during a morning worship gathering?

So how did we do? Which one are you going to try this week or this month? Let us know in the comments below, share on our Facebook page, or send us a direct message at dmc@crcna.org. Your story could inspire and encourage other deacons and churches.

From “Identity Crisis” to Identity in Christ

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Providence CRC’s Community Opportunity Scan Opens New Doors into the Community

The congregation members and leadership team might not have said it outright, but Providence Christian Reformed Church was experiencing an identity crisis.

The congregation had a 30-year foothold in their Beamsville, ON, community, one of the sleepier spots along the QEW corridor. But, while the church was originally built in a rural setting, surrounded by the orchards and vineyards of the Niagara Greenbelt, it had become more and more of a suburban area.

As a church, Providence had a lot of strengths. “We’re friendly and welcoming to people who are at different stages on their faith journeys,” said Katie Riewald, Director of Community Connections. “We’re unified and responsive when there’s a need or crisis. We have capable and willing young leaders.”

But the problem wasn’t a lack of love for Christ or their neighbours. (When is it ever?) Steve DeBoer, lead pastor at Providence, shared that the church was “in the middle of some congregational changes that were challenging the church, and causing some stress.” One of these was a sudden shift in demographics, with the average age in the church dropping significantly, and a rapid influx of young families. Riewald also adds that there was “a collective lack confidence in how God was using us.” The congregation craved a sense of clarity on how to intentionally engage with their community.

Enter the Community Opportunity Scan.

Community Opportunity Scan? What’s that?

In its simplest form, the Community Opportunity Scan — otherwise known as a COS — is a tool for churches to learn more about the community around them. It’s also a way for members of a congregation to start conversations with their neighbours. Most importantly, though, it’s a program inspired by the love of Christ and the Great Commission — Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations.

A Community Opportunity Scan is a tool for churches to learn more about the community around them.

Typically, a COS goes through three stages…

  1. Defining your community — Once a team of 5–8 church members is created, your diaconate defines a geographical area that your church wants to get to know.
  2. Gathering information — Doing background research on the assets within a community, and the demographics that make it up, gives your church’s team the context it needs.
  3. Conversations & listening — This is the key piece. Your team interviews members of your community, opens up conversations… and most importantly, listens well.

The whole process is one bathed in prayer and discernment. And it goes beyond identifying needs. It also affirms the unique gifts and assets in your community and your church. The end result shows churches — and their deacons, especially — clear areas to pursue justice and work with community partners.

How the Process Looked for Providence

About 13 years ago, DeBoer attended the Diaconal Ministries’ Annual Day of Encouragement. While there, he learned about the COS process. He wanted to start doing one with Providence, but the timing never felt right.

Things changed when the church made the decision to hire Pastor Mike Collins as a Community Pastor in 2016. One of the main objectives of his job description was to lead the congregation through a COS. “For the COS to be led with integrity, we needed help,” DeBoer recalls. “Having Pastor Mike join us, with the experience he had, gave us confidence to move from talking about it to actually doing it.”

When Pastor Collins came on board, he saw immediately that Providence Church was ready! “I knew the COS was a great tool for any church who desires to realign their compass to face towards local mission opportunities,” he shared. “The COS helped [Providence] focus around that singular cause. It helped to pave the way for building significant community partnerships, identify the potential to transform neighbourhoods and areas within its own church that needed to change. The church grew in its understanding of how God’s Kingdom was forming outside its doors.”

The Results: A Church on Mission with Jesus!

“We have a congregation that is actively learning to lean into what it means to follow Jesus in a missional way.”

Katie Riewald

Ultimately, the end result was a sharpening of Providence’s identity. With clear, tangible ways to engage with their community, they’re no longer in “crisis.” And it’s not just a “win” for the church, either — it’s a win for the community too! “We have a congregation that is actively learning to lean into what it means to follow Jesus in a missional way,” Riewald shared.

More specifically, some of the things that the COS helped Providence identify were:

  • There are lots of services in Beamsville, but most are working in isolation to each other. They found the isolation was detrimental to those who needed access to services. There were gaps, repeated services – and nearly no collaboration at all. This was especially highlighted by the fact that one school they talked to had incredible resources and access to support from the community, but another school, perhaps even more in need, was completely lacking – and they were only a few blocks apart!
  • There are a lot of churches supporting the same causes. Because of this, Providence now limits their key partners. By narrowing their focus, their congregation now has something tangible to engage with. “Once we were able to more clearly demonstrate what we were going to do and why,” said Riewald, “there was high buy-in and enthusiasm from the congregation.” Today, Providence has identified three main causes to support in their community: The Convos Youth Zone, Community Care of West Niagara and the Grimsby Life Centre.
  • There needed to be more coordination for the church’s community involvement. The results of the scan, combined with enthusiasm of the congregation and willingness of partners — as well as the fact that Providence has no team of deacons — resulted in the decision to hire a part-time Director of Community Outreach. This person’s job is to live out the results of the scan, connect with Providence’s key partners, build new relationships and help the congregation love and come alongside their community.

For Providence Church, “the COS was an important part of a larger 2-year Love Lincoln Campaign in pushing us to love our community,” DeBoer shared.

Some Practical Advice on Conducting a COS

Outside of the results, Riewald also shared some more practical tips for churches who are either going through or thinking about starting a scan.

