Equipping Deacons

Walking with Deacons: Rachel Brouwer, DMD

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fellowship-crc-st-thomas“Meet Brad, Phil, Bob, James and Margriet (at left) – the diaconal team from Fellowship CRC in St. Thomas, ON! This is a team that is passionate about understanding what it means to be a compassionate follower of Jesus to those who need assistance. They also recognize that those who need assistance aren’t always just the materially poor. So they’re growing where they’re planted and investigating ways to minister to and serve their neighbours in the St. Thomas suburb that is home to their church. We’re excited to see how God will use you in the upcoming year!”

This was written by Rachel Brouwer, a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD), after a visit with these deacons. DMDs are encouragers and coaches for deacons. They are experienced in diaconal work and are available to help deacons understand their role and work out their calling in the church and its community. DMDs are available to connect with and visit every diaconate (team of deacons in a church) in every CRC across Canada. Rachel is one of the DMDs in Classis Chatham, and, through her experiences, she blesses the churches, like Fellowship CRC, that she serves.

RachelBrouwerRachel (at right) works as a Church Mobilization Coordinator for International Justice Mission Canada, a global organization that protects the poor from everyday violence in the developing world. She is passionate about helping the church respond to God’s call to seek justice on both a global and local scale and sees the role of deacons as being critical in leading this effort. Rachel is a life-long member of Talbot Street CRC in London, ON where she has served as an elder and is the current chair of deacons.

During her visit with the St. Thomas deacons, Rachel shared resources and promoted the Day of Encouragement. Through Rachel, the deacons became aware that DMC has resources and assistance to offer and were grateful to know this as they look forward to a year of serving the church and community.

There is a DMD ready and willing to help your church, whether you are looking for resources or you need advice and encouragement. Click here to find the DMD in your region.

Tips for Deacons: Starting Well in September

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September marks a new season and a new start for your church. Maybe it seems as though your diaconate is starting all over. Maybe you have new deacons and are making new plans together. Wherever you are at, September always brings transition of one kind or another.

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

The Top Ten Transitional Issues to Consider as Deacons:

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

  1. What deacons do: start with our FAQ section for some basic information
  2. How to start well: Check our website for devotions.
  3. Form a strong team: consider mentoring and reverse mentoring.
  4. Build Community: Click here for some suggestions.
  5. Gifts for Ministry: Examine what gifts you have around your “diaconal table.”
  6. Organizing your ministry plans: Develop a Diaconate workplan.
  7. Get help: schedule a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) visit
  8. Develop your ministry: Guidelines for setting an offering schedule, benevolence, etc.
  9. Diaconal Ministry Shares: Why do we pay them?
  10. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check out the FAQs or contact the Diaconal Ministries Canada office (Samantha).

DMC Walks Alongside New Deacons

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I have been a first time deacon for just over a year. Having my name drawn was scary but exciting. I did not know what I was in for, yet I was eager to see what God had in store for me.

Over the past year I have attended the Day of Encouragement (DOE) in Ancaster and a Deacon’s Dialogue for Classis Quinte. At the DOE I decided to go to the workshop facilitated by Bill Groot-Nibbelink (a Diaconal Ministry Developer) and I am so glad that I did!

The amount of information that I was exposed to by listening to other deacons’ experiences and the resources that Bill presented to us were instrumental in helping me feel more comfortable in being a deacon. The online resources available on the Diaconal Ministries Canada website are invaluable to all deacons new or experienced.

We also had Bill come and speak to Westside and First CRCs (in Kingston) about Guidelines for Benevolence and some other topics which were helpful.

I have appreciated the work that he and all the staff are doing at Diaconal Ministries Canada. Thank you! Thank you for the work that you do in equipping deacons in Canada!

-Written by Jennifer Feenstra-Shaw, Westside CRC in Kingston

Diaconal Ministry Coast to Coast

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There are around 250 Christian Reformed Churches in Canada -from Houston, BC to Saskatoon, SK., Montreal, QC to Charlottetown, PEI, and everything in between. There are urban churches, suburban churches, rural churches and small town churches.  And most of those churches have diaconates.

But those diaconates do not look the same. Some have 12 deacons working as a team and others have 3. There are deacons praying for each other. Some diaconates study a book that develops their understanding and leadership capacity.  Some diaconates struggle with seeing their role beyond collecting offerings. Some laugh together and live fully into their role and work.  Some feel the weight of responsibility or find it hard to manage their time. There are diaconates that discern deeply the best way to support the marginalized and vulnerable. There are those who ask hard questions about injustice and the church’s role.

Many diaconates are made up of some of the most passionate, genuine, thoughtful, sensitive and good- natured people the Canadian CRC has to offer.

