collaboration

Serving a God of Change: Part 2 – Top 7 Reasons Change can be a Good Thing

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

In Part 1 of ‘Serving a God of Change’, we looked at why change can be so hard for us humans and why we tend to avoid it at all costs. But if we’re being honest, I think we can agree that sometimes we DO want change; new things can bring excitement and refreshment. Like that fresh pair of underwear we put on this morning (well, hopefully!). Or changing the throw pillows on our couch every couple of years. Or (incessantly) changing the channel on the tv – my husband is an expert at that! 😉

Change isn’t always bad; new isn’t always unwelcomed. Remember those bible verses we read in our last post? (And trust me, there are way more than just those 3.) Perhaps the first step in embracing change is to change our attitude and perception towards it. Not convinced? Okay, fine, you asked for it!

Perhaps the first step in embracing change is to change our attitude and perception towards it.

Here’s our Top 7 Reasons Why Change Can Be A Good Thing:

  1. Change pushes us to grow – personally, professionally, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  
  2. Change reminds us we aren’t in control. It reminds us of who is Boss and it keeps us flexible, breaking up our (potentially harmful) routines. Routines can be good, ruts never are. God is always at work and God always wants the best for us (Romans 8:28).
  3. Change can challenge, but also solidify, our values and beliefs. Sounds scary, but this could lead to deeper, stronger, and more meaningful relationships – with God and with others – as our love and trust grows.
  4. Change often reveals our strengths—including our ability to adapt in new (and often interesting) ways. It also reminds us to rely on God’s strength. He promises He won’t leave us or forsake us. (Deut. 31:6)
  5. Change can change our perspective. How we view change and its purpose and value can make all the difference. Instead of saying, “If God is in control, why won’t He take this away from me?” we can say, “I don’t know what God is doing, but I know He loves me and has a plan for me.”
  6. Change can make us more compassionate and more loving. When we become “too comfortable” in our own situation, it can be much more difficult to understand what others might be going through. As we look around and see others struggling, we can choose compassion instead of criticism.
  7. Change offers opportunities. Change can present opportunities that can lead to even more opportunities! This could be the abundant life Jesus talked about in John 10.

In summary: we serve a GOD OF CHANGE. This is how God created His entire world – including us. Each day the sun rises and we have a new day. Four times a year we mark a new season (whether we like it or not!). Even the cells in our body are continually dying and being replaced! Since the beginning of the world God has been actively doing a new thing. Change isn’t always a bad thing! What we must remember, though, is that no change is good change without God in the picture.

Every day is an opportunity for change to reveal incredible and amazing things [as we] allow ourselves to be drawn closer to Him and to the plans and purposes He has for our life.

Marni Montanez

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

Marni Montanez shares this wonderful insight about this passage from Isaiah: “Our eyes must be watchful and our hearts open and expectant for the changes God is bringing into our life. Our God is the ultimate artist and He loves to create. He brings victories and transforming power into each situation we welcome Him into. What else can we be, but grateful for His tireless ministry to us? Every day is an opportunity for change to reveal incredible and amazing things and in these changes we allow ourselves to be drawn closer to Him and to the plans and purposes He has for our life. This is indeed good news. We must be willing vessels ready to face the head-wind of change and move forward in the renewed hope that God presents to us daily;  If we don’t our lives will become stale and intolerable.”

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. Proverbs 3:5-6

Here at DMC, we strive to follow God and trust in Him as we push forward to break new ground in order to help deacons and churches across Canada live out God’s calling on their lives. Here are just a few exciting things we’ve been working on:

  1. We’ve begun some wonderful collaborations to better equip and resource deacons and churches:
    a. We are working with Christian Stewardship Services to offer deacons and churches helpful and up-to-date resources on stewardship and benevolence, with extra funding coming from the CRCNA to support these efforts;
    b. Along with World Renew, we are offering a workshop “Helping Without Harming” to educate and encourage local churches and organizations to address poverty and injustice in their communities;
    c. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Climate Witness Project to help communities and churches respond to God’s call to love their neighbour and care for creation, focusing on these four key areas: Energy Stewardship, Worship, Education, and Advocacy.
  2. A National Benevolence Training Program was piloted in a couple cities across Canada. This program, developed and led by Ms. Anje Attema, will help deacons move from “handing out money” to partnering with people to bring about lasting and meaningful change in their lives and situations.
  3. We’ve recruited some highly skilled and passionate Diaconal Ministry Developers to our team!
  4. We have fully rebranded our Operation Manna Program and are excited to make an announcement at the end of January 2019, so stay tuned!

