Discussion Topic

How do you create space for remembering in your church or around your dinner table? If you'd like, please feel free to share the name of a loved one you are remembering this Easter.

April 13, 2017 1 8 comments

Oftentimes what we are passionate about spills over in our conversations. Are we so passionate about our faith that we simply can’t help but share it?

April 13, 2017 0 0 comments

I remember the turning point for Larry’s new faith journey. He had witnessed a model of service that was new to him—a church that showed it cared about those who are afflicted.

March 27, 2017 1 0 comments

While the church has “capital D” elected Deacons and Deaconesses, it also has “small d” deacons—you. Together we possess a dynamic energy as the people of God.

February 6, 2017 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Some of our deacons would like to send notes of appreciation to those in our church who contributed generously to help us out of our budget shortfall. Any thoughts?

February 2, 2017 1 2 comments

Does anyone have a good suggestion for a simple and confidential database to track visits with members of their congregation? 

January 30, 2017 0 4 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Neighborology provides a blueprint for how churches and servant leaders of every ministry can be neighborly helpers.

January 12, 2017 0 0 comments

Planning offerings for the coming year? Use this online (or printable) calendar to help plan the offering schedule for your church. 

December 6, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Topics of the 2016 Deacon and Mercy Training (Saturdays Nov. 5, 19, and Dec. 3) include The Role of the Deacon, Setting Boundaries, Dealing with Con Artists, Listening, and Visitation. 

October 26, 2016 0 0 comments

We’ve all had moments where we’ve empathetically suffered with others to the point where it really did feel like we’d suffered the loss ourselves. What if Jesus empathized like this all the time?

September 14, 2016 1 0 comments

A single parent has suffered loss—whether through death, desertion, separation or divorce. She/he will exhibit all the stages of grief but also needs to go on with daily life. Here are several ways a church can help. 

August 31, 2016 3 1 comments

Knowing the correct way to act or speak in unique situations will be a great help in your ministry. Here are tips for coming alongside someone who is "differently-abled", uses a wheelchair, is blind, or is deaf. 

August 17, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

Most of us have never experienced the trauma of losing a child. And while we may not be able to show empathy towards someone who has lost a child, we can express sympathy.

August 10, 2016 3 2 comments

The congregation where I presently serve as an interim pastor would like to create a congregational resource database. What's been your experience? What rules need to be put in place?

July 25, 2016 0 2 comments

Many people fear that they cannot count on others for help anymore. As Christians, we are called to respond to those in distress, following the example of our master teacher. So how are we doing? 

June 15, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Story or Testimony

I was reading a Worship article in the Calvary CRC newsletter (Edina, MN) when the following headline caught my eye: Blessings in Service: Elder and Deacon Stories. 

May 12, 2016 1 0 comments

We are the dynamic energy of the people of God. Welcome the lonely, encourage those who are down, befriend the friendless. This is how the church works.

April 27, 2016 1 0 comments

We are always preparing for this mission of demonstrating biblical love to others—not as an “evangelism program,” but as a natural display of Christ’s love to others.

April 13, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Presentation

Here's a PowerPoint presentation about the changes in church order made by Synod 2015. It explores how these changes can enhance the role of deacons at all levels of the church - local, regional, and beyond.

March 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Presentation

In January 2016, the leadership of the CRCNA posted an announcement to all the CRC churches in the US. The announcement drew attention to the changes Synod 2015 made in the Church Order.

February 26, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Workshop or Training, Facilitated by Others

Faith & Finances training equips church leaders with a practical next step for people seeking assistance from their benevolence ministries.

February 13, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Here are two articles that I especially appreciated and think that all CRC deacons would benefit from reading.

February 4, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

When I first served as a deacon, a book that encouraged my growth was the CRC's Deacons and Evangelism. This book made me realize that mercy and sharing the gospel are inseparable. 

January 19, 2016 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Has your church has found any creative or practical ways to minister and show love to those who are homebound during the winter?

January 18, 2016 2 1 comments

At our elders meeting we were discussing the need to provide leadership training for potential elders or deacons that haven't yet felt qualified or inspired to serve. Do materials exist?

December 28, 2015 0 17 comments




Eric Westra - good friend




We have lost two children....both adults,  and both with families

My sister Jeanet....