There are deacons with cowboy boots and 4×4 trucks that pull up early -and I mean early- on a Saturday morning to move a single mom and her three kids into a new home.  Deacons who come armed with Tim Horton’s coffee and a binder, ready to dig into an evening meeting straight after work with barely time to eat supper (or it might be a Tim Horton’s donut that will get them through).

Deacons are organizing, shopping, cooking and serving dinner to the seniors in their church. Deacons are young and new to the role while others are, well, “seasoned.”  Men. Women. Jokesters. Extroverts and introverts.

There are deacons strategizing ways to connect their church to local opportunities for ministry. Deacons are intentionally learning about vulnerable and marginalized people in their community and the injustices and challenges they face. Deacons welcome refugees.  They challenge the congregation in stewardship. Deacons build relationships with Indigenous communities.

Deacons are also prayerfully discerning -about what ministries to support as a church, and why.  There are conversations about how to work in partnership with elders. Decisions about what kind of support to extend to a family going through crisis.

These are the deacons who shape the ministry of the church in the most profound ways.

We are so privileged as Diaconal Ministries Canada to meet and journey with the Canadian CRC deacons -to journey together, learning about how God is calling our churches to show compassion and pursue justice.

We would love to hear about your church, your diaconate, your deacons.  Find us on Facebook or leave a comment below.

What does it look like to be a deacon in your context?  How is God working through deacons to bring healing and restoration?

-written by Tammy Heidbuurt (Regional Ministry Developer)

(photo above: First CRC of Chatham, ON deacons)

Caring

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

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

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

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

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

Resources for Deacons: “Guidelines for Benevolence”

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In the charge to the deacons, it states that “benevolence is a quality of our life in Christ, and not merely a matter of financial assistance.” Benevolence involves a lifestyle of love,  respect and compassion.

To that end, Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) has developed “Guidelines for Benevolence” to help address attitudes and behaviors that deacons will need as they walk with their neighbours. This resource  also provides some useful ideas to help deacons develop guidelines around helping, a plan of action when providing long-term help, and a way to identify people who will be able to partner with others in this ministry.

DMC’s “Guidelines for Benevolence” was adapted for use in the book, Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, also an excellent resource for deacons.

 

Too Young?

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Deacons are normally known to be older and more experienced people in life. You won’t think of, nor even associate a 22 year old journalism student who is still trying to figure out what to do in life with the position of a deacon.

I was asked to think about taking the position earlier this year with no strings attached.  I answered that I would pray about it. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant about being part of the church council or even being a deacon. Why? That’s because I had no idea what was expected of me and what was going to be my role as a deacon/council member.

I prayed, asking for guidance and asking for an answer -prayed for an answer about whether it was right to say yes, or if I was not yet ready to take on such a responsibility. The more I was asked, the more I responded that I was praying about it. However, every time I tried to dodge the question, I would get this dysphoric feeling and I couldn’t come to the obvious conclusion that God was telling me something. Every time I tried to justify why I couldn’t be a deacon, I always seemed to have a fog of uncertainty lingering around me.

But still I tried to ignore that sign. Until one day I was talking with one of the elders about the position and the needs and responsibilities of a deacon. I was asked if I had an answer; they needed one soon. For some reason, a curious feeling entered me and it felt just right to say “Yes, I’d be honoured to be a deacon.” I was shocked with my response. I didn’t feel bad or even try to take my response back. Instead, I felt happy and content.

After being installed as a deacon, I barely even remember what happened or how the church reacted. My focus was more around the fact that my time wasn’t just mine now but it was enclosed in God’s own hourglass.

At 22, I took a leap. At 22, I took a chance. And, at 22, I trusted God to take over a decision that I know I had no control over. You see, at 22, I realized I wasn’t too young to take on a challenge. A situation I figured would be exacerbated by a busy student life became a blessing in the Hands of God. Aside from assurance from God, I also received earnest and welcome votes of confidence from the congregation which made me more comfortable and optimistic.

It has been about three months now since I have been installed as a deacon and I cannot deny being euphoric for the past months, tackling things that will help the church grow and approach more people. I also learned that God will use you at the right time, at the right moment. It might not be your own time but God knows when you are ready.

It’s just a matter of trusting him and knowing that everything will be fine.

-written by Jake Pinasen, (new) deacon at All Nations Christian Fellowship in Toronto, ON

Group of people having a discussion.

Reverse Mentoring: A New Learning Curve

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“The church needs young blood in its veins. Our strength for holding the faith may lie in experienced saints but our zeal for propagating it must be found in the young.” Charles Spurgeon

These words by British preacher Charles Spurgeon were written over 150 years ago but communicate a clear vision for young and old working together in building God’s kingdom. This vision can be realized through the effective use of “reverse mentoring”.

Here at DMC, we’ve promoted the use of a deacon mentoring plan for the raising up of younger or more inexperienced leaders. But mentoring does not just work in one direction. We can benefit in amazing ways from younger leaders who are more conversant with culture, technology and social context.