We serve a God of change, who goes before us, beside us, and behind us. He can do some pretty amazing things in those moments, if we let Him and if we continue to follow Him. So here’s the challenge – for us, for deacons, for churches: embrace the changes! Remember this as you put on a fresh pair of underwear each day: Change is good if God is in the change. Sometimes it’s necessary… sometimes it’s uncomfortable (at first)… but we never have to go through it alone.

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Will You Help Us Continue to Extend our Reach?

In order to accomplish what we’ve listed above, and so much more, WE NEED YOU! Will you partner with us so can continue to inspire, empower, and equip deacons and churches across Canada in new and refreshing ways? Your prayers and financial support are critical for Diaconal Ministries Canada to help deacons and churches flourish so that every community can be transformed by the love and good news of Jesus Christ. Find out more here!

STOP! Collaborate and Listen…

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, Uncategorized | No Comments

Waaaaay back in June, we talked about Deacons at Classis & Synod. Then in July, we continued that conversation and included Community Engagement. At first glance, you may have wondered (or still wonder!) what these 2 things have in common. Well – both require Teamwork, a.k.a. COLLABORATION.

In our post dated June 11, “What’s Gonna Work? Teamwork!”, we shared some learnings from the book of Nehemiah. In chapter 3, we read about the people of Jerusalem rebuilding the damaged wall around the city. In this story, we see a beautiful picture of how the residents there worked together. They put aside their positions, their genders and even their loyalties, in order to accomplish this great feat. Priests and rulers worked alongside perfume-makers and goldsmiths. People came from other cities and regions to lend a hand. Men worked alongside women. Some repaired two sections while others simply repaired the section opposite their own homes.

As we continued sharing stories and articles on our e-Quip Diaconal Blog, we kept seeing that word and theme pop up! So, what is collaboration? For the purpose of this article, it means working with another or others on a joint project, OR something created by working with another or others. To put it more plainly: Two or more people working together towards shared goals.

While some will still poo-poo the notion of teamwork, saying it stifles ingenuity, it limits the individual’s right to pursue their own hopes and dreams, and/or it slows down progress, (I kid you not! Check out this rant, er article!), we TOTALLY DISAGREE! For those of us who profess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we see it differently. Because at the end of the day, IT’S NOT ABOUT US, and it’s certainly not about our own individual needs and wants.

Ephesians 4:16 sums this up perfectly:

“[Christ] makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Just read that one more time before moving on. Teamwork is Christ’s work and when each person does their part, there is growth and health and above all, LOVE.

“[Christ] makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)

Why Teamwork WORKS!

Out of this story from Nehemiah, we drew 4 important lessons regarding teamwork and collaboration:
1. Teamwork means no one’s work was more important depending on how much they did;
2. Teamwork means we are each lending our own gifts and abilities to work toward one common goal;
3. Our positions or titles and even our gender must be put aside for the greater good AND the grander vision of what God would have us do;
4. While we often pray for prosperity and peace, hard times or calamity can be an opportunity to bring us together and make us stronger.

Steven J. Cole sums this up by saying, “To accomplish God’s purpose, we need a common vision, dedicated leaders, and willing workers who do their part.” That’s what teamwork is all about and that’s why it’s an important part in how we live out our faith and ministry to one another.

So let’s take a closer look at the 4 points listed above and find out what real teamwork and collaboration looks like and why it works:

Teamwork means no one’s work was more important depending on how much they did.

1 Corinthians 12 sums this up perfectly.

1 Now, dear brothers and sisters,[a]regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this…4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other…. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. …
18 Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body .21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

We read about this recently in the story about First CRC’s new ministry, called Opportunity to Bless (or OTB). The Brandon, Manitoba, church began this ministry after hearing about it from another local church and how it had propelled their congregation to become more outward-focussed. It’s a simple ministry with considerable potential and meaningful impact. And the best part? Everyone can participate! From donating needed items, to praying for the local organizations, to connecting more personally to the community organization they are helping (by volunteering or using their services), each person can help out in big and small ways no matter their age, gender, occupation or location!

