Are you a new deacon in the Christian Reformed Church?
Being a deacon is an exciting opportunity to lead others in your church community to share Christ's love and mercy with others. Our goal as Diaconal Ministries Canada is to support you as you serve in your new role.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you're just getting started, you probably have a lot of questions. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the role of a deacon. We've organized them into a variety of categories; just click on the question and the answer will appear below it. There is a lot of information here so we encourage you to bookmark this page and return to it as your progress through your term as a deacon.
The Ministry of the Deacon
Deacons in the Christian Reformed Church are chosen by their local congregations to give leadership to diaconal ministry. In this ministry, deacons empower members of their own congregation and partner with neighbouring churches, Christian services, and local agencies.
The Diaconal Network
Though not as common as it once was, a Diaconal Conference is an association of diaconates who represent churches within a Classis (a group of churches within a geographical area). They gather together to promote and build the church's ministry of mercy.
A Diaconal Conference:
- promotes mutual learning opportunities for the diaconates within a Classis;
- provides training for new deacons and leadership roles for deacons in the church;
- stimulates support for existing community ministries, especially local NewGround partners (formerly Operation Manna);
- encourages diaconates to search for new ministry opportunities and ways to collaborate;
- communicates with Classis on a regular basis where and when possible.
CRC Classis Websites:
The Deacon and Diaconal Visits
Be compassionate to those in need and treat them with dignity and respect; hold in trust all sensitive matters confided to you. Encourage with words that create hope in hearts and with deeds that bring joy into lives....live as examples of Christ Jesus; look to the interests of others.” (Charge to Deacons, Form of Ordination, 2016)
The primary role of the Deacons is to share the love of Christ and demonstrate His caring concern to those in need. Because of this, a Deacon should always be aware of the needs of the congregation and its individual members.
The Deacon and the Congregation
“The church does not simply have deacons, but is, by its very nature and calling a diaconate. The call of deacons is to motivate and mobilize the congregation for works of service (diakonia).” From: Diakonia Remixed – Task Force report to Synod 2013
Ephesians 4:12-13 states that the purpose of the various offices is “to prepare God’s people for works of service.” Deacons must coach members to be engaged in the care and community ministries around the church.
Congregation members are partners with deacons in diaconal ministry. Deacons need to communicate that members are valuable, essential and effective partners in the growth and life of the body of Christ. Then the involvement in the ministry of mercy and compassion is multiplied on a continual basis. Here are some examples that demonstrate how deacons can use the church members' gifts:
- Deacons ask people who have the ability to lead small groups to organize a support group for single parents.
- Food is supplied to an unemployed father and a willing, capable man is asked to develop a long-term relationship with him.
- People with mechanical or construction skills are invited to help families experiencing car/home difficulties during crisis situations.
The congregation is at its best when its neighbourhood recognizes its members as a people whose convictions are expressed with words and deeds of love and compassion. It is at its best when it cultivates and uses the gifts of its members to show and share the love of Christ.
The Deacon and Community Ministry
There are many doorways into the community that God opens for us. Deacons can participate in creating some of the following entry points for ministry in the community by...
- Creating Awareness: This helps church members become aware of the life experience of particular people in the community (to help them connect).
- Identifying Service Opportunities: This helps church members to become personally involved in service work and/or a one-to-one relationship (to help build relationships with people).
- Developing Partnerships through which the church can work with other agencies/churches on a joint project (to help accomplish a task better).
- Evaluating Existing Activities to consider how existing programs could be reshaped to provide better access, relevance, and connection to the community.
Developing New Ministry Activities that respond to specific needs or opportunities (to develop an intentional Christian response).
The Deacon and Stewardship
"Inspiring Faithful Stewardship" is a key part of the deacon's charge. Stewardship has to do with the special steward/manager relationship we have with God - the master Creator. It has to do with the use, care and giving of all the gifts that God has entrusted to us: our time, our talents (skill/abilities), our treasures (money/material wealth) and our trees (creation/environment).
Diaconal Ministries Canada collaborates with Christian Stewardship Services (CSS) and with the Canadian Ministries Office - CRCNA. This collaborative network defines stewardship as a "journey in which congregations and individuals joyfully and obediently manage the talents, treasures, time and other resources that God has given them to be Christ's presence in our neighbourhoods and communities around the world." For a quick overview of the deacon’s role in stewardship, click here.
The Deacon and Promoting Mercy and Justice
Most of us are familiar with the saying, “Give someone a fish and they have food for a day. Teach them to fish and they have food for a lifetime.” Engaging in community ministry involves assessing the various needs in our neighbourhoods and contributing in more ways than simply “giving them a fish.”
But what happens when we stop handing out fish or even teaching someone to fish? Shouldn’t we also ask whether he/she owns a fishing rod, or whether they have legal access to the lake, or whether the water is too polluted for the fish to be safe to eat?
Seeking justice involves asking the deeper question about “why” some of our vulnerable neighbours suffer injustice, and then pursuing an answer which includes the structures (organizations, governments, etc) of society and how they too can perpetuate the injustice. As we begin to find answers, we create awareness of injustices and speak out for justice through advocacy.
When deacons are installed in the church they are called, in Christ’s name, to both “relieve victims of injustice” and “be prophetic critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society.” Since they often walk closely with those who experience injustices, deacons have a special opportunity and responsibility to not only respond directly to immediate needs with compassion (mercy), but also to promote awareness of injustice and engage in advocacy for justice.
Diaconal Ministries Canada is committed to sharing, with the church, ways of living the biblical call to justice and to mobilize for advocacy. While justice often requires impartiality, there are times when God calls us to partiality, to live out a special concern for the vulnerable people groups in our country. Examples of various vulnerable people who can experience injustices in Canadian communities are:
- Aboriginal people
- People who are homeless
- One-parent families
- People experiencing mental illness
- Working poor
- People living with disabilities
One of the partners of Diaconal Ministries Canada is the Office of Social Justice (OSJ). The OSJ is a bi-national ministry and runs initiatives on both sides of the border (eg. Climate Witness Project, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday materials, Catching Stones newsletter), but also supports Canada-specific projects in partnership with other ministries where possible (eg. Journey With Me, Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue action alerts).
Visit our Mercy & Justice page to find helpful resources on how your church might walk alongside the vulnerable in your community and to see a full listing of our Canadian partners.
The Deacon and Refugee Ministry
All kinds of people are refugees. No one is a refugee by choice. In short, a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. For a quick snapshot of what a refugee is AND isn’t, check out this refugee factsheet put together by World Renew, OSJ, and the Centre for Public Dialogue.
The Deacon and World Renew
World Renew is the relief, development, and educational ministry of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, both in Canada and in the US. (Prior to 2012, this agency was called the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, or CRWRC for short.)
World Renew envisions a world where people experience and extend Christ's compassion and live together in hope as God's community. Their mission is compelled by God’s deep passion for justice & mercy, therefore they join communities around the world to renew hope, reconcile lives, and restore creation. Their three focus areas are Community Development, Disaster Response and Rehabilitation, and Peace & Justice. Together World Renew and its partners find ways to provide lasting change for people in more than 30 countries around the world.