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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
Blog

When it comes to financial stewardship many of us would like to have a clear answer to the question: "How much should I give?"

February 12, 2013 0 6 comments
Blog

It was recently observed that although our weekly worship service attendance had increased steadily over the last few years—thanks be to God!—our weekly giving had not. Why? My mentor reminded me this isn’t necessarily a bad sign, as our church does bring in people with little if any church background. For some of those folks, giving to the church is a new thing, and must be taught. So that’s what I set out to do...

February 11, 2013 0 0 comments
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Financial stewardship is a topic we don't touch on frequently in the church, yet we deal with money daily! This week we're starting our journey into the questions related to tithing, giving and money in general.

February 5, 2013 0 8 comments
Q&A

The interesting discussion in this other thread got me thinking...

From God's perspective, I wonder if it's less about how much I give away and more about how much I decide to keep (for my wants and self-perceived 'needs'). If so, then the issue of what does/doesn't count as a tithe...

January 29, 2013 0 3 comments
Blog

The Diakonia Remixed report goes to Synod in a few months - have you read it?  Been talking about it at your council or classis meetings?  It's a good time to start preparing so that when it's time for the discussion!

January 28, 2013 0 6 comments
Q&A

Does paying taxes in our Christian society for entitlements example welfare,old age security,food stamps,unemployment benefits and so on , qualify as part of our tithing or does the church not consider this to be part of servicing gods people that need help?

January 20, 2013 0 3 comments
Blog

We're called to devote ourselves to prayer.  This year let's take that call seriously and intentionally pray for our communities knowing that God is moving, his kingdom is coming, and we have a calling to fulfill.

January 15, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

It's Christmas Day!  How did your deacon team share the joy and hope of Christ's birth with those in your congregation and community? What did you try to do to make this season reflect more truly the greatest gift we've ever received - Jesus - God become man?

December 25, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

We talk about losing youth in our congregations.  We talk about having less and less people wanting to be part of council.  I wonder - why don't we start talking about youth on council. How young is too young?

December 10, 2012 0 11 comments
Blog

We, as deacons, are called to a ministry of mercy.  With the recent economy financial poverty has become more prevalent. The movie "The Line" shares the stories of people living at or below the poverty line in the US, and inspires us to rid ourselves of wrong assumptions and judgements. 

November 20, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

The Diakonia Remixed: Office of the Deacon Task Force commissioned a diaconally-themed song "Everybody Get Diakonian!" and it is now available for you to listen to OR to remix for the chance to WIN $200 and a Deacon's Handbook!  

November 5, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

The final report from Diakonia Remixed: Office of the Deacon Task Force is available for reading!  Want the link? It's here!

November 3, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

Wondering what some of the hot reads have been on the Deacon Network?  Wonder no more - here's a list of the top blogs based on interest and rating!

October 23, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 10/17/2012 This webinar is designed to assist you in understanding the role and purpose of a deacon, where your skill and interests fit with this calling, how to best help people who are struggling, and to identify who are the deacon’s partners in ministry.

October 17, 2012 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Just in case you didn't get a chance to attend the webinar today with Donn Hansum of Volunteers in Action, here's a link to the recording of "Getting Started as a New Deacon." Two accompanying handouts are also available for downloading at that link.  They're titled - "Goal Setting as Deacons"...

October 17, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Our diaconal responsibilities may sometimes feel repetitive or the nature of needs we're facing may be daunting.  There comes a time when a break from the typical is helpful to refocus our energies and inspire us in new ways.  Diaconal Ministires of Canada is hosting two "Day of Encouragement" events - and it could be exactly what you're looking for right now!

October 15, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

On October 17th at 9am EST there is a webinar feature for deacons (or anyone really)!  This is a great opportunity  to gain practical information about what a deacon is, does and how to partner and serve well in your community!  All the information is here... 

October 2, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

There's the old joke about how the Bible says that the man is always supposed to make coffee - HE BREWS - but I'm not making a joke when I say WE'RE ALL DEACONS!  Are you surprised?  Worried? Eager? Confused? 

September 18, 2012 0 2 comments
Blog

It's easy to assume everyone knows who the deacons are, or what they do in a congregation, however that's not the truth!  And when people are confused about what a deacon is, or who to contact when there is a concern, your ministry will not fully attain all its potential. Here are 5 things you can do to be known in your congregation:

September 11, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

In order to serve well as deacons we need to be in tune to the needs of the congregation and community in which we serve. How good are your observational skills?  Take this awareness test and find out! (You don't have to be a deacon to take the test!)

