This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Homer De Carter
\ __ I
Homer D Carter
l\tIic R. Morrow Teaching Suggestions
Henry Webb Editor
2 3 4 5
7 8 9
Introduction to the Pastor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 3 Power for Ministry , , .. , .. 10 Basic Caring Skills , , , .. , .. 15 Caring for the Hospitalized and Their Families , 25 Caring for the Bereaved , , 31 Caring for Those Experiencing Spiritual Doubt and Guilt .. 39 Caring for the Lonely , , , " , ,44 Caring for the Needy ., , , ,48 Caring for Church Members in Conflict .. , , 53 Caring for Those Experiencing Major Life Events , .. , .60 Caring for the Uprooted , , , , .. , .65 Caring for Husbands and Wives in Conflict , 70 Caring for Parents and Children in Conflict 78 Caring for the Alcoholic and the Addict " , , 84 Caring for the Depressed and Despairing , 91 Resources for Ministry .. , , , , 95
©Copyright 19800 Convention All rights reserved Press
Church Study Course 18003 Subject Area: Deacon Ministry Church and Staff Support Division Dewey Decimal Number 5290-89 Printed in the United States of America 262.1
Introduction to the astor
I have been blessed in that most of what a pastor does is enjoyable for me. I like the variety. Rest has often come merely by shifting the focus from the office or study to the homes of people. The pastor's life can be exciting. Nevertheless, most pastors will agree that we face the challenge to accomplish more than one human being can possibly achieve. We readily agree with the Acts 6 picture, a setting in which the apostles (preachers) were confronted with increasing needs of a young congregation. Seven men were chosen to share the responsibility. They were asked to minister to the people, to hush the murmurs (manage the conflict), and to help the apostles have more time for Bible study and prayer. Today's busy pastor knows that he must exercise his leading, proclaiming, and caring roles. He knows in his heart that the gifts of every member are needed if the congregation is to be spiritually healthy. He must find ways to share responsibility for ministry to the people he loves and serves. The question is how best can this be done?
The Priesthood of All Believers
Ordination day was not an altogether happy time for me. I clearly remember the comments from one of those present: "The office of pastor is the highest calling a person can ever have." That statement disturbed me. It became a symbol of my discomfort with some of the tones that surfaced on that now distant day. Some careful teachers had filled me with excitement as they shared our Baptist heritage, the priesthood of all believers. I came away from the ordination service with a sense of "dis-ease." Strangely, I was uncomfortable with some of the ordination experience. Why was I so uncomfortable on the heralded day of my ordination? Surely, a portion was bound up in my own seeking to understand myself in my new role as pastor, I had barely agreed to become responsible for myself; and then, suddenly, I heard that I was responsible for others. The burden of adulthood, the agreement to become the giver and provider, has always been enough to make us shudder, This was Martin Luther's problem in the spring of 1507when he became a priest. He was so awed by the mystery of it all, along with the weight of his own need to better understand what was happening, that Erikson reports he fell over crying, "It's not me; it's not me," I On a day when one is supposed to celebrate, he was overwhelmed with the weight of an awesome responsibility, I can identify with Martin Luther. There was more to my discomfort, however, than my need to better understand what was happening. I was troubled to be ordained with implication that I would now be separated from lay people. The priesthood of all believers, this basic belief to which all of us give lip
service-what does it mean? Most of us have known from the beginning that it states a truth about the accessibility of God to each individual believer. There is no pecking order through which our requests must be made. Surely, there is more, however, to the priesthood of every believer than accessibility. There is also a responsibility to care for each other. The doctrine is rooted in Scripture. As far back as Exodus 19 the idea is stated: "And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6, RSV),2 That has always been the biblical goal-not an elite tribe that serves as priests but a kingdom of priests! Numbers 18: 1-5 does establish a special tribe through Aaron and his kinsmen, the Levites. This development in the Old Testament has never been the goal. It was merely a transitional arrangement. The end has always been a kingdom of priests. Hebrews 7-9 pinpoints the special high priesthood role of Jesus Christ. The rest of us are called as priests who derive our authority from him. This truth is majestically expressed by Peter: "And like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. .. , But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:5,9, RSV). This is addressed to every believer in Jesus Christ. To be saved is to be a priest. To be Christian is to be a minister. The young church knew the truth of these Scriptures and practiced them. There was no artificial distinction between clergy and laity. The early church was fresh with the breath of the Spirit, a vital force. Every Christian was a responsible minister before God. He who had received was expected to give. By the beginning of the second century, the clergy had begun to be distinguished from the laity. The ideal had always been a ministry for all of God's people and a recognition that all God's people have been gifted for ministry. The gifts for all God's people had been identified in key passages, such as Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, AU these Scriptures agree that every Christian is gifted and that the Christian is responsible to employ his gift or gifts. "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Pet. 4: 10, RSV). However, the trend to neglect the gifts of the laity continued, almost in an unbroken train until the Reformation. John Wycliffe, John Huss, and Peter Waldo made some gains. They made a beginning for the recovery of the" kingdom of priests. " Martin Luther further recovered the lost pearl. It was Luther who instructed new congregations to call out those from their midst who would be supported by the congregations as they declared" the wonderful deeds of him who caBed you out of darkness into his marvelous light." This emergency measure of the Reformation experiences was indeed a return to the New Testament pattern. The Anabaptists reinforced this development with their emphasis that all who receive believer's baptism have equal authority and responsibility before God. Recovery of the priesthood of all believers in the Reformation did not guarantee a continuing understanding. To understand does not guarantee that a pastor will invite his people to share ministry with him. In my earlier years I tended to do it all. This meant that I worked hard to sharpen skills of speaking, officiating, administering, winning, enlisting-whatever it took to make the church go. There was always the subtle pressure to excel in those
skills more than anyone else in the congregation. Then I would have been threatened by the idea of training others to minister to the body.
