equipping deacons

Hey Deacons… LISTEN UP!

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Deacons 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. In imitation of Christ’s mercy, deacons teach us to love God, our neighbors, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts. Deacons offer holistic responses that respect the dignity of all people, working to change exploitative structures and systems, equipping the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, and seeking opportunities for advocacy. To help them accomplish these tasks, 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. 

If you’ve read the Form of Ordination for Elders & Deacons (2016), these words will be familiar. In a nutshell, this is what being a deacon is all about. So if we had to sum all of this up in one sentence, over here at DMC we would say:

DEACONS SERVE BY LISTENING.

Huh? ‘What?’ you say? That word doesn’t even appear in this paragraph, or anywhere in the Form of Ordination for that matter! Well, here’s what we mean by that. If we’re honest, many of us go through our day HEARING those around us, but not really LISTENING to them. Yes, there is a difference. Simply put:

Hearing is an involuntary act of perceiving sound by the ear which, unless you are hearing-impaired, happens effortlessly;

Listening is something you consciously choose to do and it requires concentration. Listening normally leads to understanding.

So… we’ll say it again. Many of us go through our day HEARING those around us, but not really LISTENING to them. And hey, it’s hard! Our world is full of even more distraction and noise than ever before, making listening is a TON of work. It requires a lot of patience and concentration, among other things!

So what does this have to do with being a Deacon and why is it so important? Don’t the Elders do the listening and the Deacons do the DOING?

Here is why we believe LISTENING is vitally important in the work Deacons do (and for all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus for that matter!):

1. Listening Builds Trust: It shows the other person they are appreciated and valued and that they matter. Let’s be honest; people LOVE to talk about themselves! And the more they talk, the more they’ll open up – about the things they love, the things they worry about, the things they fear. The longer they talk and you listen, the more they’ll share. The deeper they’ll go. Once this happens, a bond is formed. And for many, this is where healing can begin. “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” (Rachel Naomi Remen)
2. Listening Brings About Mutual Respect and Understanding: When we listen properly and actively, it helps us see the world through another’s eyes. “One of the biggest mistakes we make is assuming that other people think the way we think.” (Author unknown) We must practice listening to understand, not to reply. Listen to learn and discover the story behind the message. Listening and taking time to ask follow-up questions can bring clarity and avoid quick judgments or harsh reactions. It’s been said that people need your kindness more than your opinion.
3. Listening Brings New Insights: If you allow it, any encounter can be a teaching moment. Every single person you meet can teach you something you didn’t already know before. And in a team atmosphere, gaining a better understanding of a problem or challenge can help you find better solutions! When listening, picking up on the non-verbal is just as important. The best leaders listen and observe what people AREN’T saying in order to really hear them.

One trap deacons (and other ministry leaders likely) can fall into is “We’re too BUSY to listen!” You’ve got things to do and little time to do it. Not many of us cannot afford the luxury of spending the time and energy to simply listen to those around us. We interrupt to wrap up a conversation or to cut a long story short when we’re in a rush or we think we have more important things to do. Trust me; I’ve done this with my chatty neighbour, Jim, more than once! I get it! BUT! What if instead of just DOING, DOING, DOING all the time, we aggressively seek out new and better ways to listen?? How would that change how we do ministry? How do we life!?

Learning to listen well won’t happen overnight. It requires discipline, effort, and intentionality. And while part of this may be creating margin to allow for deep listening, this doesn’t mean it’s another ‘activity’ to add to our already-full calendar: it’s simply the attitude and posture we take on when we communicate with those around us. As stated above, it’s a choice we can make as we go about our daily interactions. In order for deacons to do ministry effectively, inside AND outside the church walls, they must become better listeners. If deacons are all about “demonstrating in word and deed the care of the Lord himself,” (aka loving others), isn’t the first duty of love to listen? (Paul Tillick) “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) LISTEN MORE; TALK LESS. Pretty simple, right? Yet, too often our human nature takes over and we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. If we fail to listen, we fail to build trust, gain mutual respect and seek understanding, and our ministry will fall completely flat.

So this begs the question: Who, as Deacons, should you be listening to?

1. God
2. Each Other
3. Your Community

We’re sure this topic has already conjured up some questions. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll unpack each of these areas a bit more so we can learn together what it truly means to be better listeners as you go about your work of “awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities!” As we move through this month (and the months that follow!), let us never miss an opportunity to listen deeply and actively!

#GivingTuesday coming up November 28, 2017

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Have you seen this video recently? It has been making its way around Facebook and other Social Media platforms. It’s not a new video (it came out December 2016). It’s also not a new concept: being grateful for EVERYTHING we have! If you haven’t seen it, we’ll give you a minute to watch it now.

