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Diakonia Remixed: A Biblical Perspective on Diakonia

In a globalized world, those needs “are always close to us,” and we have the call and duty to respond to them in the name of Jesus our Lord. We could say that the biblical teaching leads to a simple but wide ranging fact: Our fundamental vocation is the "Deaconship (diakonia) of all believers." 

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The Inbreaking Kingdom

I wasn't really paying attention to anyone or anything, I was already lost in the thoughts of my upcoming day, when suddenly my ears perked up.  I listened intently because I wasn't sure if I was just imagining it. I wasn't - it was definitely what I thought it was...

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Hey Canadian Churches - Grant Money Available!

If you are a Canadian CRC church seeking to engage your community you may qualify for an Operation Manna grant to help your congregation complete a Community Opportunity Scan, develop a new or grown an existing community ministry! Applications are due by August 15th.

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Diakonia Remixed: Preparing the Church for Larger Ministry

This webinar will examine and discuss the Diakonia Remixed (Office of Deacon Task Force) report to synod, a report that re-visions the diaconal calling and calls for greater participation of deacons in the life of the church, including its major assemblies.

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All I Learned From Church Is How To Do Administration

In the middle of a poorly run meeting a question I didn't want to answer bubbled up: "Have I learned more about how to be a good administrator than I have about how to be a faithful disciple through my congregation?"

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Be an Effective Deacon in Today's Church

This webinar identifies the main roles of the deacon, discuss how deacons can be more effective with benevolence needs, as well as learn how to encourage good stewardship of time, talent and finances in the congregation.

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Lead Like Christ By Knowing Him

There are many ways God is revealed in our lives - however, we must be careful not to confuse God revealed with God himself!  Too often we forget that things like the confessions and creeds were created to point us to a person, Christ, not to replace that person! As leaders we need to continually draw near to God, to know him more, so that we may lead his people as he would.

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Deacon Webinars - April 24th and May 1st!

There are two webinars coming up which you might enjoy - Be An Effective Deacon in Today's Church (April 24th) and Diakonia Remixed: Preparing the Church For Larger Ministry (May 1st) - you can find the details here!

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Upcoming Deacons' Webinars

On April 24, 2013 " Be An Effective Deacon in Today's Church " will be presented by Dave Ellens and Bernita Tuinenga of Volunteers in Service an organization which provides training, coaching and resources for deacons. The webinar will identify the main roles of the deacon, discuss how deacons can be more effective with benevolence needs, as well as learn how to encourage good stewardship of time, talent and finances in the congregation. On May 1, 2013 Terry Woodnorth and Roy Bekenbosch, members of the Office of Deacon Task Force will present " Diakonia Remixed: Preparing the Church for...
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The Stewardship Series: What Kind Of People Do We Want To Become?

Every day we make decisions that draw us near to God or move us away from him. How do we ensure that the choices we may with our finances are ones that honour God and help us to become more like him?

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A Place at the Table

The new documentary film A Pla ce a t the Table is opening in cities across the US in March and April. " A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides — as they have in the past — that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all. " I highly recommend that all deacons see this film. http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table/film http://www.magpictures.com/dates.aspx?id=e016f484-4c9a-4401-8fbc-e19eb2119389 "A Place...
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The Stewardship Series - Where Should I Give?

Today the church is just one of many charitable organizations. With so many specialized charities and dying congregations, is giving to the church really the best option?

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What kind of ministry activities are churches doing in their local communities?

The ServiceLink office is doing some research on how local churches are engaged in ministry to those in their communities. Are members of churches involved with local food banks, homeless ministry programs, refugee involvement etc. Are churches encouraging members to participate in special ministry events? What does that look like?
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The Stewardship Series: I'm In Debt And I Can't Afford To Give

Most of us have debt. Student Loans. Car Loans. Mortgages. Credit cards. Lines of Credit. With all these regular payments our income is quickly depleted.  Giving is not a priority. But should it be?

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The Stewardship Series: How Much Should I Give?

When it comes to financial stewardship many of us would like to have a clear answer to the question: "How much should I give?"

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The Joy of Generosity

It was recently observed that although our weekly worship service attendance had increased steadily over the last few years—thanks be to God!—our weekly giving had not. Why? My mentor reminded me this isn’t necessarily a bad sign, as our church does bring in people with little if any church background. For some of those folks, giving to the church is a new thing, and must be taught. So that’s what I set out to do...

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The Stewardship Series

Financial stewardship is a topic we don't touch on frequently in the church, yet we deal with money daily! This week we're starting our journey into the questions related to tithing, giving and money in general.

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Is it about the % we give away, or the $ we spend?

The interesting discussion in this other thread got me thinking... From God's perspective, I wonder if it's less about how much I give away and more about how much I decide to keep (for my wants and self-perceived 'needs'). If so, then the issue of what does/doesn't count as a tithe becomes secondary. Should we focus on the % we give away, or on the $ we spend on our lifestyles? It seems we tend to focus on the %.
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Diakonia Remixed Report To Synod

The Diakonia Remixed report goes to Synod in a few months - have you read it?  Been talking about it at your council or classis meetings?  It's a good time to start preparing so that when it's time for the discussion!

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Prayers For The People

We're called to devote ourselves to prayer.  This year let's take that call seriously and intentionally pray for our communities knowing that God is moving, his kingdom is coming, and we have a calling to fulfill.

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Christmastime!

It's Christmas Day!  How did your deacon team share the joy and hope of Christ's birth with those in your congregation and community? What did you try to do to make this season reflect more truly the greatest gift we've ever received - Jesus - God become man?

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How Young Is Too Young For Council?

We talk about losing youth in our congregations.  We talk about having less and less people wanting to be part of council.  I wonder - why don't we start talking about youth on council. How young is too young?

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The Poverty Line

We, as deacons, are called to a ministry of mercy.  With the recent economy financial poverty has become more prevalent. The movie "The Line" shares the stories of people living at or below the poverty line in the US, and inspires us to rid ourselves of wrong assumptions and judgements. 

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Musical? Remix "Everybody Get Diakonian!" and WIN $200!

The Diakonia Remixed: Office of the Deacon Task Force commissioned a diaconally-themed song "Everybody Get Diakonian!" and it is now available for you to listen to OR to remix for the chance to WIN $200 and a Deacon's Handbook!  

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Hi Melissa,

I, too, push back against the notion of elders being more important than deacons (or vice versa, though that doesn't usually happen). According to CRC Church Order, "no officebearer shall lord it over another officebearer" (Art. 85). I also think of how deacons were needed in the early church BEFORE elders (Ac 6)!

Rebecca's comment above is apt and something for which to strive – being "intentional about identifying our gifts and then making a connection between giftedness and where we serve" when it comes to lots of things, including deacon nominations.

Thanks for the reflections!
Stan

According to scripture, elders  have more authority than deacons.   But that doesn't make them more important.   Elders also have the job of supervising the work of the preacher.   That also doesn't make them more important.   Children are very important to Jesus.   Women are very important to Jesus.   The sick and the blind and the lame and the fallen woman and the tax collector were all very important to Jesus. The question of authority of an office should not be related to the importance of the role in terms of how Jesus uses us within the context of the body of Christ. 

The role of sunday school teacher may be more important to some children in terms of their coming to faith, than the role of the preacher or elder.   Ten words spoken by an elderly widow to a sick person in the hospital may be more important to that sick person than twenty sermons or ten family visits done previously.   The simple poignant question of a ten year old may have more impact in someone's life than a thousand admonitions by the elders.   Everyone is important to Christ, and it is God at work in our lives, in whatever role or position or opportunity we may be in. 

Thank you for writing this. I've heard or read before about it being a mistake to consider deacons a "stepping stone" to the "more important" role of elder. Clearly, these two offices could be blessed by people with quite different sets of gifts and skills. 

At our church, we are trying to be more intentional about identifying our gifts and then making a connection between giftedness and where we serve. I hope as we grow in this, leadership ministries will be just one of the areas in which we affirm God's gifts in each other and grow in serving in ways where our gifts can be greatly  used.

Thanks Melissa.  I would have to say that my earlier experience as a deacon, and working with deacons, was as you described.  However, I am seeing that this isn't always the case.  I heard a pastor say at a Classis meeting that, "Deacons are at the cutting edge of where the church is going" (in the context that the health and direction of the church depends heavily on the health and direction of the diaconate).  I would have to agree.  The role and opportunity for deacons is a great one!

While I appreciate your attention to perseverance, and the need for it for elders and deacons during their terms , I would suggest that the analogy of the seventh inning would be better used to apply to the life of office bearers when they have finished their terms, and they feel they can relax, have a beer, and sit back and let someone else do the work.  The real game is not that of bearing "office" for a limited term, but the real game is life itself, given by God, of which a term in office is just one part.  The seventh inning probably applies more appropriately to the time when elders become older and think they can retire and relax and let someone else do it.   That is the time when the game can be lost, if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren and for their neighbors.  That is the seventh inning that has probably most impacted the lack of growth in the church, and the lack of spiritual maturity in many of those whom they have potential influcence on and witness to.   My thoughts.   

I am the task team leader for our church "Governance & Ministry Task Team".  We formed this past summer (as directed by our council) and are finishing up our work to review how we do things at our church -- in particular with elders, deacons, council structure, ministry teams, etc.  In addition to reading Dr. DeMoor's "Church Order Commentary" (which was excellent), we also read Hotchkiss' "Governance and Ministry".  This book paved the way for the direction we took.  It is an excellent explanation of a concept -- you still have to do a lot of the work and figuring out how if applies to your specific situation, but the concepts, as explained in this book, are, in my opinion, the best way to approach this problem.  I would highly recommend the "Governance and Ministry" book!

I heard someone say not too long ago: the answer to the question "How much should a Christian give?  2% of gross income? 5% of net income?  10% of net income?  Which would you choose? 