The Pastor's Role as an Equipper
The New English Bible appeared in 1961. It provided this accurate and forceful translation of Ephesians 4: 12: "And these were his gifts: some to be ... pastors and teachers, to equip God's people for work in his service."? The importance of verse 12 was obscured by the King James Version which placed a comma after "the perfecting of the saints." The New English Bible and subsequent translations correctly omitted that comma. This had the effect of linking the equipping ministry of pastors with the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Before long, I began to hear the phrase, "equipping ministry." This phrase opened my eyes to both a generalized and particular ministry. The writings of Elton Trueblood introduced me to a fresh expression of this time-honored idea. He wrote in 1967, "The idea of the pastor as the equipper is one which is full of promise, bringing back self-respect to men in the ministry when they are sorely discouraged by the conventional pattern . . . . To watch for underdeveloped powers, to draw them out, to bring potency to actuality in human lives-this is a self-validating task. A man who knows that he is performing such a function is not bothered by problems of popular acceptance because he is working at something which he can respect. ... Though his life is not easy, he is saved from triviality, for he knows that his work is both necessary and important.":' The writings of Trueblood, Samuel Shoemaker, and Keith Miller crystallized this truth for me. I realized by the late sixties that my special role as pastor was to be a pastor-equipper. The ministry is for all who are called to share in Christ's life, but the pastorate is for those who possess the particular gift of being able to help other persons be encouraged and prepared to practice the ministry to which they are called. This clearer understanding of my role as pastor began to jell enough by the early seventies that I had become a believer in a shared ministry with an understanding that God had called me to an "equipping ministry." Some pastor-equippers have grown accustomed to calling themselves "coach," a term universally accepted in this country by all ages. The coach discovers, develops, and trains the players under his care. He lives in community with them. The most able coaches are those who demonstrate and model the very skill being taught. A "player coach" is more than a Monday morning quarterback who second-guesses those who play the game. He knows much of what to anticipate. He has been there. The pastor-coach will be the one who is more concerned in developing others than he is in adding to his own prestige as a player. The mark of his success is not the amount of attention which he can focus on himself. He knows he is most successful when those under his guidance learn how to give good care. This pastor-coach analogy requires a game plan, one that faces up to the needs of the game.
The Deacon's Role as a Minister
I began to sense several years ago that such a game plan was offered through the Deacon Family Ministry Plan that our church adopted in 1972. Although
I was fascinated by the potential of the plan, little did I realize how slowly but surely this strategy would serve to change the shape of our congregation. Our own congregation had been conditioned by the board of deacons concept for most of its more than one-hundred-year history. Basically, this meant that the deacons functioned as the decision-making group to oversee the total life of the congregation. I can remember when a recommendation apart from deacons' approval had little chance of survival in a business session. Although there were numerous committees in the congregation, the deacons still tended to do or rework the tasks of the properties committee, the stewardship committee, and the personnel committee, among others. The pastor tended to be the "father" of this system. The deacons, especially the executive group, were the "favorite sons." The Deacon Family Ministry Plan moved us away from this traditional pattern to more of a shared ministry. The pastor began to be the "pastorequipper," and the deacons became "brothers" who more and more shared in the responsible care of and ministry to the congregation. At the same time, less and less committee work was done by the deacons as various church committees then carried out the commission given to them by the congregation. This shift toward deacons as ministers is consistent with the work of the seven in Acts 6-8. Their ministry included caring for the needs of the widows, healing a possible break in the fellowship, and proclaiming the gospel (Stephen and Philip). This is reinforced by the understanding of passages such as Ephesians 4: 12 and 1 Peter 2:5,9. More and more deacons have placed a priority on ministry. Getting into the care of persons has demanded that aU other concerns be placed into categories of lesser importance. One of the primary requirements for the office of deacon has become that of a commitment to the care of persons. In summary, our deacons have moved from an administrative board to a ministering corps. Ministry to others has become primary. All else has become secondary. Simple to implement, the Deacon Family Ministry Plan caUs for the organization of the church membership into proportionate groups so that each deacon is assigned and accepts responsibility for those families and persons in his group. Groups may be put together on the basis of geography or special needs that a particular deacon can best meet. The deacon becomes a minister to his group. In our church a church secretary calls the appropriate deacon every time the pastor is notified of a crisis. There are times when the deacon is the first to minister to a member in crisis.
The Equipping Approach
My own role has become that of pastor-equipper. I have committed myself for several years now to giving the deacons my best energy to enable and equip them for this ministry offamily care. They look to me for leadership in this direction. I have accepted and am learning to celebrate this role of player-coach. Once the deacons themselves place a priority on ministry, training will follow as naturally as night follows day. The attentive pastor offers to go with the deacon on ministry calls where help is needed or companionship sought. Or he may arrange for the experienced deacon to go with the less experienced. The pastor-equipper can make no better use of his time than in this kind of one-to-one training and encouragement.
