I’m convinced that most of the deacons I encounter want to be involved in a meaningful ministry that is fulfilling and challenging to who they are as believers in Christ. I am also convinced that many deacons do not have the spiritual life to enable this to happen.
I am also convinced that many deacons (and many believers in general) do not have the spiritual life to enable this to happen and consequently they get discouraged, de-motivated, frustrated and even withdraw from service. This reality creates a tragedy for many people and congregations.
Why does such a spiritual life formation void exist, and what can be done about it?
Spiritual Leaders’ Spiritual Lives
Henry Blackaby’s book Spiritual Leadership offers many challenges to today’s Christian leaders. He declares: “The fact that God can bring character development and personal growth out of any situation is conditional on people’s willingness to submit to God’s will. When God directs a life for his purposes, all of life is a school. No experience, good or bad, is ever wasted. (Rom. 8:28)”
This truth is not acknowledged or acted on frequently enough in our deacons meetings. Providing a safe and trustworthy atmosphere for our spiritual leaders to discuss God’s work in their daily lives and families would help move people and leaders forward in faith. Connecting life experiences and life passages with biblical truths and faith formation experiences is vital to help us mature in the faith and in our leadership.
Making Deacons Meetings a Spiritual Formation Experience
Far too often, deacons meetings are filled with conversations about maintenance issues rather than mission or ministry issues, and even more rarely about spiritual formation issues. I think deacons meetings can become a spiritual formation experience if we are intentional about creating community—a safe place to share hurts and struggles, to pray about life changes, families, careers, parenting challenges, community challenges and more.
Let me make a few suggestions that I believe would help your deacons meetings to become more of a spiritual formation experience and thus help develop the spiritual lives of your deacons:
- Make time to get to know each other in each meeting. It is so sad to me that people who have been together in church for years know so little about each other’s heart needs and burdens. Model for your congregation that building relationships takes time and should be a priority.
- Be intentional about focused praying. Prayer is the power of effective ministry. Enlist prayer leaders for guided prayer at each deacons meeting—guided prayer facilitated to focus on the leaders, those they shepherd, the community they serve and the congregation they lead. Invite deacons to share personal needs in small groups and to pray in small groups rather than in large groups; it builds better community.
- Enlist and schedule training time by and for deacons.Each deacons meeting should include at least 15 minutes of training: in caregiving skills, prayer life skills, ministry skills, crisis counseling, team building, etc. There may be a time when the pastor or staff leads the training session, but more often than not I would encourage the deacons to lead out of their callings, passions and professional expertise. Many videos are available through convention offices to assist with this. Also, I’ve just begun facilitating an online deacon ministry forum where ideas are shared (see below).
- Encourage deacons to keep a ministry journal or notebook.This written documentation or collection of ministry-focused articles and resources can be a great focusing experience, but also provides handy resources for ministry. Copying and sharing information can be wonderful and spontaneous training for everyone.
- Encourage (or expect) deacons to read and share from their reading. There are many wonderful and helpful books in print and on tape for people who are on a journey of growth. A few I suggest are: A Work of Heart; Straight Talk on Spiritual Power; and In the Grip of Grace. Plan a time in deacons meetings for readers to share the impact of their readings on their lives.
Eddie Hammett is leadership/discipleship consultant for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and adjunct professor at Gardner Webb Divinity School.
Join Hammett’s online forum and share your ideas and your experiences by e-mailing DeaconMinistryinthe21stCenturyfirstname.lastname@example.org
Visit www.bscnc.org for more deacon ministry resources.
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