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I love lists!    So thanks for the opportunity to make one!  I'm going to make a short list, based on what I've seen in my own church, and based also a bit on what I'd LIKE to see!

1.  Deaconal praying, maybe with a deaconal prayer partner.  Specific prayers about stewardship opportunitites, needs, persons, the deacons themselves, community needs, the church...

2.  Deaconal contacts.  Either with another deacon, or with an elder partner, stay in touch with your section of the congregation, say by phone monthly, and by a visit once or twice a year.   And as needed with people in need.  Building relationships of trust and understanding.  

3.  Read articles or books on a regular basis that can help you deepen and broaden your vision and your understanding, and can help you bring new skills, ideas, or approaches to the deacons' meetings.

4.  Check in on the Diakonia Remixed site to see what this task force is up to.

5.  Make sure there is something once a month or so planned for inclusion in the worship service that will help the congregation learn about  a deaconal need, project, or service in the community or globally.

6.  Set aside a time regularly to check over the minutes from the last deacons' meeting, and to get prepared for the next one. Work with your chair of deacons to make sure that there is good followup and good homework so that meetings have continuity, and a sense of both community and accomplishment are strong.   

What do you find helpful here?   What doesn't ring any bells for you?   What do others find useful in thinking about a disciplined routine of deaconal activity?   

Thanks for your question, Rebecca!

Posted in: The Next Year

Steve, is your husband into fishing? I know a woman who's big into justice, and HER husband is big into fishing..... Could there be a connection?

ibemeubu's invitation to share stories is interesting because it makes me realise I know of so few from first hand experience.  That again makes me wonder, as I've wondered so often before, whether the institute/organism distinction has too often served us as a reason to avoid advocacy altogether. 

Anyhow, I do recall a time when members of my congregation got involved in trying to advocate to have the city retain local fire stations near the city center.   We held a press conference in the Church, and we appeared before the city's planning commission.   The congregation had not formally taken any position, and we did not pretend we were speaking for our congregation, but we did make it clear that our concerns related to our concern for our community/ parish.  That was a satisfying experience and to this day (30+ years later) some of those local fire stations remain.

I think it's the church's responsibility to advocate for rational and loving and informed social discourse on tough issues. And to model that in the way we deal with the tough issues internally!   I think the church (and I mean the institutional church as well as the church as organism) needs to help shape social justice conversations by showing how to be passionate and prophetic while being reasonable and respectful.  I think the church needs to press for high quality debate in the neighborhood, in the media, in the cofffee room, and in the council room. 

Grand Rapids is in the roll-out period of a large initiative to increase the percent of high school kids who graduate.  It's privately funded, and it's wholistic, and it's long term.   The public school system, businesses, neighborhood organizations, and families and churches will be engaged.    Should congregations engage formally?  I guess that is debatable, but I lean toward answering Yes.   It's a justice issue, and it's sure to get political if it's got any validity at all, but it's very urgent, and I think bi-partisan.  So I tend to think it's an example of a place to make an "exception".   

What do others think? 

Hmmmm.... let's see. 1967. How prophetic was THAT?! 43 years ago. I was, ummm, a student at CTS. It's hard to imagine that this paragraph you quote comes from that long ago. Could it be a prohetic utterance spoken also to the church in 2010?

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.

Tithing has always been a difficult concept for me to be at peace with - for many reasons, most of which turn up in the discussion here. I really like how this discussion is shaping up, the themes of communal caring, taking seriously the different phases and passages in a family's life, and stressing the joy of giving instead of the % guidelines. I wish that my family had modeled for me a way to think about generosity that was NOT shaped by our constraints and our needs, but rather by Spirit shaped generosity. My parents were mostly worried about how to make ends meet, but the "tithe envelope" in the drawer in the dining room was always attended to first. More problematic was the attitude of scarcity that pervaded our house and my own attitude toward generosity. The envelope was a great example. The feeling and attitude of scarcity not so much. It has taken me a lot of years to get beyond that, and I'm still working on it. Thanks to all of you who shared wisdom here!

Thanks, Jeff, for mentioning When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  (Moody, 2009)   Its subtitle is "How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself".   I mention that because it's amazing how often our best intentions have "unintended negative side effects", and this book addresses that problem about as well as any I've read.

This book is readable, biblical, developmental, and comprehensive, and did I mention readable?   You don't need to be a scholar to get it.  It'll introduce you to basic understanding of what poverty is, and how the church can respond to it....   and it opens with one of the best stories I've ever read about wonderful good intentions and their surprisingly dismaying effects.

This book will also introduce you to ABCD - Asset Based Community Development.  ABCD is a tool that will sharpen all the other tools in your box.

If you've not read it, I recommend it.   And parts of it could be used to make great deacons' discussions!

Cindy, I'm 67 years old and I still have those questions!  What movies is it ok to watch?   When I'm reading a magazine, how can I keep my eyes and thoughts from "crossing the line"?  When have I gone one bottle of beer too far?  Now granted things are different now than when I was 20.  I'm different and there are different temptations too.  but a lot of the issues are the same, and these questions about morality are still just as vexing.   And where in the world do you look to find some helpful advice?   You want someone who is really believable, and someone who is really biblical, and who is realistic about what it's like to live in 2010!   Soak yourself in the Gospels.  Spend a LOT of time with Jesus.  Let his way of thinking and living drench your mind and heart.   That's the starting place.  And I'm going to say something that is a lot like what Ken and Marcel have said.   Here's the thing - I always tend to ask the question How far is too far?   That is a question that lets me see how close I can drive to the edge and still stay out of the ditch.   But the real question is, How far from the ditch can I drive?    and then the question about HOW CLOSE won't bug me so much.   THAT is a very very hard thing to practice.  I know because I fail at it pretty consistently.  I think we all do.  But that's the right approach to take - not how far from Jesus can I wander and still be ok, but How close can I live to Jesus.    May God empower you and grace you with a new way to live.

Here's a few indicators of a healthy classis, off the top of my head.   What do others think?


It's safe and inviting for all voices to be heard.

Competition is near zero and encouraging behaviors are common.

Information is openly and freely available throughout the system, and it's easy to give input and be heard on issues before they come up for decision.

Attenders are routinely briefed on the rules for how to participate effectively.

Technical and procedural and organizational matters are kept to a modest part of the agenda, and most of the focus is on encouraging and enabling people and congregations for enhanced ministry.

People are seated in an arrangement that promotes community and mutuality.

Devotions including prayers for each other are a significant part of what happens on a regular basis.

People leave feeling energized for their mission as followers of Jesus.

We've been broken into and had things taken.  You describe the lessons and the feelings well!  One of the wonderful things that happened was that friends came over and prayed with us, including prayers for protection for the house and for my wife when I traveled.  That meant a lot, and the memory is still wonderful and powerful 30 years later.

In our particular situation, we were in a highly fragile and disconnected urban community.  We felt no circle of support from neighbors.  The pastor of our church made it a point to be aware of our situation, and to take it into account when he related to us.  That was very helpful too.

The previous post on the operationsharing foodbank was by John KleinGeltink.    I posted it for him, but I neglected to include his name.  Very sorry, John!

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