There are, however, limitations to how far a pastor can spread himself. Obviously, much training of deacons can best be accomplished for the sake of efficiency and interaction within the group of deacons. The purpose of this book is to provide practical resources to use in the group training of deacons. This book is to help you become aware of the vast array of resources available to train deacons. In our own congregation there is seldom a deacons' meeting that does not include a generous portion of time reserved for the reporting of ministry contacts. The deacons are held accountable by a reporting system. The emphasis is on what has been done, not what has been neglected. With rare exceptions our deacons include a training session on each month's agenda. This period usually follows the time when deacons report on and discuss ministry contacts of the previous month; as a result, the reporting provides strong motivation for learning through the training session. Those responsible for planning deacons' meetings can make certain that equipping becomes an indispensable part of each meeting. Some years ago our deacons asked me to offer training in caring skills for the deacons and others in the church during the Sunday evening Church Training hour. A format was followed for some twenty weeks. I took actual interviews of other ministers with members of their congregation and used these written accounts as a way of teaching our deacons some ministering skills that they wanted to learn. I offered them helps in areas such as hospital visitation and spiritual doubt. They chose the help that best fitted the needs of the deacons. Interest ran high. This experience became a turning point in my own excitement for the equipping of deacons. I began to see how enjoyable training can become. Not only did the deacons learn how to minister, but they also matured spiritually as they faced up to their own struggles. Candid introductions to the everyday pilgrimage and hurts of others have given them a more realistic view of congregational life. Not all deacons will insist on training as ours did. The pastor might draw up a selection of training needs such as those addressed in this book and ask the deacons to indicate which ones are worthy of some training attention. I predict that they will indicate a willingness to become involved in a training effort. Teaching suggestions are included for each of the sessions. The pastor can use the material in these sessions for more than a year's training if one session is used each month. If more time is allowed, he can easily make this equipping manual the training resource for a two-year period with the deacons. Several sessions could well be the agenda for an in-depth, overnight retreat where pastor and deacons draw aside for a training conference. Their spouses might be included. Any of the sessions could be used as the basis of a pastor-led training time. Some might wish to use selected sessions as a training resource when particular needs arise within the congregation. Training sessions can be repeated for new deacons and can also reinforce earlier training for others. Additional resources for each session are listed at the back of the book. For extended study, supplementary material, or a particular need in any of these areas, these resources will prove helpful.
The Pastor's Resources
Ministry can be exhausting. To give without getting for oneself can push one toward spiritual bankruptcy. Looking back over the course of my own
pastoral ministry, I can see that through caring and giving I expected that somehow I would someday be released from my own lonely condition as a minister, For years I preached on the loneliness of others, documenting as I went the fragmentation, aloofness, and alienation of contemporary man, But somehow it seemed a matter of weakness to have this problem for my own. This made it difficult for me to identify, let alone face up to, the problem of my own loneliness. "We keep hoping that one day we will really understand our experiences-the woman who will bring peace to our restless life, the job where we can fulfill our potentials, the book which will explain everything, and the place where we can feel at home. Such false hope leads us to make exhausting demands and prepares us for bitterness and dangerous hostility when we start discovering that nobody, and nothing, can live up to our absolutistic expectations."? I had ministered for years with what I can now see were unrealistic expectations of congregations I served, This false hope had prepared me for some disappointments, There were some dangerous barriers between me and the congregation that had not met those impossible demands. This had become at points a hindrance to some relationships, I had become aware of my loneliness, my alienation, my separation at a particular point. I heard myself sharing with my wife: "I've been praying a prayer that surprises me, I am asking for a prayer meeting in our fellowship, a gathering initiated by one of our men and guided by one of them as a spiritual leader. I have never been invited to such a prayer meeting in all of my ministry. I crave this kind of fellowship and realize that one does not exist inside our congregation. I don't plan to mention this to anyone else, I could organize it myself, but I need to have it happen beyond my own doing, Within three months I had been invited to a Monday night prayer meeting begun by a small group of men, guided by one of them. I immediately accepted and found a fellowship where I could talk about my loneliness and inadequacies, my own fears, my own disappointments in myself and in others. As I "confessed" and became open with my brothers, I received "forgiveness" both from God and from those brothers (1 John 1:8-9), We found a warmth and acceptance of one another. In the context of praise, Scripture, and a sensitive dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach us, we began to grow spiritually and realized after awhile that God was using our prayer fellowship to bless beyond ourselves. I had participated in several support groups across the years. All had contributed something to me. This one, a basic prayer and praise group, is of such significance in my own pilgrimage that I have not missed any session when in town for two years. A primary concern has always been to pray for the hurts and needs of our church community as we also celebrate the victories that are taking place. Different persons come and go. For the first time in my pastoral ministry, I am part of a fellowship that intercedes for the members of the congregation. Joy has been restored to my own ministry. The Holy Spirit has empowered through this fellowship. A similar note has begun to be part and parcel of our deacons' meetings. As needs of persons are shared, a prayer time of intercession for others and petitions for ministering strength have become commonplace. Our deacons are becoming a praying community. This is a far cry from the days when we prayed as an easy way to begin and end a meeting. You will probably understand the difference.
I share such a personal experience for a number of reasons. One is to make certain that I get used to admitting my own loneliness as I discover there is no magic by which it is erased. Rather, the Lord of life teaches us through a praying community how to protect and cherish our loneliness as a precious gift. It is that loneliness shared with the deacons of our congregations in particular which can urge us to the throne of grace where God is our helper. To minister without fellowship with one another and apart from a community is a joyless pilgrimage. The pastor and deacons can be a praying community through which the Spirit instructs and empowers. This community is marked by the capacity of pastor and deacons to acknowledge their own wounds as they expect and receive power to become' 'wounded healers."6 The climate can be such that each can talk about his own feelings of inadequacy and fear. We learned to covel' our weaknesses and show only our strength. The pastor/deacon prayer community can discover that in our weaknesses God chooses to reveal his strength (l Cor. 1:25). We are never any stronger than when we are able to confess our own weaknesses. It is in the midst of a praying community that pastor and deacons seek and expect guidance from the Holy Spirit so that needed gifts can be identified and employed.
1. Erik Erikson, Young Man Luther (New York: Norton, 1958), pp. 23-28. 2. From the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1946, 1952, © 1971, 1973. Subsequent quotations are marked RSV. 3. From The Nell' English Bible. Copyright © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1961, 1970. Reprinted by permission. Subsequent quotations are marked NEB. 4. Elton Trueblood, The Incendiary Fellowship (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), p. 41. 5. Henri J. M. Nouwen, Tire WOllnded Healer (Garden City, N.Y_: Doubleday, 1972), pp. 86-87. 6. Ibid.