Gladys (Boven) Tacoma - my mom

I just happened to stumble on this post today, and wanted to say thank you, David/Gary. As a mother who unexpectedly lost her 4-week-old daughter 5 months ago, I found the points in this post to be so accurate. 

I especially liked your point: "Bereaved parents can be parents who have lost children in utero, at birth, while an infant, while a youth, or even as an adult. The age doesn’t change things—children will always be sons and daughters of parents." 

While I know that everyone means well when trying to offer words of comfort, the words often have the opposite effect. As you pointed out, grief is a journey, and others' attempts to help us "move on" or somehow lessen the significance of her death are not at all what bereaved parents need. We will always grieve the loss of our daughter, and until we're reunited with her in heaven, there will always be a big part of us that's still actively hurting. I think these suggestions, though, are really helpful for friends and family looking to show compassion and care to bereaved parents.


That's a helpful link, Tim.  It addresses exactly the part of the End User License Agreement that I am concerned about.

Several comments to that post identify Word-encrypted attachments as a possible way forward. If we can do this simply, I may have found my solution.

I agree with Doug.  Spiritually, you are up against and being tempted to run contrary to the Kingdom economy, which inverts the worldly economy of “bigger is greater” (See: the widow’s mite in Luke 21:1-4).  Setting a pattern of officially and particularly thanking “generous” givers (where generosity is judged mainly or exclusively by amount) is not a practice with will serve the congregation well spiritually.

Practically, you also run into the problem of where to draw the line if generosity is judged mainly by amount.  If you thank the person or family who gave an extra $5,000, do you also thank the person who sent in $1,000?  How about $500 or $100?  I tend to think the same goes for those who give in other various volunteer roles in the church – personal thanks are great, but singling out people for special institutionally sanctioned thanks who have served in a larger role is dangerous, and brings up this conundrum: It’s not a matter of “who should I thank?”, but rather more a matter of “who should I not thank?”. 

In the end, it seems to me that a general thanks to the congregation for their responsiveness is best, coupled with an even more prayerful and joyful thanking of God for his abundant provision.  In focusing your most opulent thanks on God, you can remind the congregation that it is God who provides both the means and desire for generosity and so you will reinforce where all of our glory and praise should ultimately be directed.

My thought: don't send notes.  Doing that necessarily sets you up for distinguishing gifts that are "greater" or "more important" than others.  These are gifts.  

If a particular deacon wants to say a verbal thanks to a contributor, fine, but even that shouldn't be a "planned exercise."

I haven't heard of concerns about this before. What part of the user agreement are you concerned about? Google Drive is widely used, and if they didn't take data privacy/confidentiality seriously it would undermine their entire business.

There are many articles online about the security of data with Google, and here's one that explains some of the wording in the user agreement. Personally, I'd trust Google Drive more than most other online tools because it's in their best interest to keep their customer data secure and private. And they're big enough to do it well.

Thanks Tim! That sounds like a straightforward and simple procedure.

I am still hung up on Google's access to the content of what we would write. Maybe Google wouldn't actually use the contents of our database as indicated in the user agreement, but I'd have to give them permission to do so if I want to use the Google platform. Any thoughts about this confidentiality factor?


Have you considered a Google Spreadsheet, Jack?

You can give access only to those who are authorized to see it. Those that are authorized can enter their contact as a new row. Having it in a spreadsheet allows it to be sorted, grouped, etc. People use their Google Account to log in (note that they do NOT have to use Gmail, a Google Account is simply a login and can be created with any email address).

When the elder's term is up, you can take them off the permission list and add the new elder to the permission list.

It does mean that all elders could see all contacts. If that's not OK, you could get fancier with a separate tab for each district, and then configure permissions so that elders can only see the tab that applies to them. But to do that you'd need to dig into the Google Spreadsheets help to get it set up correctly. It's a little more complicated, but still fairly easy once you figure it out.

That's just one option that comes to mind. Hopefully others can weigh in with thoughts about this approach, and other alternatives. I'm sure other churches have faced the same question.

Excellent article David.  Indeed, divorce is usually more destructive than the death of a spouse/parent.  Having a good "church family" can make a huge difference in the lives of these families.

