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The Seventh Inning Stretch

It's seventh inning stretch time. This is the time of the year when the initial gusto of the start has waned, and now, you may find yourself in a bit of a rut. I always hope not, but the reality is that it happens. We get tired. It's tough. What should we do about it?

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Live The Good Old Days Now

As children our lives are full of opportunities - and we seem to create endlessly in all sorts of ways.  As we get older our lives change, our priorities and responsibilities look different and we may find ourselves idealizing those good old days, rather than living fully now.  As deacons we can encourage hope and inspire joy simply by living truly.

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When the Servants are Governors

Getting the roles of governance and ministry mixed up is the crippling confusion in many councils. For deacons, the role confusion can be even more painful and debilitating. Are deacons primarily decision makers? Or are they ministers of benevolence and mercy? Are they sometimes both?

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Deacon People

The church is made up of people.  Deacon teams are too.  I'm thankful for the people who serve our congregations, and today we hear a brief reflection from an everyday deacon - someone like you! 

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Deacon Resources on The Network

A gold mine of information exists in the realms of the Deacon network! When was the last time you checked out the "All Resources" section? If you've browsed it, you've noticed tabs for articles, blogs, resources and  websites. The wealth of information you can access is phenomenal! 

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Devotions For Deacons

How do you start your deacon meetings?  Would you be interested in devotions that explore your calling to this role, while helping you understand the charge to deacons?  Diaconal Ministries of Canada has provided deacons with another great resource - Devotions for Deacons!

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The Sad Cherry Tree

There sits in the centre of our backyard a beautiful young healthy cherry tree, yet its story is a sad one of limited potential.  As we begin a new year will your story be like the cherry tree's?  Or will you embrace the opportunities and dreams God has given you?

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How We Enter

It's been said that 90% of life is just showing up. I realized this week that HOW we show up is important. I think  many of us (myself included) need to take a good hard look at the attitudes we are bringing to the table when we enter a particular situation, because it affects waaaaaay more than just ourselves.

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Diakonia Remixed: Terms for Deacons

Melissa Van Dyk mentioned the results of the Diakonia Remixed survey in her blog post and raised some questions concerning terms for deacons. The task force would like to take the opportunity, in this blog post, to preview some of our work and hear your feedback regarding terms for deacons.

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The Results Are In!

The Diakonia Remixed Deacon Task Force has shared the responses from the survey taken earlier this year.  With over 333 responses, it helps paint the landscape of diaconal ministry in the CRCNA.  Reviewing the survey I had two responses...

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Giving Space For God's Voice

If God is present in each conversation we are having, can we allow his voice to be heard?  Or are we too busy inputting our own opinions and advice to actually allow the Spirit to speak.  What might happen if we became people who actually let God say what needs to be said...?

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What can you do when your church is not meeting its budget?

It is mid-November, and your church is experiencing a significant shortfall to its budget. How can you make the urgency clear to the congregation, and also point out membership obligations?
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Christmas Initiatives - What Does Your Church Do?

 We are entering the Christmas season and, as deacons, there are a lot of different initatives that we can undertake to help spread the hope and joy of this time.  As we engage in these converations among our teams it can be helpful to brainstorm and share best practices from other congregations, so, let's do just that!

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You Add, God Multiplies

"You Add, God Multiplies" is more than a catchy phrase, it's the reality of what happens when, as churches, we pool our resources to accomplish more ministry than we could do each on our own.  Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion about what Ministry Shares are and what they do...

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Companioning Case-Managers, Not The Experts

When we offer help to someone we can have the crazy notion that we need to fix the whole issue ourselves.  We would do more for those we offer assistance if we understood our role as referring folks to the resources of our broader community, without abandoning them.

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Over-Committed Seeks Sabbath

When we're running on empty, in overdrive, going from commitment to commitment, we barely seem to have time to sleep, let alone rest or take Sabbath time... but that's exactly what we need to do.  We have to stop, and take a moment to ponder "is what I'm thinking, saying and doing WORTH thinking saying and doing?"

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Listening in on a Conversation

What should the church be doing, then, if government effort seems to have little effect, except maybe for providing ongoing relief? How should the church shape its own response? Can the church actually REDUCE poverty and dependence on programs that help? Even just in our neighborhood? Seems like that’s the ideal...

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As Easy As A.B.C.D.

We want to help people.  We want to do the right thing, the good thing, the Godly thing. Often we discover that we need to learn how to help well.  ABCD is a method of offering assistance which empowers those we are serving and, as it continues to grow in popularity, it's worth paying attention to.

