Blog

Suddenly Sarah McLachlan said "your turn" and the crowd burst into song, more shouting than singing with her. It didn't matter that they had no skill or musical ability, they simply joined together with her...

October 8, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

We often have the privilege of hearing another person's story - but have you thought lately about the responsibility that comes with someone sharing with you?  Are you an emotionally safe person - someone who guards their words about others when it comes to reporting, praying or conversations?

September 3, 2013 0 3 comments
Q&A

One of the diaconates in the area of Alberta I serve as consultant is asking for ideas on how to support those who are part of the 'sandwich generation'.  In other words those who find themselves raising children while at the same time caring for elderly parents.  These people are often in need...

August 27, 2013 0 2 comments
Blog

We're a couple weeks away from September and for most churches this means it's time to start up programs and meetings again.  How can we as deacons be prepared for what is ahead?

August 18, 2013 0 1 comments
Blog

When a mystery guest arrived at my door with roses, I wasn't sure what to think.  Little did I know that God's extravagant love was about to be revealed again... 

August 12, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

So often we are innundated with magazine images about what hospitality looks like, however, Martha Stewart has it wrong! Hospitality is much simpler than popular culture would have us believe - and more enjoyable too!

July 22, 2013 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Some years ago, the Christian psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend published a book called "12 "Christian" Beliefs that can Drive You Crazy."  In it they detailed some common beliefs about life and psychological health that people often assume are Biblical.  The book was written in the...

June 25, 2013 0 2 comments
Blog

Long evenings, vacations, quieted responsibilities often provide opportunities during the summer months for reading.  If you haven't already decided on your book list, I thought I would give you some ideas to explore. 

June 22, 2013 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Over the past few years I have heard of more and more churches doing away with "special offerings," choosing instead to have everything go to the general fund. Wondering how widespread this is.

June 20, 2013 0 10 comments
Resource, Report

A Summary of Synodical Reports and Decisions Concerning the Delegation of Deacons to Major Assemblies 

June 18, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

At Synod last week the Diakonia Remixed Report was discussed. Ultimately what was discussed on the Synod floor was different than what had been submitted by the task force. Here's what happened...

June 16, 2013 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

In a globalized world, those needs “are always close to us,” and we have the call and duty to respond to them in the name of Jesus our Lord. We could say that the biblical teaching leads to a simple but wide ranging fact: Our fundamental vocation is the "Deaconship (diakonia) of all believers." 

June 14, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

I wasn't really paying attention to anyone or anything, I was already lost in the thoughts of my upcoming day, when suddenly my ears perked up.  I listened intently because I wasn't sure if I was just imagining it. I wasn't - it was definitely what I thought it was...

June 3, 2013 0 5 comments
Blog

If you are a Canadian CRC church seeking to engage your community you may qualify for an Operation Manna grant to help your congregation complete a Community Opportunity Scan, develop a new or grown an existing community ministry! Applications are due by August 15th.

May 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar will examine and discuss the Diakonia Remixed (Office of Deacon Task Force) report to synod, a report that re-visions the diaconal calling and calls for greater participation of deacons in the life of the church, including its major assemblies. You’ll get an insider’s...

May 1, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

In the middle of a poorly run meeting a question I didn't want to answer bubbled up: "Have I learned more about how to be a good administrator than I have about how to be a faithful disciple through my congregation?"

April 30, 2013 0 4 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 04/24/2013 This webinar identifies the main roles of the deacon, discuss how deacons can be more effective with benevolence needs, as well as learn how to encourage good stewardship of time, talent and finances in the congregation.

April 24, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

There are many ways God is revealed in our lives - however, we must be careful not to confuse God revealed with God himself!  Too often we forget that things like the confessions and creeds were created to point us to a person, Christ, not to replace that person! As leaders we need to continually draw near to God, to know him more, so that we may lead his people as he would.

April 22, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

There are two webinars coming up which you might enjoy - Be An Effective Deacon in Today's Church (April 24th) and Diakonia Remixed: Preparing the Church For Larger Ministry (May 1st) - you can find the details here!

April 21, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

On April 24, 2013 "Be An Effective Deacon in Today's Church" will be presented by Dave Ellens and Bernita Tuinenga of Volunteers in Service an organization which provides training, coaching and resources for deacons. The webinar will identify the main roles of the deacon, discuss how deacons can...

April 3, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Every day we make decisions that draw us near to God or move us away from him. How do we ensure that the choices we may with our finances are ones that honour God and help us to become more like him?

March 19, 2013 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

The new documentary film A Place at the Table is opening in cities across the US in March and April. "A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides —...