  • Make sure that a comprehensive Communication Plan is in place BEFORE you start, so that the church is engaged in what’s happening. Having clear communication between the team who is interpreting the results and leadership (pastor, elder board, council, deacons, etc.) is essential so that all sides know what the expectations are.
  • Train your volunteers well on how to conduct, record, and transcribe interviews, as well as on how to initiate conversations and explain what the COS is and why it is important. Be sure to lay out your biases, assumptions, and expectations before you start and continually check in so that they do not dominate the discussion.
  • Have someone in place whose job (either volunteer or not) it is to run the scan, and limit the amount of people who have say over interpreting the results.
  • Remember that the COS is a tool – it’s not going to tell your church exactly what to do, but it will help your church start having those discussions. DeBoer reminds churches that “the COS gave us a reason to engage our community leaders—from principals to business leaders to elected officials—providing the start to a conversation we could build on. The kinds of questions the COS had us asking showed them we were thinking beyond our walls, and that we saw them as valuable.”

Dan Galenkamp is a former employee of Diaconal Ministries and we’re excited to have him join our writing team! He is a freelance writer who likes to write about issues of justice and how churches respond to them. He lives with his wife (and two very fluffy cats) in Jordan Station, ON.


Deacon’s – Don’t Go It Alone!

For deacons, when it comes to getting to know your neighbourhood and engaging with your community, it can be difficult to know where to start. For those who have tried outreach — you know how messy it can be to interact with those who have little experience with a church. There’s no clear-cut way to do it.

If you, your diaconal team or your congregation are feeling stuck — or if you’re wondering if your church is having the right impact in your community — going through a Community Opportunity Scan with Diaconal Ministries may be just what you need! Our team has been involved in diaconal work for decades. We understand the awkwardness and messiness that can come with talking to strangers or those on the margins.

Through a COS, you and your church can discern opportunities to…

  • Create awareness of local issues
  • Engage in community partnerships
  • Evaluate existing programs
  • Begin new initiatives

If that sounds like something you’re looking for, get in touch with our team today. We’d be happy to chat with you and your diaconate! You can also visit our website to look at the Key Elements of a COS or take our quiz to determine if your church is ready!

Becoming a Greener Church – Creation Care Series, Part 3

Posted by | Creation Care, Doing Justice, Equipping Deacons, Stewardship, Uncategorized | No Comments

This month we are finishing up our mini-series on Creation Care, which we started in April, partly in celebration of Earth Day. But as we recall from our last post, EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY, right?! It is our Christian responsibility to care for God’s creation, which not only includes personally in our homes, but also corporately, in our churches and extending that out into our communities and world.

In our last post, we looked at three things to get us started. These can be done personally in our homes, but of course we can also do them together, as God’s people – in our small groups, in our ministry teams, and in our diaconates and councils.

In our first post of this series, I reflected back to my childhood and was delighted to remember the ways my parents showed me how to care for the earth. I’d like to say that my church played a big role in teaching and modeling creation care to me. Thinking back, I couldn’t recall many sermons or youth group study nights or community partnerships that reminded me of the importance of creation care and my role in it. I think one time we may have gone around a plaza behind our church to pick up garbage with the Calvinettes (now called G.E.M.S.)… This is true even as I grew into adulthood and attended a couple different CRCs. Perhaps these things did happen, but I don’t remember them.

So, what is the church’s role in teaching us, reminding us, and animating us, as followers of Jesus, to steward God’s good creation?

Little did I know but Synod (the governing body of the CRCNA) has taken significant action on creation care over the past two decades! Among other things, Synod 2008 approved an updated version of Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony in 2008, which reminds us that creation care is of vital importance for the church. It reads as follows:

51. We lament that our abuse of creation has brought lasting damage to the world we have been given: polluting streams and soil, poisoning the air, altering the climate, and damaging the earth. We commit ourselves to honor all God’s creatures and to protect them from abuse and extinction, for our world belongs to God.

What is the church’s role in teaching us, reminding us, and animating us, as followers of Jesus, to steward God’s good creation?

One significant “Call to Action” for the entire denominational body was for churches and its members to “be voices for justice and public examples in the effort to live sustainably within our God-given resources, to promote stewardship in our own communities and our nations, and to seek justice for the poor and vulnerable among us and for future generations.”

This is great! So… whose job is it anyway?

Will All The Deacons Please Stand Up

When we read the Deacon’s Mandate, we see that deacons are called to be “prophetic critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society, and be sensitive counselors to the victims of such evils.” In all their ministries, deacons are called, “in imitation of Christ’s mercy [to] teach us to love God, our neighbours, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts.”

Wait, WHAT? It’s the DEACONS job??? Well, yes, for the most part.

Deacons, you don’t have to go it alone. Help is here.

Never Fear! Help is Here!

This is where Diaconal Ministries Canada and other wonderful agencies of the CRCNA come in. Deacons, you don’t have to go it alone. Help is here.

One way that Diaconal Ministries Canada is working diligently to resource and equip deacons is through a brand new partnership with Christian Stewardship Services and the CRCNA in Canada. A Stewardship Pilot Project will be launched in 2019 in order to help the deacons (both ordained and non-ordained) increase their church’s awareness of the Biblical principles of stewardship and help them live those principles out in practical, measurable ways.