The teaching of this book will be enhanced If the following guidelines are followed: @ Select a time when most of the deacons can be there. Consider inviting potential deacons and other interested church members. @ Select a room that Is confortable, well lighted, and conducive to learning. A room large enough for participants to be seated around tables would be a good selection. D Make sure any visual aids (chalkboard, newsprint, poster board, or others) are in place before participants arrive. D Provide paper and pencils. This will encourage participants to take notes. @ Be thoroughly familiar with the content for each session. @ Plan wise use of the teaching time. The training plans have been written for a one-hour session (except chapter 2 which may require two hours). @ Do any advance planning before time for the session. Any Instructions for advance planning in the training plans will be marked with an asterisk (*). D Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you teach.
Power for Ministry
The deacon's ministry is a shared ministry. Deacons are called to partnership in ministry under the leadership of the pastor. Our cherished doctrine of the priesthood of all believers means more than the access of every believer to the Father; it also means each Christian is responsible to care for and minister to one another. Deacons can lead the way in this ministry and model care for the entire congregation. Deacons need to be equipped for such a caring ministry. This means deacons need to develop basic caring skills and learn to apply them in specific ministry situations. Sessions 2 through 14 provide resources for such training. However.these skills must not be a substitute for the spiritual power essential for God-given ministry. Power for ministry comes directly from God's presence in your life. But God also gives power through other persons.
Power Through God's Presence
The deacon's personal relationship to God through Christ is the foundation for all caring ministry. Moses could not accept the awesome challenge God had set before him until he heard God's promise to be with him. When Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" God responded, "I will be with you" (Ex. 3:11-12, RSV). Moses found power for ministry through the assurance of God's presence. Jesus knew that the commission he gave his disciples was only possible with the promise, "I am with you always" (Matt. 28:20, RSV). When the Jerusalem church needed to set apart seven of their number to minister to some special needs and to heal the fellowship, they knew such men needed the fullness of the presence of the Spirit of God (Acts 6:3). Regular personal prayer is essential to building a personal relationship with Christ. Also Bible reading and study, both personal and in the church through Sunday School classes, Church Training sessions, and sermons help the deacon see life and other persons from God's perspective.
Provides Adequacy for Ministry
The deacon can be open about his feelings of inadequacy and fear as he enters the personal ground of another person's need. Although learning skills to increase effectiveness in ministry are essential and valuable, this sense of inadequacy can be healthy as it drives the deacon to a dependence on God. God wants our availability, not just our ability. The Lord told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9, RSV). The deacon's freedom to admit his limitations and inadequacies becomes an opportunity for God to empower. Jesus made a staggering promise concerning the resources of power a Christian can expect through the presence of God's Spirit. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father" (John 14:12, RSV). The deacon who is ready to minister needs to claim and experience the power of God's presence.
Provides Motivation to Care for the Needs of Others
Loving others enough to care for their needs arises out of a loving relationship with God. Jesus linked the two relationships when he declared: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Matt. 22:37-39, RSV). The good Samaritan was Jesus' example of being neighbor to a person by acting to meet his need (Luke 10:33-37). On the eve of his crucifixion Jesus knelt to wash the disciples' feet. He powerfully demonstrated his commitment to a servant ministry to others. He explained: "If! then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15, RSV). His caring has become a model for our caring. This same pattern for caring action is stated with unforgettable forcefulness in Matthew 25:31-46. Those who gain favor in the day of judgment are those who have met the needs of others. The provision of water to the thirsty, visitation of the imprisoned, care for the sick-"As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:40, RSV).
Provides Sensitivity to the Needs of Others
A key to Jesus' caring ministry is his sensitivity to the needs of others. This is illustrated in his sensitivity to the individual needs of persons such as the , woman who touched his cloak and was healed (Matt. 9:20-22); Zacchaeus, who had climbed a tree in order to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10); and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26). This sensitivity is a hallmark of Jesus' ministry style. Sensitivity can be mystically inspired, such as an inexplicable impression to go to someone, only to learn upon arrival ofa specific need. But sensitivity also comes as a gift from God through wise perceptivity. Experience makes it possible to know a person in the hospital, a bereaved family, or a family in conflict needs care. Experience helps a deacon become aware of the signals of loneliness, doubt, guilt, or depression. There are some ways in which training for deacon ministry can be compared to combat training for the military. The purpose of good training is to simulate conditions that the trainee can anticipate under fire. He will develop sensitivity and reflexes which will carry him through when he needs them most. The deacon can expect more than the conditioned reflexes that come from good training. He can expect God not only to provide guidance in
Provides Guidance in Using Caring Skills
learning the skills needed to minister more effectively but also to provide the guidance in remembering these skills and putting them to practical and appropriate use in specific ministry situations. For example, when Moses let God's presence empower him, his abilities and training were enhanced. He wasn't as totally inadequate for his mission as he thought. When Jesus sent out the twelve, he said: "When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matt. 10: 19"20,
The Power of a Human Support System
