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A Diaconate that PRAYS Together, Stays Together

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When you read the title above, it likely rang a bell with most of you. You may have heard the above phrase before, but perhaps instead of “diaconate”, it read “family”, “couple”, or even “church”. It’s safe to assume that most of us have heard about the ‘reasons to pray’ since we first became a follower of Jesus. Not only does God command us to pray, but we see Jesus model a life of prayer for us throughout His earthly ministry. Prayer is how we commune with God and it plays (or should play!) a huge role in our daily lives and our relationships with others, as well as our work in His Kingdom.

So this month we’d like to take some time to focus on PRAYER. Perhaps you’ve already realized that as a deacon, there are several opportunities to incorporate prayer into the important work that you do. Deacons are often asked to pray during the Offering time during Sunday Worship, they are usually expected to pray when doing a visit, and perhaps even pray and/or lead devotions at a Council or Deacon’s meeting. And while the idea of praying, and especially leading a group in prayer, can make some of our knees tremble (and not in a good, “Holy Spirit/Pentecost” kind of way!) here at DMC, we want to encourage, equip and empower deacons to make prayer a regular part of their ministry.

So for the purposes of today’s post, we’d like you to consider the following questions:

  1. What role should prayer play in our deacon’s meetings? and
  1. What sort of impact could consistent and meaningful prayer have on your diaconate?

The Role of Prayer in Meetings

For many of us who have sat on various committees or boards or teams, we are likely used to the perfunctory prayer/devotion that opens up our gathering time together. It’s one thing we can check off the agenda before we get down to the real business of the day or evening. One likely reason for this is because for many of us, meetings are pure torture! If it goes over the two hours we allotted for it on our Google calendar, we are NOT happy! To so many, meetings are the definition of boredom. They can be seen as a total waste of time, especially for a team full of ‘worker bees’. Perhaps you were just in a deacon’s meeting the other day and thought, How many times can we discuss the Offering Schedule or the Benevolence Budget or where to place the Food Drive barrel?!

But hold on and read this for a sec:

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23–25

| Meetings serve as a reminder of the hope we have in God and His faithfulness and because of that, they can be used to encourage and motivate each one of us toward acts of love and good works. |

What these verses tell us is that while it’s tempting and many will do it, we mustn’t eliminate or scale back our meetings and gatherings. They are clearly important according to the writer of Hebrews, BUT perhaps we need to recall and reclaim their primary purpose. In these verses from Hebrews 10, we read that meetings can be used as a REMINDER and as an ENCOURAGEMENT to each one of us: they can serve as a reminder of the hope we have in God and His faithfulness and because of that, they can be used to encourage and motivate each one of us toward acts of love and good works.

So if we’ve established the necessary evil known as “meetings”, then why should prayer be a part of our regular agenda? Especially when deacons have so much other work to do!

In her book, “Beyond the Agenda: Add a Spiritual Dimension to Ordinary Church Meetings”, author Jessie Schut reminds us that “Working groups in the church are more than a gathering of people who carry out a specific task; they are also a community of believers.” She goes on to say, “Too often working groups in the church have adopted their style of operation from the business world rather than from the models they find in the Bible. They may ‘baptize’ their meetings with prayer and Scripture, but then it’s back to business as they deal with lengthy agendas and delegation of necessary tasks.” But what would it look like if your diaconate (and all ministry teams/committees in the church for that matter) focused on building relationships with each other and with God as they carried out their mission and vision? What would it look like if our task teams became more like small groups that desire to grow in the knowledge and likeness of Christ while accomplishing their tasks? Does that sound like a pipe dream? Does that sound a little too hokey for you? Jessie doesn’t think so, and neither do we!

| “Working groups in the church are more than a gathering of people who carry out a specific task; they are also a community of believers.” J. Schut |

Through the years in working with diaconates of all shapes and sizes, we know this way of ‘meeting together’ and carrying out your tasks can be difficult to practice in your diaconate and you may even argue all of this ‘extra’ stuff is unnecessary.

But… what if? What if God was invited to each of your meetings? How could spending time in prayer and reflection and perhaps even sharing with each other make a difference in how your diaconate functions and animates your congregation? How could going beyond doing the quick and easy prayer/devotion in your meetings deepen your relationship with God and with your fellow deacons?

Why Pray?