Teamwork means we are each lending our own gifts and abilities to work toward one common goal.

When deacons gather together in Classis Chatham to talk about the future of their Diaconal Conference and how deacons can fulfill their mandate regionally, this is the Body of Christ working together. While each church can offer its own unique gifts and abilities, the deacons of this Classis are committed to loving God and loving their neighbours in tangible ways and they believe they can be better TOGETHER!

Collaboration is two or more people working together towards shared goals.

This point was also reiterated in our interview with deacon Ada Kloet, from Oakville, ON. Ada shared that her “church began to reach out by holding community dinners and a community cooking group, running a year-round food pantry, holding bible studies, being a part of a Justice Film Festival, and more. The church has discovered that collaboration in ministry helps them offer more wholistic assistance to the people they are serving. Their church really owns the ministries listed above and most are done in collaboration with other agencies in their city or region. Networking with local agencies who can assist their church not only helps the church (so they aren’t trying to do it all), but also the individual person or family receiving assistance: if someone else can do it better, let them!”

This opens up the conversation about Spiritual Gifts and passions. Within your own diaconate, each person around that table has been gifted with strengths and passions and a willingness to serve in a particular area. Take the time to discover those gifts! Harness those passions! And don’t forget to mobilize your congregation to join in! If every Deacon around your table cared only for creation and stewardship of our world, who would help inspire and animate your congregation to visit the shut-ins or work with Refugees? Ada noted the importance of encouraging one another’s passions, no matter where that may lead someone to serve. In her own church’s diaconate, one deacon there had a passion for stewardship and was led to serve in a different ministry. Try to celebrate this, instead of begrudging it!

Our positions or titles and even our gender must be put aside for the greater good AND the grander vision of what God would have us do

This point is bang on when we talk about why Deacons are needed at Classis and Synod. In God’s Kingdom, we are reminded over and over again that no talent or skill or person is greater than another. Remember 1 Corinthians 12: 5-6 above? “There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

Seating Deacons at Classis and Synod meetings helps to strengthen God’s Church, the body of Christ. The whole church is fully represented when all the offices (deacon, elder, pastor) are represented at these larger denominational gatherings. For more info on this, check out our brand new handout/resource: Top Reasons Why Deacons are Needed at Classis & Synod.

Remember, we are the BODY of Christ, working and functioning as ONE with our own special work to do (Eph. 4:16). We can’t all be an eye, or a leg, or a neck. It just wouldn’t work. And it would look SUPER silly!

While we often pray for prosperity and peace, hard times or calamity can be an opportunity to bring us together and make us stronger.

This couldn’t be seen any clearer than in the story of Meadowlands CRC in Ancaster, ON. The church and its surrounding community had been experiencing vandalism. The church brought together concerned neighbours, city politicians and police so that they could share ideas and join forces to make their community safer. They all knew the church couldn’t do it alone. Neither could the neighbours do it alone. Not even the Politicians or the Police could do it alone! It was going to take teamwork! COLLABORATION!

What started as a ‘problem’ has now become a reason for collaboration that will grow beyond solving the vandalism issue. In this story we read, “Moving forward, the church hopes to create a “community hub” for the Meadowlands neighbourhood that will gather to identify and talk about the needs for residents and to be a unified voice for safety. What an incredible story of seeking and discovering where God was at work, and then joining Him!” And the best, most interesting part? The church had been praying for a way to have ‘more in common’ with their neighbourhood and THIS was how God answered that prayer. WOW! What a wonderful reminder to keep our eyes on Jesus when the storms come our way and not pray or wish them away too quickly before He can do something great!