“Reverse mentoring” was pioneered a decade ago by General Electric CEO Jack Welsh in order to bring GE up to speed on the latest in technology. Welsh required more than 500 of his top executives to find a younger, tech-savvy mentor to teach them how to use the web and understand e-business.

Of the organizations using reverse mentoring, 41 percent of respondents used the method to share technical expertise, while 26 percent said their executives gained youthful perspective. (The poll was conducted by The Center for Coaching and Mentoring as reported in American Way magazine in January 2004.)

What if church leaders followed this example and used reverse mentoring to gain understanding of our rapidly changing emergent and post-modern culture? How could technology platforms and ministry come together (blog posts, Facebook, Twitter)? Could this build bridges between generations – closing the knowledge gap and empowering younger leaders?

Reverse mentoring can take place within existing church programs and structures. It doesn’t require a lot in the way of new processes, just the ability to match up people of different generations and encouraging them to exchange ideas and challenge each other.

Getting started:

  1. Create a “focus group” of high school or college students and invite their feedback on social justice issues, politics, current social movements and community ministry. What are their passions and interests? What do they feel is God’s place for them in the church, in ministry? What draws them closer to their faith? Welcome their analysis and criticism. Take notes, and take their comments to heart and prayerfully consider the implications for ministry.
  1. Meet monthly with a younger person to learn more about the emerging generations. Ask about ways to involve them in church life and leadership. Become a willing and intentional student; a humble protégé, instead of the mentor.
  1. Ask teachers or professors what their students are talking about these days. What are the hottest bands, TV shows, movies, and political issues?

If everyone involved approaches the relationship with a soft heart, we can learn things that will help us bring the gospel to all of our worlds while enjoying a kind of fellowship that is available in no other way. A great blessing will come when we recognize the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in the young and the old – let’s close the generation gap.

For further reading:

“Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them” by Earl Creps

Synod 2015 and diaconal ministry

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Dear Deacons:

This is a significant year for deacons in the Christian Reformed Church.  The 2015 Task Force report approved some important principles for diaconal ministry in the 21st century.  The report addressed the role of deacons in congregations and communities as well as the role of elders. And, Synod approved deacon delegation at Classis & Synod.

So, what’s up with deacons going to Classis & Synod? And, what’s up with the upcoming changes to the Church Order? I will try to summarize some of the more significant decisions. Please feel free to call DMC staff and Board of Directors if you have any questions.

  • Both Deacons and Elders give leadership to distinctive areas of ministry. However, deacons and elders also have some common areas of ministry. (see changes to Article 12 & 25).  “It is not simply that the church has deacons, but rather it is the case that the whole church is itself called to diakonia (works unto others)” (2013 Report page 4 & Ephesians 4:11-13).  Deacons are important ministry leaders.
    • Implication? Deacons are not to just perform diaconal ministry on behalf of the church, but to mobilize and equip the church to fulfill its calling.
  • The proposed changes to the relationship of elders and deacons point to the importance of the two offices working together for the sake of God’s mission. The CRCNA agencies are committed to supporting our congregations to strengthen their missional and incarnational presence in our communities.
    • Implication? Dialogue is needed at the Council level and Classis level meetings on how to strengthen the partnership of these two leadership roles. Contact DMC staff for suggestions.
  • The 2015 Report was also guided by the ‘principle of parity.’ This parity is best demonstrated by diaconal presence in the major assemblies of the church.  This is “not about equal representation but about the full representation of the whole church which these offices represent” (2015 Report page 329).  For this reason, we recommend that each classis examine their agendas to reflect these new changes (see changes to Article 34).
    • Implication? Diaconal involvement should be invited to shape agendas at Council and Classis.

At many classes across the country, deacons have already been included.   But with the Church Order changes adopted by this synod, each church now needs to send an elder, deacon, and a minister to classis meetings unless “great distance or other weighty reasons” prevent them from doing so.

What implications will this have for your leadership role, your church, and the denomination as a whole?  Together we hope to shape the answers to this question.  So, let’s continue the conversation.  Let us know how we can support you along in this journey at Classis or at your local church.

-written by Hans Kater, National Director, Diaconal Ministries Canada

 

for more on Synod 2015, click here

Summer Reading

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toxic charityIf there’s one book that you might want to read on charity, I recommend Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help.

Lupton’s 40 years of experience in community development in Atlanta have led him to claim that charitable giving is “either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help” (page 1).

But, you may ask -is Lupton correct? Can charity be toxic? Are we actually harming people with charity? Good questions!

These questions are very important for congregations and other ministry organizations that are facing declining revenues. In fact, these questions are the first step needed to assess the sustainability of our ministries.

These are good questions that I will not answer. However, Lupton’s short book provides answers as well as practical steps toward transformative charity.

Have a great summer and HAPPY READING!

-written by Hans, Kater (National Director, Diaconal Ministries Canada)