The deacon does not minister in a vacuum. He is a part of the human support system that includes his own family, the fellowship of his local congregation, and the organizations within his own church. That support system provides resources both for the deacon's personal growth and for help in ministering to others. The Deacon's Family Provides Support The deacon's first source of support will likely be his wife. Through their commitment in an intimate relationship, mutual support is a natural extensian. He can seek her help in his own spiritual growth, and together they can share prayer and ministry concerns. Beyond his wife, a deacon's next resource is his children and other family members. Family members usually know the deacon better than anyone else does. Such intimate knowledge is the nature of family life. The deacon's willingness to listen, to allow space for their observations about his spiritual and personal needs; his granting of freedom to family members to interact with him, to teU him the truth about himself, to encourage him, and above all to lift him up in prayer as he also prays for them-this style offamily life will offer the deacon a powerful foundation of support. A deacon's family will offer him affirmation; and they will, if he permits it, confront him with the gap between his talk and his walk. Sharing his faith, leading his family in worship, admitting his failures, and confessing his sinfulness to his own flesh and blood are the day-by-day experiences out of which powerful ministry can be born. There will be times when his family, his wife in particular, will feel led and free to go with him as part of a ministry team. This pattern of husband-wife teaming in his ministry will often come about as a by-product of their shared prayer life. Certainly, neither the deacon nor the church should expect this to be a part of her job description as a deacon's wife. Involvement of wife and children in ministering, where confidentiality is not violated, usually helps families feel positive about the deacon's ministry and less jealous of the time it requires. The Church Fellowship Provides Support A deacon's church is an indispensable part of the deacon's human support system. This includes the fellowship with church members, his pastor, other staff ministers, and his fellow deacons. It involves also the organizations of his congregation. The deacon needs and receives support from his church through their prayer and encouragement. The church is the deacon's larger family. He cannot stay alive and empowered spiritually without them. He is made for fellowship with his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
The deacon's pastor, other staff ministers, and his fellow deacons are other key links in the deacon's support chain. In family care ministry deacons will discover a special camaraderie with the pastor, other ministel's, and deacons. They will share the fellowship of committed persons who know something of the joy that comes from making oneself available to care for others. In many churches deacons draw closer as they share and pray for special ministry concerns during regular deacons' meetings. Deacons report that the time of prayer with other deacons, interceding in behalf of known needs among God's people, has become the most meaningful portion of their deacons' meetings. Ministry has a way of confronting deacons with their limitations and inadequacies. It is the truth of these inadequacies that binds deacons together in a fellowship of prayer. When deacons do not keep prayer as the center of their spiritual life, they lose touch with all the spiritual power and peace that can flow from it. Fellowship with the pastor, other ministers, and fellow deacons will also grow through training sessions and other times when experiences are shared, failures acknowledged, and skills sharpened. The pastor can also be helpful at the point of referral. He probably knows the community network of helpers better than any other person available. Your ability to help others will sometimes depend less on your capacity to help directly and more on your willingness to seek referral suggestions. If a psychologist or psychiatrist is needed to help with some person's depression, which one is the best? What if a certain couple cannot afford to pay fees for counseling needed to resolve conflict in their relationship? Is such help available for little or no cost? Your pastor can usually offer this kind of assistance. The deacon has the power of his church's organization and structure. A social worker once commented, "I'd give anything to have all the backup support that different groups in your church offer." One deacon needed help to combat the isolation he knew a recently widowed woman was experiencing. She was withdrawing from all contact with other persons. He telephoned that woman's Sunday School teacher and encouraged class members to visit and include the widow in the life of the class. Her attendance at a weekday class meeting was the turning point as the entire class, who well understand her needs, focused on her and loved her back into fellowship with others. A teenager from a deprived home, financially and otherwise, did not feel at home with the dressy tone of her class on Sunday mornings in her small-town church. A deacon who cared for her alerted a GA group who met on a weekday afternoon to visit and invite her. She became vitally involved in this group where clothing was casual and a leader had instilled compassion and sensitivity into the hearts of her girls. A young man, reputed to be on drugs, had dropped out of worship attendance. His deacon made contact with the softball coach for the lad's age group. He responded and developed an in-depth relationship with his coach, a turning-around experience that proved to be the making of a new person. God calls no deacon to a caring ministry without also providing resources for power. It is God's desire to supply the power needed for effective caring to meet people's needs, The deacon's most basic contact point with God's power is his own
conversion experience. That power is nurtured and enlarged as he grows into a mature Christian life through a disciplined walk,
Begin the session by giving a quick overview of the upcoming sessions. Explain that the next session will give some practical suggestions for deacons who want to develop caring skills. 'Get a roll of aluminum foil, and tear ort enough pieces (approximately 12 by 12 inches) for each participant. Give each person a piece of aluminum fall. Ask each one to fold, tear, or mold the aluminum foil into a creation that describes the word power. After a few minutes ask several to share their creations. Spend a few minutes talking about the meaning of power. Blend this into the introductory material about power for ministry. 'Make a poster displaying this outline of the chapter. Power for Ministry I. Power Through God's Presence A. Provides Adequacy for Ministry B. Provides Motivation to Care for the Needs of Others C. Provides Sensitivity to the Needs of Others D. Provides Guidance in Using Caring Skills II. The Power of a Human Support System A. The Deacon's Family Provides Support B. The Church Fellowship Provides Support Put up the poster after the information under the introduction has been given. Read through the outline aloud to let the participants know your subject matter for the session. Follow the outline under "Power Through God's Presence." Lecture on the four subtopics. Emphasize the needs of deacons in these four areas. Under the second part of the outline, "The Power of a Human Support System," talk about each subtopic. As you relate the content material, invite volunteers to give testimonies of how their families and the church fellowship have given personal and ministry support. Conclude by reinforcing several of the things you have said during the session. 00 this by quickly going back over the outline and making a short, meaningful comment about each subtopic. Emphasize the fact that the Holy Spirit is the most important power for ministry.