September 4, 2012 0 3 comments
Blog

Tonight one of my friends asked me how I was doing. I replied "good" in an optimistic voice and continued on with what I was doing. Another friend walking behind me replied, "you know, it's okay if you aren't good". I paused and had to acknowledge that she was right. I had given a programmed response.  Are you as quick to lie and prevent authentic conversation?
 

August 6, 2012 0 0 comments
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It's summertime!  As this is often a "slower" time in ministry, it becomes a great time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead! 

July 23, 2012 0 0 comments

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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)

So well said!   thanks, Melissa!

Very interesting link here to the discussion about asking the right questions....   What powerful influences we can have on each other's lives for good if we slow down, listen, reflect, probe gently, ask incisive questions....

well, in the church I grew up in, I remember one Sunday the lights were turned off right before the sermon time. The chair of deacons made his way to the pupit and said, "We've been reviewing the budget, and if things to not improve, this is how we will be worshipping every Sunday because we won't be able to pay the electric bill." I think I was 10 years old at the time so I don't remember if things improved, but I'm guessing so because the lights were still on years later when I went off to college, and my parents still worship there today. Not in the dark.

:-)

I think transparency, and regular sermons on stewardship, are a bit more appropriate. Barnabas Foundation has a lot of excellent resources to help churches develop a culture of generosity: http://barnabasfoundation.com/churches/

..and how can you make people accountable for their lack of giving?

August and Jamie,

Thank you for your comments regarding the "You add...God Multiplies" communication to the churches. Jamie, your point is real and was acknowledged by the group developing the communication program. Local churches do have stress on their budget because of congregational administrative needs and a desire to initiate ministry in their own region or in other parts of the world. The CRCNA in its Ministry Share program is not trying to say that the ministries supported by Ministry Shares should be the only ministries supported by a congregation. God's Kingdom grows through Spirit led responses in congregations and produces diverse ministry. Over the decades Ministry Shares has proven to be an effective and efficient method of funding an array of North American and global Kingdom-building work. We praise God for that and hope participation in Ministry Shares brings you joy and inspires your congregation to even more ministry.

Very Best,

Pete

Excellent point August.  I wonder - do you have any ideas about how the tool could have been structured to be more effective?

Jamie! I had to laugh with the "oh no, now I can't get it back together!".  SO TRUE!  I was enamoured with the clever + to X. :)

Last year our deacons received a letter from a member of the congregation inquiring as to how we select causes.  I posted the question on the Network earlier this year (Beyond the Budget) and one of the responses reminded me that even though select ministries receive ministry shares, this does not cover their full budget, and they still rely on other offerings.  The ministry shares drastically reduce the amount of fundraising that they need to do. 

That doesn't negate the difficult task deacons have of discerning what causes to contribute to - it is a difficult field to navigate with many options on both the local and denominational front.  You are absolutely right to say that it's a question many congregations are struggling with.  I would even say individual congregational members wrestle with that decision too!

At our small church (100 prof members) we raise ministry shares as part of the budget and provide offerings on Sunday for organizations mostly but not all outside the ministry shares program. We have no problem filling up the 52 slots consisting of worthwhile organizations, both local and national. CRWRC is one of the mail such organizations.

The disks have some information, but I would be surprised if it was found to be an effective tool. It did show that Ministry Shares sometimes provides only a small part of a group's budget.

What a timely post!  As our deacons are in the throws of creating next year's offering schedule, many were surprised to notice that the majority of the CRC recommended agencies are ones already receiving funding through Ministry Shares... not leaving many services left to dedicate to other ministries both within and without our denomination.  We love the idea of pooling our resources together to create a global presence for the Church and for God's kingdom but wondered if that is being done at the sake of actually being the hands and feet of Christ where we worship, work, and live-- ground level.  We know that many congregations are struggling with this as well. 

Last week our Council members received those boxes with circles that you mentioned... and were pretty confused!  Most saying things like, "What is this?, What do I do with it? Oh no, now I can't get it back together!" :)  I'm not sure how effective a promotional tool that was...

A 1-hour webinar about this book is happening November 30th, 12pm EST.  Register by following this link: https://cc.callinfo.com/cc/s/showReg?udc=10ocazr4goi4w

posted in: As Easy As A.B.C.D.

hmmm... great thoughts... Spirit's a stirring and making us think about what's eternal/important, and what's not. 