Diaconal Ministries is also in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding to become an official partner of the Climate Witness Project (CWP). Diaconal Ministries and the CWP will work together with congregations and CWP regional organizers, deacons and staff in order to strengthen their overlapping ministry and enhance each other’s strengths. Communities and churches will be enriched and will respond to God’s call to love their neighbour and care for creation in four key areas: Energy Stewardship, Worship, Education, and Advocacy.

Practical Help for Churches Like Yours

We recently reached out to Andrew Oppong, Justice Mobilization Specialist with the CRC Office of Social Justice, and Dr. Henry Brouwer, professor at Redeemer University, CWP Regional Organizer in Classis Hamilton, and member of Meadowlands CRC in Ancaster, ON. They gave some helpful suggestions and shared resources to help deacons get started! Here are a few:

  1. Perform an Energy and Environmental Audit of Your Church and its Ministries:
    1. How is waste managed at your church? Does your church participate in local recycling and organic programs? Are your staff, ministry teams and groups who rent the church following your guidelines/protocols?
    2. Encourage your Property Management Team to consider ways in which the church building can be made more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly. Do you have bike racks, for example, to encourage cycling to church? Have you upgraded the lighting to more energy-efficient LEDs? If your church is going to be doing a major renovation or new construction, how can the use of fossil fuels be eliminated? See what one church did when they renovated their space! What about installing solar panels? Some churches have considered the use of solar energy as a source of energy production. Save your money and DON’T pave your church parking lot. Say what?! Yep, you heard us. Consider finding alternatives to using road salt in the winter months, which can seep into waterways and impact vegetation along roadways.
  2. Provide Learning Opportunities: Create greater awareness in your own congregation about environmental stewardship:
    1. Cooler/Smarter Series: A 7-part series on the book “Cooler/Smarter” by the Union of Concerned Scientist, which addresses ways in which individuals can reduce their personal carbon emissions. It covers topics from diet, transportation, home heating & cooling to the use of plastics. This is congregationally-led and the OSJ is open to working with churches who may want to start this series;
    2. Budgets and Creation Care: This is a practical guide written by Dr. Henry Brouwer filled with general ways of reducing energy consumption and increasing greater stewardship. Several churches have found this useful in the area of stewardship;
    3. Plan a Worship Service or Series about Creation Care: Some good resources are available on the Climate Witness Project site.
  3. Get Outdoors and Make Your Church Property Green! Be a leading example in your community and show your neighbours that you care about the earth!
    1. Plant a Community Garden: If your church has extra land available, you could make it available for small plots for the community, since many yards are rather small for gardens. It also provides local food and shows people how bountiful the creation can be!
    2. Plant native plants around the property: A butterfly garden can be an attractive addition to the landscaping while at the same time providing a habitat for pollinators (many of which have become scarce).
  4. Be an Advocate!: Contact your local government representatives about your concerns regarding the environment. It is extremely important that we encourage our leaders when they do the right thing and suggest alternatives when they do not. Your voices count!

Churches CAN make a difference! As Voltaire says, “no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible,” yet where would the avalanche be without each snowflake? Check out our section on Creation Care and/or for more inspiration, read some of these success stories posted on the CWP website and don’t forget to download the Ten Ways to Care for Creation guide. Your CWP Regional Organizers are ready and willing to give presentations about Climate Change to your diaconate or church OR help plan and host learning events. They can also help you find local companies or organizations to help you and provide practical tips and ideas.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”

Voltaire

Got a Story to Share?

Tell us how you and/or your church are doing your part to care for God’s creation and every living thing in it. Email Erin, our Communications Coordinator – she’d love to hear from you!

Surviving Recruitment Time

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!”

Yes, yes, we know Christmas is long gone. It’s Recruitment Time! I am sure by now your Church Council has worked long and hard to craft a witty and concise bulletin announcement and that it’s been published the last 3 weeks, with a deadline that is fast-approaching. And I’m also sure by now your Council Chair’s inbox or church mailslot is overflowing with nominations and/or people asking where they can sign up! If that is true, then this article is NOT for you.

But, if like most churches and Councils, you haven’t heard a peep and/or you’re dreading this year’s nomination process, then feel free to keep reading.

No matter what ministry team you lead in the church, recruitment is likely your least favourite task; aka a ‘necessary evil’. Unfortunately for everyone involved, most church leaders don’t enjoy doing it, not many know HOW to do it, and not many are successful at it. If Recruitment were a musical, it would likely be named I Will Survive and would feature hit songs like:

But seriously, here at DMC, we don’t think it has to be that bad! And we’re here to help! So to help you not only SURVIVE recruiting new deacons, but to THRIVE, we want to spend some time this month looking at the Do’s and Don’ts of Recruitment. This week, we’ll start you off with our Top 10 Ways to Recruit New Council Members. It’s a quick snapshot into how to recruit well, year after year. Look it over, and let us know what you would add or take away, or let us know what you’ve tried in your church.


How About You?

So what does your church or diaconate do to recruit new council members? Tell us your trade secrets! Email Erin today or give her a call at 905-931-1975.

Serving a God of Change – Part 1: Why Change is Hard

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Happy New Year!!!

