Deacons are in a key leadership position to raise the productive questions. They deal with resources - all the time! And everyone always wants to know if there's enough, and how they're being used. But those aren't the first things that need to be discussed!
Deacons are the ones most often looking at resources – what kind? How shall we allocate? Are there enough? Of course these questions assume the bigger question – resources for what?
It’s always good to keep the end in mind – is it clear? Is it exciting? Is it helping us pull together? Does it reflect our God-given gifts and our God-given opportunities? The deacons can help a lot with making sure these questions are answered well. They have to. There’s no way to manage resources in a stewardly fashion unless these questions are answered well.
So what should deacons be talking about in their meetings? Here’s a list of some key topics that will help deacons give leadership in making sure the congregation stays fresh.
What are the “big questions” before us this year? Are we clear as a church on what are the right questions we need to ask? Sometimes a leisurely retreat setting can help discover the right question, the one the really energizes and focuses the church. Sometimes it’s valuable to get some outside perspective to help reframe the question. Posing the right question can be a tremendously useful tool for enthusiastic and effective ministry – the strategically right thing to do NOW.
A second topic for deacons is how to sort through and identify the resources that this church needs now to address this particular challenge. The resources are endless; the people marketing the most recent answer to all your questions are pushing stuff at you as fast as they can. Kits to help you revolutionize stewardship in your congregation in the next 40 days are everywhere. So how will you find the time and the expertise to find the right tool for your church at this time? Here’s where a consultant can really help. You might discover other churches who’ve been in similar situations. A good consultant can help you take a broader view, hear new stories, and sort through options. Should you engage one?
Here’s a third topic: What energy and answers already exist within your congregation? Some good discussion about this should take place every six months or so. What strengths mark your church? What has gone well in recent years and is still vibrant? Who is showing signs of leadership potential? What might you build if you build on your present strengths and momentum? Where is there an exciting match between your growing strengths and an emerging opportunity?
A fourth fruitful area is this one: consider your pastor’s strength areas, and the passions and successes of the congregation, and the points in your congregational life where there is energy and joy. When you plot where these intersect, what kinds of ideas begin to emerge?
Fifth, take a learning stance. What have you learned together? What is God teaching you? Don’t let yourself get problem focused. Instead keep asking what is God teaching us. What do we know now that we didn’t know before? How would God have us use our experiences to do better for him?
After you’ve had one of these exploratory conversations, take some time together to be quiet, reflect, listen listen listen to what the Spirit is saying. Then share your thoughts, reflections, talk about where you felt nudged by the Spirit. Don’t try to persuade anyone of anything at first, just express your thoughts and be open to the leading of the Spirit. He’s rarely in a hurry. Remember, what’s happening in your church is that people are being shaped to be more like Jesus; together you are learning how to follow him and give witness to the Kingdom he is bringing. That’s a rich and complex process. Taste it together, savor it, trust the Spirit’s work among you.