During my prayer time this morning, prompted by Karl W's thoughts on spiritual discernment at ecclesiastical assemblies in the classis discussion forum, I was thinking about the many board and committee meetings I've been at, that are 95% business/corporate like focus with Robert and his rules governing the structure (do I dare say, maybe sometimes in place of the Holy Spirit?? and makes me wonder if we are much more comfortable with Robert than the Holy Spirit), bookended by prayers.   and the thought was, we're in a rut.  I've often thought we're kind of stuck as a denomination for whatever reason, but had never had the word rut connected to it.  as  Melissa stated, stuck in a routine, which confirms the thought I had this morning.

I really think the LORD is working on converting us from "Miss Marthas" to Miss Marys", by us spending more time in His Presence, seeking His leading and guiding and then carrying out whatever it is He puts on our hearts during that time.  I have found, that when I am in this "rhythm" with Him,  that when I do have to get the "Miss Martha" work done, it is far more effective and flows much smoother, with unbelievable statistical probabilities of timing that can only be Divine.   and it is far more enjoyable =), a delight, not a duty, always a bonus when doing Kingdom work =) ! 

Someone just shared the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, with me... haven't read it yet, but looking forward to it =) !!

Yep, our culture (& the dutch do too) values a hard working, driven, dynamic person, that gets the job done.  The ones who keep their homes (& cars) immaculate, bring the best dishes to potlucks, as well as sing in the choir, play 5 instruments and can shoot a pretty mean hoop as well ( and probably run marathons too)!  Of course, I'm being a bit snarky!   But our  time/relationship with Jesus is sometimes/often viewed as "wasting" time and not valued.

anyway, the Rob bell quote reminded me of this scripture...

Gal. 1:10 (NKJV)    For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

I hope that we are able to do more than just talk about some changes, and we will be able to move forward with a fresh vitality.  As Clarence Vos stated at the end of his article in the Nov. Banner (p38)  boq  It would seem the need of the hour is prayer, openness to the Spirit's leading, and an expectation that in the end our Christian faith will be more vital than ever! eoq 

 and to that I say AMEN!!

 

.

 

 

"Spot on" Melissa!   One wise & experienced (older) parishioner said to me that the most important facet in our lives were our vital relationships - with God, with our spouse, with family, and with our friends and neighbors.   For these relationships to become deep and rooted, it takes time.  It seems relational time is the antithesis of busyness in our daily lives.

What about the our individual congregations calling it's members out to pursue sustainability and simplification in our lives?  'More is caught than taught' is an axiom that I think is appropo here.   Maybe our church's could model and teach this by trying to make people less busy with meetings, but rather, try to encourage healthy rythms where relational time and community building are more highly valued than the "normal church meeting".   The church as an institution can consume huge amounts of energy and time within itself and not really havie a a significant impact on its surrounding community (thinking missionally).   In our current social context, I'm seeing that many dedicated church members/Christ followers are simply runnning out of margin(and energy) to build significant relationships with people who don't know the Lord.  

Maybe its also time to rethink how we organize ourselves within our churches.  Somehow we need to empower and release our members to concentrate more on their relational deployment to our neighbors and neighborhoods than on maintaining the institution we call church.

Thanks for this, Melissa!  So counter-cultural I can hardly hear it over the hum of my busyness.   Makes me wonder whether the church - as congregation, council, classis, denomination - could be an arena, or a culture, that helps people find some balance in their lives...

And I even wonder: Could DEACONS, of all people, be the ones who help us find the balance between active obedience on the one hand, and schedules packed with activities on the other?   Does a life of service and caring necessarily result in over-commitment, harried busyness, and stress?   Could deacons be the ones who lead us into new thinking and practice on this?

It is very difficult to positively and productively impact a community that you don't know and are not a part of. I think the incarnation of Jesus is God's validation of this observation. God could do a lot through angels, but when the real work needed to be done incarnation was the way to begin. 

In every corner of the age of decay our capacities are always tiny compared to the need. We shouldn't be discouraged by the size of our potential impact, sometimes our best deaconal works are sacramental in nature rather than consumational. 

I think it's vital to empower those within a community to have as much decision making power as possible. Our council looks like the community we serve in many ways, this is a huge asset when it comes to making benevolence calls and program decisions. 

