equipping

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

Posted by | Equipping Deacons, Uncategorized | No Comments

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. 🙂

Group of people having a discussion.

Reverse Mentoring: A New Learning Curve

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“The church needs young blood in its veins. Our strength for holding the faith may lie in experienced saints but our zeal for propagating it must be found in the young.” Charles Spurgeon

These words by British preacher Charles Spurgeon were written over 150 years ago but communicate a clear vision for young and old working together in building God’s kingdom. This vision can be realized through the effective use of “reverse mentoring”.

Here at DMC, we’ve promoted the use of a deacon mentoring plan for the raising up of younger or more inexperienced leaders. But mentoring does not just work in one direction. We can benefit in amazing ways from younger leaders who are more conversant with culture, technology and social context.

“Reverse mentoring” was pioneered a decade ago by General Electric CEO Jack Welsh in order to bring GE up to speed on the latest in technology. Welsh required more than 500 of his top executives to find a younger, tech-savvy mentor to teach them how to use the web and understand e-business.

Of the organizations using reverse mentoring, 41 percent of respondents used the method to share technical expertise, while 26 percent said their executives gained youthful perspective. (The poll was conducted by The Center for Coaching and Mentoring as reported in American Way magazine in January 2004.)

What if church leaders followed this example and used reverse mentoring to gain understanding of our rapidly changing emergent and post-modern culture? How could technology platforms and ministry come together (blog posts, Facebook, Twitter)? Could this build bridges between generations – closing the knowledge gap and empowering younger leaders?

Reverse mentoring can take place within existing church programs and structures. It doesn’t require a lot in the way of new processes, just the ability to match up people of different generations and encouraging them to exchange ideas and challenge each other.

Getting started:

  1. Create a “focus group” of high school or college students and invite their feedback on social justice issues, politics, current social movements and community ministry. What are their passions and interests? What do they feel is God’s place for them in the church, in ministry? What draws them closer to their faith? Welcome their analysis and criticism. Take notes, and take their comments to heart and prayerfully consider the implications for ministry.
  1. Meet monthly with a younger person to learn more about the emerging generations. Ask about ways to involve them in church life and leadership. Become a willing and intentional student; a humble protégé, instead of the mentor.
  1. Ask teachers or professors what their students are talking about these days. What are the hottest bands, TV shows, movies, and political issues?

If everyone involved approaches the relationship with a soft heart, we can learn things that will help us bring the gospel to all of our worlds while enjoying a kind of fellowship that is available in no other way. A great blessing will come when we recognize the Holy Spirit is working powerfully in the young and the old – let’s close the generation gap.

For further reading:

“Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them” by Earl Creps

Synod 2015 and diaconal ministry

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Dear Deacons:

This is a significant year for deacons in the Christian Reformed Church.  The 2015 Task Force report approved some important principles for diaconal ministry in the 21st century.  The report addressed the role of deacons in congregations and communities as well as the role of elders. And, Synod approved deacon delegation at Classis & Synod.

So, what’s up with deacons going to Classis & Synod? And, what’s up with the upcoming changes to the Church Order? I will try to summarize some of the more significant decisions. Please feel free to call DMC staff and Board of Directors if you have any questions.

  • Both Deacons and Elders give leadership to distinctive areas of ministry. However, deacons and elders also have some common areas of ministry. (see changes to Article 12 & 25).  “It is not simply that the church has deacons, but rather it is the case that the whole church is itself called to diakonia (works unto others)” (2013 Report page 4 & Ephesians 4:11-13).  Deacons are important ministry leaders.
    • Implication? Deacons are not to just perform diaconal ministry on behalf of the church, but to mobilize and equip the church to fulfill its calling.
  • The proposed changes to the relationship of elders and deacons point to the importance of the two offices working together for the sake of God’s mission. The CRCNA agencies are committed to supporting our congregations to strengthen their missional and incarnational presence in our communities.
    • Implication? Dialogue is needed at the Council level and Classis level meetings on how to strengthen the partnership of these two leadership roles. Contact DMC staff for suggestions.
  • The 2015 Report was also guided by the ‘principle of parity.’ This parity is best demonstrated by diaconal presence in the major assemblies of the church.  This is “not about equal representation but about the full representation of the whole church which these offices represent” (2015 Report page 329).  For this reason, we recommend that each classis examine their agendas to reflect these new changes (see changes to Article 34).
    • Implication? Diaconal involvement should be invited to shape agendas at Council and Classis.

At many classes across the country, deacons have already been included.   But with the Church Order changes adopted by this synod, each church now needs to send an elder, deacon, and a minister to classis meetings unless “great distance or other weighty reasons” prevent them from doing so.

What implications will this have for your leadership role, your church, and the denomination as a whole?  Together we hope to shape the answers to this question.  So, let’s continue the conversation.  Let us know how we can support you along in this journey at Classis or at your local church.

-written by Hans Kater, National Director, Diaconal Ministries Canada

 

for more on Synod 2015, click here

NEW! Devotions for Deacons #5

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Here is the fifth devotion for deacons in the latest set of devotionals from Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC).

In our conversations with deacons across the country, DMC often summarizes the ministry of the deacon into 4 areas: community ministry, compassion, justice, and stewardship. This devotion is the second of 3 to focus on deacons and compassion.

Each devotion is available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions.

We pray that you will be blessed by these devotions, and that, together, your diaconate may grow and deepen its relationship with each other and the church and community you serve.

Download devotion #5

Visit the devotion webpage for the earlier devotions inthis set, as well as the complete first set of devotions.

Beyond a Bed: tools for deacons who want to walk alongside

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A deacon is in the waiting room of a community walk-in clinic. There is a woman beside her, slumped in her seat. She is dozing lightly; she looks exhausted. After a number of minutes, the woman seems to abandon hope of a nap. She stretches, sighs and sits up. The deacon beside her begins a conversation. It doesn’t take long until the woman shares how tired she is. She doesn’t have a bed and is having difficulty sleeping on the floor. Not to mention the nagging cough that has plagued her for months. As the deacon’s name is called and she rises to go and see the doctor, she tells the woman she wants to help and asks her for her phone number.

On Sunday at the deacon’s church there is a notice in the bulletin, asking for the donation of a bed and mattress. There is prompt response and the deacon calls the woman from the clinic to arrange a time to bring over the bed. The woman tearfully accepts the gift and begins to share more of her story. It is a story of broken relationships, untapped potential, and a lack of opportunities. There is so much behind the story and the deacon is sure the church can continue to help.

This is now more than a bulletin announcement, more than the donation of a bed. It has become about Carol. About her life. Her future, her gifts and her needs. Hopefully it will become a long-term relationship. There is beautiful potential here, which will only be fully realized by a church prepared to walk alongside and a diaconate which has discussed and decided how they are able to help.

Although this story is only loosely based on an account told by a CRC deacon, the usefulness of guidelines for helping and benevolence is real. Who will we help? How often? What boundaries might be needed? Where can we refer those whom we cannot help? Guidelines are intended to help deacons establish a framework for responding to people who request help.

Does your diaconate have something in place?

If not, check out these tools developed by Diaconal Ministries Canada staff.

NEW! Devotion for Deacons #4

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Here is the fourth devotion for deacons in the latest set of devotionals from Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC).

In our conversations with deacons across the country, DMC often summarizes the ministry of the deacon into 4 areas: community ministry, compassion, justice, and stewardship. This devotion is the first of 3 to focus on deacons and compassion.

Each devotion is available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions. Alternatively, you may choose to simply download the devotion without the accompanying material.

We pray that you will be blessed by these devotions, and that, together, your diaconate may grow and deepen its relationship with each other and the church and community you serve.

Download devotion 4

Download devotion 4 without resources

Visit the devotion webpage for the first 2 devotions in the second set, as well as the complete first set of devotions.

NEW: Third Devotion for Deacons

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Here is the third devotion for deacons in the latest set of devotionals from Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC).

In our conversations with deacons across the country, DMC often summarizes the ministry of the deacon into 4 areas: community ministry, compassion, justice, and stewardship. The first 3 devotions focus on deacons and community ministry.

Each devotion is available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions. Alternatively, you may choose to simply download the devotion without the accompanying material.

We pray that you will be blessed by these devotions, and that, together, your diaconate may grow and deepen its relationship with each other and the church and community you serve.

Download devotion 3

Download devotion 3 without resources

Visit the devotion webpage for the first 2 devotions in the second set, as well as the complete first set of devotions.

Deacons and Transitions

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It’s that time of the year again. And it may feel like your diaconate is starting all over.

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

10 Important Transitional Issues to Consider:

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

  1. What deacons do: Re-read and discuss the “charge” to Deacons.
  2. How to start well: Check our website for devotions.
  3. Build Community and form a strong team: Click here for some suggestions.
  4. Gifts for Ministry: Examine what gifts you have around your “diaconal table.”
  5. Organizing your ministry plans: Develop a Diaconate workplan.
  6. Schedule a Diaconal Ministry Developer (DMD) visit: Who are they?
  7. Develop your ministry: Guidelines for setting an offering schedule, benevolence, etc.
  8. Diaconal Ministry Shares: Why do we pay them?
  9. Diaconal Ministries Canada: Interested in our Annual Report?
  10. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check out the FAQs or contact the Diaconal Ministries Canada office (Madeline).

Doing it Differently: Empowering Deacons to Serve

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Has your church found it difficult to get people to serve as Deacons and Elders?

Our church definitely has experienced this phenomenon in the past few years.  I think our record was more than 8 “no’s” before we got 1 “yes.”  Now that’s pretty sad.  One of the things we were discovering was that people agreed to serve in the role of Deacon or Elder and then, once they found out what it was like and what the expectations were, they found that it didn’t really fit with their gifts.  We also discovered that we didn’t really have adequate training to ensure that new office-bearers felt comfortable in their roles and were able to succeed in fulfilling the church’s expectations.   This left us in an awkward spot. And, yet, the church really needs people to serve in those roles to meet the needs of the community.

This year, we looked at how to improve -to create a more informed decision, and also to better equip those in service.  One of the first things we wanted to do was make the idea of serving less intimidating. So how did we do that?

Well, we invited God into the process.

First, we had people approach potential candidates and ask them to consider praying about the opportunity to serve.  Then we invited them to an information session. This was an amazing experience.

At this meeting, we gave each candidate a job description, highlighting some of the expectations.  Then the best part was hearing from current Deacons and Elders, who shared powerful, personal testimonies of how God really equipped them to fulfill these roles.  Many times they felt inadequate, but God showed up and they were blessed and able to do more than they possibly imagined.

At the end of the meeting, candidates were asked to go and continue to seek God’s will and pray for this opportunity.  They would also receive personal follow-up from a current Deacon or Elder to address any further concerns or fears.

Finally, we asked candidates to make a decision.  And we had an incredible turn-around!  This year, we have 3 new deacon positions available, and we actually have more candidates than positions for the first time since many of us can remember.  Soon, we will be letting God choose those who will be serving Him in the roles of Deacon and Elder.

Our next step is to work with the new leaders by equipping and encouraging them in their roles.  We plan to have some mentoring from more experienced Deacons and Elders.  To help newcomers understand their roles, we will also take advantage of denominational events, such as the Day of Encouragement, and resources like the Deacon and Elder handbooks.

It’s important to note that we did not develop this process ourselves.  It is a treasured best practice among other CRCs which ServiceLink learned about, has documented, and passed on to many other churches.

I pray this will be a blessing to your church as you continue to think about how to invite people into serving and leading in the church.

-written by Lesley Millar Toussaint, Diaconal Ministries Canada Board member, Classis Toronto

NEW! Devotions for Deacons

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Since the last release of a set of devotions specific to deacons and written specifically for use in deacons meetings, there have been requests for another set.

Today Diaconal Ministries Canada is publishing the first devotion in a new set.

In our conversations with deacons across the country, we often summarize the ministry of the deacon into 4 areas: community ministry, compassion, justice, and stewardship. This new set will include 3 devotions on each of these areas.

A new devotion will be posted each month on the blog for the next 12 months. Each devotion will be available in a package with additional resources and discussion questions. Alternatively, you may choose to simply download the devotion without the accompanying material.

We hope and pray that you will be blessed by these devotions, and that, together, your deacons will grow and deepen their relationship with each other and the church and community you serve.

Download Devotion #1 with resources

Download Devotion #1 without resources