March 16, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Today the church is just one of many charitable organizations. With so many specialized charities and dying congregations, is giving to the church really the best option?

March 5, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

 The ServiceLink office is doing some research on how local churches are engaged in ministry to those in their communities. Are members of churches involved with local food banks, homeless ministry programs, refugee involvement etc. Are churches encouraging members to participate in special...

February 20, 2013 0 4 comments
Blog

Most of us have debt. Student Loans. Car Loans. Mortgages. Credit cards. Lines of Credit. With all these regular payments our income is quickly depleted.  Giving is not a priority. But should it be?

February 19, 2013 0 2 comments

Pages

RSS

I have MS and in my case it's still very invisible. Alot of disabilities are invisible, like mental illness and chronic pain. I would like churches to think beyond the visible and to provide a safe place for people to say, I'm struggling, this is a limitation in my life. I also would like the church to understand "chronic". No I am not better this week, just a little less sick or perhaps stable. My situation isn't going to change much, except get worse. It isn't a broken leg that will mend and eventually not need a cast and crutches anymore.

beautifully written!  :)

The alternate scenario considered for continuing to delegate four persons to Synod is more flexible than 2 ministers, 1 elder and 1 deacon. The task force considered 1 minister, 1 elder, 1 deacon, and one other officebearer. The manner in which the fourth officebearer would be chosen could be left up to each classis or the BoT or Executive Director could provide direction if a specific balance was desired. The details on how the fourth officebearer should be selected would not necessarily need to be part of the Church Order. Feedback (and reasons) on which scenario is desirable is welcome.

My comments on the proposed church order changes: 

Article 12c:   I would have no problem if this article was simply reduced to:  “A minister of the Word may also serve the church in other work which relates directly to the calling of a minister.”   I believe the rest is really unnecessary.  

 

Article 25:   Since the offices of elder and deacon are determined to be unique, I would recommend that they get separate articles which may highlight that uniqueness.  This may have implications for terms of office, as well as for the roles and responsibilities and authority that these offices carry, since they are different from each other (which is why they have distinctly different titles/names). 

 Article 25b:   I would suggest “…shall participate in and promote worship, evangelism, instruction in the faith, and learning, and shall defend the faith…”  Should add in worship, instruction, and learning.  These are sometimes understood, and other times are not done enough.  These are major roles of elders.  

 Artcile 35:   Revise this to the consistory may give an account of its work to the council.   Keep in mind that in a way, consistory and council should also give an account of its work to the congregation.  The problem is what does that really mean?  A brief summary overview?   A detailed report?  Making this a demand or a command will not help communications if there is no desire to communicate.   Each church in essence must make its own decision on this.  

Article 40a:  Should be revised to:  Each classis shall determine whether its churches can delegate two or three officebearers to the sessions of  that classis.  No more than one can be an ordained pastor. 

Article 40b:  Should be revised to:   Each classis shall meet two or three times per year, as the classis determines. 

 Article 42b:   Do not agree with proposed revision “shall include a minister and one other officebearer”.   It is not the role or task or duty of service for deacons to supervise the administration and duties of councils and churches in general in the fashion described in this article.  Especially other churches.  They could be called on for assistance when specific diaconal needs are not being met, or when diaconal leadership and assistance is requested.  Or the diaconal conference can function in that regard. 

 Article 45:   One minister, one elder, and one deacon delegated from each classis to synod sounds good.  

In the Biblical perspective, which I found as a whole to be a good report, all 60 pages, I only have these few comments to make: 

Screen 4.  Matthew 25 talks about the least of these brothers of mine…which would seem to indicate the body of Christ. 

Screen 9-F.  It seems that it would be better and more correct to say that we serve God, by taking care of the land.   We are not servants to the land as much as the land serves us, but we are stewards of the land, for God, since the land belongs to God ultimately.   I would also seem that we do not serve the land itself, but rather its purpose, the purpose that God has for it.  The land itself does not have the capacity to care about the result.   A desert does not feel neglected or harmed if it is converted to fertile field, and a fertile field does not complain feel injured if it its topsoil is moved to another location.   A rock has as much value as a tree, except within the purposes of God.   Man serves creation best when he dies, because then he improves the soil and provides himself as food for the microbes.   But creation itself does not have the ability to be pleased whether man lives or dies.  The pleasure of creation is found in the eyes of man, and the purpose of God.  

 Screen 14-1.  If Eclessiastes 5:9 really says this, then it has been badly translated in  KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT.   All of these say that the king is served from the field.  I would go with their translation – it makes sense with all the rest of scripture.

Screen 27 last paragraph.    Although in almost every case, there is mention of their faith….

35- Acts 4:34.   typo?  For there was not one among them that lacked? 