I know that given the specific ethnic history of our denomination there are a number of congregations that don't feel as seemlessly connected to their communities yet both want to serve and bridge that difference. I think good words would be perserverence, patience and partnerships. This all takes time but if in the long run the congregations understands its cruciform calling to pour itself out for the needs around them, and if the desire is genuine in time the partners will arise, bonds can be formed and progress can be made. 

I would love to have a copy . Thanks Grace

The original deacons were appointed because a badly needed job was being neglected, and needed doing.   There was no question about purpose, or about what they needed to do next.   Do you ever wonder whether sometimes, in some churches, deacons are just looking for something to do...?   Just going through formalistic motions?   Rather than knowing and seeing the need right in front of them, long before even becoming deacons?    So the question should be asked, if deacons were not appointed, how much difference would it make to your church?   could you operate fairly easily without them?   If all your widows and orphans are taking care of themselves,  or being cared for by their family, and if there are no definably poor people in the church,  are deacons necessary?   Is making an offering list and collecting spontaneous offerings enough justification for the existence of the office of deacons?   Just asking....  

And I'm reminded of the great and extensive sermon preached by the deacon Stephen, as he preached Christ, rather than defending or protecting himself or concentrating only on material distributions.   Are the deacons in your church prepared to do the same thing as Stephen? 

So I'm hoping that deacons are writing the devotionals for the deacons....

I work for Christian Service Ministries, a ministry of Classis Chicago South, designed to equip deacons, elders, pastors and other leaders with quality training, resources, and networking, especially in the areas of outreach and care-giving.  I have been working on a 12 part deacon training devotional based on the "Form for ordination of deacon in the CRC."  The idea is that a deaconate can use this devotional in their meetings once a month to encourage them in their tasks with Biblical words and to use it as a springboard to discuss whether they are still following Scripture and the ideas given in the ordination form.  If anyone is interested in this devotional, please let me know and I can email it to you. 

On the topic of deacon devotionals, I just received the following notice from Diaconal Ministries Canada:

Coming Soon:   Devotions specifically for use in Deacons' Meetings are nearing completion.  Watch the DMC website at www.diaconalministries.com for more.

I want to encourage folks to take a look at the book you cite, "When Helping Hurts..."   It is unusully helpful for anyone who is concerned about showing compassion, being merciful, being a developer instead of just a helper, in short anyone who is or plans to be involved with Jesus and his ministry here and now.

The opening story is  worth the price of the book and then some!  

Deacons could read and discuss this together over a period of a year, and a small group in the church could read and discuss together.  I think that deacons could share this book with the pastor, and study it together for spiritual growth, deaconal concepts and insights, a sermon series, and then have a retreat to pray and dialog and develop a deaconal vision for the church that flows out of the book.  

It's rich stuff.  You won't agree with everything, but you'll learn an immense amount of powerful practical stuff about how to be helpful in a Christ-like way.  If you've read it already, please find someone who hasn't read it yet and keep it movin'!

posted in: As Easy As A.B.C.D.

Thanks for the discussion topic, Melissa.  I attend a local CRC here in Grand Rapids, Michigan where a large part of our congregation is made up of the poor - meaning they don't have as much money as many people in our society.  I say it that way because they are in fact not poor in many other ways - they are rich in love towards each other and God; they are rich in compassion towards each other; and they are rich in knowledge about how to live poor in our world.  In fact, in the 5 years since I've attended this church I've also learned (much to my surprise) that the poor aren't dying to be like me (middle class) - they are often perfectly happy to live within a framework of poverty because that largely what they know and were raised in.  They've learned and been taught the lessons of how to live on less for long periods of time, and now it's their lifestyle.

Sure, a little handout might help from time to time, but that brings me to your question - how do we as Christians take care of the poor around the holidays or at any time of the year?  I've learned a lot from attending this church for the past 5 years, not the least of which is that the poor don't really want your money - they want you.  That's right - you, and the relationship they can have with you.  Just like I wouldn't show love to my middle class neighbors by giving them money or food and then walking away, the poor see your love through relationships.  I guess we're all the same that way in the end.  The messiness of relationship is the best way to take care of the poor, just like it's the best way to take care of and show love to everyone else.

So, what's a practical way of doing this for your church?  Our congregation has partnered with a few suburban CRC congregations in Grand Rapids to accomplish what I think you're looking for in your post.  One of our main goals is to bring the congregations into relationship with each other - learning from each other how best to serve and love each other - thereby showing the love of Christ to the world.  Yeah, it's messy and difficult and more than a little uncomfortable at times.  But it's starting to work.  And yes, they give us some money, but that's not the main goal.

