I hate dust. Yes, hate. I know, I know. Hate is a strong word. But hear me out. As the primary person who cleans our home, dusting is one job that is never done. It’s everywhere – all the time. You can’t get away from it! Everywhere I turn, I see DUST. I see it in the towels and clothes that I take out of the dryer; I see it in the furniture when I plop down on the couch; I see it in the sheets when I make the bed each morning; I see it clinging to the blinds in my room; I even see it in the toilet paper when I grab a few pieces off the roll to you-know-what!!! SHEESH! And it’s not just inside my home – it’s in my car too!!!!
How on earth can you ever get rid of dust?! Whether you wipe or vacuum it up, it always comes back – almost immediately.
Perhaps that is how some of you feel about your work as a deacon.
With the arrival of summer, you may have been thinking, ‘Hey! Finally, a season where we’ll have time to relax a bit, go on a long-awaited holiday like so many others, perhaps catch up on some backlogged diaconal work or read that book I’ve been meaning to read. It’s so great to have a couple months to set aside my regular routine and do things at my own pace! Aren’t we blessed to have a season each year where we can enjoy NOT having every single minute of our day or week already planned?! Less meetings, less decisions, less visits, less planning… less work!’
For some church ministries, the above is quite true. The summer months allow them a time to scale back a bit and give their volunteers the much-needed rest they deserve.
But, is this true for diaconates? When it comes to “leading and equipping the church to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities,” can we ever really ‘take a break’?? As Nelson Mandela famously said: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” How can you argue with THAT?!
As I was fussing and fretting about dust the other day, I realized that dust is a lot like sin: it’s always there and we’re never really ‘done dealing with it’. Since deacons deal with effects of sin on a daily basis – brokenness, pain, suffering, poverty, injustice, loneliness, just to name a few – their work is never really done! Sin, which comes in its many forms, doesn’t take a vacation, so how can Deacons?!
And yet, when we read the Bible, we see that when God created the universe and everything in it, He established a pattern of work and rest. In Genesis 2:2-3, the Sabbath is the very climax of the Creation Week. Special attention was drawn to this day as God rested from His labour; something we know He didn’t need to do (see Isaiah 40:28 or Psalm 121:4) but did for our benefit. He created MAN to rest and follow the rhythm of nature; He gave us daytime to work and nighttime to rest.
Now, one of the first misconceptions about rest is to think that it’s needed in order for us to work better and more productively. Yet we see that God had already created an entire universe and everything in it so HE certainly didn’t need rest in order to become more productive afterwards. (Like, c’mon - how do you top that?!) So clearly this isn’t what God was really showing us when He rested.
In a recent interview with Ada Kloet, a deacon at Clearview CRC in Oakville, ON, she made a profound statement that struck me deeply and I hope it strikes you too:
“Deacons should first carry each other’s burdens, pray, and worship together – and THEN work together.” [emphasis mine]
Hmmmm, read that again and think it over a bit. In the little time I’ve been part of DMC, I almost immediately saw one thing, over and over and over again: Deacons are DOERS. You guys and gals out there are like a bunch of busy worker bees. You rarely sit still! You are barely done one project or campaign and you’re already starting another one! What’s more, when talking to new deacons, the #1 question our DMC staff and DMD’s hear is “What are the top 10 things I need to do as a Deacon?” Deacons want to know what their responsibility is and then get to it. It’s quite impressive.
And yet, does your diaconate take time to rest and be rejuvenated?
“Deacons should first carry each other’s burdens, pray, and worship together – and THEN work together.”
Now to a doer, this may sound completely counterproductive. How can NOT working help you get your work done?
What Does it Mean to Rest?
So what does REST look like? And before you say ‘taking a power nap’, may we offer our humble opinion.
Go back to Genesis 2. Remember what we said above? We were BUILT to include rest in our daily and weekly rhythms. God created us and He knows what we need. And on top of that, we are here for HIM and HIS good purposes. Our personal rest practices, whatever they are, “pull an individual into a deeper experience of God’s faithfulness. God gives the weekly sabbath to remind the Israelites of his never-ending faithful provision, and Jesus heals on the sabbath to prove his ultimate dominion over all problems. Any particular approach, whether it be attending a church service, reading a devotional, or eating with friends, is not a fool-proof solution. Rather, all practices afford people greater opportunities to commune with God, in whom humanity finds the deepest and most satisfying rest.” (“Balancing Rhythms of Rest and Work: Overview”; Article / Produced by TOW Project)
So perhaps rest is taking time to commune with God… listen to Him… to read and reflect on His Word (scripture)… to spend time in nature, all in order to get to know Him more personally and intimately.
So What’s a Deacon to Do?
Finding rest and rejuvenation for Deacons is essential in order to do the work you are called to do. As Mark D. Roberts points out in his article, Won’t Keeping the Sabbath Make me Less Productive?, “what a well-rested person produces seems, in fact, to exceed in quality if not quantity what a harried, tired, over-worked person produces.” You will likely experience your diaconate becoming MORE productive as a result of incorporating times for rest and renewal.
So what can this look like? As well as spending time with God, perhaps it can also be as simple as breaking out of your regular routine. This can be done by taking time to learn more about the things you are involved in: community outreach, the 4 T’s of stewardship, justice and mercy, leadership in the church, spiritual gifts, and more. It can also be by setting time aside to get to know one another in your diaconate, in order to see each other as human beings, not just human doings: eat a meal together, play paintball, go to a baseball game…
Also finding the WHEN is crucial for each diaconate and what works for your church may not work for all churches. Will you incorporate this right into your monthly meetings? Will you dedicate a day or weekend for this? Will you take the whole summer?
Because of God’s faithfulness and what He did for us through His Son, Jesus, Deacons (as well as the rest of us!) can fully embrace our times of work AND our times of rest! God, in all His goodness, promises us this: “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25, NLT)
Because of God’s faithfulness and what He did for us through His Son, Jesus, Deacons can fully embrace our times of work AND our times of rest!
And as for me, well, if the dust is still going to be there tomorrow, then I think I’ll give myself permission to put down the dust rag and go watch a movie with my kiddos while we stuff our faces with pizza! The dust will still be there tomorrow, but this opportunity to spend time with them may pass me by :)
So there it is; I rest my case! ;)
Erin Knight, Communications Coordinator at DMC
What About You?
- Does it ever feel like your work is never done? How does your diaconate deal with your ongoing workload?
- How do you personally take time to rest and be refreshed?
- Does your diaconate behave differently in the summer months, or at different times of the year? Is rest and rejuvenation and learning built into its monthly or yearly rhythm? Why or why not?
- What is one thing your diaconate could do this month to ‘take a break from the norm’ and find rejuvenation? What benefits do you anticipate by trying this? What drawbacks?
*This article first appeared on Diaconal Ministries Canada's own e-Quip Diaconal Blog.