The Work of a Deacon
JOHN D. RHODES Pastor-Evangelist, Southern California Conference
Some have the misconception that "now that the church has elected me to the work of a deacon I will have little to do." This idea is, no doubt, created by the fact that many of our deacons do so little. Any job in the church, done well, requires time and sincere effort. The deacon should not be a loafer. He has a work to do.
The work of a deacon is only slightly less in importance to that of an elder. The elders are to take the harder cases in church problems, but the work of the deacon is also a spiritual work, aside from his many manual duties only perhaps on a lesser plane. (See The Acts of the Apostles, p. 93.)
In our church the high calling of this office is emphasized by the fact that the deacons kneel at the front below the pulpit at the time the elders kneel for silent prayer. As to the spiritual qualifications one might well reread Acts 6:1-8 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
I. THE DEACONS' RESPONSIBILITY TO THE CHURCH PROPERTIES. In other Protestant churches there is often what is called a trustee board. These men hold the title to the church. They are also responsible for the total church property. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church the conference association holds the title, but the men chosen as deacons are nonetheless responsible for the church properties. The outline below suggests some of the areas of responsibility.
1. The Church Monies (a) In our church the deacon counts the money of the loose offering and gets a receipt for it from the church treasurer. (b) The head deacon is a member of the church finance committee and helps set the annual budget. (c) He is to administer funds budgeted for his use to alleviate needs o£ widows and orphans (in counsel with church board if item is excessive at all).
2. The Church Building (a) The head deacon is a member of our church improvement committee and helps bring to our board suggestions for improvements and repair that can wait till board meetings. (b) The deacon is the overseer of the janitor work. If the janitor fails, the deacon is to see that laymen get the job done. (c) He is to see to such needed repairs as broken windows, plumbing, lighting, and heating. (d) He is to see to the care and distribution of Church Hymnals and other songbooks. (e) He is to see to the distribution of offering envelopes in whatever manner his particular church uses. He is to remove any paper or litter in the envelope and hymnal racks. (/) A deacon should be appointed to lock up after each regular church meeting.
II. THE DEACONS' RESPONSIBILITY TO CHURCH COMFORT.
1. Opening, lighting, and heating of building before services.
2. Maintaining of proper heat and ventilation for varied temperatures in the weather.
3. Seeing to it that all supplies are complete, such as toilet tissue, soap, towels.
4. The tightening of any loose opera seats if the church has these, and seeing to it that no splintery seats exist to tear ladies' hose.
III. THE DEACON AT THE REGULAR WORSHIP SERVICE. In our church we have the following order of service. It is given only as a suggestion. We have our deacons sit forward and kneel with our elders as they enter for silent prayer. At the time of presentation of offerings we instruct the elder merely to make a brief offering appeal, after which he is seated. This is the cue for our deacons to begin to take the offering. (The elder should never say, "Will the deacons please stand?" They should obviate the necessity of this clich.) After taking the offering the deacons stand at the rear of the sanctuary and await the nod of our organist, who modulates from his offertory to the Doxology. Then, as the congregation sings, the deacons come for ward and the elder comes to the desk and gives his prayer of dedication. Each deacon may then go and sit with his family.
IV. THE DEACON AND His DUTIES AT A' BAPTISM.
1. Watch bulletin for baptisms to come, and check with pastor as to dates and number to be baptized.
2. Heat building, water, and dressing rooms to comfortable temperatures.
3. Prepare adequate dressing rooms, or booths, by using portable screens, et cetera, if church does not have adequate facilities.
4. Fill baptistry with water, making sure it does not overflow.
5. Assist men in putting on their robes, and also assist them into the water.
6. Help men disrobe (after baptism), wring water from robes, and prepare them for the deaconesses to take home for servicing.
7. Mop baptismal area, drain pool, and see that no towels or wet things are left around baptistry.
V. THE DEACON AND His DUTIES AT A QUARTERLY SERVICE.
1. Prepare rooms for service of preparation, arranging seats for both men's and women's rooms.
2. Prepare buckets, warm water, and basins, for both men and women. (It is well to add sweet-scented Pino-cide disinfectant to water.)
3. Be sure to provide suitable basins and soap so that men and women can wash their hands before going in to take communion.
4. Clean buckets, basins, and rooms after service, seeing that all towels are boxed and given to deaconesses for laundering.
VI. DEACONS AT THE COMMUNION TABLE.
1. See to it that table is placed as it should be before service.
2. See to it that there are enough chairs for officiating elders.
3. As they enter for the communion service, remain standing facing the table, and sit down when elders sit down.
4. Since most men are fumblers, it is well to have the deaconesses remove the table cover.
5. Receive emblems, and distribute both bread and wine to congregation.
6. Return both bread and wine service to elders, who will in turn serve deacons and then one another.
7. Since each pastor may vary in his way of carrying on the details of this service, it is well to have it clearly in mind just what to do.