Can I still say that?! How long are we supposed to say this to each other anyway? Can I say it to someone I am seeing for the first time in the new year? If so, this could go onto until June. Is this greeting only welcome the first couple weeks into January? Or is that even too long? And what’s so exciting about a NEW year anyway? Well, lots we think!

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been pondering this quite a bit: what’s so great about NEW things? Why do we even need new things? Why do we need a new year? Why are people so obsessed with change?

Even the Bible is filled with references to “new” things:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘“The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3).

Sometimes when we read these verses, our first thought can be What was wrong with the former command? Or Why do we need another new song? I like the old one(s)!

Let’s face it: as human beings, most of the time we don’t LIKE change and even more, we don’t see the necessity for it.

Not many people love venturing off into uncharted waters. We seem to know instinctly that a new way will present both new possibilities and new problems.

Here are a few reasons I came up with as to why this may be:

  1. Change means something has ended OR that something needs to die or change: This one is hard for most of us. As humans, we tend to avoid loss at all costs, even though we know that jobs can end, people sometimes move away, kids must grow up, etc.
    DMC is no stranger to change; over the past 5 years we’ve seen 3 new staff members come on board due to retirements and resignations.
  2. We think change means we were doing it all wrong before: By definition, change is a departure from the past. People who are a part of the current ‘system’ or way of doing things (the one is being superseded) can become defensive. To them, change can mean something isn’t working and therefore what they’ve been doing is all wrong, which, to them, means THEY were wrong.
    When new staff, new Diaconal Ministry Developers, new deacons, etc. come in and start asking questions about resources or the way we do things, it can make us uncomfortable!
  3. People LOVE the status quo: This one continues our thoughts in #2. Change means no longer doing things “the way they’ve always been done” and this can make people feel uneasy. Without understanding why this new change is necessary, some may become defensive or betrayed or even disengage completely.
  4. Change can equal more work and sacrifice: And herein lies the challenge and one of the best reasons to AVOID change – it typically creates MORE work. Not only does it take time away from our ‘regular’ work, but we are certain to encounter inevitable glitches that can happen along the way. I can certainly attest to this one!!
  5. Change can cause ripple effects: Related to #4 above, change can create ripples that are neither anticipated nor desired. The ripples can mean even more changes need to happen or that certain issues will need to be addressed.
  6. People know change brings a new set of possibilities and problems: Not many people love venturing off into uncharted waters. We seem to know instinctly that a new way will present both new possibilities and new problems (aka the ripple effects!). So we put aside the possibilities just so we can avoid the problems. We decide the risk isn’t worth the reward.

So after all of that, why CHANGE? IS it really worth it?

Sometimes change is good, and, like underwear, most of the time change is necessary.

And then it hit me: UNDERWEAR. At a church plant I worked at a few years ago, we did a sermon series on change and we used a picture of a pair of underwear for our series graphics. It certainly drove the point home: sometimes change is good, and, like underwear, most of the time change is necessary. And how do we put underwear on? One leg at a time (well, normally).

So here’s the challenge; for us, for deacons, for churches: welcome the changes! Hear this good news: God is doing some amazing things in those moments.

In our next post, we’ll unpack this theme a bit more, looking at how God is always at work and that, with God’s help, we can be better at embracing the changes He brings. We’ll also give you a sneak peek at some exciting changes and new initiatives coming to Diaconal Ministries Canada and ultimately – to deacons and churches across Canada!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
(Romans 15:13)

Webinar Addresses Helping that Helps at Christmas (and beyond!)

Posted by | Doing Justice, Engaging Community, Equipping Deacons | No Comments

Christmas is almost here! I’m sure you didn’t need that reminder (at all!). Costco shelves and dollar store aisles have had their Christmas supplies out since October, if not sooner. Churches and charities have been busy planning and promoting their Christmas programs and ministries for a while now. Social media has been buzzing about who deserves our time and money this year (and who we should avoid). While this can be the most wonderful time of the year and a time we are all feeling just a little bit more charitable, it can also be the most overwhelming. Many not only want to find the perfect gift for their family members and friends, but also want to give back – to their community and those who are less fortunate.

Over the past year, World Renew and Diaconal Ministries Canada have teamed up to lead a workshop called, “Helping Without Harming”. This workshop helps participants learn how to alleviate poverty and injustice through effective engagement in their local and global communities. It encourages churches and charities to discover how food banks, deacon funds, short-term service trips and other benevolent activities can be more impactful and meaningful.

Last Wednesday, December 5th, Wendy Hammond, Church Relations Manager for World Renew (US), along with Andy Ryskamp (CRCNA Diaconal Ministry Initiative, US) and Ron VandenBrink (National Director for Diaconal Ministries Canada) hosted a webinar called “Helping That Helps at Christmas and Beyond.” This timely (and timeless!) webinar was insightful and helpful to those who attended. One participant thanked the panel and remarked that this webinar was a “good reminder to work WITH people rather than FORthem” if we truly want to see lasting change.

This webinar was a “good reminder to work WITH people rather than FOR them” if we truly want to see lasting change.

-Webinar participant

You can find the webinar here. Feel free to share it with your church ministry teams and members, your diaconate, your family and friends or anyone you think of. All will benefit, especially those we are striving to help this time of year.

