Having been an ordained deacon for more than 30 years, I have witnessed the responsibilities of the diaconate transition in many ways. I have also seen the qualifications to become a deacon shifting in what I feel is a positive direction.
Looking back to the early 80’s, I remember those long drawn out deacon’s meetings. Yearly, every budget line item was discussed until the cows came home…or the decision to paint the sanctuary walls drew opinions from everyone in the room, even from those who acknowledged being color blind…or a lengthy discussion concerning the poor quality of the Wednesday evening supper, even though the same budget line item above only allowed for a simple “meat and two”. I may be stretching the truth in a few ways, but honestly those meetings were mostly a blur.
But not long after becoming a deacon, my church at that time was searching for a way to really bring the congregation together spiritually. The diaconate was also struggling with their Family Ministry program where most felt as if they were overwhelmed with ministering to seven to nine families monthly. The guilt that I sometimes felt for falling short in my own Family Ministry visits was something that was probably true for most of the diaconate, or at least that was the lament heard quite often in private.
So the desired focus became less on the grounds, budgets and the operation of the church, but more on the needs of individuals within the church. It quickly became a situation where more trust was given to the committee process for all those other church “business” responsibilities. After many deacon and congregational meetings, that church instituted an “Encourager” program based on Hebrews 10:25.
Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us ENCOURAGE one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
That was in the mid 80s and today I understand that the Encourager program in that church is still alive and well, and still providing a spiritual and meaningful Family Ministry program.
The program is simple. Many volunteers other than deacons within the church, who knew their spiritual gifts and who had a desire to serve, teamed up with each deacon to assist the deacons with their families. Each Deacon has 2 or 3 persons, whose desire is to assist in calling, writing notes, and visiting with the deacon’s assigned families. So essentially it strengthens the communication chain among all members and continually keeps the focus and needs on individuals and families. It also makes each deacon more accountable, but helps with their ministry responsibilities.
I presently attend another loving and caring church, but I miss the Encourager ministry, for someone to encourage me as I face this sometimes very chaotic world, for someone besides staff, knowing me, caring for me, and listening when I have struggling times, or visit when there is no reason to visit.
The writer of Hebrews was on to something important in his ministry, and as Deacons we should be learning from him.