Thank you so much for this. I have some dear friends who have recently faced this trauma and I find these ideas to be wise and practical. I especially like how you end: "Remember, the goal of the bereavement process is not to leave grief behind. The lost loved one will never disappear. The goal of the journey is allow the parents to become functional grievers."

Thank you, Andrea.  This is helpful.

Hi Clayton,

The Deacons of our church have put together a "Lend-a-Hand" survey for us.  From the responses they received they have a list of people they can call on when there is a specific need.  It looks like this:


Romans 12:13 — “Share with God’s people who are in need.”

Dear church family,

The joy of being a part of God's family is being able to be God's hands and feet. As deacons, one of our duties is to encourage all members of our church to be a part of this wonderful work.  

The deacons would like to put together a Lend-a-Hand list so that we can be efficient and organized with connecting those who need help with those who can lend-a-hand

What are your skills? What are you willing or able to help with when there is a need in our community or within our church family?

We want to encourage everyone to take part when there is a need, and with this information we will be able to ask you to help in areas which suit the talents and skills God has blessed you with.

Please fill out your name below and tell us the areas where you could help.  The deacons will maintain the list and contact you when there is a need that matches your skills and see if you are available to Lend-a-Hand.  If you have additional skills which are not listed here please feel free to add them.  Please also indicate if you prefer to be contacted via email, phone or text.   This form will also be sent by email as a survey, we encourage you to use that method and to include your whole family in your response.


Name: ___________________________


Please check ☑ the appropriate boxes:⠀


  • Babysitting
  • Cooking meals
  • Driving (lifts)
  • Handy man
  • Helping move
  • Other: _______________  ______________ 


  • Food Cupboard
  • Soup Kitchen Volunteer
  • Other: _________________

Communication Method

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Text


May God bless you all for the generosity and love that you show when you give through your time and talents.

From your Deacons





Speaking of 'The Elders Handbook', starting today if you attend a CRC you can now read it - and hundreds of other Faith Alive titles - for free in the new CRC Digital Library.

Here's the direct link to the Elder's Handbook page: library.crcna.org/resource/elders-handbook

...and you can learn more about the Digital Library at this short link: crcna.org/Library

There's also a Deacon's Handbook, a Church Staff Handbook, and hundreds of other titles. Spread the word about this new library, made possible by Ministry Shares.

Thanks for the thought about the recorded webinars.  I've helped with orientation for elders for decades now... starting in years when I could not be an elder myself.  Now I'm looking for ideas to help a younger generation consider the role and and responsibilities... 

The materials we have seem to present the role of elder as a pastor sees that role, rather than as elders actually experience it.  I'm particularly interested in how good training for council members could help create an environment in which Pastor/Council tensions are resolved without major trauma.  We are in conversation with the Pastor/Church relations folks, too.

I've used "The Elders Handbook" in other years, but it felt like it best served the people who had already served as an elder for a year or more -- which in some years includes all the new elders, so that was good.  

Hi Virginia: 

The Office of Pastor Church Relations would have helpful resources (pastorchurch@crcna.org) or you could check out my book "The Elders Handbook" (available to order here through Faith Alive). 


Hi Virginia--I'd recommend Lester Dekoster's Handbook for Elders

Shepherd Leaders by Tim Witmer is also good, as is Philip Keller's A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

Hi Virginia! Did you check out the recorded webinars for new and/or experienced elders? In addition, the general Elders section is a great starting point. If you are looking for a specific resource or advice, you can always post your question to the Network community. Thanks for sharing!



The comments below suggest that there is a wealth of good training material available for deacons -- but it looks thin when it comes to elders.  Do people have any good resources to suggest for training elders?


Yes, I have been familiar with VIS for a long time and would heartily recommend their expertise.  I also would recommend Volunteers In Action in Denver, CO (another ministry established by CRC members).  www.volunteersinaction.info  

 Unfortunately, the ministry I was part of for 10 years called Christian Service Ministries in Classis Chicago South recently disbanded.  




Have you checked the resources at Faith Alive? 

Give them a call or order online - it's possible that they only take online orders. Also, you may call the classis Pastor for help with resources, or a church visitor - who is usually a pastor in your classis. 