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
asic Caring S ills
Each deacon is a part of a "royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9, RSV). He, therefore, has the power to bless and affirm as he listens, the power to speak the word of forgiveness ashe shows acceptance, the opportunity to work with the Holy Spirit as he asks the right questions, and the opportunity to show a continuing concern beyond his own resources as he senses a need to suggest other helpers. The deacon who takes family care ministry seriously will soon discover that God has given him the power to help others. There will be times when he can with confidence speak the word of comfort or the word of forgiveness. At other times he will speak the word of confrontation as a form of caring. The deacon will be free to hear the word of appreciation from those to whom he has ministered. There is no need for a false modesty which makes it difficult for others to say, "I appreciate you and thank God for you." Whatever power the deacon has is God-given; therefore, the giver of the gift is to be acknowledged. As the deacon realizes that he is only exercising God-given powers to help, he will also be freed from envy toward those who have been given perhaps more spectacular gifts. The requirement to help is not so much ability as it is availability. The deacon will come to recognize that by his very presence he can be used by God to help others. It is in the context of a praying community in which pastor and deacons seek and expect guidance from the Holy Spirit that needed skills begin to be identified and refined. Underlying effective deacon family care will be a grasp of basic caring skills.
Listening for Insight
Active listening is not a simple technique that a deacon pulls out of his kit
whenever one in his group has a problem. It is a method for putting to work a basic set of attitudes. The most basic of all the attitudes is his confidence that he is a valuable part of God's creation, This is the key to appreciating oneself and affirming others, Also the deacon expects his people to have something worth saying, He listens with the expectation that the Holy Spirit has initiated the listening process. He knows he wi1llearn what he needs in order to minister. Without this basic attitude the listening skilJ can be stripped of meaning, It can become false, empty, mechanical, insincere. Deacon Hal noticed that Jim Gilbert and his family had not been in any church activity for approximately one month. This was strange, for the Gilberts in many ways had been model church members, Hal decided to visit Jim's home and found Jim at home. His wife was working the evening hours in a department store. Jim was somewhat embarrassed and nervous in the early moments of the visit. Hal told Jim how much he had missed him. Jim shared that his wife had recently announced her intention to seek a divorce, his efforts to talk her out of this action, his wife's determination to leave him, and his embarrassment at facing friends at church" who have no idea our marriage is so messed up." The two families had been close for many years. Hal moved past the feeling he had inwardly about the threatened breakup of this home and said: "Jim, I really respect you for your willingness to share your hurt. I know you well enough to understand that this is not easy. I sense much of the hurt and failure you're feeling." Jim wiped some tears from his eyes and expressed the frustration of needing to talk but having no one he felt he could trust. Later in the more than one hour visit, Jim reviewed the several options he had considered, his unwillingness to go for marriage counseling, and a new decision that he would seek some help even if he had to go alone. The following are some good listening principles we can learn from this deacon's experience. Listen Noncrltically Hal commented about what he saw happening, but he was noncritical in his attitude. Jim knew he was with a friend who cared about him. Manage Your Own Feelings Hal knew how he felt about the possible loss of Jim's marriage. Their families had been close. He did not let his feelings interfere with his listening, Make the Other Person's Feelings Primary Jim knew that Hal sensed his hurt. He felt freedom to get in touch with his own feelings of defeat which he said had not been expressed to any other person outside his family, Avoid Advice Hal gave no advice. He sensed that more than anything else Jim needed a caring person to listen, Through Hal's listening, Jim took a gigantic step in sorting out his own feelings. Bob Brown decided to visit a home in his deacon family ministry group early Saturday afternoon, Winona Smith had been hospitalized for several weeks but had been home for at least two months. Bob had been told that "the Smith family needed a visit." The husband invited Bob into their kitchen where the wife offered coffee. Within minutes the wife declared: "I'm glad you came. The only way you'll ever see Winston is if you come here. He claims he's a Christian, but he swears he'll never darken the door of a church again. You should have heard him this morning, called me a
____ . Using that gutter language-calls himself a Christian." Bob replied after a significant silence: "I feel aburden for both of you. Winona, you're fighting to get back your health. You must be upset when progress is so slow. And Winston, you must be embarrassed to have me hear what Winona has just shared." Winona acknowledged her scapegoating. Winston later shared their concern for their two grown children whose' 'lives are coming apart at the seams." Some additional characteristics of good listening were used by this deacon. Be Impartial Bob knew it was important for both parties to feel his impartial concern. He noncritically accepted Winona's attack on Winston. At the same time he let Winston know that he was sensitive to his plight. Remain Unshockable The use of an expletive appeared to be a shock technique on Winona's part. She angrily blasted Winston with an apparent revelation of his shortcomings. Bob was obviously not shocked. Keep Calm Bob kept his equilibrium in rough waters. He calmly expressed a concern for both parties. Stick to Specifics Bob helped the conversation move past Winona's anger and Winston's embarrassment. Winona confessed that she had been blaming Winston for more than twenty years for his failures as a father and husband. The couple talked for more than an hour about their distress over the alcoholism of their daughter's husband, their desire to rescue her, and the realization that they could not make her decisions for her. The following are some other principles of good listening. Pay Attention Good listening concentrates altogether on the person doing the talking. This is difficult, since we tend to be preoccupied with our own needs, worries, and tensions. Paying attention means being willing to take time to listen. If you don't have time, say so and arrange another time when you can give undivided attention. Listen for More than Facts The tone of voice, inflections, signs of nervousness , looks of sadness, tears, and gestures are nonverbal signals as important for the deacon to' 'hear" as the words spoken.
Looking away, glancing at a watch or clock, trimming nails, or fumbling with a pen or paperweight can signal disinterest in what the other person is saying.
Willingness to remain silent after significant sharing can give the other person a needed opportunity to become aware of feelings and identify issues. People need time for reflection. Silence provides such opportunities.