 Screen 44 II Corinthians 9:12   For the administration of this service.   Or for the doing of this work/service….?

Screen 53:    These works of service can include the ministry/service of the word as well as other types of service, or along with.   

There are some of us that honestly believe we do not have the "gift" of hospitality, because we are shy or introverted. Passages like I Peter 4:9 - 10 (Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.), with the instruction to offer hospitality in place directly alongside an exhortation to use whatever gift you have received seem to support this idea, but careful reading of the passages addressing hospitality make it clear practicing hospitality is a call to all believers, not an encouragement for those with the gift to practice it. Accepting this changes everything: it is NOT someone else's "job" to be hospitable -- it is the call of every believer. That should impact how we engage visitors, folks new to the fellowship and folks that appear lonely or out of place. I am not totally at ease approaching new/unfamiliar folks, but believing it IS what I'm called to do helps me take comfort in the belief that God will bless the effort.

Hi Grace - Please visit our webinars page where upcoming events are always posted weeks (if not months) in advance http://network.crcna.org/webinars. And here's the link to the recording of this webinar http://network.crcna.org/webinar/be-effective-deacon-todays-church

Grace, you're absolutely right.  I'm sorry I didn't relay this information sooner.  During the webinar we lost sound (twice) for a bit - is that the part that is missing, or is there more missing?

Hi this would have been good to listen to, but I was informed of it to late, maybe a little more notice would be good. And in the archive part of it is missing.

I had a similar experience at a church once. I had preached for them that morning (I was pastoring nearby). After the service, nobody approached me. I suppose we could blame it on the message or the style in which it was delivered. That might also explain why I felt very awkward when I tried to join a group of people. But what if it wasn't the message and it wasn't me? I do remember leaving there and thinking, "How would a guest feel?"

The solution, I think, is for one person to start changing how they interact with guests. I watched my mom for years. She would find the person standing alone and go talk to them. She would invite people over to our house for dinner. She would write cards and show care for them. Now - 30 years later! - I look for the person who is new, alone or looks like they feel "out of place." I know, there are many others that I could be developing deeper relationships with. But as a quieter person, I know how hard it is to stand alone.

I agree with you Rebecca.

John, I wanted to respond to your comment about being upset about being a "junior [officer]". (I also commented above, so this is related to my earlier comment.)

You are right that pride could be an issue here if someone objects to being "junior" or sort of "in training" for filling a role. I think the issue that Melissa was trying to get at, though, is not the idea that someone is sort of "rookie" or "in training" when they are new to a role, but that the roles of Elder and Deacon are distinct from one another, so being a Deacon is perhaps not the right "training" ground for a potential future Elder.

I have observed this exact pattern in various churches; the Deacons tend to be younger while the Elders tend to be older and have often served as Deacons previously. But if someone is gifted as a Deacon, perhaps after a time of rest from church leadership, they should be called again to be a Deacon. Or if someone shows gifts that are those we have identified as desirable in an Elder, they should be called to that office first. (I have seen this happen, but more infrequently than the other pattern.)

As you've said, in your congregation, your Elders fill all roles, so how roles are filled is different for you than for a church with separate bodies of Elders and Deacons. But however it is structured, we do well by our leaders to help them identify which of the offices they might best be gifted for, and then, if they are new to an office, to train them and help them learn their roles as "rookies" or "junior officers" as they begin to serve.

As far as a council goes, if there is no distinction in governance between deacons and elders, then there is no need for classes to make a distinction either.  But some churches do make a distinction.   Still it is interesting that the same word we have translated as deacon comes from diakonos, which is also the word that is often translated as "minister".   The term elder as used in the  church comes from the greek term presbyteros, although the word episkopos (overseer) also is used to describe the task of the elders.   In our church, the elders have the dual roles of elder and deacon, somewhat similar to the very early church.   This is mostly because we are a small church. 

I don't know why anyone would be upset by being a junior elder.   Or a junior pastor.   Or a junior deacon.   Unless pride gets in the way.   I get more upset by elders being restricted from fulfilling their roles.   I get upset when elders want to pay someone else to do their jobs. 

Adam - I love that you are asking this question.  I've heard it said that in a 3-year deacon term - the first year, you will probably feel overwhelmed trying to orient yourself and understand what the role is, the second year you will start to find a groove, and the third year you'll be in the groove, and then, it's over.  

The two points Amy and J made are great ways to help a smooth transition.  We have a binder at our church which gets passed from deacon to deacon.  It's definitely helpful - though it can send some new deacons into a panic!  I love the 3 extra months idea that J's congregation does.