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What's Needed?

As we head into the holiday season, we need to be aware that need doesn't stop.  It also doesn't increase exponentially.  How can we inspire our congregations to engage with those in need in a meaningful way?  And why has Stephen Colbert called Christians out on this?

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Deacon Vision

With the advent of another ministry year, it's a good time to take some time and think about what God may want to do through your team this year.  In light of our call to this diaconal office, what's your vision?  Oh, come on, dream bigger!

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People, Not Projects

We love to do good. Sometimes though, our desire to do something good leads us to turn people into projects. In the latest issue of Partners, a diaconal newsletter, Linda Weening shares a story of assistance which may make you think about how you speak with those you serve.

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Nurturing The Nurturer

You're a nurturer, but are you being nurtured?  Our culture tells us we need to be productive and efficient.  Usually that means every minute of our day has to be filled with some commitment.  The reality is that's not healthy, truthful, or the gospel.  

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Where can I get help for my church to do a financial audit?

The deacons at our church our looking into having our financial records audited. Is there anyone in west Michigan who has had recent experience with this. Are there any Denominational agencies that work specificaly with churches.
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Stumbling In The Dark

As deacons we can often find ourselves in situations that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable to us.  As easy as it is to try to ignore or avoid these scenarios, we know that at some point, we need to venture out into that unknown.  Are you ready to risk it?

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Karl, That is pretty amazing story of the Jesus at work. What a great example of community missions.

Thanks Karl for sharing. It just made my day special. Glory be to God!!

Ken

That's awesome, Karl! Sometimes God does blow us away with His faithfulness, doesn't He? Sometimes you just have to hold on for the ride and do the best you can and trust that God will lead the way.

Thanks for posting this Karl.  I definitely appreciate the depth and breadth of the questions for self and group analysis!  Great  job spurring us on! 

Great news! We did get *some* interim CIDA funds. http://www.crcna.org/news.cfm?detailid=3556&newsid=2565

Thanks to the two of you for these thoughts on a really important question about when and how to help the needy.   You might want also to take a look at this blog, just for the thought about mercy limiting mercy.   I was intrigued by Keller's concept and I think it is a handy way to summarize a lot of the excellent thinking in the book Terry is recommending, When Helping Hurts.  This book is one of the best of its kind that I know of....   developmental Christ-like thinking about how to be compassionate.

In our congregation we have started using (with much success and growing popularity)  PAR, an EFT program available through the denominational office.  I'm not sure if this is also available in the US, or if there might be a similar program like it. http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/admintools/ParBrochure.pdf

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I just recently started paying attention to this forum and not just the blog.

I would encourage you to start out with Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) rather than online credit card donations. The fees associated with credit card donations may be relatively high for a small/mid-size church. My church has been using EFT for a few years and it has worked well (although not a lot people have participated). I recommend Vanco Services (http://www.vancoservices.com/), which provides EFT, website payments, and donations by text.

See Guidelinelines for Benevolence from Diaconal Ministries Canada at http://www.diaconalministries.com/resources/documents/guidelinesforbenev... . I also encourage you to study the book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert - http://www.whenhelpinghurts.org/. Ministry training webinars based on the book are available at http://www.chalmers.org/when-helping-hurts/webinar/schedule.php.

I don't know the canidates. Is there anybody on there that is sick, disabled or poor? I think if want a fuller picture, someone  like that could balance out the predominate selection of healthy people. Being around crisis is different than experiencing it.

Ken

These are such good questions to be asking; dialog is difficult but necessary. Sometimes with difficult dialog it's good to establish together a process and rules for the dialog that can be agreed upon - for example, during this dialog we agree to treat everyone with respect; search for the truth rather than repeating lies; agree to disagree when needed; etc.

I've also found Soujourners a helpful resource in thinking about some of these issues. They have a campaign called, "What would Jesus cut?

Thanks for asking!

For those of you in or near Grand Rapids, you are invited to join one of these upcoming events.

A Conversation on "A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Christian Proposal on the American Debt Crisis"
A panel discussion with Q & A, featuring Dr. Gideon Strauss, CEO, Center for Public Justice

Last week, the Center for Public Justice and Evangelicals for Social Action issued "A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Christian Proposal on the American Debt Crisis".  