For those with further questions, the following resources and tips were offered up later on in the webinar:

  1. For CANADIAN CRCs;
    1. Find or host a local HWH workshop! The next workshop will be held in Edmonton in January, 2019, with the next one happening in Nanaimo, BC in early February,2019;
    1. Several books can offer practical help: The When Helping Hurts book series, Toxic Charity, Charity Detox;
    1. Contact your local Diaconal Ministry Developer and he/she can help with these conversations;
    1. Visit Diaconal Ministries Canada’s website and go through our Community Engagement resources.
  • For US CRCs:
    • Find your local Diaconal Conferences or email Andy Ryskamp for assistance;
    • Look for organizations to collaborate with that have a “Helping Without Harming” mentality.

Resources mentioned in this recording:

Diaconal Ministries Canada

Lupton Center

The Network (Deacons Section)

Healthy Principles of Community Engagement for the Local Church – handout

Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development (Myers, 2011)

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself   (Corbett and Fikkert, 2014)

World Renew Gift Catalog

Somethin’ to Shout About – Our Diaconal Ministry Developers

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, Job Opportunities, Uncategorized | One Comment
(Pictured AboveHarvey Buit (r) with Bill Groot-Nibbelink, listening and learning at the annual DMD Retreat in January of 2018)

 

One of the greatest assets of Diaconal Ministries Canada over the last 17 years has been its network of Diaconal Ministry Developers, or DMDs for short. DMDs are men and women of all ages who are experienced in diaconal work and are available to help deacons understand their role and work out their calling in their church and in their community. In a nutshell, DMDs are encouragers and coaches, and throughout the year, they aim to connect with every diaconate in every Christian Reformed Church across Canada and are available to assist churches in any way they can.

Harvey Buit became a DMD in Classis Alberta North in 2014 and had the opportunity to work with churches in Central Alberta for the past 4 years. During his time as a DMD, Harvey’s impact was meaningful and widespread. Jessie Edgington, a Northern Alberta Diaconal Conference consultant, told us how appreciative he was of Harvey’s faithful service and how he enjoyed their work together. “Harvey has been a valuable servant to the work of the office of the Deacon within Classis Alberta North. He has faithfully worked to connect the diaconates of the central parts of Alberta, to bring words of encouragement and teaching and he has shown the importance of connection to a larger body by his faithful example… His humble, faithful service has been appreciated and will be missed.” 

Harvey has faithfully worked to connect the diaconates of the central parts of Alberta, to bring words of encouragement and teaching and he has shown the importance of connection to a larger body by his faithful example.

As Harvey is now ready to ‘hang up his hat’ and transition into full retirement, we asked him to share about his experience and here is what he wrote:

Could this job be for me? That’s what I thought when I read the announcement in our church bulletin. Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) was looking for a Diaconal Ministry Developer in Central Alberta – right in the area where I live. I was at a point in my life where I had retired from my full-time job but was not able to fully retire so the part-time work seemed like it could be a good fit. But the last time I was a deacon, Diaconal Ministries Canada did not even exist yet, at least not in Alberta, so how could I be qualified? I thought. So I asked God and my wife about it and then kind of let the idea go.
It wasn’t until a while later a member of our church came to me and said I should apply as he thought I would be the right person for this kind of work. God definitely answers prayer though people sometimes!
The four years of being a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) has been meaningful work for me. I discovered what DMC is all about and how it works hard to equip deacons and I also met many wonderful, dedicated people along the way. Meeting with the nine (9) individual diaconates in my area to encourage them and share DMC’s information and resources was something I enjoyed. While organizing and putting on workshops didn’t always come easy to me, I learned a lot over the years. Our yearly DMD Retreat/gathering was a highlight and it always encouraged me to keep going.
I am excited to enter “full-time” retirement to be able to begin the next chapter in my and my wife’s life. We hope we will be able to do some traveling and also volunteering. I will miss all the wonderful people I’ve met and the various DMC events and gatherings, but am grateful to God for this opportunity and that He used someone in my life to nudge to me to say “Yes!”.

Harvey working with a World Renew DRS Team.

We can’t say enough about how grateful we are to Harvey for his years of dedicated work and his willingness to learn and grow in his role as a DMD. We know many churches were blessed by his work. Tyler Guppy, a deacon from Woodynook CRC in Lacombe, Alberta, shared this with us: “It was abundantly clear that Harvey not only wanted to empower and educate Deacons, but he also sought to make an authentic personal connection in his coaching role with Deacons. His focused work as a Diaconal Ministry Developer has had a strong, positive impact on many throughout our denomination.” 

Ted Vander Meulen, a deacon at Wolf Creek Community Church, agreed. “I’ve had contact with Harvey for the past two years since I became a deacon at Wolf Creek Community Church. I appreciated his dedication to the job, his willingness to meet with and offer guidance to the diaconates and his unassuming and thoughtful demeanor.” Chris and Anna van Haastert, deacons at Rimbey CRC, echoed this, sharing how thankful they were for all of the time and commitment Harvey invested in his role as their DMD.

Harvey’s focused work as a Diaconal Ministry Developer has had a strong, positive impact on many throughout our denomination.

