Resource, Workshop or Training

If you’re in the Toronto area, join us on Saturday, March 28th, for the launch of a new workshop and online toolkit to help churches hear and respond to the biblical call to become neighbours to refugees.

March 18, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

From Christian Book Distributors: "A good model for involving the congregation in diaconal/mercy outreach to those seeking help and offering such assistance in the name of and for the glory of Jesus Christ, using deeds of mercy to build bridges to Christ. The author's own life story show how...

February 26, 2015 0 0 comments

76 years ago a humble deacon from Neerlandia, Alberta, clearly expressed his concerns and challenged his church to examine the importance of the role of deacons. Check out his letter...

February 24, 2015 1 1 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This book is a useful resource for deacons, as well as anyone else engaged in mission and/or ministry with those on the margins of society. Check it out!

February 18, 2015 1 2 comments

While simply sending deacons to meetings of Classis and Synod will not create change on its own, it is part of a new future.

February 11, 2015 0 0 comments

Thoughts regarding the role of a deacon from Romans 1.

January 21, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

I'm sharing a story of an experience in Grace CRC's food pantry. I'd like some feedback on any aspect of this story.

December 15, 2014 0 0 comments

Although I feel excited to celebrate this God-given sacrifice, I also find myself struggling with the outpouring of material giving at this time of year. When I reflect, I wonder if present giving outweighs presence giving.

December 10, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Newsletter or Periodical

World Renew is offering an online newsletter just for deacons known as Deacons Link to which you can subscribe for free. This issue of the Deacons Network is providing readers with a copy of the November issue as a sample of what you will receive when you sign up.

October 31, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

If you’re new to the role of deacon, or gathering helpful tools for those who are joining the council, you’ll find plenty of helpful resources on The Network.

October 28, 2014 1 4 comments
Discussion Topic

I am curious if anyone has experience providing individuals in financial trouble with interest free loans as a ministry of benevolence. If so, could you share what you have learned from doing this? Are there legal issues I'm unaware of? I haven't found much on this topic from my cursory skimming...

October 21, 2014 0 5 comments
Resource, Article

According to Karl Barth, "Deacons cannot be expected to meet all the material needs of society, but they should be permitted to look deeper into the roots of the social issues causing those needs." This and other insights by Barth are shared with us by Dr. David Guretzki in this online article.

October 20, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

These ideas give brief, clear, helpful guidance for ministering with people affected by disabilities, especially pastors, elders, deacons, and care team members. 

October 13, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Faith & Finances is a biblically integrated financial education curriculum designed specifically for low-income people.

October 8, 2014 1 2 comments

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith...

September 25, 2014 0 0 comments

Has your church found it difficult to get people to serve as Deacons and Elders? Here's how one CRC congregation changed and improved their process for selecting and equipping deacons.

September 18, 2014 0 1 comments
Resource, Video

Bob Lupton, longtime urban missionary and author of Toxic Charity talks about the importance of preserving and giving dignity in the exchange process.

September 10, 2014 0 0 comments
cover image
Resource, Book or Booklet

How mercy ministry in the local church transforms us all.

August 28, 2014 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

What are, should or could deacons be doing about injustice? What resources are available to help deacons carry out this aspect of their Charge?

August 5, 2014 0 4 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This training tool provides those who aspire to the calling of deacon, an overview of the office, role and function in the body of Christ. T

July 7, 2014 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

What do you think deacons need most and how might that or those needs best be met?

July 2, 2014 0 4 comments
Resource, Devotional

Diaconal Ministries Canada is providing CRC deacons with a 2nd set of devotions for use at monthly deacon meetings as a result of the positive response to their first set in 2011.

June 25, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Video

This 3 minute video does a very nice job of explaining and highlighting the what, why, and how of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) for local congregations.

June 19, 2014 1 0 comments
Resource, Brochure or Pamphlet

A brochure from Communities First Association that provides a succinct explanation of the differences between church that does ministry in, to/for, and with a community . . . and why it matters.