The deacon ministers not only in time of problems. He also has opportunities to build trust through affirmation he can give on significant occasions such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries, baptismal anniversaries, gradua-
tions, attention to young people who are away from home in college and military, and concern for parents when children leave home. All of these movements toward others through telephone calls, letters, visits, and casual conversation at church are powerful ways of saying "I care" to the other person. Acknowledgement of important dates and events by a deacon generates trust. The deacon is seen as a reliable and caring person.
If you don't want to be helpful to the other person with his particular problem at that time, don't pretend. Be open to the Spirit and wait until you do. The other person will sense your sincerity or lack of it. One deacon was most helpful when in response to another's problem, he commented: "I'm angry toward you for the way you acted. I'm not ready to talk right now. I don't mean to blame you for my anger, and I'll get over it. But please take me where I am." This genuineness on the part of a deacon did not break the relationship or end the ministry. The honesty became the foundation of a ministry in which a wayward Christian found his way back to useful Christian service. He later commented about his deacon: "I knew J could trust him. He was the only person who was honest with me."
Accept the Other Person's Feelings
They may be different from your own feelings or from the feelings you think the other person should have. To reject another's feelings is to reject the person. Have confidence in the person's ability to handle his feelings, to work through them, and to find solutions to his problems. Underneath anger there can be a delightful capacity to love and have fellowship. Beyond tears that are a normal part of grief, there is new hope. Remember that God gives strength to identify and work on problems. Do not underestimate the strength of the other. This attitude takes time and patience to develop. Recognize that feelings can change. Despair can turn into hope, hate into love, and sorrow into joy. We need not be afraid of letting the other person express his feelings about what is taking place in his life. Expression of feelings means they will not be locked up, sometimes destructively, inside the other person.
The deacon must not share information given him by a church member apart from that person's consent. He must learn to respect the" priestly" confidence. Nothing can destroy a deacon's ministry any quicker than the discovery by another that he does not keep a confidence. Watch what you say about others. People form opinions of your trustworthiness as they listen to what we say or decline to say about others. Ask for permission to share with appropriate persons where needed. You will usually be given permission. Don't encourage another to share confidential information. Jim Jeffrey visited in a home where Susan queried, "I'm just not sure I should even tell you what's going on with John and Janice." Jim responded, "That could be a sign that you shouldn't," Susan replied: "You're right, I shouldn't, That's pure gossip on my part." Exercise particular caution not to pass on confidential information to members of your family, the pastor, other deacons (even in prayer in a deacons' meeting), or to other members of the congregation. Others will test us from time to time to see how well we do with their secrets. A deacon's wife reported that soon after her deacon-husband made a visit to a home where the marriage was in trouble she received a phone call from the other
home: "I'm sure your husband has told you all about our problems." The deacon's wife was glad she could honestly reply: "No, my husband respects the confidentiality of those he tries to help. I am, however, interested if there's anything you'd liked to share with me." Avoid compromising your integrity in matters of confidentiality. One deacon found himself in a conversation with a church member: "I'd like to tell you what somebody told me about the pastor. However, you must promise me not to tell the pastor anything I've told you, " This was a wide open invitation for a deacon to compromise himself. He answered: "I'd rather not hear what you have to say about the pastor unless you agree to go to the pastor with this information. It's important to me that I show respect for my pastor. He deserves to know what accusation has been made." This deacon's response served as a healthy confrontation. Be careful not to give glib reassurance of confidentiality. A teenage son begins to unfold his family conflicts with: "You'd find it hard to believe what I'm going to tell you about my mom and dad. First though, I need a promise from you that under no circumstances will you tell anybody what I've told you about them." The deacon might answer: "It might well be that I can't be trusted with such sensitive information. Perhaps you need to seek some help from another person who doesn't have any personal involvement with your mother and father. I'm their friend, too, and would rather not have any information that might block my relationship to them." A deacon should be careful not to promise too much to children and adolescents. He should be free to share information that he considers threatening to their own well-being. A deacon-Sunday School teacher had excellent rapport with a teenager who had drifted away from the Youth choir and most of the church groups. His deacon-teacher invited him for a meal in a restaurant. Danny began to unravel some drug problems, stopped suddenly, and insisted: "One thing before I go on. I want assurance that you'll never breathe a word of this to my parents." George replied: "Danny, I will keep anything in confidence that doesn't threaten you or somebody else. I can't give you blanket assurance. You are into some pretty heavy stuff. If in hearing I decide your parents have a right to know what is going on for their welfare and yours, I will tell them." Danny expressed appreciation for this straightforward approach, said he understood, and proceeded to unload a heavy problem.
Asking Appropriate Questions
One person has suggested: "When in doubt about asking a question, don't." He has a point. Many questions should not be asked; however, as one grows in knowledge of people and crisis, he will learn appropriate questions to ask.
Avoid Focusing on Facts
Facts sometimes are not as important as feelings are. For example, a widow who had recently lost her husband was visited by her deacon and his wife. As the widow began to weep and express her feelings of a particular experience of aloneness, the deacon asked which night this had happened. As a result, the widow wiped her tears, became concerned with facts (dates), and never got back to the expression of her grief, her basic need.
Don't push the other person to reveal what he is not ready to share. If the person wants to and needs to and is ready to share, he probably will. He
should not be encouraged to do so except when it comes naturally.
Avoid Controlling the Conversation
Questions are often a way to maintain control of a visit. Your purpose is not to control the can versation but rather to be available as a helper. One of our deacons realized that when a recent widow talked about her loss four months after the husband's death he cut off the woman's feelings with a question: "Have you thought about how fortunate you are to have had him for more than forty years?" The more-than-adequate widow answered, "Yes I have, but that doesn't make me feel any better about having lost him." The deacon came to see that his question was an unwitting effort to avoid the woman's feelings of despair. He came to realize that she needed to express those feelings in order to move past the grief.