So there you have it! Because of the time, energy, and care our DMDs put into each church they serve, they truly are DMC’s greatest asset. They play an essential role in propelling the mission of DMC to inspire, empower and equip every deacon in every church as they animate their congregations to join in God’s transforming work. Harvey will be greatly missed and we wish him God’s richest blessings in his retirement!


So… What About YOU? 

Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) is looking to fill vacant positions in western and eastern Canada and we are hoping you will heed the call! These part-time positions come with compensation and full training. Is this something YOU’D be interested in? Perhaps like Harvey you’ve heard about this role and you’ve put off finding out more.

If you are feeling the pull of the Lord’s leading, please contact the DMC office at dmc@crcna.org or 1-800-730-3490 for more information and to connect with one of our Regional Ministry Developers. We’d love to share what this exciting role is all about!


Will You Help Us Do More?

Our DMDs are a vital part of how DMC is able to fulfil its mission and mandate! And as you read above, their impact is powerful and has lasting effects on churches and individuals. Our DMDs do their best to see diaconates (and churches) thrive in the areas of community engagement, stewardship, and mercy and justice.

Because our DMDs do such important and valuable work, we honour that by providing compensation and full training to them. In order for us to continue to do that well and also to grow our team of DMDs, we need people like you to partner with us today. You can make a one-time donation OR become a monthly donor to help us continue our mission to inspire, empower and equip deacons through our DMD Network – so that every single community across Canada sees and experiences the transforming love Jesus Christ our Lord!

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Posted by | Engaging Community, Equipping Deacons, Uncategorized | No Comments

I stumbled upon this quote the other day while I was doing some research on loneliness.

“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” ~Albert Einstein

While at first this may seem utterly impossible, and perhaps even absurd, I wondered how many people would agree with this statement. This quote came rushing back to me the other night when I went to go see the new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” with a friend. For those who don’t know, this movie is a bio pic about the band Queen, which was around in the 70’s and 80’s. I was super pumped to go and had to promise her I wouldn’t belt out the tunes during the movie. (Don’t laugh! That was super hard for me!!)

This was quite the film! Even if you aren’t a superfan, I think you would enjoy it. Queen’s rise to fame was fairly quick and was mostly due to their unique sound and desire to take risks and mix musical genres into masterpieces. Their music has stood the test of time and Freddie Mercury will forever be remembered as an engaging and brilliant performer. While many of us left the theatre with our fists pumping in the air and with an even deeper appreciation for this band, I couldn’t shake the other pervading thought this film left me with: how lonely Freddie Mercury was. The band, and especially Mercury himself, had captivated the world and they pretty much had it all: fame! fortune! fans! Millions of people loved them and would have given their left arm to meet them. Mercury was the life of the party and was always surrounded by people, and yet, the makers of the film showed us how utterly and dreadfully lonely he was despite his success.

Loneliness can be experienced by anyone; male or female, young or old, famous or forgotten, rich or poor. 

I know this shouldn’t shock or startle me as much as it did. We’ve heard plenty over the last few years about other famous people who struggle, or have struggled, with loneliness. (People like Madonna and Robin Williams, just to name a few.) I guess for me, seeing that quote from Einstein and seeing this movie all within 2 weeks of each other was just a thought-provoking reminder that loneliness can be experienced by anyone; male or female, young or old, famous or forgotten, rich or poor.

So this month let’s unpack loneliness a bit. Let’s talk about our own experiences with it. Let’s talk about those in our churches who struggle with it and look to you, as deacons, for help and comfort. Let’s talk about people in our communities who may be experiencing loneliness and share how we can minister to them. Let’s try to look at some of the root causes of loneliness. Let’s discuss its connection to mental health. Let’s find out what the ‘cures’ could be.

Perhaps talking about it is the first step in helping others.

Written By: Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator for DMC


Do you have a story about loneliness you’d like to share? Email Erin today and she’d love to chat. Your story could help someone who is suffering themselves OR who is trying to help someone they know.


Partner with us! Diaconal Ministries Canada works hard to provide leadership, training and resources to deacons across Canada. Help us serve you better by donating today!

 

 

Why Praying With Others Works

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, Uncategorized | No Comments

In September, we spent some time learning about prayer and devotions as part of your “regular” Agenda at a Deacons’ Meeting. In our post “A Diaconate that Prays Together, Stays Together,” we laid out why prayer is a vital part of the ministry deacons do and how praying together can actually make a diaconate more effective. While it seems counterproductive to spend time praying instead of ‘working’, we discovered together that prayer IS work, and even better: PRAYER WORKS! Prayer helps us know God’s Will more clearly AND it increases our love – for God and for our world. (If you need a refresher or reminder of this point, take a look at our blog post from Sept. 13 before reading further!)

In our follow-up post, we talked about Praying with Expectation, aka faith. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, click here.

Prayer helps us know God’s Will more clearly and it increases our love – for God and for our world.

For our final post in this month’s theme, I want to look a little more closely at the importance of praying WITH OTHERS. Our hope at Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) is that deacons will not only be a working group in our churches but will be a community of believers who love and care for one another, for the church AND for their community.