All done? Wow, that was good, eh?

Each fall, with the celebration of Thanksgiving weekend in October and through to Remembrance Day in November, we are given ample opportunity to stop and take stock of what we have. From the sun rising and setting each day to indoor plumbing to hot coffee and a mug to drink it in. Wow, we are #blessed, right?

Something I’ve tried to drill into my kids’ heads and hearts (and truth be told, my OWN head and heart!) is to have “An Attitude of Gratitude”. Of course that is consistently met with groans and eye rolls from my two boys, but if we’re serious for a moment and really think about this, isn’t this just a great way to go through each day of our life?! There will always be the “big” things in life that some of us will never have or be able to afford, but don’t we have a TON of little things that are just as important (and likely a lot more necessary) to be grateful for??

I think I’ll bookmark this video and go back to it whenever I need a little ‘gratitude boost’, or a dose of Vitamin G, as some people call it! I challenge you to do the same.

So what does this have to do with #GivingTuesday? (Or perhaps you’re asking what IS #GivingTuesday???) “Following Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. and the widely-recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year” (taken from www.givingtuesday.org). This movement marries the power of social media with the innate generosity of people around the world in order to impact local communities. Organizations and individuals have raised over a million dollars in almost 100 countries since its inception. And what an incredible contrast this is each year, coming out of a weekend of gluttony, over-indulging AND over-spending.

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Here at DMC, our focus is to inspire, empower and equip Deacons in order that they may animate their congregations. One of our focus areas is to help churches “To Live Stewardly”. Over the next year, DMC will be increasing our capacity to serve you and your diaconates by gathering appropriate and relevant resources in the area of stewardship. Remember to keep coming back to see what’s been added!

Our prayer is that God will continue to bless each one of you as you and your churches choose an “attitude of gratitude”, able to see and appreciate ALL of His good gifts. And out of this gratitude, that God may increase your generosity.

And if you feel led to participate in the #GivingTuesday Campaign this year by giving an extra donation to a ministry you already support, or by organizing a service project in your community, or you name it!, we know that “you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.” (2 Cor. 9:11 NLT)

2017 Ministry Networking Day

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MY House is one of our Operation Manna (OM) partners. In partnership with Mission Hills Community CRC, MY House is a centre for vulnerable youth that provides essential services like a place to eat, shower, do laundry and access medical care.

Calvin Williams was one of the participants of the MND 2017 and offered some encouraging feedback after the day’s workshops:

“I was very impressed with the quality of teaching and interaction that was presented at the Networking Day. I was impressed at the high regard that the CRC and ministries represented had for justice work and how it is integral in God’s mission. I felt encouraged that there is a large representation of believers from a mainline church that are as passionate about God’s justice for the “least of these” as I am.

“The presenters offered clear scriptural support for justice work and brought our attention to passages of the Bible that traditionally have not been associated with justice work. We were led through really appropriating Scripture to our calling and daily work. This was affirming.

“I learned a lot about Appreciative Inquiry and how it can be used to connect with our participants and address problematic issues. I used it in the week I returned back to work with great results.

“During the Networking Day, I also made some connections with other ministries who are involved in areas that I want our ministry to expand into. We look forward to connecting with the other ministries further as we continue to develop.

I learned a lot about Appreciative Inquiry and how it can be used to connect with our participants and address problematic issues. I used it in the week I returned back to work with great results.

“Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Networking Day!”

Ministry Networking Day 2017 was held on May 26, 2017.  For more information about Ministry Networking Day learning opportunities, click HERE or email dmc@crcna.org. 

Walking with Deacons: Rachel Brouwer, DMD

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fellowship-crc-st-thomas“Meet Brad, Phil, Bob, James and Margriet (at left) – the diaconal team from Fellowship CRC in St. Thomas, ON! This is a team that is passionate about understanding what it means to be a compassionate follower of Jesus to those who need assistance. They also recognize that those who need assistance aren’t always just the materially poor. So they’re growing where they’re planted and investigating ways to minister to and serve their neighbours in the St. Thomas suburb that is home to their church. We’re excited to see how God will use you in the upcoming year!”

This was written by Rachel Brouwer, a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD), after a visit with these deacons. DMDs are encouragers and coaches for deacons. They are experienced in diaconal work and are available to help deacons understand their role and work out their calling in the church and its community. DMDs are available to connect with and visit every diaconate (team of deacons in a church) in every CRC across Canada. Rachel is one of the DMDs in Classis Chatham, and, through her experiences, she blesses the churches, like Fellowship CRC, that she serves.

