How to do elder/deacon orientation and hand-off?

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In June, our congregation will elect new elders and deacons.  As deacons, we have recently begun talking about ways to effective transition the tasks of retiring deacons to those who remain and those who will be joining, and to orient the new deacons to the office and its responsibilities.  Rather than trying to continue going it alone, we were hoping that some folks out here on the network would have some good ideas on how to do transition and orientation effectively.

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A few years ago the deacons in my church developed a binder/handbook which gets passed to deacons for their term of service; departing deacons pass theirs onto those just coming on board.  It includes lists of tasks for each area of responsibility (treasurer, benevolence, chair, secretary, etc.), as well as guidelines for developing the yearly budget, benevolence policies, and a brief history of the church.  It also includes the various IRS tax identification numbers, benevolence forms, contact information for special offering recipients, the church by-laws, and the yearly calendar of special offerings (denominational causes like CRWRC, local charities, etc.).  This entire document then gets reviewed and updated every year or two to reflect any changes in the church.

The Christian Reformed Church of St. Joseph (Michigan) has their "retiring" elders and deacons stay an extra 3 months to help transition the incoming elders and deacons.  It seems to work for them.  Maybe a thought for you. 

Adam - I love that you are asking this question.  I've heard it said that in a 3-year deacon term - the first year, you will probably feel overwhelmed trying to orient yourself and understand what the role is, the second year you will start to find a groove, and the third year you'll be in the groove, and then, it's over.  

The two points Amy and J made are great ways to help a smooth transition.  We have a binder at our church which gets passed from deacon to deacon.  It's definitely helpful - though it can send some new deacons into a panic!  I love the 3 extra months idea that J's congregation does.

Another thing that can be helpful is to have mentors (previous deacons) for new deacons, people who will answer the early questions, but then also continue to lend support as the term continues.

I think it's important to ensure that new deacons know that they have been called and chosen, ordained for this position - and to remind them that God has given them exactly what they need to serve in this way.  Build their confidence, give room for their voice, allow space for questions, and point them to resources that will help them understand the role. I believe affirming deacons (particularly new ones) in this way will create a strong deacon team.