8. Assist deaconesses in replacing table and carrying the utensils to place for washing.
VII. THE DEACON AS A SPIRITUAL VISITOR.
1. He is to visit and determine needs of widows, orphans, and shut-ins.
2. In our church we have a quarterly visitation day when deacons and elders go by twos, as in Bible times, to visit the ones determined by the pastor as in need of visitation. On this day the pastor may join an elder in taking communion to a shut-in. He may take tape recordings to those who cannot get to church.
VIII. THE DEACON AND THE CHURCH BOARD.
1. All deacons are members of the church board and should attend all board and business meetings possible.
2. Deacons should at the meeting ask for suggestions to better their work and make suggestions for the general betterment of the church.
IX. WHAT Is A DEACONS' BOARD?
1. In large and middle-sized churches it is well for the deacons to meet periodically in their own board meeting, at which time the head deacon presides. He announces time and place of meeting.
2. At these meetings the particular work of a deacon is discussed and suggestions made that might demand the larger attention of the general church board.
X. WHAT Is A "HEAD DEACON"?
1. The head deacon is usually chosen by the nominating committee. He is chairman of the board of deacons, if one exists.
2. Should a head deacon assume all these responsibilities himself? No. He should delegate responsibility. Some of his deacons are perhaps gifted in various ways. He might not make needed repairs, for instance, on the building, but he might have a deacon capable of handling such problems. A deacon may work nights and not be available for lockup after prayer meeting. Then the head deacon should delegate another to care for this work.
XI. THE DEACON AS AN USHER.
1. I do not believe that in a church of any size the deacon should usher, for this is a good training ground for other men not
yet qualified for the high calling of a deacon. Ushers can be new converts, or even those not yet baptized.
2. For those who do practice the work of an usher, the following suggestions are in order: (a) An usher should function at Sabbath school, both to seat strangers and to take visitors' children to respective divisions. They should function right behind the lady hostesses. (b) During the worship, ushering deacons should help people get seated as soon as possible after intermission. (c) Seat late-comers, keeping an eye open for available seats. (d) Assist parents by opening doors when they leave with crying children. (e) Open doors for pastor and elders as they leave sanctuary at close of service. (f) In some congregations at the discretion of the board people are ushered out by rows.
3. Ushers might be junior deacons, merely given the title, but not ordained. (A good place for teenagers to function.)
4. Ushers may be distinguished by some badge or a boutonniere.
XII. THE DEACON (OR USHER) AND His DRESS.
1. Where possible, a dark suit is most appropriate or a plain suit of solid color.
2. Avoid, if possible, wearing sport coats and slacks, and never wear sport shirts with open collars to officiate in such a high work.
3. Wear, if possible, a white shirt and plain tie.
An Appraisal of Our Church Building Program Part III Planning the Building Program
E. D. CALKINS Pastor and Building Consultant East Pennsylvania Conference
To plan a building for the exalted purpose of worshiping the Lord is a rare privilege. It should be undertaken reverently and intelligently. He who erects a building has an obligation to his neighbors, his constituency, and his God. Every building becomes a reflection of his concept of the character and ideals of the Lord. The first step in a building program is to ascertain the need.
Your congregation may need a new building because it has used rented quarters, or because the present building is too small, unrepresentative, unsafe, or inadequate. Such a study might well be made by the church board in cooperation with your conference consultant or other officer. Recommendations to the church body should be made by the board at a duly called business session, in which the entire problem could be discussed and a decision reached. Working committees, which might consist of a locating, a plans, a finance, and at a later time a building committee, could be appointed at the business meeting or by the church board.
These committees could report their recommendations to the church in due course of time. A well-informed membership will give more intelligently a fact which certainly must not be overlooked when building. To enlist the entire cooperation it may be well for the pastor to present in sermon form some of the needs for an adequate house of worship (or school). Urge every department of the church to submit suggestions as to its need. Let every member contribute freely to the preliminary planning, preferably before the appointment of committees.
This helps to avoid hurt feelings and assures support of the pro gram. How large should a committee be? That may vary with the type of work and size of church. We conducted a successful building program with a building committee of three, which has the advantage of dispatch, although it may lack in broad representation. Generally from five to nine members will be found desirable. An inspirational meeting might well be held for all who have been selected to engage in committee work. A written statement of the duties and responsibilities of each committee, and of
the entire congregation, should be given to all. All items needing attention could be noted and properly assigned,
Organizing to Raise Funds
To assemble funds consecrated to the high purpose of creating in material form the spiritual experience of the soul is a high and sacred experience. Work on this phase of the pro gram should not be delayed, as the acquisition of funds is generally an acute factor in the determining of the size and progress of the program. Many churches find it necessary to raise funds for several years before work is actually begun by the locating or plans committee. A tentative goal may be established for the entire project, as well as a time schedule.