Perhaps we need to step back a bit and look at the age-old question, asked by Christians and non-Christians alike: WHY PRAY? What is the purpose of prayer? What is the importance of prayer in our team meetings? How can prayer impact what any working group is tasked to do? Or, as we asked, above: What sort of impact could consistent and meaningful prayer have on a diaconate?

To put it simply, we see 2 main reasons for prayer, individually AND corporately:

  1. It helps us know God and His Will: Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Or Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Prayer (corporate and private) is about cooperating with God and abandoning our desires and submitting to God’s will.
  2. It increases our love for God first and foremost, which increases our love for others which results in UNITY: God desires to be in relationship with us and the more time we spend with Him, the more He makes us like his Son, Jesus. When we pray with others, each person is edified and unified in their common faith. Our love and concern for others grows as we rely on God for all we need.

We see these points echoed in the early church when we read through the book of Acts. It seemed all those early disciples did was pray! ”The members of the early church had that kind of commitment to praying together. As soon as Jesus had ascended to heaven, they gathered in the upper room for prayer. And this was not a unique event. If we survey the entire book of Acts, we see that the first-century Christians prayed together all the time: They prayed when they arrived and when they departed. They prayed together when they were sick and imprisoned but also when they were simply sitting down for a meal. They prayed in formal worship services and at the riverside prayer meetings.

“The early church had much to do, but essential to their gospel-proclaiming, bread-breaking, widow-feeding, and church-planting work was the task of praying together.” (“Devoted to Praying Together,” devotion on CT by Megan Hill)

 | “The early church had much to do, but essential to their gospel-proclaiming, bread-breaking, widow-feeding, and church-planting work was the task of praying together.” M. Hill |

In the same way, we are reminded over and over again in the New Testament to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph. 6:18a), and to be “faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12b). When we “pray without ceasing”, some call this “practicing the presence of God” — to always be conscious of His presence, turning to Him as a constant companion, making no topic off limits with Him. (https://mintools.com/blog/prayer-culture.htm). In other words, prayer must be a priority, both personally and corporately. It should be as natural as breathing.

The Impact of Prayer on Your Diaconate

If we asked you how your diaconate is doing in this department, what would you say? Is prayer and reading the Word part of your regular evening’s agenda? Do you take time to grow in the knowledge and likeness of Christ? Or is this a completely foreign concept to your diaconate?

First of all, let us say this article is in no way meant to shame or belittle diaconates and the fine work they do. Perhaps your first reservation to incorporating prayer into your deacon’s meetings may be that it will take time away from the tasks you’ve been called to do. But as Jessie points out in her book, “the first community of believers described in Acts 2:42-47… ate together, worshiped together, and shared their possessions. They celebrated and prayed and studied the Word together; they supported and encouraged each other. They met together with glad and sincere hearts. But the stories in Acts also show that they got a lot of church work done, much of it likely through small working groups.” Widows received food, money was collected for struggling churches, missionaries were sent out beyond Judea, policies were made and so much more! Prayer IS WORK. And not only that, PRAYER WORKS!

| Prayer IS WORK. And not only that, PRAYER WORKS! |

So how did this happen? How did that early church spend so much time communing with God and each other and yet get SO MUCH WORK DONE?! Because “the members [felt] the relational bonds that are so distinctively the mark of the body of Christ. And knowing that they are part of a supportive and caring community, they [were] energized rather than sapped of energy by the work they [undertook].” (pg. 7, “Beyond the Agenda”, J. Schut) There is absolute no uncertainty that diaconates will find a greater level of effectiveness when their purposes are centered more on God than on themselves and their tasks.

Megan Hill, the author of Praying Together, also talks about the importance of PRAYING TOGETHER. When Jesus taught his followers to pray (Matthew 6:9-13), she points out the use of corporate language (“we,” “our,” “us”). It’s not “My Father in heaven”, but “OUR Father in heaven”. These phrases remind us that prayer is a relational activity; as we relate to God, we also remember our ‘neighbour’. “We pray for God’s other children as we pray for ourselves: Not just my daily bread, but our daily bread. Not just my need for forgiveness, but our need for forgiveness. Not just my rescue from sin, but rescue from sin for all of us.” PRAYER BRINGS US CLOSER TO ONE ANOTHER and gives us a broader Kingdom vision when we pray.

| Diaconates will find a greater level of effectiveness when their purposes are centered more on God than on themselves and their tasks. |

So, What Now?

