By Todd Jones
According to Ephesians 4:11-12, The Lord has given each and every Christian spiritual gifts to use for the good of others and to the glory of God. He has not called pastors to do the entire work of the ministry, but to equip, empower, and encourage all believers to be involved in ministry somehow.
Years ago, at First Baptist Church, we began taking steps to ensure that every member ministry was a reality.
Our church is structured and prepared to care for our current members most effectively through care groups that have been established within our small group ministry and our deacon family ministry plan. While our pastors are available to pray for, visit, and meet the needs of members in a variety of ways, the lay leadership and key volunteers within our family of friends are thought of as “first responders” when someone is in need. This distinction, which required a culture shift in our church, has allowed individuals to use their God-given gifts and has involved a greater number of people in the work of the ministry.
A significant portion of our church’s ministry to our members is conducted through our deacon family ministry. Each of our deacons is assigned the responsibility of caring for a specific number of families within our church. The deacons are given a small book of “Bible Promises, ” has been given some very basic training on how to pray for and encourage members in a variety of ways, and empowered to do serve God by serving the flock. They are asked to establish and maintain communication with their families on a regular basis throughout the year by making phone calls or sending letters and emails. The deacons are also asked to make themselves available to minister to these families in times of sickness, death, or in other emergency situations.
We began our transition to a deacon family ministry model years ago, but as the Covid-19 Pandemic arose, our deacons really rose to the occasion. They have been ready and willing to serve in partnership with our pastors by calling all of their widows and elderly family members to see if they were in need of assistance obtaining groceries, medications, or general supplies. They shared scriptures and prayed with people over the phone, and responded to meet needs in a variety of ways. Our deacon family ministry has been a help to our pastors and a blessing to our members during this ever-changing and challenging season of ministry!
Your church may not have had a plan in place to train deacons in a similar manner prior to the pandemic, but there is no time like the present. There may have never been a time in your church’s history that illustrates the need for additional volunteers to assist in the care of your members!
If I can be of assistance in providing tips, strategy, or coaching as you start to strengthen your deacon ministry, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Todd Jones is the Senior Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Middleburg, FL.