Another thing that can be helpful is to have mentors (previous deacons) for new deacons, people who will answer the early questions, but then also continue to lend support as the term continues.

I think it's important to ensure that new deacons know that they have been called and chosen, ordained for this position - and to remind them that God has given them exactly what they need to serve in this way.  Build their confidence, give room for their voice, allow space for questions, and point them to resources that will help them understand the role. I believe affirming deacons (particularly new ones) in this way will create a strong deacon team.

It used to be the case that the "general board of directors" of local CRC churches was often just the Elders and the Pastor.  We called that (in CO) Consistory.  And then there were also the Deacons, a separate group.

These days, that structure has been changed.  Now, the "general board of directors" is the Council, which by CO definition I believe is the elders (including pastor) and the deacons.

Any local church may of course designate (in its Articles of Incorporation generally) that only Elders and the Pastor are the "board of directors" but I think more often than not it is the entire Council that is the board of directors, which means that most decisions are made by both Elders and Deacons together, which specialized tasks (ie. church discipline for Elders and benevolence for Deacons) remain the "specialty" of each separate group.

All of which is to say that while in the past, the position of Deacon was something of "Jr Elder," there is much less cause -- arguably no cause -- to so regard it these days, given the "shift" from Consistory to Council.

I love finding out about all these different resources!  Thanks for highlighting this!

Excellent!  Webinars are a great way to get additional training.  There is one coming up in less than a month for deacons "How To Be An Effective Deacon In Today's Church".  Should be good too!

The Christian Reformed Church of St. Joseph (Michigan) has their "retiring" elders and deacons stay an extra 3 months to help transition the incoming elders and deacons.  It seems to work for them.  Maybe a thought for you. 

yes, I'll be asking for votes in an upcoming blog post :-) I'm really excited about the second edition of When Helping Hurts. So many churches ask me what to do once they've read it.

Christian Service Ministries is a ministry of Classis Chicago South committed to helping pastors, deacons, elders,, and other lay leaders.  Christian Service Ministries provides training, resources, and networking.  Usually 6 seminars, roundtable discussions are presented each year.  Visit:  www.christianserviceministries.org or find us on facebook at our page:  Christian Service Ministries.  You may also email or call if interested. 

Wendy is willing to present the webinar "Getting Going in Helping without Hurting" if it gets enough votes. See http://network.crcna.org/webinars/ and click on the "Proposed" tab.

Wendy - this is a great resource!  Thank you for sharing.

Communities First Association, a nonprofit birthed out of CRWRC, provides training for asset based community development primarily in the U.S. Many of its members used to do diaconal training under CRWRC's North America Ministry Team, and although their focus is now on helping churches to do community development, a number of them also do deacon training http://communitiesfirstassociation.org

A few years ago the deacons in my church developed a binder/handbook which gets passed to deacons for their term of service; departing deacons pass theirs onto those just coming on board.  It includes lists of tasks for each area of responsibility (treasurer, benevolence, chair, secretary, etc.), as well as guidelines for developing the yearly budget, benevolence policies, and a brief history of the church.  It also includes the various IRS tax identification numbers, benevolence forms, contact information for special offering recipients, the church by-laws, and the yearly calendar of special offerings (denominational causes like CRWRC, local charities, etc.).  This entire document then gets reviewed and updated every year or two to reflect any changes in the church.

Melissa, thanks for this! The timing of this is wonderful. I wonder how many people are aware of what also happened after the public apology by the government in 2008. On June 12, 2010 there was a National Forgiven Summit held in Ottawa. This was the culmination of months of heart preparation and sharing the message of Freedom through Forgiveness through the Journey of Freedom. The Journey team consisted of representatives from many First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities. They travelled through the provinces and territories of Canada sharing their stories of healing and hope. They ended in Ottawa where they gathered with government, church, First Nations, Inuit and Metis representatives. There is a DVD called "The Release" of this gathering. There is more information on

http://www.gatheringnations.ca/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=136&Itemid=171

At this Forgiven Summit on June 12, 2010, Kenny Blacksmith was the main representative for the First Nations, Inuit and Metis. Now he is coming to BC and speaking in 5 places starting on April 21 in Prince George, Burns Lake, Gitsegukla, Kitimat and on the 29th in Terrace.

Could we, the Christian Reformed churches lift this up in prayer?  Please pray for Kenny, his wife Louise and all the other ones who are part of this tour called "Freedom 2012". We believe that this is timely and we believe in freedom and justice for our First peoples. May we be joined together in forgiveness, reconciliation and love.

In our church, we have aboriginal members:  three children.   Also we have one adult who has some american aboriginal ancestry.  We welcome them all.  The three children are adopted by different families.  They are open adoptions so friendly relationships with bio-parents are maintained.  In one case, relationships with bio-grandparents and aunts are also continued.