In her book, “Beyond the Agenda”, Jessie helps teams get down to the business of helping groups and committees build relationships without blowing up their entire structure or making them start over completely! One of the models she shares in the book was developed and shared by Eldean Kamp for Diaconal Ministries in Eastern Canada over 18 years ago, and it’s one we still share with deacons today! Pretty neat, eh? Our “Growing as a Community of Deacons” handout looks to the example of the early believers in Acts, as well as what Jesus modelled in John 17:20-21. Jesus prayed that His intimacy, sense of purpose, and experience of community with God would also be experienced by His followers. Through His death and resurrection, this ‘new community’ of life-giving relationships was made possible.” (excerpt from the “Growing as a Community of Deacons” handout). We believe diaconates will be at their best when they operate as a ‘community’ and not just as a working team. We truly believe that a diaconate that prays together, stays together.

We encourage every diaconate, whether you’ve been incorporating prayer/devotions for a long time or if it’s never occurred to you to do so, to read over this handout and spend time reflecting on it and discussing it at your next deacon’s meeting.

Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator, DMC


Questions for Reflection:

  1. Is God invited to your Deacon’s Meetings? If yes, how has spending time in prayer and reading God’s Word impacted our diaconate? If this is not your diaconate’s normal practice, how COULD it impact our diaconate?
    1. How does it/could it make us more effective in our ministry?
    2. How does it/could it unite us as a group?
    3. How does it/could it impact our congregation as we model this new way of ‘doing’ our meetings?
  2. What is one way we could improve our prayer/devotion time? What is one new activity we could try in the coming months?

Still Need More Help?

Contact your Diaconal Ministry Developer today and he/she will meet with your diaconate and provide helpful resources to get your diaconate started!

ENGAGING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY, Part 1 – Why Bacon & Monorails May Not Be Working

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Before any church can truly begin to engage with their surrounding community, it’s important to take time to listen and get to know who they are! While this may sound like a no-brainer, I think if we’re honest we can all tell a story from our own personal lives of a time when we didn’t take the time to truly listen and understand the other person. This likely led to mistakes being made and perhaps even a broken relationship. Our human nature tends to lead us to jump to quick conclusions and put people ‘in a box’ so to speak.

In the month of March, we spent the entire month looking at the art of listening. In our blog post entitled “The Art of Listening –Part 1”, we unpacked what real listening is (and isn’t!).  Part of this post was a funny, but truthful, video of a woman complaining about a constant pain in her head. Check it out again (or for the 1st time!) here:

While we can laugh at this situation, it would be wise for us to stop and ponder this for a minute. How many times have we, as deacons or as regular folk, met with someone inside or outside our church and within 5 minutes (or less!) we have already figured out what their problem is and how it can easily be solved, IF they would only listen to us. Yet, perhaps if we had taken the time to properly listen and understand, we would have discovered there was so much more going on and, even better, that other person would have left feeling valued and important and a relationship would likely have begun.

So what if, as deacons, we actually took the time to sit down and listen to the people we are trying to serve to hear their stories, hear about their experiences and really listen to understand. This could potentially change the entire way churches engage with their communities!

Bacon & Monorails

One church shared recently that for the past couple of years they held a yearly festival in their church parking lot for the surrounding neighbourhood. While we can’t remember all the details of the day/event, we do remember that the theme was….bacon! (How do you forget THAT?!) There was bacon-everything and they aimed to make it a fun, family-friendly, non-threatening event to get to know their neighbours and invite them to get to know their church. Yet, since the event’s inception, the church members have been quite disappointed with the turnout. They have sat and scratched their heads, unable to answer why no one in their neighbourhood has been attending. Who doesn’t like bacon? What could be more appealing and non-threatening and enticing than bacon-wrapped everything?! In a meeting with other local deacons, one person in the group commented that perhaps many in their surrounding neighbourhood were Muslims. Big pause. Blank stare. Huh? What does that have to with bacon? Oh, wait… What this person was trying to point out was that if many people in that church’s “backyard” were Muslims, they would NEVER partake in a “bacon festival” as they don’t eat pork or any pork byproducts. Huh!