Corporate Prayer is Helpful

There’s a wonderful story in the Gospels which talks about a few friends coming together to help bring their friend to Jesus for healing. These friends were so convinced that Jesus could help their buddy out, they were going to get some face time with Rabbi if it was the last thing they did! Because of their sheer determination and faith, Jesus healed this paralyzed man – both physically AND spiritually! (See Luke 5:17-26 for the whole story.) There is something so beautiful about people coming before God in faith with a common purpose. While we are not able to physically bring our hurting friends before Christ to receive His healing touch, we can do so through PRAYER! And we know He will help them. “Prayer may be countercultural, invisible, and difficult. It’s also truly helpful.” (Megan Hill, Helped by Prayer)

Megan Hill, author of Praying Together, says it this way: “In prayer together, we join in the praises and laments and supplications of our neighbors, carrying their burdens and blessings to the throne, lending them a hand to lay them before the Lord.”

“Prayer may be countercultural, invisible, and difficult. It’s also truly helpful.”

Hill also points out, “It’s not only people who have had similar experiences who can love one another by prayer. Those who sit in comfortable pews in suburban American can pray for persecuted Christians on the other side of the world. And those who are in chains can pray for those who are free to proclaim Christ. The healthy can weep with the sick, and the sick can rejoice with the healthy. The lonely can rejoice with the married, and the married can weep with the widows. This is love.”

In his article “The Benefits of Praying Together”, Jonathan Graf reminds us that “churches that do not pray together still minister in whatever ways they can, given their resources, abilities, and sacrifices. But churches that pray together begin to see the miraculous power of God at work in their midst. It goes beyond what they can and should do into what God wants to do through them.” [emphasis mine]

“And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 

Corporate Prayer Grows our Faith 

Jonathan Graf also reminds us that “faith grows as we pray together. Here’s how it works: Maybe I personally am going through a tough time. In the midst of it, I try to pray with trust and faith, but it is difficult because I only see the issue. If I go and pray with others, however, what happens? As I listen to others pray with more faith than I have, my faith grows.” He goes on to say that the more you pray together with others, the more your faith will increase as well as the amount of miracles in your church and ministry. Which in turn will increase your faith, which will likely result in more prayer!

Think back to the friends who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof. What faith they had initially! But imagine how their faith increased when Jesus did what they hoped for and knew he was able to do! What a celebration to experience that together as a group!

Corporate Prayer Brings Unity and Understanding 

What Megan Hill says above leads us to our next point. In Matthew 18:19-20 we read, “Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” While we may come to the table with different hopes, dreams, opinions, and ideas, what binds us together is that we approach Jesus together as His followers, under His lordship and in His strength, and we pray in His name alone. If Jesus is our focus when we pray, we are coming together in agreement and Jesus promises He will be there. The more we do this, the more we begin to let go of our own personal desires and dreams and start to open ourselves up to what God wants. Praying with others will always pull you away from personal preferences into what’s best for the entire body.

If this happens, faith AND ministry can truly grow!

Praying with others will always pull you away from personal preferences into what’s best for the entire body. 

Pray Without Ceasing 

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16

If you haven’t done so already, we encourage diaconates to begin incorporating prayer into their monthly meetings. As we said above, diaconates will find a greater level of effectiveness when their purposes are centered more on God than on themselves and their tasks. Jessie Schut acknowledges this in her book, “Beyond the Agenda”: “We recognize that your group has an agenda to follow and tasks to accomplish. We propose that these tasks will be done more joyfully, with a greater sense of purpose, and with more satisfying results if your working group is a community of caring people who support each other. And in the process, your group will move beyond the agenda to become a model of Christ’s body here on earth.” (pg. 7)

DMC has a couple of great resources to help you incorporate prayer and scripture into your monthly meetings, even for those who feel uncomfortable or uneasy about praying in groups. Check out our Devotions in Your Diaconate handout and our Growing as a Community of Deacons brochure.

“If we are no longer centered by Jesus in prayer, it becomes harder and harder to experience Him in the people we work with. … If you want to do it long term and remain faithful in it, I think it is very important that you ‘spoil’ yourself—spend some good time with Jesus and Him alone. This is the way to prevent burn-out and to remain joyful even when you see so much suffering and pain.” Henri Nouwen

Written by: Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator


Love our resources? Want to see more? DMC is an organization that was created by deacons, for deacons and we work hard to provide timely and relevant resources so deacons can be at their best. While we are primarily funded through Diaconal Ministry Shares that churches across Canada contribute, this income alone does not cover our entire budget or allow us to expand our ministry and increase our impact.

Will you help us so we can continue to provide training and resources to deacons? 

Donate today! Every gift helps and will impact diaconates and churches across Canada as we work together to transform communities with Christ’s love!

Prayer/Good Meetings: Praying with Expectation

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Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” 

In September, we spent some time learning about prayer and devotions as part of your “regular” Agenda at a Deacons’ Meeting. In our post “A Diaconate that Prays Together, Stays Together,” we laid out why prayer is a vital part of the ministry deacons do and how praying together can actually make a diaconate more effective. While it seems counterproductive to spend time praying instead of ‘working’, we discovered together that prayer IS work, and even better: prayer WORKS! 

As I sit at my desk and look outside at a dreary, rainy fall day, I am also reminded of something else deacons (and perhaps all Christians) struggle with: HOW to pray. We’re not referring to the words we choose or the items we pray about, but about with what POSTURE we pray. In that verse above from Psalm 53, it would appear that the author knew exactly what attitude we should have when we pray—one of eager expectation. When we come before God in prayer, we are to believe God will hear our prayers and, once offered, that all we need to do afterwards is wait patiently for Him to act.