June 17, 2014 1 0 comments

Join World Renew for our inaugural online course! Beginning on July 7, you are invited to explore how to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself, based on When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

June 13, 2014 1 0 comments



I did an urban seminary internship for two years, and have been active in race and community development professionally for 45 years.  I go to an urban church that sits in the middle of a community of high needs, and we have a long standing relationship with John Perkins.   We also have a community house next door where some congregation members live to give expression to our commitment to be the presence of Jesus in the neighborhood.  We have a food pantry, and we are very concerned about the gentrification happening in our parish.   Ive talked with Lupton, and read Toxic Charity, as well as When Helping Hurts.  Ive read the Bible too.  So why is it so very hard for me to give up my old assumptions and paradigms about. helping, and why do I persist in talking the new ABCD lingo while doing things pretty much  the old way?  Why do the old habits and patterns and programs continue to shape my behaviors?   it's like my racial attitudes.  I can talk the talk, but rooting out the old junk in my heart is way harder than root canals.   Here's what 'Ive been thinking about.......   1.  I LOVE my comfort zone.   2.  being a change agent is difficult, lonely, unpopular.  3.  Changing my own behavior is way hard when I'm functioning in a context packed with traditions, opinions, policies, habits, and procedures that are in tension with radical development theory and practice.   4.  Taking neighbors seriously and listening to them and genuinely respecting and nurturing their emerging leadership takes long and demands persistance and tenacity, grace, patience, humility.   I prefer fast and thrilling.   5.  Working with a diverse and heterogeneous population is inefficient.  It's much more efficient to design a program, get it funded, and roll it out.  6.  The task is overwhelming.  Kids are being lost to the streets at a rate that far outpaces anything our little local efforts could possible address.  Even if I made a radical change in my own behavior, I'd still be making barely a dent.   7.   You get my drift.  Can you sort of get a feel for what my New Year's resolution might be?    What if following Jesus more closely outweighed all my wants and opinions?  What a journey I'd be on!   Time for transformation of my mind.  Again.   Pray for it.


Thanks Terry. I agree that the Chalmers Center is a very good resource for any Christian who cares about and is committed to alleviating poverty. I would also recommend and strongly encourage folks to read and study the book, When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, that grew out of their work for the Chalmers Center. 


Thanks so very much for sharing your experiences and insights with us! In my opinion, you are clearly beginning to view, understand, and connect with your neighbors in a way that is more accurate, helpful, empowering, and most importantly from my perspective more Christlike. If you haven't already done so, I would encourage you to check out some of the resources mentioned in my post as well as throughout this site. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Grace & Peace,


The Chalmers Center (where the authors of Helping Without Hurting work) has a Faith & Finances training and certification program that is offered once per quarter in various US locations – I've registered for the August/September session (one month of online preparation and two days in-person in Dayton, OH). I'm looking forward to see how this training will allow me as a deacon to better connect with my community. The following is a brief overview of the program.


“Chalmers trains churches and ministries in Faith & Finances, a biblically integrated financial education curriculum designed specifically for low-income people. Through Faith & Finances, churches can train the materially poor in practical money management skills and unpack how our money is part of God’s work in the world. The $350 training package equips you to walk with your low-income neighbors over time, leading to lasting transformation.”

Hi Jack, I'm very excited that you have taken on this role and am looking forward to your posts!  Boy, how often do I go to someone in need of help assuming that I have the tools they need and that they have nothing to offer...its humbling to consider how often I have done that whether the need is financial, spiritual or something else.  One of the words that comes to mind for me when I read pieces like this is empowerment...people need to be empowered and a lot of that has to do with them being able to see the resources they already have like ideas, minds, bodies etc.  But, when we go to someone in need of help with the assumption that they need us to provide all of these kinds of resources we are only contributing to their problem and the greater problem it is connected to.  Thanks for the post!