A publicity program will be necessary, con ducted either by a special committee, or as a part of the work of the finance committee. The pastor may choose to speak on such subjects as "The Church Building, an Expression of Christian Ideals," "The Church Typical of the Home land of the Soul," "Witness of God's House."
Thorough organization of the church for the raising of funds is most imperative. In one program we divided the entire membership (350) into 30 bands as nearly equal financially as possible. We called a meeting of the leaders and outlined the plan. Each was given a large envelope containing the list of his band members, a mimeographed sheet of instructions as to how to call, what to say, et cetera, a number of "gold bond" shares in different denominations ($100, $50, and $25), a ledger sheet on which to keep a complete record of "shares" sold, and the offering envelopes to be given to the members of the band. Each member placed his money in the offering plate in his envelope, and also reported the gift to his band leader. The handling of finance was thus reduced to a minimum.
Band leaders were counseled to team together, or to select someone from their band to accompany them on visitation. This plan played the dominant role in the fund-raising program. Very little promotion was given during the worship hour. Announcements were contained in the weekly bulletin, and occasion ally special mention was necessary from the pulpit. On two occasions during the project we conducted a special church service. In our particular location we found it expedient to have laymen conduct the entire worship pro gram, speaking on such general topics as the need, God's ideal, the blessings of sacrifice, urgency of the task, et cetera. A special offering received at the close of one such service amounted to more than $4,000.
After counseling with the conference adviser, the finance committee may desire to give study to the advisability of a public solicitation pro gram. Special projects may also be suggested. Various departments of the church may desire to raise a special fund for pews, the furnishing of some department, the church roof, or some other item.
The committee will also want to familiarize itself with the General Conference policy governing building programs, which requires that 75 per cent of the funds be on hand before building operations are begun. Some type of goal or progress device may prove to be helpful, depending upon the attitude taken by the congregation, and how it is used. It will be necessary for the committee to prepare a plan of finance to be submitted to the conference committee for approval. Such a listing will include:
1. the estimated cost, and 2. the financial plan. The latter might be divided into: a. cash on hand, b. pledges (list by years), c. other incomes, d. value of volunteer labor and donated materials, e. conference appropriation requested, and /. plans for raising the remainder. Concerning church finance, Ellen G. White wrote: "The lax way which some churches have of incurring debts and keeping in debt, was presented before me. In some cases a continual debt is upon the house of God. There is continual interest to be paid. These things should not, and need not, be. If there is that wisdom and tact and zeal manifested for the Master which God requires, there will be a change in these things." Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 102.
Faith and Sacrifice Necessary
I do not entirely know what the Lord's plan is for raising all the money that appears to be necessary to erect houses of worship, but I do know that "these memorials are to stand in many places as witnesses to the truth. . . . Wherever a company of believers is raised up, a house of worship should be built. Let not the workers leave the place without accomplishing this." Ibid., p. 100. "In preparing a house of worship, there must be a great exercise of faith and trust in God. In business transactions those who venture nothing make but little advancement; why not have faith also in an enterprise for God, and invest in His cause? . . . "The liberality of the Jews in the construction of the tabernacle and the erection of the temple, illustrates a spirit of benevolence which has not been equaled by Christians of any later date. . . . "Can Christians living near the close of time, be satisfied with their offerings when not half so large as were those of the Jews?" Ibid., vol. 4, pp. 77-79. "There are some cases, however, in which a young church may not be able at once to bear the whole burden of erecting a house of worship. In these cases let the brethren in other churches help them. In some cases it may be better to hire some money than not to build. . . . "When the Lord sees His people restricting their imaginary wants, . . . the work will go forward with power." Ibid., vol. 6, pp. 101-104. If your congregation of one hundred members denied themselves one nickel ice-cream cone or candy bar a day, or one thirty-five-cent sundae a week, it would amount to $35 a week for the building fund. With self-denial boxes for each home, the health of the membership could be increased as well as the building fund!
I am reminded of a story told by Albert A. Chambers in a fund-raising sermon. A selfsacrificing French doctor was about to retire after a memorable life of service to his fellow townsmen. They had not always .been able to recompense him for his work, but upon this occasion it was proposed that a concrete expression of their appreciation and affection be presented to him. On a given day a large barrel was placed in the city square where everyone was to bring a pitcher of wine from his cellar. All day long the people came bearing their pitchers. That evening, at a special celebration, speeches were made by the mayor and leading citizens as the barrel of wine was presented.