Collaboration at DMC

Here at DMC, we believe in Collaboration too! (Hey, we don’t just ‘talk the talk’ over here ya know!) Here are some ways we collaborate with other agencies and ministries to better serve deacons across Canada:

1. We have begun a joint, monthly e-newsletter with some diaconal friends in the US. This is being done so we can provide even more helpful resources and tools to better equip deacons and churches. A big thanks to Mr. Andy Ryskamp for his work on this;
2. While we are doing away with the annual Ancaster Day of Encouragement (DOE), we are helping various Classis and churches run regional DOE’s so they can focus on local issues and initiatives better. These events are a wonderful way for ministry leaders to encourage one another and network, reminding everyone that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
We are also working on a new venture in partnership with World Renew and Resonate Global Mission to offer larger, more specialized workshops/events across Canada for those involved in diaconate work. Stay tuned for more details!
3. We have been working diligently with Christian Stewardship Services over the past year to find and share helpful stewardship resources so that deacons can help their members serve God with the 4 T’s; Time, Trees, Talents & Treasures.
4. Each year we bring together our Operation Manna Partners for a Ministry Networking Day (MND) so they can learn, share stories and ideas, and network with one another. For many of our partners, this is a highlight for them: it not only reminds our OM partners that they, too, are not alone in the work they do, but it encourages them to be with others who have experienced some of the same joys and challenges! A new online community is also being set-up by our Regional Ministry Developers as we speak, so our OM Partners can ‘continue’ their conversations long after the MND has ended.

How About You?

Where do you see collaboration in your church and/or diaconate? In your city/neighbourhood? In your Classis? What have been the advantages? What have been the challenges? When is collaboration NOT the best way to do ministry?

Need More Help?

If your diaconate (or church) would like to begin collaborating with other local churches or agencies but you aren’t sure where to start, contact one of our Regional Ministry Developers (Tammy, Eastern Canada; Rachel, Western Canada) or your local Diaconal Ministry Developer.

Finding Joy in Diaconal Work; A Deacon’s Story

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

[Pictured above: In June, Clearview CRC joined other Oakville churches for the 10th Annual Oakville Community Food Drive to help restock the shelves at the Oakville Food banks and The Compass. Clearview’s members reached over 1,600 houses in their neighbourhood to help advertise the food drive, thanks to more than 120 volunteers!]

Back in June, Diaconal Ministries Canada posed the question, “Why are Deacons needed at Classis & Synod”. We were pleased to hear what other deacons and ministry leaders had to say and one particular email came from Ada Kloet. She and her husband are members at Clearview CRC in Oakville, Ontario. Not only that, but Ada and her husband, George, are both deacons – the first husband-wife deacon ‘team’ in their congregation. Erin Knight had the pleasure of talking to Ada about her experience growing up in the CRC and also about serving as a deacon.

For many of us growing up in the CRC, it felt at times that we were simply a part of our ‘parent’s church’. Our fathers and mothers were busy serving their time on Council, helping out with Sunday School or children’s ministries, being part of the choir perhaps, or fill-in-the-blank. Our parents diligently and faithfully served God and their church with their time AND resources. While most work was done inside the church walls, some ‘outreach’ was also being done, like sponsoring a refugee family or collecting food for the local food bank. And while all of this work was good and helpful and kingdom-building, many of the younger members would sit in the pew and think, ‘is there more to this Christianity thing?’

Enter Ada Kloet. She, too, grew up in a Christian Reformed church with her father being a “career elder”, as Ada puts it. This meant he would be “on for 3 years and off for 1”, and repeat! While Ada respected her parents and their beliefs and the value they put on church, she and her husband, having children of their own, began wondering if there was ‘something more’. This wondering led them to leave their church for a time to learn and discern. After some years away at another local church outside of the CRC denomination, George and Ada were both led back to their CRC congregation with a new mindset and a fresh sense of contentment. They had discovered a new way of ‘doing church’ – a new way of living out their faith day-to-day – and they were excited to come back and find that their former church was also changing. And even more so, that this Christian Reformed congregation was not alone.

Ada and her husband had discovered a new way of ‘doing church’ – a new way of living out their faith day-to-day – and they were excited to come back and find that Clearview Church had also changed.

Ada remembers her father saying often, ‘It’s time to hand the keys over to the next generation. I may not always agree with how things are done or how the next generation decides on the issues but we must move forward.’ And Ada agrees. “Something is happening in the CRC overall,” she shared. While she isn’t entirely sure where it came from, she sees the denomination echoing the need for change in order to move forward; a desire to step out in faith, coupled with a desire for unity.

