For Deacons is a joint effort with Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC). DMC has a rich heritage of supporting deacons through its network of regionally based Diaconal Ministry Developers. In the United States there are also a number of resources aimed at supporting deacons and their mandate, although the system there is more scattered than the ideal system that Canada has in place. This issue of For Deacons takes an in-depth look at what our vision statements, Church Order, and systems have envisioned and what resources exist to help us continue the work of adapting our systems for effectiveness in ministry.
Both the CRCNA and the RCA have powerful statements of vision and mission into which we are challenged to live as deacons. Yet how often have we actually asked how well we as a local church fit into that whole? It is a great systems exercise.
Here are excerpts from each vision statement, along with links to the full statements:
For the CRCNA
Our congregations will flow like streams into their communities. We will meet our neighbors at community events and gathering places, listening to each other, learning from each other, and serving each other. By our presence we will become channels for the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit’s life-giving transformation. Full statement: crcna.org/OurJourney
Synod 2015 of the CRCNA adopted significant changes in its Church Order related to the office of deacon.
A recent post on The Network explores what that means from a systems perspective. Take a look, and let us know what you think.
For the RCA
The Reformed Church in America is a fellowship of congregations called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world.
Our shared task is to equip congregations for ministry—a thousand churches in a million ways doing one thing—following Christ in mission, in a lost and broken world so loved by God. Full statement: rca.org/ourmission
In her book Thinking in Systems, Donella Meadows (author of The Limits to Growth, a best-selling and widely translated book) discusses how to use feedback loops to make certain the connections between the parts of our systems work well so that the whole system works as intended. In our church systems we also need to pay more attention to ensuring that the parts of our structure that are intended to support our churches in all aspects of mission are functioning well.
In a paragraph that should resonate with the deacon’s heart, Meadows notes, “Hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, economic instability, unemployment, chronic disease, drug addiction, and war, for example, persist in spite of the analytical ability and technical brilliance that have been directed toward eradicating them. No one deliberately creates these problems; no one wants them to persist, but they persist nonetheless. That is because they are intrinsically systems problems—undesirable behaviors characteristic of the structures that produce them. They will yield only as we reclaim our intuition, stop casting blame, see the systems as the source of our own problems, and find the courage and wisdom to restructure it. Obvious. Yet subversive. An old way of seeing. Yet somehow new. Comforting, in that the solutions are in our hands. Disturbing, because we must do things, or at least see things and think about things, in a different way.”
The same is true in adapting the systems in our denominational structures and local churches for ministry. It is difficult to move away from how we have always done things, but we readily recognize that our context has changed dramatically over time, thus demanding change. Working consistently at systemic change is critical to fruitful ministry.