Well! That sounds pretty easy, right? We pray and God will act. Period. And yet, why do so many of us struggle with this? When we pray, “Thy will be done”, are we giving God an ‘out’? Are we giving OURSELVES an out!? ‘Well, God, this is what we want and what we think needs to happen in this or that situation, but hey, you know best so we’ll let you take care of it, hopefully sooner than later.’ Does that sound familiar, if we’re being honest?

In the ever-popular verse Jeremiah chapter 29:11, we read that God remembers us and He has very good things planned for us to enjoy. But if we keep reading, we see in verses 12 and 13 something that is perhaps even MORE important, and hopeful: if we take the initiative to call upon Him, pray, and seek His presence with all of our heart, He will listen and be found. There in these verses we are reminded of what our part is: to trust and expect Him to act.

As I sit here and ponder what it means to pray with expectation, I am reminded of a story I read a few years back that’s been shared in various places. (I happened to read it in a Back to God Ministries Daytimer!) It goes like this:

There was a small farming community that had been experiencing a terrible drought. The crops were dying in the fields and everyone was very worried because this was how they made their living. The pastor of the local church called a special prayer service for all the people of the town. He asked them to gather in front of the church and spend some time praying in faith that God would send some rain. Many people arrived and the pastor was encouraged by that. As the pastor was getting ready to begin the meeting, he noticed a young girl standing quietly in the front. Her face was beaming with excitement and then he saw beside her, open and ready for use, was a large, colourful umbrella. 

As he stared at the umbrella, he felt a bit of shame, but was then filled with hope and encouragement. This little girl’s childlike innocence warmed his heart as he realized how much faith she possessed. Everyone had come to pray for rain, but only the little girl believed enough to bring an umbrella. 

“Prayer is asking for rain. Faith is bringing an umbrella.”

Help Us Overcome our Unbelief!

How often are we like the crowd, who pray earnestly for God to act, but don’t fully believe He will or in the way we desire? If you are like this little girl, then God bless you! What would it look like if our diaconate – our churches! – were filled with “little girls” with colourful umbrellas?! That when we pray, we would believe that nothing is too difficult for God and that all things are possible with Him!

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

In Mark 9, we read a story about a man who asked Jesus to heal his son who was demon possessed. The man asks Jesus to take pity on them and heal his son, “if you can.” (Mark 9:22b) Whoa. Who talks to Jesus like that??!! If you can… !!!! Jesus (of course) replied, “If I can? Anything is possible to him who believes.” (vs. 23) Verse 24 says, “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark‬ ‭9:24‬ ‭NIV)

Can you identify with that man? If we look at the entire story, we see that this man had brought his son to Jesus’ disciples and they were not able to heal him. So can you blame a guy for being a bit skeptical? Perhaps he didn’t think it was “God’s Will” to heal his son. Or perhaps he was just being realistic, not wanting to get his hopes up. The fact that he brought his son to the disciples shows us that he initially believed they could do something about it, but upon their failure, his trust was waning. He no longer came with ‘eager expectation.’ What redeems this father’s unbelief is his honesty and his humble request to Jesus: “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (vs. 24). He DID believe Jesus could heal his son and he desperately WANTED Jesus to heal his son. All he needed was eager expectation; that Jesus would hear him, and act. Perhaps there are times your faith, my faith, needs to be stronger. And this, too, is something we can ask God for help with, with great expectation that He WILL answer our prayer.

Don’t Delay – Just PRAY!

Something else the ‘umbrella’ exposes is our lack of trust and/or doubt, or dare we say, arrogance and self-reliance? Why do we wait until the “drought” has begun killing our “crops” – our very livelihood – and our hopes along with it, and then pray for God’s help? We take our problems, we do everything we can to fix them and then, when things look overwhelming and beyond our abilities, we call on God to help us.

While this story has been used over and over again in various articles, sermons, and memes, it is a good reminder to grab our umbrella – our faith, hope & trust – when we pray. We are asked to pray with expectation, rather than suspicion or doubt. To pray in faith rather than in desperation and despair. If we are in a right relationship with God and we have the Holy Spirit living in us – guiding us, leading us, convicting us – then we will know God better and trust in Him to provide what we need, when we need it. Psalm 34:15 reminds us: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” And in James 5:16 we read: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” These verses tell us that God hears the prayers of those who put their trust in Him and who have a right relationship with Him and God will use your prayers to accomplish His good work. And not because of how we pray or how often, but because of His great mercy and love! (Daniel 9:18)

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15

So next time you pray for rain, don’t forget to grab your umbrella!


HOW ABOUT YOU?

How is your personal prayer life? Do you come before God with an umbrella in your hand when you pray?

What about your diaconate? Could you pray with more eager expectation? Have you done so in the past and seen God move in a big way? Share your story with us!

What about your church? Have you prayed for “rain” and yet, left your “umbrellas” at home? How could your diaconate, and church leadership, equip and empower your members to pray with eager expectation? Again, perhaps you have a story to share where you DID do this and God heard your prayer and acted in His great mercy and love. Let us know! We’d love to encourage other diaconates and churches 🙂