Doing it Differently: Empowering Deacons to Serve

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

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

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

Well, we invited God into the process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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