Thanks for your service Melissa. You have done an outstanding job during your time as Deacon Guide! You and your predecessor, Karl Westerhof, have both provided a wealth of timely and useful information, thoughtful and engaging posts, encouragement, guidance, and inspiration for those engaged in and committed to diaconal ministry. I look forward to--and, truth be told, am somewhat nervous about--following the example and maintaining the standard which you and Karl have set. I will almost certainly be looking to you for advice and ideas . . . so I hope you stay close and stay connected. Godspeed!


It's been great getting to know you and reading your blogs. Thanks for sharing your experience and perspectives with us. I hope you'll continue to give your voice to future discussions here on The Network. 

Farewell, Melissa!   On to the next phase of the journey!  Thanks for your service here!  I cannot believe it's been over two years!   OK, enough exclamation marks!  May God bless you as you continue to serve him.

Thanks for the reminder, Melissa! In whatever ministry we serve seeking "our way" should be a priority.

I was part of Thornapple Community Church, R.C.A. 18 years ago that put this idea into practice.  It worked wonderfully and I always wished the CRCs I was/am part of would adopt this idea.  It makes so much sense Biblically and practically!  


Diaconal ministry is done exclusively by deacons on behalf of the church.

Mary! Thanks for sharing.  We rejoice for these visionary kingdom leaders!  May your community continue to be blessed by Art, and others like him!

posted in: Deacon People

Thanks so much for your thoughtful and, obviously, thought provoking post. I love the video too and plan to share it as well. Do Justice!



We have a Deacon star at our church in Peterborough Ontario. Art Heimstra, our chair. He is an absolute gem. He facilitates all the work of our deaconate very well. He is approachable to all comers and has an uncanny ear to the ground to hear all kinds of needs out there in the church and community, no one is afraid or intimidated to tell him about a need. 

He then brings them sensitively to our group, and helps deal with them effectively in a loving God-centered way! As VISA would say- PRICELESS!!

To have such a servant in our midst is truely inspiring! I am blessed to be mentored in this way as is everyone else!



posted in: Deacon People

No one wants universal justice. If we did then the universal congregational prayer would be for Jesus to return and make everything right/just. The vast majority of congregational prayers are about half way measures and personal new deals of the cards. Prayers that God will change history to meet our requests boggle my mind.

What we want is justice applied to other people and mercy applied to ourselves. If Christians in the US wanted to be obervers of the law which goes hand in hand with the concept of justice then the accident rate on the freeways would at the least be cut in half. 


I always wonder why the plight of babies in the womb is often overlooked. It is the biggest human atrocity the world has ever known. 42 million pre-born babies are killed worldwide every year. Many of those right around us! From conception onward, these are human beings - just at a different stage in life. Human rights should start when human life starts! Please let's not forget about the unborn (pre-born)! Diaconal ministries can help by supporting Pro-life and Right to Life groups. With knowledge comes responsibility.
In our Contemporary Confession 'Our World Belongs To God' we confess:

"Life is God’s gift to us,
and we are called to foster
the well-being of all the living,
protecting from harm
the unborn and the weak,
the poor and the vulnerable."

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

We still have two collection's in our morning service. One (budget) at our evening service. With input from our congregation, pastors and other outside requests, the Deacons research and discuss.all inputs to determine  second offering funds.

Some of our members also will specify on their checks what it's for (Gen Fund, Benevillance, Tuition etc.) and that is where it gets deposited.

As to Envelopes, that would be quite time consumming for the deacons. So far as I can tell at our monthly meetings, the two (2) collection policy we have works very well..Prior to the collection a Deacon is called to the pulpit to offer prayer and  explain the collection. .


I say this often - God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason - He wants us to listen more than speak. Trying to "fix" someone goes way outside our role as ministers of God's love and grace. The Gospel says that only Jesus can truly "fix" anyone - and that includes each one of us - we're in this together.

Another big problem is when the person you've shared with trys to fix you.

Excellent post - THANK YOU!

It's important to remember that a relationship with a person is never one-on-one; because the Lord is also present. Our relationships are sacred. Life stories are precious. When someone shares with you, consider it a precious gift and a sacred trust. It's always a good idea to get permission before sharing anything, any part of another person's story. We must follow Christ's example and consider the interest of others before our own interests (see Philippians 2).