The apostles were also regarded as elders.   So I don't think there is evidence that deacons were needed before elders.(not that it really matters...).  The Acts passage mentions selection of seven men, but as far as I can see does not specifically identify them as deacons.....although we make the assumption that's what they are.

"Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them."" " 

  1. 1 Peter 5:1
     To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:
     
  2. 2 John 1:1
    The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—
     
  3.  3 John 1:1
    The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Both "deacon" and "minister" and "servant" are derived from the greek word "diakonos".

A gift was already presented to elders in Acts 11, before elders were mentioned being appointed in Acts 14.

Hi Melissa,

I, too, push back against the notion of elders being more important than deacons (or vice versa, though that doesn't usually happen). According to CRC Church Order, "no officebearer shall lord it over another officebearer" (Art. 85). I also think of how deacons were needed in the early church BEFORE elders (Ac 6)!

Rebecca's comment above is apt and something for which to strive – being "intentional about identifying our gifts and then making a connection between giftedness and where we serve" when it comes to lots of things, including deacon nominations.

Thanks for the reflections!
Stan

According to scripture, elders  have more authority than deacons.   But that doesn't make them more important.   Elders also have the job of supervising the work of the preacher.   That also doesn't make them more important.   Children are very important to Jesus.   Women are very important to Jesus.   The sick and the blind and the lame and the fallen woman and the tax collector were all very important to Jesus. The question of authority of an office should not be related to the importance of the role in terms of how Jesus uses us within the context of the body of Christ. 

The role of sunday school teacher may be more important to some children in terms of their coming to faith, than the role of the preacher or elder.   Ten words spoken by an elderly widow to a sick person in the hospital may be more important to that sick person than twenty sermons or ten family visits done previously.   The simple poignant question of a ten year old may have more impact in someone's life than a thousand admonitions by the elders.   Everyone is important to Christ, and it is God at work in our lives, in whatever role or position or opportunity we may be in. 

Thank you for writing this. I've heard or read before about it being a mistake to consider deacons a "stepping stone" to the "more important" role of elder. Clearly, these two offices could be blessed by people with quite different sets of gifts and skills. 

At our church, we are trying to be more intentional about identifying our gifts and then making a connection between giftedness and where we serve. I hope as we grow in this, leadership ministries will be just one of the areas in which we affirm God's gifts in each other and grow in serving in ways where our gifts can be greatly  used.

Thanks Melissa.  I would have to say that my earlier experience as a deacon, and working with deacons, was as you described.  However, I am seeing that this isn't always the case.  I heard a pastor say at a Classis meeting that, "Deacons are at the cutting edge of where the church is going" (in the context that the health and direction of the church depends heavily on the health and direction of the diaconate).  I would have to agree.  The role and opportunity for deacons is a great one!

While I appreciate your attention to perseverance, and the need for it for elders and deacons during their terms , I would suggest that the analogy of the seventh inning would be better used to apply to the life of office bearers when they have finished their terms, and they feel they can relax, have a beer, and sit back and let someone else do the work.  The real game is not that of bearing "office" for a limited term, but the real game is life itself, given by God, of which a term in office is just one part.  The seventh inning probably applies more appropriately to the time when elders become older and think they can retire and relax and let someone else do it.   That is the time when the game can be lost, if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren and for their neighbors.  That is the seventh inning that has probably most impacted the lack of growth in the church, and the lack of spiritual maturity in many of those whom they have potential influcence on and witness to.   My thoughts.   

I am the task team leader for our church "Governance & Ministry Task Team".  We formed this past summer (as directed by our council) and are finishing up our work to review how we do things at our church -- in particular with elders, deacons, council structure, ministry teams, etc.  In addition to reading Dr. DeMoor's "Church Order Commentary" (which was excellent), we also read Hotchkiss' "Governance and Ministry".  This book paved the way for the direction we took.  It is an excellent explanation of a concept -- you still have to do a lot of the work and figuring out how if applies to your specific situation, but the concepts, as explained in this book, are, in my opinion, the best way to approach this problem.  I would highly recommend the "Governance and Ministry" book!

I heard someone say not too long ago: the answer to the question "How much should a Christian give?  2% of gross income? 5% of net income?  10% of net income?  Which would you choose? 

 

His answer was 20% of net income.  20% of net income is equivalent to a 10% tithe.   In most cases, there is nearly a 50% tax rebate for donations to charities, over the first $200.  That means that for spending 20% on charities, it is only costing you 10%, since you would have had to pay the rest to the government anyway in income tax.   Something to think about. 