Now while this was likely not the reason the festival fell flat, it certainly made those in the room stop for a minute to think. IF WE DON’T KNOW WHO THE PEOPLE ARE THAT MAKE-UP OUR SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES, then how do we know what they like, what they need, and what they care about? If, in fact, many in that neighbourhood were practicing Muslims, nothing about this event would bring them to this church’s doorstep, even if it did include a 3 Ring Circus and free face painting. Reversely, it could even be considered a bit offensive, or worse – ignorant! It would only serve to highlight how disconnected that church was from their immediate neighbourhood; the people they perhaps should know the best!

It’s a very tricky business when a church (or anyone for that matter) comes into town and starts telling people what they need and why they need it. It reminded me a bit of that old Simpsons episode where the town calls a meeting to decide what to do with a budget surplus. Some great ideas are shared about real and urgent needs in their town until in walks Mr. Lyle Lanley, who, with a flashy song and dance, convinces the town they need (and want! and must-have!) a Monorail.

It’s no surprise that if you watched the entire episode, you find out the Monorail did NOT work out – at all! – for a number of reasons. While these examples of Bacon and Monorails may not be ringing any bells for you, can you and your diaconate think of a time when your church has been ‘guilty’ of this kind of behaviour? Has your church or diaconate ever thought you knew what your community needed or wanted or that you had all the answers for them? Well, okay, of course we can all agree that ultimately yes, we do have the one and only answer – aka Jesus Christ, who died for the entire world because He loved each one of us so much. And yes, we should want to share that good news with everyone we meet. So if that is our ‘end goal’, perhaps we can all agree that there are good ways, and not so good ways, to go about doing that.

If sharing the Good News of Jesus is our ‘end goal’, there are good ways, and not so good ways, to go about doing that.

Leading With Your Need

A few years back a speaker shared his story of engaging with his community and he stressed the importance of churches “leading with their need”. Unfortunately, we can’t remember who said it (so maybe we’ll take credit for it!), but it reminded us of the story of the Woman at the Well from John 4. Even before this woman and Jesus met in the middle of the day at the city’s well, we know that Jesus knew her entire story – because he was Jesus! But when we read this story, we see that He did not immediately address her situation, or come down on her with condemnation, or give her answers to her problems (which were many). He started by asking her to draw water for Him; He asked something of her. Again, Jesus didn’t need her help and she was the last person He should have even been talking to, but He did it anyway. Why? He wanted to create level ground between the two of them and talk to her human-to-human. This story clearly, and beautifully, depicts Jesus’ humanness. His somewhat simple request broke down barriers immediately and opened up the conversation between the two of them. And perhaps this is why she felt free to speak to Him the way she did. What a wonderful example for us to study and learn from – and then follow.

While sharing the Good News of the gospel is, and always should be, our ‘end goal’, perhaps we can all agree that there are good ways, and not so good ways, to go about doing that. Building good, healthy, and sustainable relationships with the people in our communities helps us ‘earn the right’ to be able to share that good news. Just as Jesus shows us.

Building good, healthy, and sustainable relationships with the people in our communities helps us ‘earn the right’ to be able to share that good news.

If we’re honest, we can likely agree that churches (and church people) can have the tendency to come in and try to ‘rescue’ people and tell them what they need to start doing (and stop doing!) but this ‘rescuing’ can actually create distance and resentment and often prohibits long-term change because ZERO relationship has been established. It can give people the impression that Christians are pretty self-righteous and that they believe they have all the answers. It tells others that if they just do what we say, their life will turn around and be better than they could ever imagine. BUT! When churches and believers first lead with their need, they instead approach their communities (and the individuals in it) by finding ways to say, ‘What can YOU contribute?’ and ‘How can we work together for a better future in this community and all who live in it.’  WOW! What a change in posture! What a role reversal! When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, He first showed her that she mattered and that she had something to offer. Then, and only then, was He able to find out more about her so He could explain to her that there was a ‘better way of doing life’. And what happens next is absolutely astounding and amazing! She ran and told all of the townspeople (the very people who despised her, gossiped about her, and likely excluded her) the good news of who Jesus was. And this here is ultimately how a community finds lasting transformation as we agreed upon earlier.

This month we’ll continue learning about how we can discover who our communities are and how we can reach them effectively with the love of Christ.

What About You?

