This time of year, many congregations begin seeking deacons for service in the new church year. The nomination-election-selection-ordination process is as varied as Baptist churches these days.
After 12 years as a deacon consultant, I do not know of a fool-proof system. There seems to be strengths and weaknesses for every plan I've encountered. Permit me to share some of the concerns I hear frequently, lessons I've learned, and some resources that might help you as you encounter deacon election this year.
Post Sept. 11th Implications and Concerns for Deacon Ministry
Deacon ministry has a more critical role than in recent memory. Caregiving, nurture, sensitivity, prayer, support, grief counseling, family counseling and sharing Christ to those weaving through landmarks and landmines are critical.
Spiritual leadership and discernment are skills that deacons can refine and use consistently in their ministry during these tough days. The future of the Christian faith is at risk in the United States, and deacons must lead churches to greater effectiveness, for our churches will never move beyond their spiritual leadership.
One of my major concerns is that most of our deacons will just do "business as usual"—focusing on church membership, church building and budget concerns. They might not give quality time to praying and dialoguing about the future of Christianity in America, finding and practicing justice in a pluralistic and terror-riddled world, and working toward greater health and wholeness of the Christian church.
What about you and your deacon body?
Concerns I Hear about Deacon Nomination/Election
- "We are having a reduced interest in members serving as deacons."
- "We can't find a sufficient number of 'qualified candidates' due to divorce, spiritual immaturity, inactive membership, or newcomers to the church or community." (This varies with church polity, constitution and tradition.)
- "We nominate more than we can elect, and those who are not elected become discouraged and often hurt because they are consistently nominated but not elected." (Often this has to do with the counting system more than anything.)
- "We have a deacon ministry plan, but it doesn't seem to be working very effectively." (This often surfaces because deacons are over-challenged and de-motivated.)
Lessons I've Learned about Election
- Congregations must be educated, along with deacon candidates, about the biblical basis of deacon ministry and expectations for deacon service.
- Most nomination and election plans are out of date and need revision and rethinking in light of current issues.
- Most deacons are not spiritually prepared or committed to the tough prayer work and ministry demands our diverse and changing world brings. Motivation is good, but skill level and spiritual maturity are often wanting.
Resources for Your Review
Eddie Hammett is leadership/discipleship consultant for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and adjunct professor at Gardner Webb Divinity School.
Buy Hammett's books now from Amazon.com!
Making the Church Work: Converting the Church for the 21st Century
The Gathered and Scattered Church
Reframing Spiritual Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture