Maybe a reason for the difficulty in finding excited recruits for the position of deacon is that it feels like stepping into fog. What's been happening, and what are the core duties, and how will I fit in - these questions need answers if new folks are going to feel comfortable and be contributors. And that's not all.
Transitions are going on all around us, and they can be unsettling. Council membership undergoes transition every year, and typically a significant portion of the membership of elders and deacons retires and is replaced. How much continuity, how much effectiveness, how much leadership, is compromised by this?
Everybody knows that turnover can reduce effectiveness. (OK, sometimes it can increase effectiveness.) We can and should reduce the negative effects of transition, and we can and should boost the effectiveness of the newcomers, and shorten the time it takes them to get on board.
How are new deacons selected? Is there a clear idea of what skills are needed, and who has those skills in the congregation? What's the working combination of experience, skills, and knowledge among the deacons? Take a look at mid-year. Do some prayerful assessment. Which strengths need to be bolstered? How does this help us to begin the task of recruiting - not at the last minute, but in prayerful, unhurried steps.
Recognizing gifts, and plugging them in to the right spot at the right time - this is an important feature of a healthy congregation. The council plays a key role. Letting the turnover process become hurried and haphazard is a recipe for a needlessly clunky transition.
And then there's the question of how to make new deacons as effective as possible as soon as possible. What information do they need to get engaged quickly? What decisions, policies, issues should they be briefed on BEFORE they attend their first meeting? How many "unwritten rules" will they stumble over before they learn to read between the lines? Do the deacons have an orientation book and procedure? Letting people fumble and stumble their way into the role is a signal that the role does not need to be taken seriously. It reduces the value of the new members' contributions, and it doesn't convey caring, respect, or valuing of the contributions of the newcomers.
What does your council do to make transitions healthy and as pleasant as possible? It's not too early to have this conversation!
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