Has your church made any blunders when it comes to engaging with your community/neighbourhood? What have you been learning? Does your church have a big “win” they’d like to share about how you have found ways to connect with their surrounding community? Share your stories with us!

Equipping Leaders through Encouragement and Learning

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(Pictured above: A panel discussing the day’s theme, left to right: Aaron Helleman, on the future in technology; Jonathan Maracle, on reconciliation between indigenous people and the church; Sid Ypma, on the future of the church.)

A Day of Encouragement (DOE) is an event held in many regions across Canada. Participants worship together, share ministry stories and best practices, and learn from one another. These can be anywhere from a half-day or evening gathering to a full weekend. The aim of a DOE is to help your church’s leaders experience…

  • Refreshment and encouragement as they serve and work;
  • Inspiration and motivation to persevere in ministry;
  • A deeper sense of community with others who serve in Christ’s name; and
  • A venue where all leave affirmed and encouraged

DOE’s can also offer a safe and inclusive environment for difficult topics and conversations to be discussed.

Lunchtime – people flocking to the dessert table! 🙂

On April 7th, a DOE was held in Brockville, ON for the western half of Classis Eastern Canada. This year’s theme was “What Will the Future Hold?” Those in attendance expressed their appreciation for the day and of several of the workshops held. Two highlights were the “Dance of Reconciliation” dialogue on reconciliation between indigenous people and the church, led by Mike Hogeterp and Jonathan Maracle, and “The Mirror of Popular Music”, a workshop led by Micah van Dijk which discussed the use of popular songs in order to engage in critical conversations about cultural issues.

A DOE has been held in this region every other year since 2007. When organizing this year’s event, the Planning Team felt it was time to step out in faith and, as a result, they tried out some new things:

First, the location of this year’s DOE was changed to Brockville, ON, instead of holding it in the Ottawa area. This required a LOT of trust since historically about 50% of the attendance has come from the Ottawa area and the team knew this could affect the turn-out. Since the location of the event was moved further west, those from Classis Quinte were invited to join this year’s event as geographically it was a bit closer to them. Twelve (12) people arrived from Kingston and Frankford which was encouraging to the Planning Team. As well, many from the Ottawa area were still able to make the trip and while overall attendance did dip a bit, the total number of those who attended was 72 which the team was very grateful for!

Secondly, the team organized a Panel Discussion around the theme of the day in order to examine it from different perspectives. Each of the panel members gave interesting and eloquent insights and the Planning Team is exploring how this can be done a bit more efficiently and effectively next time around.

Lastly, an online registration program was used for this year’s event (via Cognito Form). On the whole that appeared to go well: it was simple to set up and easy to use. This will likely be used again in the future.

Overall, the Planning Team and those in attendance agreed the day was an overwhelming success!

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance (Prov 1:5)

Is it time for your church (and Classis) to hold a Day of Encouragement?

Are you and your diaconate looking to meet with other people who are passionate for God’s Kingdom and their community? Does hearing other’s stories inspire you? Is your team ready to learn from experts in a workshop setting? Are your volunteers longing to enhance their current skills and develop new ones?

Or perhaps your need to give your annual DOE a re-boot? Either way, our website offers some helpful resources that you can use, including a Day of Encouragement ‘Best Practices’ handout, a Sample Budget, and a DOE Sample Brochure.

And as always, please contact us if you need further assistance.

Listening to Our Communities

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As mentioned in our previous blog post, New Month… Same Theme!, we’ll continue looking at listening this month, and in particular, listening to our COMMUNITIES. But perhaps we need to first name what we envision when we hear those words. What does listening to our community LOOK like? Sitting in the mall food court and eavesdropping to the table next to you? Listening to the local radio station while you cook dinner at home? Following your mayor’s or local MPP’s Twitter feed? Spying on your neighbours?

While these may be good suggestions and may prove helpful (well, all except the last one!!!), this likely isn’t going to help you get to know your city or the neighbourhoods within it. In our last blog post, we posed a few questions we hope you’ve had some time to ponder:

  • What are ways your diaconate actively listens to your community?
  • How does your church engage with the people in your neighbourhoods in order to get to know them better?
  • How do you, as deacons, take time to discover where God is at work in your city so that you can transform communities for Christ?