When Clearview CRC realized the need for change and the need to be more intentional in reaching out into their community, they knew they needed help. So they brought on a staff member to help get their church on track. Over the years the job evolved into a “Community Engagement Specialist” position. The purpose of this position was to help the church grow in their love for God and for people in their community. The church is located in Oakville, Ontario, which has the reputation of being a city with primarily “rich” people, but, just like any other town in any other province, there are many who struggle day-to-day. So their church began to reach out by holding community dinners and a community cooking group, running a year-round food pantry, holding bible studies, being a part of a Justice Film Festival, and more.

The church has discovered that collaboration in ministry helps them offer more wholistic assistance to the people they are serving. Their church really owns the ministries listed above and most are done in collaboration with other agencies in their city or region. Networking with local agencies who can assist their church not only helps the church (so they aren’t trying to do it all), but also the individual person or family receiving assistance: if someone else can do it better, let them!

This was also seen in a personal way for Ada. Being a retired nurse, she has a heart for helping people deal with loss. Griefshare was a program that Ada became a Facilitator for and she was trying to get it off the ground at Clearview. Unfortunately, she was having trouble finding people within the church with the same passion and desire to help her. She began looking outside her church walls, which was “perhaps what God wanted in the first place!” she says. Ada reached out to another local church and discovered they had nine (9) people on their team. Ada now works with this church to provide this important and impactful ministry to those going through loss.

Collaboration has also found its way into their Church’s Council. A couple years ago, Ada and her husband, George, agreed to let both of their names stand for the office of Deacon. While this wasn’t typically the ‘norm’, when the casting of lots was done and both of them got it in, it seemed to them that God could be affirming this kind of ‘teamwork’. Being a Husband-Wife team has been a wonderful way of doing diaconal ministry: Ada says they are able to share the burdens and challenges of their roles with each other and offer one another advice and encouragement. More recently, other husbands and wives at their church have become elders and deacons through the casting of lots, which has been further confirmation from God that He was approving this type of ‘collaboration’ in diaconal work!

In her role as deacon, Ada was chosen to attend the Toronto Classis meetings and also Synod this year. She has found attending these meetings to be enlightening and encouraging. She went in with an open mind and was willing to listen and learn. When asked about deacons being seated at these larger denominational gatherings, Ada said she has come to realize that Deacons are called to serve the church just like the elders and pastors are and they oversee so many important ministries: community engagement/outreach, worship, stewardship/benevolence, justice, etc. According to Ada, if the Council is charged with leading the local church and deacons are also part of that Council, why wouldn’t deacons be seated at Classis and Synod?! This point is echoed in the “Top Reasons Deacons Are Needed at Classis & Synod” sheet DMC recently put out: it is about the full representation of the church. When deacons are missing from major assemblies, the full voice of the church is not heard, nor is the full ministry of the church under discussion (from Diakonia Remixed).

For Deacons who are still hesitant and unsure of being part of these large gatherings, Ada encourages them to be okay with being the ‘newbie’: “everyone is at that place at one time or another and will experience the same learning curve,” she says. Being a part of Classis and Synod will help deacons experience a better connection to other CR churches and to the denomination as a whole, which has been Ada’s experience.

Ada believes being a part of Classis and Synod will help deacons experience a better connection to other CR churches and to the denomination as a whole.

Moving forward, Ada continues to be excited about how God can use her to do His good work. Her ‘advice’ to other deacons would be to first carry each other’s burdens, pray, and worship together – and THEN work together. She would also tell deacons to encourage each other’s passions, no matter where that may lead someone to serve. In their own diaconate, one deacon had a passion for stewardship and was led to serve in a different ministry and they have learned to celebrate that!

As Ada shared with us in her initial email, “My father would be glad today to see enthusiasm about people’s faith and he would be glad to see the church moving forward in 2018 in unity and hope for a bright future.”

Thank you Ada for sharing your story – about your personal walk with God and about your experience serving as a deacon! To God be the Glory!

Story by | Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator at Diaconal Ministries Canada


What’s YOUR Story?

What have you learned by serving as a deacon? What has been a highlight? What has been the most challenging? Share your story with Erin, our Communications Coordinator.