“Oh When the …DEACONS(?!)… Come Marching In!”

I love marching bands!!! Don’t you?! It’s one of the biggest reasons I attend parades, much to the chagrin of my lovely husband. Sometime I wonder if he had some horrible childhood experience or something because c’mon; who hates parades?! Am I right? It’s like hating fireworks. How is that even possible?!

But back to marching bands… they are a wonder to behold aren’t they? The guy or gal out front, called the Drum Major or Field Commander, and who is often dressed slightly different and fancier than the rest of the band, is responsible for providing commands to the ensemble and leads them while marching. He/she directs them on what to play, when to play, and what time to keep. The commands can be communicated in a variety of ways: verbally, through hand gestures, using a whistle or a baton, or with a mace (a weapon!) in the military. “Essentially, a drum major is the leader that keeps the rhythm and beat of time with the use of its baton or other forms of time keeping such as conducting. The drum major often holds the responsibility to keep the band organized and structured.” (Thanks Wikipedia! Click here to read more on the history and role of Drum Majors.)

While doing some research on marching bands (because UNFORTUNATELY I’ve never been part of one), it was interesting to read why people loved being a part of one so much. One blogger wrote that she much preferred being part of a marching band than participating on a sports team. With band, she writes, “everyone participates, regardless of how well you march or your skill with an instrument. While those things are important—they’re kind of what the whole thing is built around—every student has a necessary role to play for the band. When you march, you are not simply a single musician or color guard member. You are part of a larger instrument. You have to be aware of where your bandmates are so you can fit into the shape…and also not get run over by the tuba player or hit with a flag. We are all responsible for sounding good and looking good on the field.”

Hmmmm, interesting. And that got me thinking about this month’s theme of LEADERSHIP. Being part of a marching band, and particularly being the Drum Major, is a pretty tall order. One slip-up and the entire ensemble falls apart, and typically in front of thousands! No pressure, eh? Talk about teamwork!

Whether you recognize this or not, deacons are LEADERS! And as you likely already know (and have experienced), deacons have been given a pretty hefty mandate. To sum it all up, Diaconal Ministry focuses on the following areas:

  • Compassion – Deacons model and demonstrate compassion to those who are hurting; they provide hope and encouragement;
  • Community Ministry – Deacons model and encourage the congregation to be engaged in community ministry in their community;
  • Stewardship – Deacons encourage church members to be stewards of God’s creation and to practice authentic stewardship with their time, gifts, and money;
  • Justice – Deacons model and encourage the congregation to be advocates for, and with, the marginalized and vulnerable people in their local community.

Did you notice anything when reading these categories and explanations? Did you notice the words MODEL…DEMONSTRATE…ENCOURAGE…? In summary, Deacons are called to serve by “leading and equipping the church to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities.” Deacons are not to just perform diaconal ministry on behalf of the church, but to mobilize and equip their entire churches to fulfill its calling.

Deacons are the “Field Commanders” in their congregations! You have an entire congregation picking up their instruments (their talents, their resources, and their time) and following you into the great wide open! Being an ordained Deacon is not about doing all the work or having all of the ideas. But it’s also not about being dictators who give orders to those around them. Remember those words MODEL, DEMONSTRATE and ENCOURAGE? This is what being an ordained Deacon is all about. And this is essentially what being a leader is all about! As it reads in the Form of Ordination, “…Deacons are to identify and develop gifts in both the church and community. By adding to all this words of encouragement and hope, deacons demonstrate in word and deed the care of the Lord himself.” [emphasis mine]

So as we journey through this month together, let’s learn together what it means for you to be effective leaders in your churches and communities. This is a tough task, especially in today’s society. While it used to be looked down upon when someone ‘marched to the beat of our own drum’, nowadays it’s become the objective for many. And while this philosophy can help us embrace our own unique gifts and talents and find our purpose in life, the glorification of this philosophy has actually segregated our society instead of made it beautiful and harmonious. It’s promoted self and placed the individual before the whole. This has become one of the biggest challenges for leaders inside and outside the church.

So, how can Deacons lead their entire congregations, filled with various church members having their own interests and opinions and needs and wants, and equip them to perform one unified, glorious masterpiece? How can we all march to the beat of the same drum – the drum that echoes the heartbeat of God himself – as we do what He requires of us.

Let’s wrestle with that one a bit more this month, along with many other aspects and challenges of leadership. And perhaps these marching bands can teach us a few more things. 🙂

Leave a Comment