Hmmm, what was that last one? How do you, as deacons, take time to discover where God is at work in your city so that you can transform communities for Christ? There is a lot in there so let’s pick that one apart for a minute.

TAKE TIME – This means intentionally setting time aside to listen and learn.

DISCOVER – This means acknowledging you likely don’t know the whole story! Remember how we said listening can lead to understanding? Why not re-read our post on why listening is so important and our Top 10 Things to Know in Order to Listen Well for a minute before you move on 😉

WHERE GOD IS AT WORK – Perhaps you thought this was all about YOU! Well, it ain’t. All of what you do as deacons is about seeing where God is at work and joining HIM! Perhaps you’ve never heard that before. Perhaps you find that a bit freeing! Takes the pressure off a bit, eh?

Yes folks, God is, and always has been, moving and working in your community. The beautiful part is that we get to JOIN HIM! So now if that’s true, how do we know what He’s up to?

Discovering Where God is at Already at Work

Let’s touch on some of the best ways to discern and discover where God is moving and working:

  1. Prayer-Walking: In his book “Why Pray”, Dr. John DeVries reminds believers that prayer is an exciting and powerful privilege! He shows us that prayer is simply talking with God and it can lead to a deepened relationship of greater love and trust with our Heavenly Father. In his explanation of prayer, he compares it to a young boy riding on his grandfather’s lap as they ride the tractor around his grandparent’s farm. He says, “Prayer is the dependent relationship in which I sit on the lap of my heavenly Father and put my hand on His as He steers the tractor. After all, He not only owns and drives the tractor, but He also owns the farm!” Prayer Walking can be an important part of joining God on His mission. As one author put it, it’s taking the church to people, not taking people to the church. Prayer walking is a way we put feet to our prayers, or as some will say, praying on-site with insight. It can help us pray with open eyes, literally! In order to equip you and your churches, check out this valuable resource for your diaconates on what Prayer-Walking is – and isn’t! As Dr. DeVries continues, he reminds us: The fields that are ripe for harvest are God’s. He owns the tractor, and He knows where to plow. Only when we, like little children, climb into God’s lap in prayer, feel His arms of love around us, and experience the security of having our hands on His while He guides the steering wheel—only then will missions move!” [emphasis mine] Prayer-Walking is a beautiful and powerful way we can pray with hope for our cities!
  2. Attend or Host a Community Prayer Meeting: Gathering a group of people from inside and outside your church who all want to build up and bless their city has tremendous power! (Proverbs 11:11) What a wonderful way to celebrate unity among believers and non-believers, especially in these times when divisions seem to creep in so easily and quickly. Not only is it a chance to learn more about your community but you will also experience growth, both spiritually and personally. “While you are investing in God’s work, you are enlisting others to advance God’s work on earth” (Corinne Gatti). Imagine that! God will bless those efforts to do even more than we can imagine!
  3. Get Involved and Stay Informed: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13–16) “Sociologist James Hunter…writes: ‘Faithful presence in the world means that Christians are fully present and committed in their spheres of influence, whatever they may be: their families, neighborhoods, voluntary activities, and places of work.’ As followers of Jesus, we are called to a mission of engagement in, not withdrawal from, the broader world. To faithfully engage the world means we must be fully present within it” (Tom Nelson, article: “To Engage the World Means Being Present in It”). So start reading your local newspaper in order to follow municipal and regional affairs. Or why not volunteer/get involved in a local non-profit. It won’t take long before you discover where God is opening up doors for you and your church.
  4. Conduct a Community Opportunity Scan! For churches that are ready to see their relationship with their neighbours in a new way, DMC has developed a Community Opportunity Scan (COS). A COS is a comprehensive process of discovery which can lead to exciting possibilities! Churches can get to know the people, organizations, resources and needs of their community first-hand and more importantly, they can see where God is already at work!

So let’s get back to our original questions… What are ways your diaconate is actively listening to your community? How is your church intentionally engaging with the people in your neighbourhoods in order to get to know them? How are you, as deacons, taking time to discover where God is at work in your city so that you can transform communities for Christ??

Churches and diaconates across Canada are in different stages of this “listening” journey. We at DMC are excited to hear their stories and we’ll be sharing a few in the weeks to come. Some are beginning to practice Prayer-Walking in various neighbourhoods in their city; some are clearly listening and paying close attention to where God is at work and what is happening in and around their church and then DOING SOMETHING about it through advocacy; some are beginning the COS process; and others are now moving on to see if an Operation Manna partnership will help them either start or grow a ministry in order to reach out into their community with the love of Christ!