RachelBrouwerRachel (at right) works as a Church Mobilization Coordinator for International Justice Mission Canada, a global organization that protects the poor from everyday violence in the developing world. She is passionate about helping the church respond to God’s call to seek justice on both a global and local scale and sees the role of deacons as being critical in leading this effort. Rachel is a life-long member of Talbot Street CRC in London, ON where she has served as an elder and is the current chair of deacons.

During her visit with the St. Thomas deacons, Rachel shared resources and promoted the Day of Encouragement. Through Rachel, the deacons became aware that DMC has resources and assistance to offer and were grateful to know this as they look forward to a year of serving the church and community.

There is a DMD ready and willing to help your church, whether you are looking for resources or you need advice and encouragement. Click here to find the DMD in your region.

Tips for Deacons: Starting Well in September

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September marks a new season and a new start for your church. Maybe it seems as though your diaconate is starting all over. Maybe you have new deacons and are making new plans together. Wherever you are at, September always brings transition of one kind or another.

Here are some suggestions to ease the transition for your new deacons and for your diaconate as you move forward together.

The Top Ten Transitional Issues to Consider as Deacons:

(follow the links for resources connected to each transitional issue)

  1. What deacons do: start with our FAQ section for some basic information
  2. How to start well: Check our website for devotions.
  3. Form a strong team: consider mentoring and reverse mentoring.
  4. Build Community: Click here for some suggestions.
  5. Gifts for Ministry: Examine what gifts you have around your “diaconal table.”
  6. Organizing your ministry plans: Develop a Diaconate workplan.
  7. Get help: schedule a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) visit
  8. Develop your ministry: Guidelines for setting an offering schedule, benevolence, etc.
  9. Diaconal Ministry Shares: Why do we pay them?
  10. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check out the FAQs or contact the Diaconal Ministries Canada office (Samantha).

DMC Walks Alongside New Deacons

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I have been a first time deacon for just over a year. Having my name drawn was scary but exciting. I did not know what I was in for, yet I was eager to see what God had in store for me.

Over the past year I have attended the Day of Encouragement (DOE) in Ancaster and a Deacon’s Dialogue for Classis Quinte. At the DOE I decided to go to the workshop facilitated by Bill Groot-Nibbelink (a Diaconal Ministry Developer) and I am so glad that I did!

The amount of information that I was exposed to by listening to other deacons’ experiences and the resources that Bill presented to us were instrumental in helping me feel more comfortable in being a deacon. The online resources available on the Diaconal Ministries Canada website are invaluable to all deacons new or experienced.

We also had Bill come and speak to Westside and First CRCs (in Kingston) about Guidelines for Benevolence and some other topics which were helpful.

I have appreciated the work that he and all the staff are doing at Diaconal Ministries Canada. Thank you! Thank you for the work that you do in equipping deacons in Canada!

-Written by Jennifer Feenstra-Shaw, Westside CRC in Kingston

Diaconal Ministry Coast to Coast

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There are around 250 Christian Reformed Churches in Canada -from Houston, BC to Saskatoon, SK., Montreal, QC to Charlottetown, PEI, and everything in between. There are urban churches, suburban churches, rural churches and small town churches.  And most of those churches have diaconates.

But those diaconates do not look the same. Some have 12 deacons working as a team and others have 3. There are deacons praying for each other. Some diaconates study a book that develops their understanding and leadership capacity.  Some diaconates struggle with seeing their role beyond collecting offerings. Some laugh together and live fully into their role and work.  Some feel the weight of responsibility or find it hard to manage their time. There are diaconates that discern deeply the best way to support the marginalized and vulnerable. There are those who ask hard questions about injustice and the church’s role.

Many diaconates are made up of some of the most passionate, genuine, thoughtful, sensitive and good- natured people the Canadian CRC has to offer.

There are deacons with cowboy boots and 4×4 trucks that pull up early -and I mean early- on a Saturday morning to move a single mom and her three kids into a new home.  Deacons who come armed with Tim Horton’s coffee and a binder, ready to dig into an evening meeting straight after work with barely time to eat supper (or it might be a Tim Horton’s donut that will get them through).

Deacons are organizing, shopping, cooking and serving dinner to the seniors in their church. Deacons are young and new to the role while others are, well, “seasoned.”  Men. Women. Jokesters. Extroverts and introverts.

There are deacons strategizing ways to connect their church to local opportunities for ministry. Deacons are intentionally learning about vulnerable and marginalized people in their community and the injustices and challenges they face. Deacons welcome refugees.  They challenge the congregation in stewardship. Deacons build relationships with Indigenous communities.