As a licensed social worker, I have learned that an exception to the rule of confidentiality occurs when someone is in imminent danger of harm to themself or to others, then a decision must be made regarding sharing information. It's also good to let people know that up front, if possible. "If I believe that you are a danger to yourself or to others, this conversation will not be confidential, I will seek help - please consider that as you decide what to share with me in confidence during our time together".

I think most of us would agree that our first reponsibility is to our marriages and our children.  However, when our parents reach their later years and develop health issues and deficits, there is no doubt that they need help as well, and families need to stretch to help them out, as it should be.  But we as their church family can play an important role to help and support.  We can visit the seniors if they are lonely; we can take them for a drive or for coffee if they need an outing; we can even invite them to our own homes if they need a change of scenery.  But most of all, we can be confidantes, sounding boards, prayer partners and  encouragers for those who are ensconced in the 'sandwich generation'.  Where the need is particularly great, consider setting up a GLUE team (see to make sure no one suffers from burnout.  We need to encourage those in the sandwich generation to make sure they take time for themselves and their families.  If we all work together in this, we can be a great blessing to each other, and we will have done what Jesus would have us do.

From personal experience, I've taken advantage of the resources provided by my employer's Employee Assistance Program. Reminding people that resources may be available from their employer is a start. Encouragement to be part of a small group in the local church is also invaluable.

encouraging piece! Thanks!



Thank you, Melissa! I have said before that we confuse hospitality with hosting, thinking that we must be the perfect host (in a perfect house with a perfect meal attended by perfect children...) when what's needed is welcoming hospitality. We'll bless people more with an open door than a perfect home. ("...Perfect home" just struck me as an oxymoran as I typed it.)

Just thought I'd share our practice. We have one worship service each Sunday and two offerings. The first offering is for the "general fund" which goes towards the church budget. (Our church budget includes denominational and classical ministry shares, so those are not collected separately.)

The second offering is a schedule set by our deacons. They recently looked at this from a whole-year perspective and identified a plan about how to allocate the second offerings. These offerings support things like (not a complete list): local community organizations, specific missionaries, a few ministries of our congregation, CRWM generally, Home Missions and World Renew as well as an offering once per month for tuition aid which provides assistance with Christian school tuition for families on a need basis. Sometimes an offering is rescheduled so our congregation has opportunity to respond to a timely need like disaster relief.

How about:

1. Money is the currency of charity

2. Once a Deacon then an Elder

3. Benevolence is for members of the congregation

4. Only Deacons can make decisions about benevolence disbursements

5. A Deacon visit is an annual event.

6. Deacons have to make widow/widower visits

7. A deacons business meeting means someone has asked the church for charity. 

8. No deacon should make a visit alone

9. Its not a Deacons visit if there is no deacon on the visit

10. Deacons don't run programs

11. Stewardship is the Deacons business

12. If the church is not meeting budget, the deacons aren't doing their job.

and so many more...


1. Yes.

2. Another great question! The church I grew up in made ministry shares "collection only" at the time of the Calvin College evolution debate in the 80s/90s so that people didn't have to support Calvin through their ministry shares. I always wondered how many other churches did the same.

3. Yet another great question (this topic would make a great denominational survey . . . although I suppose churches are sort of surveyed out). The church I attend now has people go up and bring their own offerings as part of worship. 

Wendy, as read the comments I'm wondering whether the question being asked needs some clarification:

1. Do you mean by special collections.... Those collections historically identified as second collections in contrast to collections for the church budget; and

2. When individuals speak of the church budget... Are ministry shares still built into the congregational budget or have they been assigned as a special collection.

3. As a matter of personal interest... Is it still part of the liturgy to have the deacons bring these gifts forward to the Lord in the worship service in prayer?

On average, we have 2 general fund or ministry funding offerings a month. well, then we also have one that is for our building debt, so i suppose that doesn't count either. so that leaves one per month in the morning and then all the evening offerings as  special offerings- ministries of local or broader interest. This became the norm about 2 1/2 or 3 years ago when the budgets and the offerings weren't quite meeting at the same point anymore. And we're still dealing with that issue as well. 