No matter where your church/diaconate is in their journey, if you have any questions or need further guidance, we encourage you to get in touch with one of our Regional Ministry Developers and they’d love to speak with you! You can also check out our resources and tools online.


But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:57-58


 

Does #GivingTuesday bring #GivingFatigue?!

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Truth be told, this article actually began back in late September. While listening to talk radio as I drove into work, the topic of discussion was Disaster Fatigue. The talk show host was asking his listeners if they had ever heard of this and/or if they had ever ‘suffered’ from this. What he was referring to was the multiple natural disasters that we were seeing and hearing about everywhere we turned. It began (mostly) with Hurricane Harvey, then we found out about Hurricane Irma and her devastating blow, and then soon after Hurricane Maria seemed to steal the spotlight as she hammered down and absolutely demolished Puerto Rico. And more recently, devastating earthquakes seem to be coming one after another! In a world where news and information are literally at our finger tips, we have the amazing privilege of hearing about things happening across the globe almost immediately. And this is great, right? It makes us all feel a bit more connected, right? It helps raise awareness, right? It helps educate us on things outside of our little bubble, right? And these are all GOOD things, right? Well, yes!

And, no perhaps.

So what is “Disaster Fatigue”? Where did this phrase even come from? Did this small-town talk radio host come up with it? With a quick Google Search, I discovered that this local radio host may have been citing an article posted September 12, 2017 on the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s website, written by Robert G. OttenhoffIt. Find the full article here.

Since then, our society has been bombarded with other urgent needs from around the globe. From the refugee crises to mass shootings to political strife, the hits just keep on coming! And along with these come the needs of our own family members, our neighbours and co-workers and our community. Your sister can’t pay her hydro bill and now her car just broke down. The boy down the street is selling you-name-it to help local kids play sports. The local food bank needs more peanut butter and men’s underwear, STAT!

And now they’ve come up with #GivingTuesday! Sheesh! So many important causes and so little funds/resources. Right? And who is in the centre of it all? YOU! Poor, little old you, trying to figure out which cause is greater, which need is more urgent and where my dollar can be stretched the furthest. So, perhaps, here is where we arrive at experiencing fatigue. Wrestling with the notion of ‘how can 1 person help every cause?!’! As Robert points out in his article, some of you may have heard this dilemma referred to as “Donor Fatigue”.

But let’s step back a bit and look at this from a broader perspective. What the local radio host was actually referring to was the level of empathy (or compassion) we, as everyday people, can have (or not have) when these ‘disasters’ strike, especially one after another. Do the hurricanes and mass shootings just become redundant news stories and yes, while we feel badly for the people who have gone through them, it doesn’t impact us tangibly (except those higher gas prices we had to endure; ouch!) so they are easily forgotten. Or do we blame the news for confusing our consciences as their focus continually turns to the latest, greatest ‘storm’ and tends not to follow up on the aftermath of the Harveys and Irmas when Maria just came to town! No one can do everything and the hits just keep on coming.

Another quick Google Search landed me upon the phrase “Compassion Fatigue”. Yikes! Another fatigue! I’m getting fatigued just reading about all the fatigues I can experience in this lifetime! Now while these articles dealt mostly with those who are caregivers and the struggles they can experience when they no longer take time for self-care, etc., I think it can apply to many of us, especially when thinking about the above. A phrase that jumped off one website’s homepage was: “Caring too much can hurt”. Hmmmm… chew on that for a minute. Have you or your fellow deacons ever experienced this?

What’s a Christ-follower to do?!

In all of this, how do we, as followers of Christ, hear those words: “Caring too much can hurt”? When we read the Bible, do we hear similar warnings being doled out? Are we cautioned as we take up the cause of mercy and justice to ‘be careful or you’ll get hurt!’? Are we told to “not get in too deep” with the woes of this world? To set clear boundaries in order to protect oneself!?