 

His answer was 20% of net income.  20% of net income is equivalent to a 10% tithe.   In most cases, there is nearly a 50% tax rebate for donations to charities, over the first $200.  That means that for spending 20% on charities, it is only costing you 10%, since you would have had to pay the rest to the government anyway in income tax.   Something to think about. 

 

And that doesn't include the blessings received from giving, and the blessings given by God because of the cheerful and prayerful giving.

 

Ah, I need to listen to myself.....

haha... you can always challenge the congregation to double their giving!!  really!  on 1.1.11 we were so challenged at a non crc worship gathering, and after the first gasp for air, like "Really LORD? cash flow already sucks!".  But we had been praying into God's economy and know that giving is a significant key to His economy, and so my husband and I prayed about it, and the LORD gave us a strategic plan of increasing our giving 1% per month, so it wasn't quite such a shock all at once.  Just a week ago, I was making some year end up adjustments for his business and happened to look at our net income for the year, and it was up SIGNIFICANTLY!  and he's in construction, so we know the economy hasn't changed that much.  and that's just one of the blessings we've experienced!!

Along with giving pattern analysis another area to look at is actual Sunday attendance versus the total members number, etc. submited for the yearbook.

If there is a significant discrepancy, perhaps the number submitted for active professing members over 18 which is used for budget purposes is also inaccurate. What percentage of members are no longer attending church that other members are supporting through the budget and ministry shares? 

Is it possible that the members in the pews are meeting their budgetary obligations? Do we need to start thinking outside the box on this issue?

Before challenging the congregation, it might be helpful for the diaconate to do a giving pattern analysis over the last five years to see what the annual giving patterns might be for the church.  These can fluctuate greatly (but regularly over time) from season to season. Often much more than 1 /12th of the budget comes in in December.

Another thought would be to switch to an annual pledge process in which each member is encouraged to pledge their giving for the year.  Such a practice can help "detox" the conversation with those who are not giving, opening up an opportunity for understanding the reasons why they are not giving.

I have found the works of Kennon Callahan to be very helpful as well as the ones that Ron noted above.  "Effective Church Finances" and "Giving and Stewardship in an Effective Church" are two helpful ones.  He makes the note that there are essentially five different motivations for giving....compassion, community, challenge, reasonability and commitment. The important thing is that studies have shown that while "challenge" and "commitment" are usually the main motivators for those in leadership, the motivators that work best in the congregation are "compassion" and "community". It's like Gary Smalley's love languages.  If the leadership tries to speak to the congregation using the "stewardship language" that connects with themselves first, they will run into a motivational disconnect.

In actual fact, the flexibility is already there, since the councils can designate the length of the terms and there is no absolute requirement that all terms be the same length.  There also does not seem to be anything preventing councils from designating indefinate terms, or ten year terms, etc., nor stopping them from making a distinction between serving elders and deacons on council, and those who are not serving on council.  For example, having deacons on ten year terms, but serving on council for only three years... the point is even though there is lots of flexibility, it is hidden in the text and thus reduces the apparent options or considerations.   It would seem more transparent just to highlight how much flexibility the councils really have to work with this as needed.  

I think that the church order does not prohibit the assist council concept, but it implies a special process is required, or that "former" elders merely assist and can not function as elders in the sense that they can be designated with elder authority to carry out certain tasks and delegations and representations.   This implication is mixed and can be overcome by convolutions, but why not just make it plain and simple? 

We definitely need to include something similar to "as determined by council or consistory" or "as designated by the council" (the original wording) and we'll consider the "flexible" suggestion. Article 25c will need to be a separate discussion topic at a later time; we have plans to rewrite that entire section.

The "retain their titles and calling..." suggestion may be beyond the scope of this task force and our competency to address. I think that gets into an area that requires much more study and discussion that we're not prepared to tackle. In my opinion, I don't think that the Church Order currently prohibits the "assist council" concept.

One other possible addition: 

"That elders (and deacons-separate article)  who have finished their specific term on consistory/council will retain their titles and calling unless deposed, and can be called on in specific instances to assist council with elder and deacon related official and unofficial tasks when council determines a need for such assistance." 

Terry, I agree with your comments.  I think I was merely elaborating on the consequences of the changes...  Even while the flexibility of terms is possible under the proposed changes, most people would not likely consider it.   As I mentioned previously, I think the proposed wording is much better than the old.  However, my point is a bit different, and perhaps can be summarized as this:   Why is it necessary to combine the offices of elder and deacon into one sole article in the church order while there are 18 articles relating to pastors/preachers, and while articles for evangelist and other preacher pathways must be separate?    If we can combine this flexibility into one article, why can we not do the same for preachers?   And if we cannot do it for preachers, then what is the implication of not doing this for elders and deacons?  Are these roles somehow less important, less significant, less defined?   I maintain that the roles and qualifications of elder and deacon are more specifically described in scripture than the roles of preacher and pastor.    

Some suggested changes however:   "

“The elders and deacons shall serve for  lengths of terms as determined by council or consistory, which is  appropriate and flexible for both continuity and succession of ministry leadership, accountability for ministry outcomes and the regular infusion and flourishing of gifts as the Spirit endows each generation." 