Great list!   Great idea!  Thanks.   

Wendy and all,

We've posted this question on the CRCNA Facebook page also.  You can read the responses here:


We have one collection, a cause selected by the deacons. The collection for the budget is received either at a box at the entrance to the sanctuary, automated deposit, or in the budget envelope during the collection for the deacon selected cause. 

At our church we take one physical offering, which includes both the general fund and a rotating special cause, ranging from local organizations to denominational agencies (the deacons determine the schedule). In addition to weekly giving envelopes for members, we have generic envelopes that attendees can use to designate their offering towards the special cause and/or the general fund.

At our church we regularly have two offerings in the morning service, the first for our congregational budget, the second for a cause selected by the deacons.   Occasionally the second offering is for a particular ministry of our own church, but usually it's for a special cause, denominational agency, or the like.

Hi Wendy,  We still have 2 offerings at our Sunday morning service.  One for the budget and one for a designated cause, previously set up by the deacons.  Sometimes when there is a special need (ie. World Renew disaster relief) we'll let the congregation know that they can use the pew envelopes to donate, by writing the name of the offering on the front.


I want to say thank you to the study committee for all the work that you have done.  Besides bringing forward a winsome and well grounded report, the committee was also transparent in their process and sought the input of people across the denomination as they put together their report.  

My druthers, I guess,  would have been to have the report itself discussed on the floor of synod.  In the past on this issue there have been reversals from year to year, with one Synod leaning in one direction and the next in the opposite.  My only concern is that this again might take place in the next few years.  I hope that won't be the case.  I think that caution has had it's day when it comes to this topic, and that it's time to move forward.

"Concern of innovation" would have been the main reason for creating a new study committee.  But I didn't think that the Diakonia Remixed report stood substantially apart from our (1972?) report on the nature of the offices, but was rather a faithful application of it.   Thanks for your work. 

Thanks John! :)  It was a profound and delightfully unexpected moment!

Melissa, your song is great too!  O Lord my God!   In awesome wonder sings my soul!   We sing this one often.  Really nice when you can sing it "out of the church building"  and spontaneously! 

I got goose bumps reading this! :)  God is GOOD! 

Great story David!!  Music coming not as performance for the group, but from within the group, from within the person! 

Thanks, Melissa--really inspiring! 

Here's my experience. Our son, a jazz bassist, got a quartet together and performed a delightful jazz vespers worship service at our church (First CRC, Salt Lake City) a few weeks ago. The quartet had piano/keyboard/Hammon B3 organ, guitar, drums and his bass. His final number, an old, upbeat gospel song, was rolling along nicely with the four instruments when, utterly unannounced, we all began hearing a saxaphone somewhere in the sanctuary! Heads turned (including mine) to see the horn player swinging his way down the center aisle from the back. Then when he was near the front, a trumpet began sounding out from the rear; then (you guessed it) there was a trombonist following him down the aisle; finally a clarinetist came swinging and swaying his way to the front where they continued in a crescendo of dixieland, raise-the-roof praise! Of course this brought the house down: we were all on our feet clapping and dancing along and, as one elderly Dutch woman said, "I thought 'Oh, we're in New Orleans now!'" The flash mob effect had worked its wonder of surprise and joyous beauty in this moment of Kingdom ecstasy. It made an indellible mark on my soul with a heaven-sent memory I'll never forget--and I'm surely not alone in this!  

Thanks Melissa for your encouraging words!

I always enjoy and appreciate Melissa as I watch her and benefit from her work in "my" congregation. I expect great things from her as she continues to gather experience and her leadership is recognized more and more. Melissa, I have been on both "sides." Currently I am more on the receiving end than the leadership end and can tell you that those "things" you fear are missing or sidetracked are there, though never fully.  If in your experience these "things" are endangered in your own life and heart, then perhaps you ought to take a break and just be a prayerful "pew-er" for a while. Although, I guarantee you that it will make you itchy to get back into the fray, for God has made you into an effective leader. I personally know what it does to a God-gifted leader to be prevented from exercising those gifts. Having them suppressed takes a serious toll. 

