Often September is a start-up month for ministry. Deacon teams are usually not much different. The summer is a time when things slow down, but with September, everything seems to rev into high gear. With the dust finally settling at our feet we find ourselves standing in October. Personally, I think October is a great time to sit down as a deacon team and start talking about the vision for the coming year will be.
For some of you, the idea of talking about "vision" for the deacon team may seem to be unnecessary. Don't deacons just take the offering, count the money, and every now and then give some financial support to someone? It all seems pretty straight forward. If this is the case in your church I would challenge you to dare to dream. Our roles as deacons are so much more than just money handlers. In Acts 6 it says that the deacons chosen were " known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom" and our form for ordination and charge to deacons includes the following:
Deacons serve by showing mercy to the church and to all people. They received this task in the early church when the apostles designated special persons for the work of mercy (Acts 6; 2 Cor.8-9). In Christ's name the deacons relieve victims of injustice. By this they show that Christians live by the Spirit of the kingdom, fervently desiring to give life the shape of things to come. Deacons are therefore called to assess needs, promote stewardship and hospitality, collect and disburse resources for benevolence, and develop programs of assistance. They are also called to speak words of Christian encouragement. Thus in word as well as deed they demonstrate the care of the Lord himself.
Charge to the Deacons
I charge you, deacons, to inspire faithful stewardship in this congregation. Remind us that "from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded" (Luke 12:48b). Teach us to be merciful. Prompt us to seize new opportunities to worship God with offerings of wealth, time, and ability. Realize that benevolence is a quality of our life in Christ and not merely a matter of financial assistance. Therefore, minister to rich and poor alike, both within and outside the church. Weigh the needs of causes and use the church's resources discerningly. Be compassionate to the needy. Respect their need for dignity; hold in trust all sensitive matters confided to you. Encourage them with words that create hope in their hearts and with deeds that bring joy into their lives. Be prophetic critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society, and be sensitive counselors to the victims of such evils. Let your lives be above reproach; live as examples of Christ Jesus; look to the interests of others.
As people full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, and ordained to do this broad scope of work, we would be remiss to not sit down as a team and think seriously about what God is calling our team to this year. Take pause and think about your congregation, your neighbourhood and your city. Let your imagination wander, thinking about both the things that seem plausible and realistic and those ideas which seem to be absolutely out of the question. What is God placing on your team's heart?
Does what you're hearing seem scary? Trust the truth of Philippians 4:13 - we can do all things through him who gives us strength. Walk boldly and with confidence into the things God is calling you as a team to do. Be the spirit-filled leaders that the church needs, the leaders that you have been elected to be.
If you want a bit more direction to focus your conversation, you can use this tool from Diaconal Ministries of Canada: Guidelines for Benevolence. Working through this activity together you may find yourself with a starting place, something tangible to work from. This will also be helpful for future diaconal decisions, as it gives you a framework in which to discuss the requests for assistance you receive.
My deacon friends - do not let this year slip away quietly - take the time to inspire and encourage each other in this role that you find yourselves. Live fully into the call.
What matters lie ahead for your deacon team? How has God been calling you ? What dreams would you love to see happen in your congregation, neighbourhood and city?