This event is co-hosted by Peter Vander Meulen, Coordinator of the Christian Reformed Church of North America Office of Social Justice and by Tom McWhertor of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

Thursday March 10
Noon - 1:30pm
Erie Room of the Christian Reformed Church of North America Office Building

2850 Kalamazoo Avenue, SE
Grand Rapids
SE corner of 28th Street intersection, across from Meijer

Free and open to the public
Please bring your own lunch and plan to join the conversation
Questions? Contact Doreen Skillen at the Center for Public Justice, 410-571-6300

Opposing Views: America's Debt Crisis and 'A Call for Intergenerational Justice'
This event is hosted by the Acton Institute and features Dr. Gideon Strauss, CEO, Center for Public Justice and Jordan J. Ballor, Research Fellow at the Acton Institute.  Mr. Ballor has criticized the Call as demonstrating "very little principle" and consisting mostly of "leaps in logic based on unstated assumptions about the role that government should have" in providing social assistance.  The Action Institute invites you for a night of discussion about government debt, federal spending, and how faith communities should understand the responsibilities of social institutions in addressing the problem of poverty.

Thursday March 10
Derby Station
2237 Wealthy Street, SE
East Grand Rapids, 49506

6:00pm Grab a seat & beverage
6:30pm Discussion begins

Free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so the Acton Institute encourages you to arrive early.

Thanks for this post, Karl. I've actually raised the topic of the "Call" in relationship to the diaconate in a follow-up post today. The questions you raise are precisely the ones we ought to be asking.

My response to Terry would be: Yes, God does have a special concern for the poor, and all of these institutions have roles to play. My problem with the Call and other similar campaigns, e.g. What Would Jesus Cut?, is that they don't put enough emphasis on the roles institutions other than the federal government have to play.

There are a number of facts that can be quantified with real data:
- Less than 1% of the federal budget is used to fight poverty and disease in other nations. So making cuts in this area will have minimal impact to the federal budget deficit.

- Many of the international programs funded by the US save lives (e.g., malaria and AIDS treatment; bed nets to prevent malaria).

- Many domestic US programs (e.g., Earned Income Tax Credit, SNAP) are effective in assisting to lift families out of poverty and prevent hunger.

And I would hope that most Christians can agree that God has a special concern for the poor and that the church, individuals, non-government organizations, and the government all have a role to play in addressing this.

But facts aren't all that we need. I encourage everyone to become familiar with "A Call for Intergenerational Justice: A Christian Proposal for the American Debt Crisis" that Karl referenced in his original post ("issued a statement" link) and use that as a starting point for discussion and action.

My favorite explanation of the national budget is the Ben & Jerry's guy with the Oreo cookies. I think it's on YouTube.

Karl, I know we should be able to sit down and talk but right now people of opposing views are totally polarized to the point where we don't agree on the facts. We don't agree what the Bible is saying and what is even worse we don't believe in each other.

 What is needed is some truth, understanding and some trust in each other. Otherwise these conversations turn into fruitless attempts of convincing someone who doesn't want to believe anything but what they want to.

   Maybe we should have a truth gathering to just establish what are facts or fiction. There isn't a information source that I know of that everyone agree's is factual. or if it is what the data is saying. This confusion is by design of course to attend to various agenda's.

Thanks

Ken

Hi Lou, I like some of the idea;s that are expressed in the book although traditional church activities could could intergrated too.

Ken

Hey Hans, "long time no hear...." ?Que tal?

   Anyway, on the topic of which you write, and with reference to the question of roles and leadership, I'd like to have both your and Karl's review/evaluations of the book The Shaping of Things to Come, by Frost and Hirsch, out of Australia.   Or anyone else that has read it... talk about shaking up our paradigms.  Will what "emerges" still be "church"?

Lou

Here's a recent Banner article http://www.thebanner.org/news/article/?id=3117

Bro Karl, I thought more about my last comment and want to say that I do understand the need for members to 'push back' however I am beginning to 'hear', not push, back but honesty of expression. Over the last few decades my experience has been moving me to listening for straight forward expression rather than political correctness.

With honest of expression comes some hurt and misunderstanding. Yet suppression of honest expression or negative reaction to the same only boosts anxiety and frustration from haves and have nots. I pray for understanding before I react and often a little time and prayer reveals members' confusion and/or frustration with difficult discussions and change.

I hope I'm making some sense.

I understand your focus on the have on affluence. That is so prevalent today that the poor do not speak up. Affluent push back is  more cultural and political and economic with the pretense of 'the American dream is available to all' as a default statement.

Thanks Fronse, I agree about the sensitivity of the way you advocate for people. The push back I was referring to is not from the poor but misconceptions of the affluent and even the middle classes. That push back which assumes that opportunity  is available to everyone.