 

And that doesn't include the blessings received from giving, and the blessings given by God because of the cheerful and prayerful giving.

 

Ah, I need to listen to myself.....

haha... you can always challenge the congregation to double their giving!!  really!  on 1.1.11 we were so challenged at a non crc worship gathering, and after the first gasp for air, like "Really LORD? cash flow already sucks!".  But we had been praying into God's economy and know that giving is a significant key to His economy, and so my husband and I prayed about it, and the LORD gave us a strategic plan of increasing our giving 1% per month, so it wasn't quite such a shock all at once.  Just a week ago, I was making some year end up adjustments for his business and happened to look at our net income for the year, and it was up SIGNIFICANTLY!  and he's in construction, so we know the economy hasn't changed that much.  and that's just one of the blessings we've experienced!!

Along with giving pattern analysis another area to look at is actual Sunday attendance versus the total members number, etc. submited for the yearbook.

If there is a significant discrepancy, perhaps the number submitted for active professing members over 18 which is used for budget purposes is also inaccurate. What percentage of members are no longer attending church that other members are supporting through the budget and ministry shares? 

Is it possible that the members in the pews are meeting their budgetary obligations? Do we need to start thinking outside the box on this issue?

Before challenging the congregation, it might be helpful for the diaconate to do a giving pattern analysis over the last five years to see what the annual giving patterns might be for the church.  These can fluctuate greatly (but regularly over time) from season to season. Often much more than 1 /12th of the budget comes in in December.

Another thought would be to switch to an annual pledge process in which each member is encouraged to pledge their giving for the year.  Such a practice can help "detox" the conversation with those who are not giving, opening up an opportunity for understanding the reasons why they are not giving.

I have found the works of Kennon Callahan to be very helpful as well as the ones that Ron noted above.  "Effective Church Finances" and "Giving and Stewardship in an Effective Church" are two helpful ones.  He makes the note that there are essentially five different motivations for giving....compassion, community, challenge, reasonability and commitment. The important thing is that studies have shown that while "challenge" and "commitment" are usually the main motivators for those in leadership, the motivators that work best in the congregation are "compassion" and "community". It's like Gary Smalley's love languages.  If the leadership tries to speak to the congregation using the "stewardship language" that connects with themselves first, they will run into a motivational disconnect.

In actual fact, the flexibility is already there, since the councils can designate the length of the terms and there is no absolute requirement that all terms be the same length.  There also does not seem to be anything preventing councils from designating indefinate terms, or ten year terms, etc., nor stopping them from making a distinction between serving elders and deacons on council, and those who are not serving on council.  For example, having deacons on ten year terms, but serving on council for only three years... the point is even though there is lots of flexibility, it is hidden in the text and thus reduces the apparent options or considerations.   It would seem more transparent just to highlight how much flexibility the councils really have to work with this as needed.  

I think that the church order does not prohibit the assist council concept, but it implies a special process is required, or that "former" elders merely assist and can not function as elders in the sense that they can be designated with elder authority to carry out certain tasks and delegations and representations.   This implication is mixed and can be overcome by convolutions, but why not just make it plain and simple? 

We definitely need to include something similar to "as determined by council or consistory" or "as designated by the council" (the original wording) and we'll consider the "flexible" suggestion. Article 25c will need to be a separate discussion topic at a later time; we have plans to rewrite that entire section.

The "retain their titles and calling..." suggestion may be beyond the scope of this task force and our competency to address. I think that gets into an area that requires much more study and discussion that we're not prepared to tackle. In my opinion, I don't think that the Church Order currently prohibits the "assist council" concept.

One other possible addition: 

"That elders (and deacons-separate article)  who have finished their specific term on consistory/council will retain their titles and calling unless deposed, and can be called on in specific instances to assist council with elder and deacon related official and unofficial tasks when council determines a need for such assistance." 

Terry, I agree with your comments.  I think I was merely elaborating on the consequences of the changes...  Even while the flexibility of terms is possible under the proposed changes, most people would not likely consider it.   As I mentioned previously, I think the proposed wording is much better than the old.  However, my point is a bit different, and perhaps can be summarized as this:   Why is it necessary to combine the offices of elder and deacon into one sole article in the church order while there are 18 articles relating to pastors/preachers, and while articles for evangelist and other preacher pathways must be separate?    If we can combine this flexibility into one article, why can we not do the same for preachers?   And if we cannot do it for preachers, then what is the implication of not doing this for elders and deacons?  Are these roles somehow less important, less significant, less defined?   I maintain that the roles and qualifications of elder and deacon are more specifically described in scripture than the roles of preacher and pastor.    