Grace, Daniel 

In our area, West Michigan, we use the help of VIS Volunteers in Service, an organization established by CRC members to help and support deacons in their work. 

VIS is helping CRC churches, and many benefit from their training, but now they're growing and helping all other churches that need help or support for the deacons. 

Try calling them, here is their website, http://www.visgr.org - you can ask for Bernita if you need a name. 

Grace, Daniel 

I highly recommend doing a search right here on The Network section for Deacons on the subject. There have been a relatively large number of posts, at least one webinar and resources--including the Diakonia Remixed report to Synod 2013 and the report to Synod 2016 from the Task Force to Study the Office of Elder and Deacon--that I have used and made available to deacons and diaconates from churches in our classis. 

Classis Holland recently spent an evening with Steve Timmermans (CRCNA Executive Director) and Andy Ryskamp (recently retired Director of World Renew U.S. to learn a bit more about where we are heading and how we hope to get there. There was a recent post on the website of the Holland Deacons' Conference that provided some of the information they shared that evening. Here's the link to that post: https://hdccrc.org/whats-ahead-for-crc-deacons/


A lot of good resources and suggestions have already been shared here. The Network site for deacons itself contains a wealth of information, ideas and resources. Simply type in what you're looking for in the search box on the upper right corner of this page, check the "This Section" button and click the search magnifying glass icon. 

In addition to what has been mentioned thus far, I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the Holland Deacons' Conference (aka HDC) . . . the diaconal ministry of the churches and communities of Classis Holland. We too have a website (hdccrc.org) that provides resources and support for deacons including regular blog posts providing timely and relevant information and news that is diaconal in nature.as well as a page dedicated to Deacon Resources.

Finally, HDC is available to meet with local diaconates for consultation, planning assistance, training on a variety of diaconal topics such as Community Asset Mapping, Effective Benevolence Practices, Deacon Orientation, and more. 


In addition to my book, Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry in the Local Church Transforms Us All, I have a video on The Role of the Deacon  which is broken up into small sections. Go to https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdVuoO90C3zc_Tn3ZUWCZSn50jgUPusVa

I think one thing those of us who are wealthier are called to consider is not using our wealth to travel somewhere warm.  I think this needs discussing in our broader church: the use of our wealth, the call to community, to be present, to care for those who don't have that kind of wealth.

Wow.  Thanks, David!  This sparks my thinking about the role of deacons at classis and synod.  How can the deacons help us as assemblies and as a denomination, to infuse this servant-hood into our life together in our neighborhoods, cities, towns, and nations?  If ever our world needed to experience fearless incarnational service, it's now.   

     Back in the day, we all were aware of the phenomenon of "changing neighborhoods".   People left, churches left, and then those who came next experienced the irreversible decline of the systems and networks that are the vessels and sinews of healthy community.  It was an incredibly complicated tangle  of social, economic, religious dynamics, and the church basically walked away.... or in some cases ran. I think we thought we could give up on some of the square inches over which Jesus is Lord.

 It feels like the cities of the nations are experiencing something like that today.  Societies are at risk of being overwhelmed by the needs of people pressing to be allowed in.  Systems can't cope.  Cultures can't assimilate that fast.  Those with resources leave the turmoil  and walk away.  And we all watch as things unravel.  Some of us try to help.  Unless the Spirit of Jesus the Servant pervades the global church, the Church may again find itself out in suburbia, where things may feel a little better.... for a while.  What does radical servant-hood mean for the Church today?  

If the Church in North America is in fact being challenged by the secularizing of our society as never before, surely we are also being challenged to renewed commitment by the global themes of war, ecological decline, prejudice, and homelessness on a scale we couldn't have imagined.  We simply cannot respond only as individuals or congregations. We are called to be many members unified in large scale responses, so that systems and cities, populations and nations, may turn toward justice and mercy.  That means that we'll have to discern as assemblies, as a denomination among sister denominations, what needs to be done.  By us.  And then we'll have to follow the Spirit to think bigger, speak wiser, and work humbler, and get more done.

David, you have been at this for a lifetime.  Thank you.  And may God continue to use you.


ServiceLink's website has a section under the Engage menu with 'Helpful Information and Job Descriptions for Elders and Deacons'

Direct links to the webinars for new elders and deacons can also be found on the same page.


