Financial stability is just one kind of stability! We've been worrying about economic instability in many forms these past couple years, and in our congregational life it's been true as well.
But membership stability is on our minds as well. Too many congregations are facing a slow steady erosion of members. We live our lives together with plenty of rumblings of trouble in the background. And now unsettling transitions in denominational leadership seem to reenforce our concerns and underscore our questions.
Congregational leadership, including and maybe even especially deacons, are faced with a big challenge: How to lead well in uncertain times. Pastors are more visible, and maybe face questions more directly from concerned parishioners, and elders doing family visits might hear more expressions of stress and anxiety. The deacons with one eye on the weekly offerings might see a different but no less significant indicator of troubled waters.
The deacons need to be wise, patient, gracious, creative, steady, calm! All leaders do, of course, and so do all parents, all teaching staff, all role models of any kind!! But....
Sometimes the place where the rubber meets the road with the loudest screech is in the most practical aspects of the congregation's life - paying bills, balancing budgets, handling short falls, responding to emergency requests. And it can be lonely on the front lines.
People do get crankier when they are stressed! People are more inclined to assume bad things if they don't have as much information as they think they need. People do tend to stoke each other's concerns rather than calming each other. Fears can be exaggerated, and clear thinking declines.
Deacons, you are at a place in the congregation's life where there is an urgent need for prayerful, steady, faithful, obedient leadership. You can help set the climate and the culture for trusting faithfulness. How will you frame the challenges? Will the deaconate help to reassure and comfort a disquieted denomination? I want to encourage and challenge the deacons - be strong and of good courage. Your colleagues and your congregations will be well served by calm, mature, prayerful leaders. Let us pray long and hard for each other, sisters and brothers!