Some suggested changes however:   "

“The elders and deacons shall serve for  lengths of terms as determined by council or consistory, which is  appropriate and flexible for both continuity and succession of ministry leadership, accountability for ministry outcomes and the regular infusion and flourishing of gifts as the Spirit endows each generation." 

The article 25b does not need to include the phrase, "with the minister(s)" since the ministers are deemed to be an elder, so it is a redundancy.  The minister does not do this in proxy for the other elders, which is sometimes assumed to be the case, and so this implication should be removed. 

I don't have a problem in a way with this article combining elders and deacons, but it is totally inconsistent with the way 18 articles are put together for ministers, associates, evangelists, and thus does not follow the principle that the offices are equal in honor.   Therefore, unless and until the articles for ministers, evangelists and associates are combined in a much more comprehensive fashion, this article should be divided into two articles:  one for elders and one for deacons. 

Article 25c should have one small change:   The deacons shall be leaders in representing and administering the mercy of Christ......

The reason is that we should all do that, including pastors, and evangelists and prophets and elders, but the deacons have a specific role to lead in it. 

I hope this makes it more clear. 

The new wording under discussion didn't intend to say (or imply) that elder and deacon terms must be the same, fixed (vs. flexible), nor that they must be longer or shorter than current practice. The intent was to empower councils to define the terms of office for elder and deacon as best fits their local situation. What in the wording makes you think they need to be treated the same? What implies that the flexibility you desire is not present?

The reason for splitting these offices into two articles is simply to highlight their significance, and the fact that they might be treated differently.   Something like having different articles for evangelists and preachers/pastors.   Their tasks are different, thus the titles, and since the tasks are different, the terms might also be different, as decided by the local church.   One of the possibilities that churches should consider, is that elder terms and deacons terms could be flexible, so that terms are not always fixed, but might range between three to five years depending on the projects or involvement of particular elders or deacons.   Thus there would be a discussion near the end of the year as to whether an elder or deacon would resign his active duty or continue on for another year.   This might be a useful policy for some churches to consider in order to benefit from  the activities of particular office-bearers.   There are also other mechanisms, such as designating certain office-bearers as contributors and workers but non-voting, which could also be used.   Flexibility is the key, and the tasks done by them rather than the strict adherence to the arbitrary terms ought to be the focus and determining factor. 

In our church our office bearers are both elders and deacons;  they serve a dual role and this is another way to be flexible.

I should point out that the principle for the congregation to be meaningfully empowered (per deMoor's commentary) to choose its leaders/officebearers does not appear to be applied to the position of pastor/preacher in the same way, as the church order apparently does not have term limits for that?   It's a good principle to some degree but we do seem to apply it in an adhoc fashion rather than be consistent with it. 

Our church moved from three-year terms to four-year terms for both elders and deacons, but have returned to three-year terms ... for very practical reasons.

I have served several terms as elder and I much prefer the longer, four-year term. It gives one more time to build connections with districts and, for brand new office-bearers, time to understand the role and task of office.

There are/were two problems with the four-year term. Firstly, it led to burnout because you had passionate elders and deacons who put in considerable hours, passion and energy into their tasks as elders and deacons. That fourth year, for some, proved to be tough. Secondly, we found that it was more difficult to 'recruit' new elders and deacons because people didn't want to commit to a four-year term.

There seems to be a perception in the Diakonia Remixed report that the role, task and expectations of the deacon is much different (ie lighter?) than that of the elder ... hence the desire to have longer terms for deacons.

There is anechdotal evidence that the role and tasks of deacons in Canada and the United Stated are markedly different. Canadian deacons are certainly as busy and as involved as Canadian elders; elders, in the pastoral care of their members and deacons in the pastoral (to a certain degree) and practical care of their members as well as community members and agencies.

I've served seven or eight terms as an elder. I hope one day to 'graduate' to serve as a deacon. I'll need to clear my calendar first.

The definition given by Classis Toronto (which requires a "narrative" from each of its ministries) is

"Each committee/ministry submits a "narrative" budget with its request for funds from Classis. A 'narrative budget' is the story of what that ministry hopes to accomplish in the next budget year and thus why it is asking for funds."

Yesterday I submitted, as Chair of the AB North Safe Church Team, the "narrative" for the SCT request for funds in the AB North Classis budget (and they were encouraging submission of a photo as well... something visual... makes for a better PowerPoint...).  Next year will be the first year that AB North will use a "narrative" style budget.  I have lots of material that I can e-mail to you that gives examples (anywhere from a simple "2 pager" to a 16 page document with graphics).  Let me know!