Several observations on meetings:

1. All meetings adhere to a detailed agenda.

2. Any meeting over an hour in length is wasting the time of participants. At an hour and a half, it turns toxic. We have no gift more precious than our time. To allow others to waste it is an abrogation of our responsibility to our Lord and we, not them, will be held accountable.

3. Any decision to be made must be on the agenda and all the information necessary to make that decision must be in the hands of the participants a week in advance. That way questions are focused, discussions are precise and decisions are made without emotional pleas, power plays or meandering "what if" brainstorming. In an issue is complex, assign it to a committee of 3 members to come back to the larger body with a recommendation that has been thought through and can be voted on. If an item is not clearly stated or is not on the agenda, hold it to the next meeting and be sure that everyone knows the reason.

4. Start every meeting precisely on time. To do otherwise, wastes the time of those who are conscientious and rewards those who are late.

5. And yes, John, in addition to making all the necessary decisions, we, as elders, reflect on a bible passage, spend time in prayer and take 15 minutes for a lesson from the "Handbook for Elders" and still never exceed an hour and a half.

6. Finally, we all go home with the feeling of accomplishment, a job well done for our Lord and his body.


Having experienced various church settings and experiences, your comments make me wonder about the relevance of coming to meetings, whether deacons, elders, sunday school planning, building, bible studies, etc., without our bibles in hand, and what that says about where our focus is.   Is that a symbol of our calling? 

If God owns everything, and he does, then we should not focus on the % we give away nor the $ we spend on our lifestyles but on managing all the gifts he gives us so that we glorify and please him.  Another way to look at it:  if you were in God's place, how do you think you would want the gifts you've given--wealth, time, talent, opportunities, etc.--to be used on earth?

The deacons might check with most or all of the social agencies or ministries in the city or county to see how thy serve them.



Thanks, Melissa. By highlighting that last sentence in Matthew 6:21, you drew my attention to the logic of it. The location of our treasure is not an indicator of where our heart is, as if it is one of the stats by which we measure our spirituality. Instead, the text suggests it is more like a cause. What we place our treasure in will take our heart there. I admit my own feeling of well-being has gone up in the last few weeks because our retirement savings have grown with the stock market. I am not closing those accounts, but it feels a little shameful that I am marked by the location of that treasure.

In today’s consumer culture, it's even more vital for the church to be the place to increase stewardship awareness among its members. Understanding the biblical principle of being a “good steward” with all the gifts that God provides is the beginning of a generous heart.  Church leaders are invited to tune into the webinar, “Church Stewardship Development Ideas” to hear practical suggestions and approaches that have been used in other churches.  Webinar is Thurs, March 14 at 12pm (ET).  Register at:

I wasn't planning to attend the upcoming meeting of CANE; I need to save vacation days for a week at Synod in June.

The following is an explanation of Articles 76 and 77 from Kathy Smith, one of the task force's advisors.

The current Articles 76 and 77 give grounds for the existence of denominational agencies of home missions and diaconal ministries and world missions.  Since the Diakonia Remixed report calls for a missional understanding of and coordinated approach to all denominational ministries, the proposed articles apply to all those denominational ministries together. Rather than describing the ministries separately in Articles 76 and 77, with a supplement that explains that synod regulates their work through the Board of Trustees, the proposed articles describe the ministries as a whole in Article 76 and the statement about regulating them becomes Article 77, instead of being a supplement.  The statement in the proposed Article 77, that "Synod shall regulate the work of denominational ministries by way of the Constitution and decisions of the Board of Trustees of the CRCNA" is and has been what the Board of Trustees does, per its Constitution which was approved by Synod. So, nothing is changing in that regard and it is already official.  The only change here is taking a supplement that records a decision of synod and making it into an article in the Church Order.