Friday, September 13, 2013

Feeders? A Deacon Ministry reflection on NOAC 2013.

Betty Bontrager
Virginia Crim was the oldest person at NOAC 2013, at 96 years of age. Photo by Eddie Edmonds
I just returned from our denomination's National Older Adult (50+) Conference (NOAC), at which the collective wisdom was palpable. This year a new banner, "Sages Through the Ages," was introduced, onto which the name of each year's oldest attendee will be added during the NOAC gathering. What a terrific reminder of the importance of this group's lifelong contributions to the life and spirit of the church!

Something else new happened at NOAC this year. In addition to the 800-plus "regular" attendees, a group of young adults were present as well. They were there mainly as helpers and workshop leaders, but their collective enthusiasm for the work of the church and love of our denomination was just as obvious and infectious as that of their elders. The interactions between young and old were inspiring, including the challenge given to the older attendees to encourage the youth in their congregations, their families, their communities, to attend the NOAC "feeder conference" also known as NYC (National Youth Conference).

Not surprisingly, a number of people at NOAC are deacons, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many folks I’ve met during a workshop. With the young adult presence I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if our deacon bodies developed "feeders" for our ministry, mentoring and encouraging younger people in the ministry of pastoral care. What would that look like?

We might start by simply looking around. Who are the young (or middle-age) adults in your faith community you could see as deacons? Take a minute to mention to them that you see gifts that would lend themselves nicely to deacon ministry. Plant the seed. Help them understand what deacon ministry is all about in your faith community. Help them understand what deacon ministry is not--to dissuade them from thoughts that they might not be "good enough" to be a deacon. Talk to your deacon sisters and brothers about inviting others to retreats or training events so they might begin to consider a call to caregiving.

Isn't this what discipleship is all about? "…So that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17).

-- Donna Kline is director of the Church of the Brethren Deacon Ministry.

Source: 9/13/2013 Newsline

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