Deacons must empower needy non-members to make good use of all available community resources and institutions of mercy. I’ve heard many people say: “I thought the church was supposed to help people”— meaning “You have to give me what I want.” What we must do is avoid developing a relationship of dependency with those coming for help. One principle to follow I’ve mentioned before: “Don’t work harder than the people coming for help.” Let’s help as we are able— according to carefully prepared guidelines— but we should also have a convenient one or two page list of community resources to refer people to for help. This is what we have done, after gleaning from those resource lists others recommend and adding to it those we know and trust. With this list, if we can’t help someone, we can honestly state, “We are not able to do that, but here is another church or agency that can.” Allow the person to use a phone and provide a name and phone number.
Try, also, to cooperate with neighboring Bible-believing churches. Don’t duplicate a ministry if a nearby church already provides the service. Obtain information on what resources and ministries are available within your local community and beyond. Then partner with them for mutual care of the people in your neighborhood. Cooperation and communication will also prevent a major portion of scams from taking place.
Diaconal ministry stands at the heart of the gospel and its mission to the world. Diakonia is a total surrender of life for the benefit of others. The role of the deacon in mercy ministry is to model Christ while discipling and apprenticing others. A simple statement of the deacon’s role is (1) to be an evangelical witness of word and deed in both worship and service and (2) to encourage and motivate others to use their gifts for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
How would you describe your ministry? Are you doing harm by creating a dependency, or are you empowering and helping your neighbor?