The main job is to transform what would have been a "line-item" budgets $$ request from each ministry into a story of what happened last year in that ministry(successes, challenges, accomplishments, etc.) along with a plan for next year that supports the next $$ request.  Tell the story.  

A friend of mine relayed a story of charity board meeting where, during the discussion of a particular ministry, the directors looked like they were going to cut the funding in half.  A person involved in that minstry was scheduled to speak about what it had accomplished but the budget discussion started before she arrived... and it didn't look good for that ministry. She arrived, told the "story" of how the ministry had affected lives over the past year (she did not know her budget was at risk) and she left.  The director who was spearheading the budget cut mentioned some thing along the lines of "We can't touch that.... God is working there!" and the budget remained intact.   That verbal "narrative" educated the decision-makers!  A narrative budget (some of the United Churches I researched refer to it as a Mission Plan) educates the givers in our community and makes them more aware of what the local CRC (or Classis) has accomplished and can accomplish.

"A line-item budget is an effective tool for the committee on finance to manage financial resources.  It is not an effective means for interpreting those ministries or their impact...  A well-composed narrative budget will educate and inspire everyone." (from the book "Revolutionizing Christian Stewardship for the 21st Century" by Dan R. Dick)

Thank you, Ron, for tackling this question! Can you either describe or point to an example somewhere of a "narrative budget format?" Blessings, Stan

I can think of two different approaches to take:

1 - Split article 25a into two articles, keeping the existing article for elders and add the new language for deacons.

2 - Create a new article 25a similar to what has been proposed above, with language that would be applicable to both elders and deacons.

I would prefer the second option. What in the task force's proposed wording should be changed that would allow elder and deacon terms to be addressed in the same way?

The revised re-wording is better than the old, but I would suggest separating the elders and deacons into separate articles.  There may be benefits in treating them somewhat differently in terms of roles, appointments, etc. 

Melissa's questions about terms for deacons gives the Office of Deacon Task Force the opportunity to preview some of their work.  Read the blog post:  Diakonia Remixed: Terms for Deacons

posted in: The Results Are In!

I'm guessing that at least one of three things went wrong:

1. Your budget was excessive, given the financial resources of your community.  If this is the case (and it rarely is), you may wish to re-evaluate your overhead and your investments (money dedicated to ministries is not a cost; it's an investment).  Perhaps a pledge system (with proper stewardship education ahead of time) can give you a better idea of the revenue that you can budget with.  The question of whether a pledge system works is an entirely different discussion but from what I've heard (as a Christian Stewardship Services representative, I have the privilege of learning from the experience of many congregations in Western Canada) is that the anonymous pledge system works best (names aren't required but participation is.... even if the anonymous pledge comes back with "none of your business").   At the very least, the diaconate can inform the congregation that "based on the promises you've made, here is the budget we're presenting, here are the ministries/projects we can (or cannot) support and now we rely on you to make good on your promises, as best you can". 

2.Your congregants may be great stewards and givers but weren't entirely "sold" on your budget and therefore aren't committed to it.  If this is the case, I suspect you could focus on teaching how proper stewardship definitely involves the work of the local church.   You may have to educate the congregation as to the benefit of the work done at the congregational level.  I'd consider usinga  narrative budget format (as opposed to simple line-item budgets).  Proper narrative budgets tell the stories of the Kingdom Work done via the congregants' contributions to the church budget.  Again, if the congregation is more involved in the creation of the budget, they'll be more committed to the promises they've made when the budget is accepted and more responsive to calls for making up shortfalls. 

3.Your congregants require "continuing education" regarding what the Lord requires of us as to giving to Kingdom work.  If this is the case, I suspect you could focus on stewardship education (i.e. "Stewardship is everything you do after you accept Christ") and how proper stewardship definitely involves supporting and empowering the work of the local church.   Perhaps focus on reinforcing the fact that a tithe is a good place to start and that it's the first ten percent, not the last. Abel gave first fruits; Cain gave left-overs.  If all congregants gave 5% to the local church budget, I suspect we'd be facing the unique problem of how to spend the surplus and wouldn't it be interesting if adherence to the "first fruits"principle meant the budget was met by March? 

I've finally read the "Not Your Parents' Offering Plate" (J. Clif Christopher) and fully agree that the attitude of "givers" has changed (we have to promote Kingdom Work) and that the choices of where the support can flow have multiplied so greatly that church budgets now face far more competition from other Kindgom Work than in the past.  One great quote from the book is "People give to church when we offer them a compelling vision of the good their giving will achieve". 

Wendy Hammond's response to this question refers to Barnabas Foundation and I agree that it's a great site.  For Canadians however, the Christian Stewardship Services site may provide more Canuck-oriented content (www.csservices.ca)

Pages