Deacons are also prayerfully discerning -about what ministries to support as a church, and why.  There are conversations about how to work in partnership with elders. Decisions about what kind of support to extend to a family going through crisis.

These are the deacons who shape the ministry of the church in the most profound ways.

We are so privileged as Diaconal Ministries Canada to meet and journey with the Canadian CRC deacons -to journey together, learning about how God is calling our churches to show compassion and pursue justice.

We would love to hear about your church, your diaconate, your deacons.  Find us on Facebook or leave a comment below.

What does it look like to be a deacon in your context?  How is God working through deacons to bring healing and restoration?

-written by Tammy Heidbuurt (Regional Ministry Developer)

(photo above: First CRC of Chatham, ON deacons)

Caring

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Every diaconate wants to demonstrate that they know how to care for those who are going through difficult times. Caring for persons who are traveling through some difficult times is an important part of the deacons’ calling -for those who are within their church family and also those outside of their church community.

Every diaconate has vouchers or gift cards that they can make readily available to those people who need a hand to get through some tough times. This is often necessary and seems the only way out. At our diaconal meeting, someone will be assigned to hand out a gift card and we move on to the next item on the agenda.

Does this then only become a role that we perform rather then really show that we care? Should we send our deacon on her/his way with a gift card and not also offer a prayer that God will use this as an opportunity to show that care involves our hearts -that we do not just hand out a card but also take the time to involve ourselves in their suffering?

If we are the hands and feet of Jesus then finances are only a part of what we want to give. Bringing hope will mean walking along side of them in their journey. Demonstrating that we care is more than a financial fix. It is the being there with them that may bring more healing then anything else you may offer

-written by Len Bakelaar (Diaconal Ministry Developer, Classis Huron)

Resources for Deacons: “Guidelines for Benevolence”

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In the charge to the deacons, it states that “benevolence is a quality of our life in Christ, and not merely a matter of financial assistance.” Benevolence involves a lifestyle of love,  respect and compassion.

To that end, Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) has developed “Guidelines for Benevolence” to help address attitudes and behaviors that deacons will need as they walk with their neighbours. This resource  also provides some useful ideas to help deacons develop guidelines around helping, a plan of action when providing long-term help, and a way to identify people who will be able to partner with others in this ministry.

DMC’s “Guidelines for Benevolence” was adapted for use in the book, Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, also an excellent resource for deacons.

 

Too Young?

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Deacons are normally known to be older and more experienced people in life. You won’t think of, nor even associate a 22 year old journalism student who is still trying to figure out what to do in life with the position of a deacon.

I was asked to think about taking the position earlier this year with no strings attached.  I answered that I would pray about it. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant about being part of the church council or even being a deacon. Why? That’s because I had no idea what was expected of me and what was going to be my role as a deacon/council member.

I prayed, asking for guidance and asking for an answer -prayed for an answer about whether it was right to say yes, or if I was not yet ready to take on such a responsibility. The more I was asked, the more I responded that I was praying about it. However, every time I tried to dodge the question, I would get this dysphoric feeling and I couldn’t come to the obvious conclusion that God was telling me something. Every time I tried to justify why I couldn’t be a deacon, I always seemed to have a fog of uncertainty lingering around me.

But still I tried to ignore that sign. Until one day I was talking with one of the elders about the position and the needs and responsibilities of a deacon. I was asked if I had an answer; they needed one soon. For some reason, a curious feeling entered me and it felt just right to say “Yes, I’d be honoured to be a deacon.” I was shocked with my response. I didn’t feel bad or even try to take my response back. Instead, I felt happy and content.

After being installed as a deacon, I barely even remember what happened or how the church reacted. My focus was more around the fact that my time wasn’t just mine now but it was enclosed in God’s own hourglass.

At 22, I took a leap. At 22, I took a chance. And, at 22, I trusted God to take over a decision that I know I had no control over. You see, at 22, I realized I wasn’t too young to take on a challenge. A situation I figured would be exacerbated by a busy student life became a blessing in the Hands of God. Aside from assurance from God, I also received earnest and welcome votes of confidence from the congregation which made me more comfortable and optimistic.

It has been about three months now since I have been installed as a deacon and I cannot deny being euphoric for the past months, tackling things that will help the church grow and approach more people. I also learned that God will use you at the right time, at the right moment. It might not be your own time but God knows when you are ready.

It’s just a matter of trusting him and knowing that everything will be fine.

-written by Jake Pinasen, (new) deacon at All Nations Christian Fellowship in Toronto, ON