Later the doctor drew a little wine from the barrel and tasted it. He was shocked. It tasted like water. He sipped again. It was water. He called the mayor, who was dumfounded. He in turn called the councilmen, and an investigation ensued. The truth came out. Everyone had reasoned that he had only a small amount of wine in his cellar and that no would know if he contributed a pitcher of water. The story was the same everywhere each one gave water!
This tale may more often find its tragic fulfillment in giving toward a special church project, but let us not forget that Jesus blessed and multiplied the few loaves and fishes. He will do so again for your congregation.
Competition and Ingathering
MERRILL L. ENRIGHT Pastor-Evangelist, Southern California Conference
A major problem to pastors at Ingathering time is how to encourage ever}'1 church member to have an individual part in reaching the church's Ingathering goal. In order that this may be done successfully it is important that each member be encouraged to reach his own personal goal. In fact, that is the secret of success in any church project. But many times we may be tempted to glorify certain individual members above others who may have worked even harder and longer without reaching their particular goals.
For example: certain fortunate people may be given business territory to solicit. And many of these businessmen have made it a regular part of their program to give an annual gift to our work. Within a few minutes these members receive the regular checks from these merchants, which amount to several Minute Man goals. The next Sabbath these members are crowned with honor and are held up before the church as wonderful examples. Then they promptly relax, while others are working for their goals the hard way, going from door to door night after night and all day Sunday, maybe for weeks, and even then they may fail of reaching their goals. They have worked harder but have received no commendation.
It is well for us to remember that Jesus did not praise the givers of large amounts of money who had advantages and reached their goal for personal glory, but instead He praised the poor widow who gave all of herself for God's kingdom.
There may be nothing really wrong with printing the list of all who have reached their goal, but if in doing that we fail to mention as we give out the Minute Man ribbons that there is a much greater reward awaiting all who are doing their best to advance God's mission pro gram, even if the Minute Man goal is not reached, then we as leaders have certainly failed to comprehend the Lord's method of rewarding success. Certainly, the poor widow did not reach the Temple goal for the individual member, but she did more: she exceeded it and received the commendation of her Lord. The Master does not gauge success by outward appearances, for He looks upon the heart. And have we not all sensed that sometimes hearts have been hurt by our efforts to accomplish worthy ends by unworthy methods? Competition too often destroys the spirit of fellowship which, in
A California Church Solves Its Public Relations Problem
BILL OLIPHANT Assistant Secretary, Pacific Union Conference Department of Public Relations
Every organization has public relations of some sort, whether good or bad. The progress the organization makes in the community, the esteem it enjoys, depends upon the type of public relations it has.
Good public relations or, more simply, the good will of the community is equally as valuable to the church as it is to the big factory in town. But the factory has a budget and an ex pert to take care of its relations with the community. However, the local church is not able to solve the problem in this way.
Thus the members, from the pastor down, are responsible for the degree of good will the church enjoys. It is not enough for the mem bers to go to church Sabbath after Sabbath and for the pastor to stand before his congregation and deliver a sermon. What the members do or fail to do outside the church will largely determine whether or not the church ranks high in the esteem of the public.
Sometimes little incidents, such as a member hanging out her laundry on Sunday, can react against the church. An incident might have occurred in the little California town of Escondido that could have done much to make the work of the church more difficult because of offense to the public, and resulting hard feelings. But this didn't happen there, because the pastor [J. V. Scully, now a departmental secretary in the Southeastern California Conference EDITORS] realized that the good will of the public was vital to the success of his church. It developed this way: One day the pastor of the Escondido Seventh-day Adventist church called in his board members and laid a proposition before them. The church was too small, and he wanted to build an addition to it. But the board was cautious. This would call for a great deal of work donated by the congregation, because there just were not enough funds in the treasury. Most of the church members^ would have to con tribute their work on Sundays. What if the neighbors objected to their working and making noise on Sunday? This could cause hard feelings in the community that it would take a long time to overcome. With hard feelings in the town, the church would have a very difficult time making a success of any evangelistic campaign for a long time.
But the pastor was ready with an answer. He had the public relations problem neatly solved. They would take a poll and find out what the reaction of the community would be toward their proposed working on Sunday and then make plans for the new addition accordingly. In a few days the poll was under way. The residents of the community were surprised and greatly pleased about the consideration being given them. Smiling pollsters called at the neighbors' doors and walked away with the good will of Escondido in their pockets.
The feelings of the people were pretty well summed up by the editor of the Escondido Daily Times: "We like the goodwill shown by the Seventh-day Adventists in their construction of an addition to the church here. Since their Sabbath is Saturday, they would like to work on the addition on Sun day. So, rather than just go ahead and perhaps have some of the neighbors who worship on Sun day angry, the Adventists polled the neighborhood, asking if the residents would mind the work. "That's the sort of tolerance which makes for understanding between churches . . . and people."