The article 25b does not need to include the phrase, "with the minister(s)" since the ministers are deemed to be an elder, so it is a redundancy.  The minister does not do this in proxy for the other elders, which is sometimes assumed to be the case, and so this implication should be removed. 

I don't have a problem in a way with this article combining elders and deacons, but it is totally inconsistent with the way 18 articles are put together for ministers, associates, evangelists, and thus does not follow the principle that the offices are equal in honor.   Therefore, unless and until the articles for ministers, evangelists and associates are combined in a much more comprehensive fashion, this article should be divided into two articles:  one for elders and one for deacons. 

Article 25c should have one small change:   The deacons shall be leaders in representing and administering the mercy of Christ......

The reason is that we should all do that, including pastors, and evangelists and prophets and elders, but the deacons have a specific role to lead in it. 

I hope this makes it more clear. 

The new wording under discussion didn't intend to say (or imply) that elder and deacon terms must be the same, fixed (vs. flexible), nor that they must be longer or shorter than current practice. The intent was to empower councils to define the terms of office for elder and deacon as best fits their local situation. What in the wording makes you think they need to be treated the same? What implies that the flexibility you desire is not present?

The reason for splitting these offices into two articles is simply to highlight their significance, and the fact that they might be treated differently.   Something like having different articles for evangelists and preachers/pastors.   Their tasks are different, thus the titles, and since the tasks are different, the terms might also be different, as decided by the local church.   One of the possibilities that churches should consider, is that elder terms and deacons terms could be flexible, so that terms are not always fixed, but might range between three to five years depending on the projects or involvement of particular elders or deacons.   Thus there would be a discussion near the end of the year as to whether an elder or deacon would resign his active duty or continue on for another year.   This might be a useful policy for some churches to consider in order to benefit from  the activities of particular office-bearers.   There are also other mechanisms, such as designating certain office-bearers as contributors and workers but non-voting, which could also be used.   Flexibility is the key, and the tasks done by them rather than the strict adherence to the arbitrary terms ought to be the focus and determining factor. 

In our church our office bearers are both elders and deacons;  they serve a dual role and this is another way to be flexible.

I should point out that the principle for the congregation to be meaningfully empowered (per deMoor's commentary) to choose its leaders/officebearers does not appear to be applied to the position of pastor/preacher in the same way, as the church order apparently does not have term limits for that?   It's a good principle to some degree but we do seem to apply it in an adhoc fashion rather than be consistent with it. 

Our church moved from three-year terms to four-year terms for both elders and deacons, but have returned to three-year terms ... for very practical reasons.

I have served several terms as elder and I much prefer the longer, four-year term. It gives one more time to build connections with districts and, for brand new office-bearers, time to understand the role and task of office.

There are/were two problems with the four-year term. Firstly, it led to burnout because you had passionate elders and deacons who put in considerable hours, passion and energy into their tasks as elders and deacons. That fourth year, for some, proved to be tough. Secondly, we found that it was more difficult to 'recruit' new elders and deacons because people didn't want to commit to a four-year term.

There seems to be a perception in the Diakonia Remixed report that the role, task and expectations of the deacon is much different (ie lighter?) than that of the elder ... hence the desire to have longer terms for deacons.

There is anechdotal evidence that the role and tasks of deacons in Canada and the United Stated are markedly different. Canadian deacons are certainly as busy and as involved as Canadian elders; elders, in the pastoral care of their members and deacons in the pastoral (to a certain degree) and practical care of their members as well as community members and agencies.

I've served seven or eight terms as an elder. I hope one day to 'graduate' to serve as a deacon. I'll need to clear my calendar first.

The definition given by Classis Toronto (which requires a "narrative" from each of its ministries) is

"Each committee/ministry submits a "narrative" budget with its request for funds from Classis. A 'narrative budget' is the story of what that ministry hopes to accomplish in the next budget year and thus why it is asking for funds."

Yesterday I submitted, as Chair of the AB North Safe Church Team, the "narrative" for the SCT request for funds in the AB North Classis budget (and they were encouraging submission of a photo as well... something visual... makes for a better PowerPoint...).  Next year will be the first year that AB North will use a "narrative" style budget.  I have lots of material that I can e-mail to you that gives examples (anywhere from a simple "2 pager" to a 16 page document with graphics).  Let me know!

The main job is to transform what would have been a "line-item" budgets $$ request from each ministry into a story of what happened last year in that ministry(successes, challenges, accomplishments, etc.) along with a plan for next year that supports the next $$ request.  Tell the story.  

A friend of mine relayed a story of charity board meeting where, during the discussion of a particular ministry, the directors looked like they were going to cut the funding in half.  A person involved in that minstry was scheduled to speak about what it had accomplished but the budget discussion started before she arrived... and it didn't look good for that ministry. She arrived, told the "story" of how the ministry had affected lives over the past year (she did not know her budget was at risk) and she left.  The director who was spearheading the budget cut mentioned some thing along the lines of "We can't touch that.... God is working there!" and the budget remained intact.   That verbal "narrative" educated the decision-makers!  A narrative budget (some of the United Churches I researched refer to it as a Mission Plan) educates the givers in our community and makes them more aware of what the local CRC (or Classis) has accomplished and can accomplish.

"A line-item budget is an effective tool for the committee on finance to manage financial resources.  It is not an effective means for interpreting those ministries or their impact...  A well-composed narrative budget will educate and inspire everyone." (from the book "Revolutionizing Christian Stewardship for the 21st Century" by Dan R. Dick)

Thank you, Ron, for tackling this question! Can you either describe or point to an example somewhere of a "narrative budget format?" Blessings, Stan

I can think of two different approaches to take:

1 - Split article 25a into two articles, keeping the existing article for elders and add the new language for deacons.

2 - Create a new article 25a similar to what has been proposed above, with language that would be applicable to both elders and deacons.

I would prefer the second option. What in the task force's proposed wording should be changed that would allow elder and deacon terms to be addressed in the same way?

The revised re-wording is better than the old, but I would suggest separating the elders and deacons into separate articles.  There may be benefits in treating them somewhat differently in terms of roles, appointments, etc. 

Melissa's questions about terms for deacons gives the Office of Deacon Task Force the opportunity to preview some of their work.  Read the blog post:  Diakonia Remixed: Terms for Deacons

posted in: The Results Are In!

I'm guessing that at least one of three things went wrong:

1. Your budget was excessive, given the financial resources of your community.  If this is the case (and it rarely is), you may wish to re-evaluate your overhead and your investments (money dedicated to ministries is not a cost; it's an investment).  Perhaps a pledge system (with proper stewardship education ahead of time) can give you a better idea of the revenue that you can budget with.  The question of whether a pledge system works is an entirely different discussion but from what I've heard (as a Christian Stewardship Services representative, I have the privilege of learning from the experience of many congregations in Western Canada) is that the anonymous pledge system works best (names aren't required but participation is.... even if the anonymous pledge comes back with "none of your business").   At the very least, the diaconate can inform the congregation that "based on the promises you've made, here is the budget we're presenting, here are the ministries/projects we can (or cannot) support and now we rely on you to make good on your promises, as best you can". 

2.Your congregants may be great stewards and givers but weren't entirely "sold" on your budget and therefore aren't committed to it.  If this is the case, I suspect you could focus on teaching how proper stewardship definitely involves the work of the local church.   You may have to educate the congregation as to the benefit of the work done at the congregational level.  I'd consider usinga  narrative budget format (as opposed to simple line-item budgets).  Proper narrative budgets tell the stories of the Kingdom Work done via the congregants' contributions to the church budget.  Again, if the congregation is more involved in the creation of the budget, they'll be more committed to the promises they've made when the budget is accepted and more responsive to calls for making up shortfalls. 

3.Your congregants require "continuing education" regarding what the Lord requires of us as to giving to Kingdom work.  If this is the case, I suspect you could focus on stewardship education (i.e. "Stewardship is everything you do after you accept Christ") and how proper stewardship definitely involves supporting and empowering the work of the local church.   Perhaps focus on reinforcing the fact that a tithe is a good place to start and that it's the first ten percent, not the last. Abel gave first fruits; Cain gave left-overs.  If all congregants gave 5% to the local church budget, I suspect we'd be facing the unique problem of how to spend the surplus and wouldn't it be interesting if adherence to the "first fruits"principle meant the budget was met by March? 

I've finally read the "Not Your Parents' Offering Plate" (J. Clif Christopher) and fully agree that the attitude of "givers" has changed (we have to promote Kingdom Work) and that the choices of where the support can flow have multiplied so greatly that church budgets now face far more competition from other Kindgom Work than in the past.  One great quote from the book is "People give to church when we offer them a compelling vision of the good their giving will achieve". 

Wendy Hammond's response to this question refers to Barnabas Foundation and I agree that it's a great site.  For Canadians however, the Christian Stewardship Services site may provide more Canuck-oriented content (www.csservices.ca)

So well said!   thanks, Melissa!

Very interesting link here to the discussion about asking the right questions....   What powerful influences we can have on each other's lives for good if we slow down, listen, reflect, probe gently, ask incisive questions....

well, in the church I grew up in, I remember one Sunday the lights were turned off right before the sermon time. The chair of deacons made his way to the pupit and said, "We've been reviewing the budget, and if things to not improve, this is how we will be worshipping every Sunday because we won't be able to pay the electric bill." I think I was 10 years old at the time so I don't remember if things improved, but I'm guessing so because the lights were still on years later when I went off to college, and my parents still worship there today. Not in the dark.

:-)

I think transparency, and regular sermons on stewardship, are a bit more appropriate. Barnabas Foundation has a lot of excellent resources to help churches develop a culture of generosity: http://barnabasfoundation.com/churches/

..and how can you make people accountable for their lack of giving?