If you can find a suitable urban congregation in your area (CRC or not), maybe that's a good starting point. 

Blessings! 

posted in: What's Needed?

"Churches work with hospitals to improve congregants’ health and reduce spending  

By Michelle Andrews, Published: October 3   Washinton Post   

Two mainstays of the Memphis community — the Methodist Le Bonheur hospital system and nearly 400 local churches — have teamed up for an innovative program that keeps church members healthy while reducing health-care costs. If not actually made in heaven, it’s a match that has significantly benefited all parties. Other health-care systems are taking note.     

Methodist says 70 percent of its patients belong to churches. To help people get the care they need when they need it, the system assigns hospital staff, appropriately called “navigators,’’ to work with volunteer liaisons at area churches that have joined the health system’s Congregational Health Network. When a member of one of these congregations is admitted to the hospital, the navigator notifies the liaison. The liaison then plans a visit, if the member wishes, “so they have a support structure, not just the nurse and doctor,” says Valerie Murphy, the liaison for her small church of six families in Millington, a rural area north of Memphis. inShare

When it comes time to discharge the patient, the liaison works with the navigator to make sure that the transition happens smoothly, connecting the patient with community services such as meals-on-wheels and transportation.

 

“It’s the social connections, the nitty-gritty practical stuff that makes a huge difference,” says Gary Gunderson, senior vice president for the health system. “Whether people understand how to take their medications, whether there’s food in the house.”

The health system compared the experiences and costs of 473 patients in the program with those of similar non-participating patients who received standard care from 2007 to 2009: The mortality rate for those in the network was 50 percent lower than for non-participating patients; their hospital readmission rates were 20 percent lower....... " ...

posted in: Deacon Vision

The denomination has already done some of this work for deacons. See the "Nondenominational Agencies Evaluated for Support 2012" in the booklet at http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/Ministry%20Shares%202011%20booklet.pdf.

I usually think of "causes" as anything that we can give support to... so, yes, I would consider people as causes for the purpose of understanding the charge to deacons- though I too don't like the word choice - perhaps we can blame it on outdated language!

Or do you think the word "causes" means "people"?  I'd hate to think someone would call me a "cause".  hmm...

thanks, Melissa.  I want to clarify:  does the word "causes" refer to ministries or agencies? 

Wow, what a great question!  I love that you're engaging with the charge to deacons and have a desire to faithfully live into that calling! 

A good starting place may be found in a resource created by Diaconal Ministries of Canada, it's called  Guidelines for Benevolence.  It's a helpful tool to work through as a deacon team, to get a sense about who you feel called to serve, what your community may need, and how you as a team are equipped to serve.  Having a good idea about who/what God is calling your team to, is part of the discernment process, and may provide you with a starting point as you "weigh the needs".

I'd love to hear thoughts from other deacons on how their deacon boards/teams handle this!

Rather than doing a gift survey, you may want to check out the online tool https://www.thecommon.org. "We provide an easier way to volunteer , give , serve , help and get help in your community. By changing how you share needs and abilities, your community can increase connections, simplify communication, and effectively decrease the distance between a person with a need and the person who can help."

Most churches conduct a financial review each year.  If you think the financial processes and systems are well tuned, a review should be adequate.  Guidelines for a review are available at crcna.org, search for finance and administration, then find the section "Audit" under "Financial Management". 

If your church believes you need a financial audit, the least expensive way to start is by contacting a CPA that attends your church and connecting with them for completing an independent audit or a referral to a local CPA who could complete the audit.

Thank you!

Scott,

Although I don't consider myself a Greek Geek as Professor Weima would say I do know enough Greek to give you at least part of an answer.  The word that you are referring to is γυνή.  It means woman or wife.  Deaconess is a stretch and I'm not sure why the translators chose that word other than, like you said, the word fits with the rest of the section.

My church did this on Sunday and it was GREAT! Over 150 people of all ages participated.

After the morning service we all walked over to the nearby park for a picnic, and then divided up into groups:
- praying (a prayerwalk around the neighborhood)
- visiting (at a facility for seniors)
- painting and yard cleanup (at our church's new community house)
- creating (duct tape wallets (!) and coloring lunch bags for a local shelter)
- picking up trash (in the neighborhood school playground)

The week before, our pastor gave 'permission' for everyone to show up to church in clothes suitable for painting/cleaning/etc. The worship service was very meaningful and challenging, with a message that tied right into the afternoon of service. 

