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By Lori Wiersma and Connie Kuiper VanDyke

It is almost impossible to ignore the emphasis on physical health in our culture. Advice abounds about diet and exercise, weight loss, aging gracefully, and so on. While your physical well-being is certainly important, we challenge you to place equal emphasis on your spiritual health. Your role as deacon demands it!

To help you recharge your spiritual batteries regularly, we’ll look at the importance of prayer and Bible study as you strive to be accountable, manage your time, set boundaries, seek wisdom, and deal with feelings of inadequacy. Staying in shape spiritually prevents burnout!

Devoted to Prayer
The disciples recognized the need for prayer when they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). “Do not be anxious about anything,” says Paul, “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).

As we noted in chapter 5, exercising your office of deacon with prayer is part of your calling. Make a list of people for whom you are responsible. Add details about their lives as you observe and interact with them, and then pray through the list at regular intervals. (Be sure to include you and your family in this process.) This discipline will help you to focus and to fight against procrastination.

In the midst of your busy life, prayer calms, refreshes, replenishes, and strengthens. Making time for prayer will help you face your ministry with a new sense of wholeness and enthusiasm.

Firmly Grounded in the Word
Once you are installed as a deacon, you may find the demands on your time overwhelming. It is tempting to substitute going to council meetings or making benevolence calls for spending time in God’s Word. If you find yourself falling into this trap, stop and consider what an important time this is for you to guard your spiritual health.

“All Scripture is God-breathed,” says Paul, “and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). Think of the Bible as your GPS navigation system!

Remember that the Bible is the source from which you draw understanding and strength in order to minister to the people entrusted to your care. As you perform your tasks in the church, make mental notes of the needs, challenges, problems, and struggles you observe, and then try to determine how the Bible addresses these issues.

Spending time in the Word should be a regular part of your daily routine. Ending your reading with a few moments of silence, during which you ponder and pray over the verses you have just read, will help you face the day in God’s company and discern God’s will.

Being part of a Bible study group may also benefit you greatly. By joining an existing group or using your gift of leadership to start one, you’ll find another opportunity to interact with your church family and community. The more you know God’s Word, the better prepared you will be to serve.

Helpful Scripture Passages
for Diaconal Work
Exodus 22:21-22
Leviticus 19:9-10
Deuteronomy 16:9-12; 42:17-22
Psalm 41:1; 112:4-5, 9; 146:7-9
Proverbs 14:20-21; 28:27
Isaiah 3:13-15; 58:5-7
Jeremiah 7:5-6
Ezekiel 22:7, 29
Amos 2:6-7; 8:4-7
Micah 2:2; 6:8
Zechariah 7:9-10
Matthew 10:34-42; 18:32-34; 19:16-30; 25:31-46
Luke 1:51-53; 3:8-14; 4:18; 6:32-36;12:3-34; 18:22-30
John 14:12-14
Acts 4:32-34
Romans 15:26-28
2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 8:9
Galatians 2:10
Philippians 2:1-13
Colossians 3:12-17
1 Timothy 3:8-13; 6:17-19
Hebrews 13:2, 13-16
James 1:27; 2:14-17, 22-27; 4:17;5:11
1 John 3:16-18

Being Accountable
Performance evaluations are commonly expected in the workplace. Recognizing the importance of such accountability in the church as well, the Church Order suggests that “the council, at least four times per year, shall exercise mutual censure, which concerns the performance of the official duties of the officebearers.” It is to be “a time for fruitful discussion about the work of the Lord, the program of the congregation, ways and means to encourage the members of the congregation in their ministries, and the development of dynamic spiritual leadership by the officebearers” (Church Order, Art. 36b).

You can expect to grow much in your role as deacon from these formal discussions with fellow officebearers. In addition, you can benefit from working individually with an accountability partner who can help you see objectively where you are being effective and what is hindering your ministry. For this process to be effective, you’ll want to

  • select such a partner carefully.
  • choose someone of the same gender whose Christian walk you respect.
  • meet regularly for a set period of time.
  • talk honestly about how your home life, your work, and your ministry are going.
  • listen without being defensive.
  • pray together.

Managing Your Time
It’s easy to be intimidated by all the demands on your time. But time management can be learned, and it’s possible to make it a way of life. Tamminga shares the following example:

An elder with whom I once served stopped by my study to tell me that he had not visited the people in his district that season. He explained that he had just been too busy. It seemed to weigh heavily on him. Then I asked him whether he did any planning and scheduling in his life. “Not really,” he said. So I made a proposal: “Would you be able to devote one evening every two weeks to visiting?” He thought for a moment and nodded. “Now suppose that of the twelve months of the year you would designate eight months for visiting,” I said. “Fair enough,” he replied. I added, “That would give you sixteen evenings during that eight-month season. Suppose you would schedule two visits per evening. That would enable you to make thirty-two visits.” “Amazing,” he said. “That’s more than the twenty-five addresses in my district.”

—The Elder’s Handbook, p. 32.

Some people seem born to be time managers and organizers. If you’re not one of them, here are some tips to organize your work as deacon:

  • Make a list of all the tasks you will need to do.
  • Pencil in the meetings you will be required to attend.
  • Set aside certain times for visiting and other regularly scheduled tasks.
  • Figure out when remaining tasks best fit.
  • Make appointments well ahead of time.
  • Allow for unexpected events.
  • Keep track of tasks performed and visits made.

If you’re married, discuss your schedule with your spouse, perhaps on a weekly basis. Setting priorities and keeping home life in balance will help you and your family to grow together during this time of service. Enlisting the help of your family and others in your church family is another way to manage your time. As we’ve noted before, it’s good leadership. It’s also good stewardship! 

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