August and Jamie,

Thank you for your comments regarding the "You add...God Multiplies" communication to the churches. Jamie, your point is real and was acknowledged by the group developing the communication program. Local churches do have stress on their budget because of congregational administrative needs and a desire to initiate ministry in their own region or in other parts of the world. The CRCNA in its Ministry Share program is not trying to say that the ministries supported by Ministry Shares should be the only ministries supported by a congregation. God's Kingdom grows through Spirit led responses in congregations and produces diverse ministry. Over the decades Ministry Shares has proven to be an effective and efficient method of funding an array of North American and global Kingdom-building work. We praise God for that and hope participation in Ministry Shares brings you joy and inspires your congregation to even more ministry.

Very Best,

Pete

Excellent point August.  I wonder - do you have any ideas about how the tool could have been structured to be more effective?

Jamie! I had to laugh with the "oh no, now I can't get it back together!".  SO TRUE!  I was enamoured with the clever + to X. :)

Last year our deacons received a letter from a member of the congregation inquiring as to how we select causes.  I posted the question on the Network earlier this year (Beyond the Budget) and one of the responses reminded me that even though select ministries receive ministry shares, this does not cover their full budget, and they still rely on other offerings.  The ministry shares drastically reduce the amount of fundraising that they need to do. 

That doesn't negate the difficult task deacons have of discerning what causes to contribute to - it is a difficult field to navigate with many options on both the local and denominational front.  You are absolutely right to say that it's a question many congregations are struggling with.  I would even say individual congregational members wrestle with that decision too!

At our small church (100 prof members) we raise ministry shares as part of the budget and provide offerings on Sunday for organizations mostly but not all outside the ministry shares program. We have no problem filling up the 52 slots consisting of worthwhile organizations, both local and national. CRWRC is one of the mail such organizations.

The disks have some information, but I would be surprised if it was found to be an effective tool. It did show that Ministry Shares sometimes provides only a small part of a group's budget.

What a timely post!  As our deacons are in the throws of creating next year's offering schedule, many were surprised to notice that the majority of the CRC recommended agencies are ones already receiving funding through Ministry Shares... not leaving many services left to dedicate to other ministries both within and without our denomination.  We love the idea of pooling our resources together to create a global presence for the Church and for God's kingdom but wondered if that is being done at the sake of actually being the hands and feet of Christ where we worship, work, and live-- ground level.  We know that many congregations are struggling with this as well. 

Last week our Council members received those boxes with circles that you mentioned... and were pretty confused!  Most saying things like, "What is this?, What do I do with it? Oh no, now I can't get it back together!" :)  I'm not sure how effective a promotional tool that was...

A 1-hour webinar about this book is happening November 30th, 12pm EST.  Register by following this link: https://cc.callinfo.com/cc/s/showReg?udc=10ocazr4goi4w

posted in: As Easy As A.B.C.D.

hmmm... great thoughts... Spirit's a stirring and making us think about what's eternal/important, and what's not. 

During my prayer time this morning, prompted by Karl W's thoughts on spiritual discernment at ecclesiastical assemblies in the classis discussion forum, I was thinking about the many board and committee meetings I've been at, that are 95% business/corporate like focus with Robert and his rules governing the structure (do I dare say, maybe sometimes in place of the Holy Spirit?? and makes me wonder if we are much more comfortable with Robert than the Holy Spirit), bookended by prayers.   and the thought was, we're in a rut.  I've often thought we're kind of stuck as a denomination for whatever reason, but had never had the word rut connected to it.  as  Melissa stated, stuck in a routine, which confirms the thought I had this morning.

I really think the LORD is working on converting us from "Miss Marthas" to Miss Marys", by us spending more time in His Presence, seeking His leading and guiding and then carrying out whatever it is He puts on our hearts during that time.  I have found, that when I am in this "rhythm" with Him,  that when I do have to get the "Miss Martha" work done, it is far more effective and flows much smoother, with unbelievable statistical probabilities of timing that can only be Divine.   and it is far more enjoyable =), a delight, not a duty, always a bonus when doing Kingdom work =) ! 

Someone just shared the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, with me... haven't read it yet, but looking forward to it =) !!

Yep, our culture (& the dutch do too) values a hard working, driven, dynamic person, that gets the job done.  The ones who keep their homes (& cars) immaculate, bring the best dishes to potlucks, as well as sing in the choir, play 5 instruments and can shoot a pretty mean hoop as well ( and probably run marathons too)!  Of course, I'm being a bit snarky!   But our  time/relationship with Jesus is sometimes/often viewed as "wasting" time and not valued.

anyway, the Rob bell quote reminded me of this scripture...

Gal. 1:10 (NKJV)    For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

I hope that we are able to do more than just talk about some changes, and we will be able to move forward with a fresh vitality.  As Clarence Vos stated at the end of his article in the Nov. Banner (p38)  boq  It would seem the need of the hour is prayer, openness to the Spirit's leading, and an expectation that in the end our Christian faith will be more vital than ever! eoq 

 and to that I say AMEN!!

 

.

 

 

"Spot on" Melissa!   One wise & experienced (older) parishioner said to me that the most important facet in our lives were our vital relationships - with God, with our spouse, with family, and with our friends and neighbors.   For these relationships to become deep and rooted, it takes time.  It seems relational time is the antithesis of busyness in our daily lives.

