Many of you are asking yourself that question and wondering what part it plays in our church. The name is new, but the ministry is not. Prior to January of this year, the mission team that encompassed part of this ministry was called Christian Community. It dealt with just about anything having to do with the social and pastoral care needs of our family of faith. With the reorganization of some Session mission teams, Christian Community became two mission teams: Care Ministry and Fellowship.
In the early years of our church, all pastoral care fell to the pastor. This included homebound communion, home and hospital visits for the sick and shut-ins, conduit for prayer concerns, etc. As our church grew in numbers, this became impossible for one person – even a pastor – to carry alone. A board of deacons was created to assist the pastor(s) in these services. The Diaconate – or board of deacons – has done an admirable job for the past several years in caring for the needy among us, but they have done so independently and with very little recognition. In fact, few people probably even know what our deacons do.
Our church currently has 18 deacons. Each deacon serves for a three-year term, with one-third of the members rotating off each year. Each deacon is assigned a parish. Since there are 18 deacons, there are 18 parishes, comprised of church members, staff, and even some regular visitors. Every family and/or individual in our church family is assigned to a parish. When someone in our church has a pastoral need, his or her deacon is the point of contact to make sure the need is provided for, if it is within the scope of the church mission. Each deacon is tasked with introducing themselves to their parishioners and letting them know their contact information for assistance. The deacons are also used as a source of information to their parish, informing members of special fellowship events or important church news.
Some deacons also take on additional duties as follows:
PRAYER CHAIN: Many of you have asked to be a part of our church e-mail prayer chain. This is the fastest way to let our congregation know when someone is ill, has a death in the family, or is in need of prayer for any reason. This has been a very effective tool for distributing information and soliciting prayers. Did you know that a deacon is the person who keeps the e-mail addresses current and makes this possible?
HOMEBOUND COMMUNION: It is important for members of our church to be offered communion on a monthly basis, even if they are unable to come to church to receive it. This is done once a month, usually after church on the first Sunday of the month, or as soon afterwards as can be scheduled. This service is offered to shut-ins in their home or place of residence (nursing home, etc.) or even in the hospital if desired. It is also available to people who are unable to come to church for a month or more due to illness or accident recovery. A deacon coordinator is in charge of scheduling this service, when requested, with the assistance of the parish deacon.
FUNERAL RECEPTIONS: When a member of our congregation transfers membership to the Church Triumphant and has a memorial service in our church, the family may want to have a reception following the service. A deacon is the coordinator for this free service, utilizing volunteers from the church to provide food and assistance, in order to bid a fitting farewell to a loved one.
MEALS COORDINATION: When someone is ill at home, in the hospital, has a new baby, has a death in the family, etc., it often is difficult to take care of those needs and also find the time to cook a meal as well. The parish deacon will be happy to take requests to provide meals on a temporary basis. The deacon then asks volunteers to provide a meal on a given day, until the need has been alleviated.
NEW MEMBER LIAISON: When someone expresses an interest in joining our church family, usually via the New Members Classes, a deacon attends the classes, informs the new members as to what services are offered by the church, collects family survey sheets, assigns new members to a parish, and introduces the new members to their deacon, if possible.
The Care Ministry was created to provide a more direct means of support for the deacons and the numerous tasks they provide. The Care Elder not only is an advisor to the Diaconate but keeps the Session informed as to the needs and actions of this hard-working group of servants within our church.
Care Ministry Elder