Other resources should include Tim Keller's Ministries of Mercy and Resources for Deacons, Randy Nabors' Merciful, Chris Sicks' Tangible, and my Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry Transforms Us All. The latter includes excerpts from a CRC out of print resource Servant Leaders.

Try Diaconal Ministries in Burlington.

Volunteers In Service coaches and trains deacons. They facilitate a deacon orientation training annually in August and has had very positive feedback on that training. VIS also is taking a more active role in facilitating council retreats. VIS staff meets with deacons to actively listen to what deacons are facing in today's world and responds in helpful and supportive ways. VIS works with deacons from the CRC church as well as other denominations. On the VIS website are blog positing on topics requested by deacons. For more information check the VIS website at www.visgr.org or email Bernita Tuinenga at btuinenga@visgr.org  We welcome the opportunity to hear from you!

Good suggestions here!  I'd like to add The Deacons' Handbook, by Lori Wiersma and Connie Kuiper VanDyke, available from Faith Alive.

There are several webinar recordings designed to help get deacons get off to a good start that are posted here on The Network. You'll also find a variety of recorded webinars suitable for new and/or experienced elders. Several of the recordings include slide handouts and/or additional helps for training purposes.

Diaconal Ministries Canada has many helpful resources for deacons. Check out their website at http://diaconalministries.com/.

I also recommend the following books for training deacons:

  • When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Online video lessons to accompany the book are available at https://www.chalmers.org/the-small-group-experience.
  • Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
  • Live Just.ly from the Micah Challenge. World Renew's version of this book is available from Faith Alive Resources.


At the CRCNA we've facilitated many webinars on topics that are suitable for new and/or experienced elders. In some cases, these are presentations that have been used for the purposes of giving elders their training and/or orientation at various churches. You can see the full list of recordings here http://network.crcna.org/topics/type/resource/type/webinar-recording/topic/elders

Hi Staci - thanks for posting this question again. I would also be interested to know what kind of training is provided for elders as this is a topic of interest for many churches.

Great post, David! How often I am scared to step into a leadership position out of a fear of being the 'lone ranger'. Great reminder that even the earliest disciples needed to be equipped by the Holy Spirit to train other disciples. Thanks for sharing!

Praise God!  It will take some adjusting, patience and grace, but this is a historic decision.  

What other Church Order changes do you forsee being needed if Synod permits deacons be seated at classical and synodical meetings? The task force already has proposed a significant number of related Church Order changes, but those changes don't directly depend on the changes to Articles 40 and 45.

Thanks for sharing this with our readers Bernita! I especially appreciate that you acknowledge that we are all equally broken and need to extend Christ's mercy to others just as Christ has shown and continues to show us mercy. I believe that this is an important perspective and posture that can help keep us from seeing and treating "those in need" as less than or more broken and in greater need than ourselves. 

posted in: Grace or Disgrace

The question is how to get deacons involved in Classis and Synod? Would a stipend for those losing wages be an effective measure? Some Classes have stipends for elders to attend Synod. Perhaps that is a route to explore...

Thanks, Terry for your remarks. I wonder what the participation rate of deacons is at Classis Atlantic Northeast? I left CANE in 2008 and at the time, deacons delegated to Classis was relatively new, but participation/attendance at Classis was not a very high percentage. Has that changed considerably over time? I believe Classes that allow women deacons will likely have a higher percentage of attendance than Classes that have not yet approved that measure.


Who cares if the deacon can or cant speak at Classis, or synod, or who has what role if the work of the church of either office is not being done effectively.  We have much to say and are amazingly articulate in our own assemblies but are mute in practical matters in our congregations and especially in our communities.  We have the cart before the horse.  Let's go for what's working and rewrite our playbook.  

I think that looked at from a historical perspective, the office of deacon is incredibly flexible and has manifested itself in many different forms.  Your note about nominating people according to skill sets brings up an interesting historical note, Harry.  In Geneva the deacons were divided up into procurators, what we would call administrative deacons, and hospitalars, who had the care of the poor and sometimes lived among them.  Calvin defended this distinction exegetically.  Maybe in our new setup it will make sense to make use of it again.  



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