What about the our individual congregations calling it's members out to pursue sustainability and simplification in our lives?  'More is caught than taught' is an axiom that I think is appropo here.   Maybe our church's could model and teach this by trying to make people less busy with meetings, but rather, try to encourage healthy rythms where relational time and community building are more highly valued than the "normal church meeting".   The church as an institution can consume huge amounts of energy and time within itself and not really havie a a significant impact on its surrounding community (thinking missionally).   In our current social context, I'm seeing that many dedicated church members/Christ followers are simply runnning out of margin(and energy) to build significant relationships with people who don't know the Lord.  

Maybe its also time to rethink how we organize ourselves within our churches.  Somehow we need to empower and release our members to concentrate more on their relational deployment to our neighbors and neighborhoods than on maintaining the institution we call church.

Thanks for this, Melissa!  So counter-cultural I can hardly hear it over the hum of my busyness.   Makes me wonder whether the church - as congregation, council, classis, denomination - could be an arena, or a culture, that helps people find some balance in their lives...

And I even wonder: Could DEACONS, of all people, be the ones who help us find the balance between active obedience on the one hand, and schedules packed with activities on the other?   Does a life of service and caring necessarily result in over-commitment, harried busyness, and stress?   Could deacons be the ones who lead us into new thinking and practice on this?

It is very difficult to positively and productively impact a community that you don't know and are not a part of. I think the incarnation of Jesus is God's validation of this observation. God could do a lot through angels, but when the real work needed to be done incarnation was the way to begin. 

In every corner of the age of decay our capacities are always tiny compared to the need. We shouldn't be discouraged by the size of our potential impact, sometimes our best deaconal works are sacramental in nature rather than consumational. 

I think it's vital to empower those within a community to have as much decision making power as possible. Our council looks like the community we serve in many ways, this is a huge asset when it comes to making benevolence calls and program decisions. 

I know that given the specific ethnic history of our denomination there are a number of congregations that don't feel as seemlessly connected to their communities yet both want to serve and bridge that difference. I think good words would be perserverence, patience and partnerships. This all takes time but if in the long run the congregations understands its cruciform calling to pour itself out for the needs around them, and if the desire is genuine in time the partners will arise, bonds can be formed and progress can be made. 

I would love to have a copy . Thanks Grace

The original deacons were appointed because a badly needed job was being neglected, and needed doing.   There was no question about purpose, or about what they needed to do next.   Do you ever wonder whether sometimes, in some churches, deacons are just looking for something to do...?   Just going through formalistic motions?   Rather than knowing and seeing the need right in front of them, long before even becoming deacons?    So the question should be asked, if deacons were not appointed, how much difference would it make to your church?   could you operate fairly easily without them?   If all your widows and orphans are taking care of themselves,  or being cared for by their family, and if there are no definably poor people in the church,  are deacons necessary?   Is making an offering list and collecting spontaneous offerings enough justification for the existence of the office of deacons?   Just asking....  

And I'm reminded of the great and extensive sermon preached by the deacon Stephen, as he preached Christ, rather than defending or protecting himself or concentrating only on material distributions.   Are the deacons in your church prepared to do the same thing as Stephen? 

So I'm hoping that deacons are writing the devotionals for the deacons....

I work for Christian Service Ministries, a ministry of Classis Chicago South, designed to equip deacons, elders, pastors and other leaders with quality training, resources, and networking, especially in the areas of outreach and care-giving.  I have been working on a 12 part deacon training devotional based on the "Form for ordination of deacon in the CRC."  The idea is that a deaconate can use this devotional in their meetings once a month to encourage them in their tasks with Biblical words and to use it as a springboard to discuss whether they are still following Scripture and the ideas given in the ordination form.  If anyone is interested in this devotional, please let me know and I can email it to you. 

On the topic of deacon devotionals, I just received the following notice from Diaconal Ministries Canada:

Coming Soon:   Devotions specifically for use in Deacons' Meetings are nearing completion.  Watch the DMC website at www.diaconalministries.com for more.

I want to encourage folks to take a look at the book you cite, "When Helping Hurts..."   It is unusully helpful for anyone who is concerned about showing compassion, being merciful, being a developer instead of just a helper, in short anyone who is or plans to be involved with Jesus and his ministry here and now.

The opening story is  worth the price of the book and then some!  

Deacons could read and discuss this together over a period of a year, and a small group in the church could read and discuss together.  I think that deacons could share this book with the pastor, and study it together for spiritual growth, deaconal concepts and insights, a sermon series, and then have a retreat to pray and dialog and develop a deaconal vision for the church that flows out of the book.  

It's rich stuff.  You won't agree with everything, but you'll learn an immense amount of powerful practical stuff about how to be helpful in a Christ-like way.  If you've read it already, please find someone who hasn't read it yet and keep it movin'!

posted in: As Easy As A.B.C.D.

