Our first deacons meeting began with enthusiasm. Almost half of us were new—and nervous. The long list of our exciting diaconal ministries were written on the blackboard. Included in the list were several community ministries plus international ministries like World Renew. There were congregational support ministries and administrative tasks like the collection schedule and book-keeping. Very quickly, various deacons’ names were assigned until all ministries were covered. As we discussed the upcoming fall retreat, we decided we needed a vision to unite and inspire us in this holy work.
The Saturday morning retreat in the Youth Room began with peace-giving prayer centered on scripture. The morning flew by as we participated in various physical, mental and spiritual exercises—all sprinkled with laughter and imagination. At the end we had the beginnings of what soon became our core values, the holy characteristics that nurture God’s best fruitfulness in us.
We felt good about this list, but realized that the work of discerning our vision had only just begun.
Vision and Three Areas of Ministry
At the following meetings we reflected on what we had learned and discussed on how to move ahead. Two major things emerged:
First, we felt drawn to a visionary phrase that serendipitously appeared in our conversation: “Growing the Diaconal Heart of New Life.” We discovered that this aligned closely with the role of deacons as re-defined by Synod in 2016: Deacons are not only servants on behalf of the congregation, but they are catalysts, calling and equipping the congregation to lives of diaconal service.
Second, we saw that our diaconal ministry constituted three distinct (but overlapping) branches:
- Global Mission (anything outside of our city but including refugee work)
- Benevolence and Relief
- Community Engagement
The Work of Developing the Mandate
We developed three work teams to define the three branches. Each team presented their progress reports defining:
- A clear one-page scope: a concise description of the ministries that this branch includes.
- A list of Development Goals (or dreams)
Finally we had a complete document, 2 pages per branch.
Working It Out
We are presently working out the details.
We have assigned deacons to the three branch teams, each with a leader. We expect that each branch will have their “stand-up meetings” as often as needed. In addition, we are developing a reporting format for the monthly (or less often) deacons meetings.
Our vision, Growing the Diaconal Heart of New Life, is written into the development goals. We dream and plan for a congregation that is not only aware of the many exciting opportunities to serve, but is also trained, equipped and encouraged to engage diaconal service as a lifestyle.
And thus, our development goals include ways of engaging the congregation in service. For example, two training events are planned for the coming season: “Bridges out of Poverty” and “Helping without Harming.” Ways of communicating what is happening, celebrating progress, and inviting the congregation are already being implemented.
In summary, we have begun a new chapter as deacons that reflects the spirit of the Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons (2016) that will hopefully inspire fruitful engagement of service in the whole congregation. We have some re-learning to do and several details to work out, but we are feeling confident about the next season of ministry.