If I had to pick one of my favourite game shows, I’d have to go with Family Feud. Not because it pits two families against each other, but because of the questions they ask and some of the answers they get from the average ‘man/woman-on-the-street’. Some are exactly what you’d expect. Others? Not so much. And still others that should be there AREN’T there! Wait, what?!?
The interesting thing about a survey like that is that when a question is asked, there really are no right or wrong answers; it’s whatever that person believes is the answer and/or what comes to mind when they are asked.
The Results are In!
This past January, Diaconal Ministries Canada, along with World Renew Canada, launched our own National Survey that was sent to all Canadian deacons. By sharing their experiences and feedback through this survey, Diaconal Ministries would be able to measure its effectiveness and better support the work of Deacons.
Every Canadian Chair of Deacons was also encouraged to pass the survey on former deacons in their congregation, as well as their elders, pastors and other ministry leaders. In total, the survey received over 220 responses from individuals across Canada, with around 74% being current or former deacons.
While staff and board members continue to wade through the breadth of information the survey provided, we wanted to share a few key findings we’ve discovered so far! The survey was divided into the four (4) main activities laid out in the Deacon’s Mandate: Service and Justice, Benevolence/Compassion/Mercy, Stewardship, and Community Engagement/Development.
In the 220+ responses we received, we were pleased to see an equal representation of men and women from a variety of church sizes and locations (from rural to large city). While the majority of participants were current and former deacons, it was helpful to hear from pastors and other ministry leaders (eg. elders) in order to gauge how well the deacons communicate and mobilize their congregations to participate in diaconal work.
“This was a thorough survey and well thought out. I appreciate Diaconal Ministries Canada wanting to reach out to leadership to enhance the outreach and work that is being done.”[Survey Respondent]
How Deacons Are Doing
In the area of Service and Justice, it was interesting to see that approximately 60% of congregations are involved in refugee ministry on some level. Many congregations and members were also involved in serving the vulnerable in their communities through food drives, community fridges or pantries, and community gardens. Other initiatives included advocating for affordable housing and prison ministry!
Most churches were highly engaged in some sort of benevolence/mercy ministries. Several offered financial assistance, whether through the church or by helping people access practical assistance through community organizations, yet only 39% had a well-developed Benevolence Policy to help guide their work. Approximately 75% were active in serving the vulnerable, elderly sick and/or bereaved in their congregation, while only 35% were active with those persons outside of their congregation.
Most churches seemed to encourage and equip their members in the area of stewardship, with 67% encouraging their members to ‘excel in the grace of giving’ (financially) and around 57% providing opportunities for members to volunteer and steward their time well. A few churches said that they had or were putting together a Stewardship Team which is very encouraging!
It was hopeful to see that around 67% of churches were involved in some sort of community engagement or development by partnering with other churches and/or local organizations. This shows a desire to help make the community a better place to live and work. From the results, it appeared that many churches would benefit from not only learning about their own unique gifts and assets but also those of their local community so that they can work better together.
The survey also touched on the Deacon’s role at the Classis and Synod level. We were pleased to see that deacons were eager to be involved in ministry at the classis level, from helping shape the agenda to partnering with other churches in classis to do diaconal work. We found it extremely encouraging that Pastors eagerly endorsed the role of deacons at the Classis level, which to many deacons is still a new(er) concept. The survey showed less intensity when it came to deacons at Synod and this could be an area of learning for churches.
So how is DMC Doing?
Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) exists to support and equip deacons so we were delighted to see that most were aware of our agency and the work we do and resources we offer. Around 80% of deacon respondents were familiar with our website and over 60% have used it! Over half knew about our amazing network of Diaconal Coaches but the results showed that only about ¼ of those have actually engaged with their local Diaconal Coach.
Overall, this national survey will be extremely helpful to Diaconal Ministries to develop our new strategic plan for 2023 and include the areas where deacons need more support. “This was a thorough survey and well thought out,” one respondent shared. “I appreciate Diaconal Ministries Canada wanting to reach out to leadership to enhance the outreach and work that is being done.”
There was an opportunity for respondents to share their comments and questions and the staff has already begun reading this information over and hope to respond quickly to specific requests for help – SO BE PATIENT!
For now, stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks and for our full strategic plan to be revealed this Fall!