Thanks to ServiceLink for initiating this. Our church found it so great that we're wondering about doing it again next year.

 

You can also check out Faith Alive's third edition of Discover Your Gifts and Learn How to Use Them.   http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/216580/discover-your-gifts-student-book.aspx  The study guide includes the gifts assessment, and there is a code in the back of the book to do the test online.

Our church has also used this online assessement for potential office bearers:  http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.1355371/k.9501/Spiritual_Gifts.htm

Grace,

Excellent suggestion, though that is not typically a spiritual gifts inventory. That is closer to what is called a talent/tithe, tithing your talents. If you or Milissa or anyone else wants a copy and how to use it just let me know as I had a hand in developing one that is used around north Amercia. I will email you a copy that you can modify and use in your own congregation.

Mike

Morning Milissa;

I was at the dissability Conference in Kitchener, at one of the sessions. And a person talked about a gift survey their church did where they asked the people of their congregation what they enjoyed to do. EX: Cut the grass, sew, paint, clean house, dishes, make food, babysit , do plumbing, repairs, driving, meet new people, teaching etc. And when a need arose they had some one on their list already they could call without asking needing to ask everyone all the time. This way too you can ask different people to help, rather then the same ones who could get burnt out easily. I find someone is more willing to help out if they like what they are doing.I also find if you ask people individually rather than as an anouncement, it works better. So that is what I'm looking for. Thanks Grace

Hi Grace. I haven't actually seen a gift survey, or been part of one, but I'm curious what information you'd be trying to get, and how you'd plan on using the results.

Grace, 

Terry's suggestion of "When Helping Hurts" is a great one.  I would also invite you to peruse the Diaconal Ministries of Canada website: http://www.diaconalministries.com/.  They have a whole section of information and resources on equipping deacons.  

There is also a resource section here on The Network.  You can check it out: http://network.crcna.org/content/deacons/all-resources?quicktabs_7=2#quicktabs-7

I'm a big fan of learning while doing, so I would suggest to start implementing what you're reading and learning by going on visits (either with another deacon, your pastor or an elder), or exploring your church's neighbourhood more to find out what the needs in your area are (if you don't already know!).

You definitely don't need to wait a year - you seem to be really excited and passionate, and I'd say, jump in with both feet!  (And when you have questions - don't be afraid to ask!)

Grace, a good next step is to get the book "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself" http://www.chalmers.org/when-helping-hurts/book.php and work through the "When Helping Hurts"
Ministry Training Webinars http://www.chalmers.org/when-helping-hurts/webinar/schedule.php or Self/Group-study Guide http://www.chalmers.org/when-helping-hurts/self-study.php with your fellow deacons.

I would love some kind of traing as I'm a new Deacon. I was told the first year is just to observe and you'll learn what you need to know, but I want more. I've already read the book " The Deacon's handbook" . What else can I do to learn? Thanks Grace. p.s I've registered for 'The day of Encouragement' too.

If you encourage giving through a smart phone during the service then people still feel like they are participating in worship. The act  of participation is still in effect if you encourage giving for those that are not likely to remember to put money in the offering plate.  If you set up an account with PayPal and connect it to your  back account, debit card or PayPal account then any smart phone will act as a wallet during the service.  If the minister then takes out his/her own smart phone during the offering and shows the congregation that it only takes a few seconds to make a donation than people will respond quickly.  Options are not an option anymore.  Our church has a lot of people under 40 and most of them have a smart phone.  In 5 years I predict that you will see a dramatic increase in electronic giving during the service. Making an actual donation is better than putting a card in the plate from a previous donation.  A cheque or an electronic donation from the pew is better than a card that only signifies a donation. 

Grace,

The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has on on their website in their archives. you might try that or the CRC use to have a great survey package so you may want to check with Faith Alive.

 

Here is the ELCA site.

http://archive.elca.org/evangelizingchurch/assessments/spiritgifts.html 

 

What a great and helpful response. Thanks for your attention.

Fred, thank you for alerting me to the PAR oversight. I have corrected it to prevent future confusion (or irritation)!

Thank you for the devotional suggestion, Terry.  I will definitely look into it.