No, we don’t! Instead, as Christians, are we not called to pursue mercy and justice and have compassion on all those who are suffering? (Zechariah 7:9)

Giving our all should never hurt when done with the right motives. We should never have to experience any sort of “fatigue” if our sole reason to give is to reflect our loving and generous God who gave His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would have the opportunity to be blessed and to bless others by giving. (“Don’t Give Until It Hurts”, posted on www.focusonthefamily.com, by Harvey Nowland). And God promises it will be returned to us (Luke 6:38). Something along the lines of ‘you reap what you sow’. Let us take heart and remember one thing: we simply can’t out-give God. Therefore, we needn’t worry about becoming spent or fatigued or getting hurt. Mr. Nowland rightfully reminds us that we simply can not go broke (emotionally, physically OR spiritually) by being generous with our time, energy or resources.

Our sole reason to give is to reflect our loving and generous God who gave His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would have the opportunity to be blessed and to bless others by giving.

(For further study, take some time to work through 2 Corinthians 9; it’s a great passage on why AND how we are called to show generosity to others!)

No matter what you or your church or your diaconate have experienced thus far, may you never become weary in doing good because we know that at the proper time you will reap a harvest because you never gave up! (Gal. 6:9). Our prayer here at DMC is that as your diaconate seeks to promote mercy and justice, and wrestles with things like benevolence and offering schedules, and as you engage with your broader community, that you will never experience any sort of fatigue or lack of empathy towards the ones God is calling you to serve.

Need some help?

Visit our Resources Page on our website for more about making offering schedules, designing a Benevolence Fund Policy and related topics. You can also contact your local DMD or one of our DMC Staff – we’re here to help!


Help US help you!

This #GivingTuesday, consider an extra donation to Diaconal Ministries Canada, as we do our best to inspire, equip and empower deacons so that they can animate their own congregations to join in God’s transforming work! We offer countless resources and workshops and are available for one-on-one coaching and consultation through our Diaconal Ministry Developers and our Regional Ministry Developers. We exist to serve you as you engage in your communities, promote stewardship and pursue mercy and justice. May God bless each one of you as you participate in His Kingdom causes!

#GivingTuesday coming up November 28, 2017

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Have you seen this video recently? It has been making its way around Facebook and other Social Media platforms. It’s not a new video (it came out December 2016). It’s also not a new concept: being grateful for EVERYTHING we have! If you haven’t seen it, we’ll give you a minute to watch it now.

All done? Wow, that was good, eh?

Each fall, with the celebration of Thanksgiving weekend in October and through to Remembrance Day in November, we are given ample opportunity to stop and take stock of what we have. From the sun rising and setting each day to indoor plumbing to hot coffee and a mug to drink it in. Wow, we are #blessed, right?

Something I’ve tried to drill into my kids’ heads and hearts (and truth be told, my OWN head and heart!) is to have “An Attitude of Gratitude”. Of course that is consistently met with groans and eye rolls from my two boys, but if we’re serious for a moment and really think about this, isn’t this just a great way to go through each day of our life?! There will always be the “big” things in life that some of us will never have or be able to afford, but don’t we have a TON of little things that are just as important (and likely a lot more necessary) to be grateful for??

I think I’ll bookmark this video and go back to it whenever I need a little ‘gratitude boost’, or a dose of Vitamin G, as some people call it! I challenge you to do the same.

So what does this have to do with #GivingTuesday? (Or perhaps you’re asking what IS #GivingTuesday???) “Following Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. and the widely-recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year” (taken from www.givingtuesday.org). This movement marries the power of social media with the innate generosity of people around the world in order to impact local communities. Organizations and individuals have raised over a million dollars in almost 100 countries since its inception. And what an incredible contrast this is each year, coming out of a weekend of gluttony, over-indulging AND over-spending.

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Here at DMC, our focus is to inspire, empower and equip Deacons in order that they may animate their congregations. One of our focus areas is to help churches “To Live Stewardly”. Over the next year, DMC will be increasing our capacity to serve you and your diaconates by gathering appropriate and relevant resources in the area of stewardship. Remember to keep coming back to see what’s been added!

Our prayer is that God will continue to bless each one of you as you and your churches choose an “attitude of gratitude”, able to see and appreciate ALL of His good gifts. And out of this gratitude, that God may increase your generosity.

And if you feel led to participate in the #GivingTuesday Campaign this year by giving an extra donation to a ministry you already support, or by organizing a service project in your community, or you name it!, we know that “you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.” (2 Cor. 9:11 NLT)

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

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.

 

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