Thanks again

Ken

Often listening is not easy especially when emotions run high and thanks for the reminder. I am learning to listen more and find that I learn and understand people more even when there is disagreement.

Hi Ken, If you mean push back from the 'poor' It has been my life experience that no person wants to be told or treated as poor. Poor people have egos, pride and sense of self. Depending on others has damaging effects on all three. And some people lacking understanding too often treat the poor as poorer than they (helpers) are.

Rebecca, thanks for your comment. That sounds like a healthy response and it's helpful in regards to what we as a deacon team have been asked to look at. :)

Wendy, is there a news article or more info online about this that you could link to so I can share it with the deacons at my church?

We recently asked this question, too. One factor for us was that our church as a whole, in ways other than just financial, is trying to be more intentional about reaching out to our community, and we wanted our giving to be a part of that effort, so that meant an increase in offerings/giving to a few local partner organizations.

Our church has a strong culture of fully supporting ministry shares, so we looked at the list of which ministries/agencies are supported by ministry shares and gave higher priority in scheduling offerings to those that aren't, like CRWRC, for example.

As for scheduling, the deacons as a group discuss overall priorities, but one deacon is responsible for arranging those priorities into the schedule on a monthly basis, and tracking the frequency of offerings to any given agency or organization, denominational or otherwise. The schedules are still approved each month by all the deacons, even though one person is doing the coordinating.

Hi Fronse, I'm glad your back. If God calls us to help the poor and the poor in spirit why is their push back?

Thanks

Ken

Hi Fronse:

The first step is becoming friends with the poor. Listen to their stories, their hopes for the future, the problems they may have. That is much easier to do with fellow church members, rich or poor. I mean the poor who would never think of going to a church where all the rich people go. 

Once you can do that you start to realize how our society is organized with the result that there are too many poor people.

If lots of people start listening to the poor, these people may think to change things, and if these people have some power, change is possible. 

Somehow I think that music in a church is one of the last things that may need to change...

August

 

Karl and Aguilla1, This discussion for me hits at the heart of a great 'sense' our brothers and sisters have about witnessing the Gospel to one another. Too often 'giving the poor a voice for justice' is squashed with negative reactions called today push backs.

An example is the role suggesting changing church music has in instigating almost immediate defensiveness among people who have worshipped using the same music for decades. This applies to most if not all denominations' individual churches. I am NOT saying this issue is that important, rather I'm using it ONLY as an example I believe we all can relate to in our life experiences.

It is very critical HOW we have dialog about 'voices from the poor.' There is another 'poverty' too often in churches and that is poverty of spirit that slows positive growth of Christians. Example: When we say 'voice of the poor do we then acknowledge the 'voice of the rich?' Which one is ultimately 'heard?'

Terry- You did see this earlier in the week. We fixed the link problem.  Thanks for letting us know.

The "2 page tool" link isn't working. I thought I saw it as a download earlier this week.

I have heard from many congregations that are scheduling additional offerings. We definitely appreciate it - and also prayers that our next grant will be funded.

Let's see if we can get someone from CRWRC to respond to this, ok?

[quote=Greg Bode]

...does the CRCNA have an 'approved list' for para church organizations on their website?

[/quote]

Yes! As Wendy mentioned, it's at the back of the annual Yearbook but the organizations are also listed online. Here are the links:

Denominational and Related Ministries

Non-Denominational Agencies Recommended for Financial Support

Another helpful resource Melissa mentioned is the 'Deacons' Helper Worksheet' and the recommended offering calendar. Both are available on this page.

Hope this helps!

I know there's a list in the yearbook but not sure if it's online.

About special offerings for para church agencies and organizations...does the CRCNA have an 'approved list' for para church organizations on their website?   Our  deacons get so many  requests that they  are looking for another filter such as this to put in their "tool box".    They don't have the time to research each new organization about their mission, their fiscal responsibility, etc.  

I'm sorry ,I just reread the post and I forgot some key words. I was trying to say this money issue and mission's issue's are a result of the same thing.

We need to walk the earth like Jesus. I know that is not possble but that is the model. Jesus made every one important and lead with love and humility.  His love is what made him missional. Love is by nature missional.

I know my points sound tangential, but it what l said is the reason why we struggle because a lot us forget how to think like a Christian. When we do strive to live this way everything becomes clear.

OnlineJoined: 10/09/2010  

'The missional church isn't a program to adopt, it has always existed by God's will through out history after Christ's was born. In other words it is the body of believers that resides in and out of our churches.