 

As for the suggested calendar, my thought was that the curriculum being created could be completed in one year, or potentially three years (given that most diaconal terms are of this length), and that the curriculum developers would provide a schedule upon which the curriculum should be completed.  For example, the description of the role of the deacon (a potential first training) should be completed within the first month, or the first quarter of the year.  Having this sort of schedule would help the chair of the deacons keep his or her diaconate on track when it comes to training, knowing what they should cover and on what timeframe.  I hope that this provides some texture around my thinking, but please feel free to ask again if not.

A good subject for discussion. I think regular giving is necessary, and likely helps stimulate more generous support than just when someone is moved to do so. But it should not replace regular offerings for thankfulness, special needs, etc.

As an aside, please don't use acronyms like PAR, without their meaning in brackets at first use. I had never heard of this acronym or the full term before, and it irritated me as I read this useful article.

Adam, your response provides very helpful input to the Office of Deacon Task Force. But I'm not sure that I understand your comments regarding a "suggested calendar." Would you please clarify?

A devotional resource appropriate for deacons already exists. Amy Sherman has written "Sharing God's Heart for the Poor" and can be ordered at http://www.cepbookstore.com/p-6188-sharing-gods-heart-for-the-po.aspx. "This inspiring and convicting to action devotional booklet gives 17 short reflections on God's compassion for the poor and His desire to see His body actively love and serve the needy."

You have posed an excellent question, Melissa, and I appreciate deeply that it is being addressed here, as it is something that we are currently working through in our diaconate.  From our perspective, the answer would be a resounding yes to a defined training curriculum.

As a bit of background on the training program for our diaconate, while we had a more shoulder to shoulder approach to training in past year, we found that information could not be adequately passed down from year to year, especially to new deacons, without something in writing.  We began using the Deacon’s Handbook from Faith Alive last year and found it helpful.  This year, we decided to create a somewhat slimmed down version that spoke more directly to what a deacon’s role is in our congregation specifically.  This has served as a good resource to this point, but we certainly view it only as a first edition, and hope that it will change to meet the needs of our current deacons, as well as future deacons.

Though we don’t have a specific training calendar in place, we have sought out training opportunities and taken advantage when they have arisen.  We have participated in conferences (“The Power of With”) and deacon roundtables in an effort to broaden our knowledge on the topics relevant to our congregation and community.  This weekend, we (along with Christian Service Ministries) are sponsoring a training session on the topic of benevolent ministry, as we noticed that this was a particular opportunity for growth in our diaconate.  This training has allowed us to include deacons from neighboring congregations and classes, as well as with our ecumenical partners.

Even though we have used some of the existing tools for training and developed some of our own, to have a set training curriculum for deacons, complete with interactive and/or multimedia tools would be invaluable.  As part of this curriculum, I would hope that there would be a suggested calendar, so that training could take place on a set schedule.  Additionally, while this may be somewhat outside the scope of a training curriculum, it would be beneficial to have devotionals that could be used during each deacons meeting.  By beginning our meetings with a reminder about the call of the deacons or through words of encouragement, we would draw our focus to the special role that the Lord is allowing us to fill, and how we might be servants to those around us.

One of the most talked about issues recently has been the increasing national debt, and a popular feeling regarding how to fix it is to start taxing the wealthy at an increased rate. There aren't enough rich individuals to go around for taxing them to do a whole lot. Source for this article: Taxing the rich to pay off national debt probably would not work. I also heard that Republicans have lost ground in public trust to deal with both issues, economy and deficit, now trailing Obama by 12- and 9-point margins, respectively.

Thanks for the link Lisa.  This sounds like a great opportunity for churches to participate.

This is a really great topic, one that I definitely struggle with.  I think we so often feel like if we're busy doing "God's work" then there couldn't possibly be conflict at home (how can it be bad if it's for a good, Godly cause?)  Finding balance is SO hard... especially when there are SO many needs, committees, and ministries that are short-handed.  I've had to learn to say no to some really great things, I don't flatter myself by thinking I'm the ONLY solution but yet it's hard for me to pass up a plea for help when "I guess there's no reason I couldn't do it" and I want to help.  It's a constant struggle but I'm pretty sure God doesn't want burnt out servants spreading themselves so thin so that the work isn't effective.  I know that in my church, it seems like a dedicated few do the bulk of the work, how can we encourage "new blood" to get involved, refresh our ministries, and lighten the load so that people's gifts can be used more effectively? 

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