Thanks for the discussion topic, Melissa.  I attend a local CRC here in Grand Rapids, Michigan where a large part of our congregation is made up of the poor - meaning they don't have as much money as many people in our society.  I say it that way because they are in fact not poor in many other ways - they are rich in love towards each other and God; they are rich in compassion towards each other; and they are rich in knowledge about how to live poor in our world.  In fact, in the 5 years since I've attended this church I've also learned (much to my surprise) that the poor aren't dying to be like me (middle class) - they are often perfectly happy to live within a framework of poverty because that largely what they know and were raised in.  They've learned and been taught the lessons of how to live on less for long periods of time, and now it's their lifestyle.

Sure, a little handout might help from time to time, but that brings me to your question - how do we as Christians take care of the poor around the holidays or at any time of the year?  I've learned a lot from attending this church for the past 5 years, not the least of which is that the poor don't really want your money - they want you.  That's right - you, and the relationship they can have with you.  Just like I wouldn't show love to my middle class neighbors by giving them money or food and then walking away, the poor see your love through relationships.  I guess we're all the same that way in the end.  The messiness of relationship is the best way to take care of the poor, just like it's the best way to take care of and show love to everyone else.

So, what's a practical way of doing this for your church?  Our congregation has partnered with a few suburban CRC congregations in Grand Rapids to accomplish what I think you're looking for in your post.  One of our main goals is to bring the congregations into relationship with each other - learning from each other how best to serve and love each other - thereby showing the love of Christ to the world.  Yeah, it's messy and difficult and more than a little uncomfortable at times.  But it's starting to work.  And yes, they give us some money, but that's not the main goal.

If you can find a suitable urban congregation in your area (CRC or not), maybe that's a good starting point. 

Blessings! 

posted in: What's Needed?

"Churches work with hospitals to improve congregants’ health and reduce spending  

By Michelle Andrews, Published: October 3   Washinton Post   

Two mainstays of the Memphis community — the Methodist Le Bonheur hospital system and nearly 400 local churches — have teamed up for an innovative program that keeps church members healthy while reducing health-care costs. If not actually made in heaven, it’s a match that has significantly benefited all parties. Other health-care systems are taking note.     

Methodist says 70 percent of its patients belong to churches. To help people get the care they need when they need it, the system assigns hospital staff, appropriately called “navigators,’’ to work with volunteer liaisons at area churches that have joined the health system’s Congregational Health Network. When a member of one of these congregations is admitted to the hospital, the navigator notifies the liaison. The liaison then plans a visit, if the member wishes, “so they have a support structure, not just the nurse and doctor,” says Valerie Murphy, the liaison for her small church of six families in Millington, a rural area north of Memphis. inShare

When it comes time to discharge the patient, the liaison works with the navigator to make sure that the transition happens smoothly, connecting the patient with community services such as meals-on-wheels and transportation.

 

“It’s the social connections, the nitty-gritty practical stuff that makes a huge difference,” says Gary Gunderson, senior vice president for the health system. “Whether people understand how to take their medications, whether there’s food in the house.”

The health system compared the experiences and costs of 473 patients in the program with those of similar non-participating patients who received standard care from 2007 to 2009: The mortality rate for those in the network was 50 percent lower than for non-participating patients; their hospital readmission rates were 20 percent lower....... " ...

posted in: Deacon Vision

The denomination has already done some of this work for deacons. See the "Nondenominational Agencies Evaluated for Support 2012" in the booklet at http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/Ministry%20Shares%202011%20booklet.pdf.

I usually think of "causes" as anything that we can give support to... so, yes, I would consider people as causes for the purpose of understanding the charge to deacons- though I too don't like the word choice - perhaps we can blame it on outdated language!

Or do you think the word "causes" means "people"?  I'd hate to think someone would call me a "cause".  hmm...

thanks, Melissa.  I want to clarify:  does the word "causes" refer to ministries or agencies? 

Wow, what a great question!  I love that you're engaging with the charge to deacons and have a desire to faithfully live into that calling! 

A good starting place may be found in a resource created by Diaconal Ministries of Canada, it's called  Guidelines for Benevolence.  It's a helpful tool to work through as a deacon team, to get a sense about who you feel called to serve, what your community may need, and how you as a team are equipped to serve.  Having a good idea about who/what God is calling your team to, is part of the discernment process, and may provide you with a starting point as you "weigh the needs".

I'd love to hear thoughts from other deacons on how their deacon boards/teams handle this!

Rather than doing a gift survey, you may want to check out the online tool https://www.thecommon.org. "We provide an easier way to volunteer , give , serve , help and get help in your community. By changing how you share needs and abilities, your community can increase connections, simplify communication, and effectively decrease the distance between a person with a need and the person who can help."

Most churches conduct a financial review each year.  If you think the financial processes and systems are well tuned, a review should be adequate.  Guidelines for a review are available at crcna.org, search for finance and administration, then find the section "Audit" under "Financial Management". 

If your church believes you need a financial audit, the least expensive way to start is by contacting a CPA that attends your church and connecting with them for completing an independent audit or a referral to a local CPA who could complete the audit.

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