What we need to do is pattern our churches on this understanding. That means being aware of the Holy Spirit and humbly following His cue's."

 

I made the above statement in another forum on missions but it applies here also. Every relationship should always be a mission to each of us. Love and humility is the gage to measure where we are in our belief's and thoughts.

In other words, live the way Christ want's and things like mission's, money and idea's from the Spirit will provide a path. Every one is a missionary of equal importance.

This calling is essence of walking with Jesus not a human construct.

God bless you guy's for your wisdom

Ken

This Callahan dude is the bomb!    I love those lines - some money is not worth raising....  the annual budget is the most missional document in the church.   Or oughtta be!

OK, Jeff, I know you've thought about this a lot - How CAN we clearly communicate this to the people we serve?

I found the article On Becoming a Servant Leader: Seven myths and seven paradoxes of Christian leadership by Dan R. Ebener at http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj1102&article=on-becoming-a-servant-leader to be helpful. It appears in print in the February, 2011, issue of Sojourners magazine.

 Yes!  Deacons are servants, but first and foremost not servants of the church but servants of Christ *to* the church.  As such their job is not so much to do the work of the church as to put the church to work.  They are the catalytic agents between the church and the community, so central to the church's witness that reformers like Martin Bucer proposed that diakonia is one of the marks of the true church. 

I think a key here in developing discussions of deacons and leadership is retaining the *spiritual* element of diaconal leadership--that is, it is not merely a question of technique, how to, and getting things done. As the form for ordination puts it, one of the tasks of the deacon is to lead us into repentence.  Deacons should grow in the understanding that they have been granted authority to lead us in this way.

Very cool to see the Phils CRC is ahead of us on this one!   And I know that's due in large part to the work you did over the years, Brother Eli!   I think the task force now working on the office of deacon in the CRCNA will help us look hard at this and will bring us up to speed.  I pray for that.

Hi Karl:

Thanks for your comments. "giving the poor a voice for justice" is important. One way as you indicate happens when they comment on our lifestyle or attitude.  I would like them to be more involved in getting the government change policy. However  I find most people including the poor rather apathetic when it comes to trying to effect change.

august

I did want to point out that many of the special offerings on the "official" calendar are for agencies that do not receive ministry shares . . . such as CRWRC :-) We rely solely on offerings.

Melissa, this is a really thought-provoking question you raise.  I think in many cases agencies are planning and assuming that congregations will participate in ministry shares AND will schedule offerings for some of the same causes.   Deacons know this, and so they often schedule offerings that give the congregation the opportunity to give "over and above" the ministry share.

As you point out, this can cloud the question of how much a church is actually giving to a given agency or cause.  

I think in other cases, deacons are aware that budget short-falls in the church are being addressed by shorting ministry shares.  Then offerings might be intended to help meet the congregation's classical and denominational "fair share".   

I'm struck by your statement that deacons make the schedule for a year in advance. In my church the offering schedule is made for much shorter intervals, and the deacons view it with a lot of flexibility, depending on a variety of factors.

Along with you, I'm eager to hear of how deacons in other churches think about these questions.

My dos centimos' worth Jeff & Karl: For more than a decade now Christian Reformed Church in the Philippines synodical meetings have deacons as official/voting delegates. Even earlier than that, deacons are official/voting members of both the classis and church councils. We believe that as all members of the body of Christ have the prophetic, kingly and priestly functions but a certain group of elders, ministers and deacons are chosen to "rule" and govern the church assemblies from the local congregation to the synod.

Thanks Karl, I knew you were special with a mission from Jesus. That angry prophets message isn't the only attitude change we need but captures the essence of what my missional command from Jesus is  to the church body.Now I see it is one of yours also. Glory be to God. Karl you have given words to my heart that I couldn't because of my humanness and sickness of body and mind. Thank you Karl

Karl,

Wow. Amen. Thank you God. This is perhaps the most honest and raw piece that I have ever read from you. It makes me excited and joy filled. Excited because when God lays this kind of ground work hang on for the ride, bcecause it's going to be a fun wild ride! Joy filled - because the things you mention above are amazing.

posted in: Unholy Arthritis

Exellent, Karl. It's a constant reforming of our souls.

posted in: Unholy Arthritis

Faith Alive used to have a devotional book called "Beyond the Agenda," which I thought gave great ideas for devotions to help build community within church committees. I also think that facilitation techniques are so important for good, productive meetings, yet they aren't taught very much in our circles.

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