Avoid Asking if You Know the Answer
When asking questions to which one obviously already knows the answer, the questioner can be or appear to be manipulative or insincere. However, sometimes the deacon needs to ask such a question to hear directly from that person.
Ask Feeling Questions
Most persons need help to get at feelings. In a church conflict crisis one person commented, "I just can't believe that a moderator who claims to be a Christian 'would do what he did." A deacon asked: "I know you are upset with his behavior. What are you feeling at this point?" After a pause the offended party said: "I'm very angry, very resentful. I realize it's time for me to put away my grudge and get on to some forgiveness." The question that helps focus on feelings can often offer help for moving past spiritual blockage.
Ask Clarifying Questions
When, in a church hallway, Marian commented, "I'm at the end of my rope," her deacon drew her aside and asked, "What do you mean when you say, 'end of my rope'?" She burst into tears and poured out the woes of three small children, a husband who was out of town more than at home, and her thoughts about taking her own life. This clarification led to some prompt help from both the pastor and deacon. Avoid acting as if you understand when you do not.
Your intentions as you respond and the particular way you phrase a response are two important considerations in responding to another person. Since you want to help, what can you do to increase the probability that your responses will convey good intentions? John Kline suggests that nearly all of our responses fall into one of five categories: "evaluative, making a judgment or suggesting a course of action; interpretive, explaining how or why a person feels a certain way; supportive, assuring a person that the feelings expressed are natural; probing, seeking further information or development ofa point; and understanding, comprehending what the other person said." I Untrained helpers will most often use the evaluative responses, followed by interpretive, supportive, probing, and finally understanding. A varied use of several responses keeps our approach from becoming mechanical and our help restricted. No response is bad in itself. A good practice is to reverse the usual frequency. For most, this would mean working more on the probing, supportive, and interpretive responses.
Kline uses an example to clarify the differences among the five kinds of responses. Suppose a person you are trying to help says:
"I really hate my mother-in-law, but I don't know why. She hasn't done anything to make me feel this way. I don't really understand It. I simply know I hate her." Here are some of the responses you might make: Eva/uative.-"You need to get over that feeling, especially If she has given you no reason to hate her. A good relationship with your mother-in-law can be a great thing." Interpretive.-" I don't blame you for feeling that way, but perhaps underneath you don't really hate her. You just don't really understand her." Supportive.-"I used to feel th~ same way about my mother-In-law, but I got over it, and you probably will too." Probing.-"You seem concerned about your relationship with your mother-Inlaw. What do you think the problem is?" Understanding.-"You are worried because you hate your mother-In-law without reason, and you don't think this is right?"2
When is each kind of response best used? It all depends on the setting. Understanding responses establish trust, help others to talk through the problems, and show that you are listening. Probing responses help you and the other person get a clearer definition of the problem, and people hear better what they say if you probe to clarify. Supportive responses help others to realize their problems can be conquered. Interpretive responses help others to see how their statements affect others and, if used with care and skill, can encourage growth. Finally, evaluative responses help farther along in a conversation when you are asked to make judgments or reveal your own values and attitudes.'
Using Scripture and Prayer
Scripture and prayer, when used appropriately, give a person fresh awareness that life has meanings which stand above everyday tragedies and injustices, They may help him feel a sense of support which goes beyond anything his deacon can bring. In the moment of spiritual openness, generated by the meaningful use of prayer and Scripture, the deacon and the other person can become aware of God's supportive power which is available to both. The deacon has no more trustworthy helps than in his wise use of Scripture and prayer. People often long to hear a word from the Lord. There is genuine appreciation for the deacon's ministry as he appropriately makes use of Scripture and prayer. Avoid the perfunctory use of prayer as a way of ending a visit.
Ask for Permission
Unless you know beforehand, ask the other person for permission to pray. Deacon Lynn visited an inactive church member in the hospital and asked if the patient would like for him to pray. The patient answered, "That's your decision." The deacon gently noted, "Not really, I'm asking you for permission. " Be Natural Use a natural, comfortable voice when reading or praying. Be conversational. Avoid stilted, impersonal language in your prayer.
Select Appropriate Scripture
Choose Scripture which relates to the person's experience. Consider whether to use a traditional translation for familiarity or a more recent translation for clarity. Deacon Tom visited a young couple in their home two weeks after the birth of a new son, Both parents were delighted when he
read: "For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well" (Ps, 139: 13-14, RSV). Another deacon quoted: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him" (Rom. 8:28, RSV) in response to a patient with a terminal disease, at a time when there had been reflection on confidence and hope that all would be well in spite of the circumstances. To a father who wanted to rescue his son from a series of financial crises, the deacon read and personalized a passage: "For Jim (son's name) will have to bear his own load" (Gal. 6:5, RSV).
Make Your Prayer Meaningful
Conversations sometimes tend to be fragmented. Catch up whatever feelings have been expressed. Acknowledge in your prayer the feelings of joy, thankfulness, SOlTOW, hurt, anger, resentment which the other person has shared. Provide further opportunity for the person to voice a specific concern he would like for you to include in your prayer.
Helping with Problem Solving and Decision Making
Much of the deacons' ministry can be described as problem solving. There are some helpful guidelines that can give clarity and direction to the problem-solving process. Affirm the other person for a willingness to talk about his problem. Many are inclined to deny that certain problems exist or feel some shame and embarrassment. They need to know that problems are a mark of one's normal human situation. The challenge is to help the other attack the problem and find a solution if possible. If a solution is not possible, the deacon can help the other live with the problem.
Identify the Problem
For example, some budget concerns in a family crisis might be identified as money problems when underneath the money issue is the more basic problem of how a husband and wife manage authority within the home. How are decisions made? What is the tone of relationship between husband and wife?
Let the Right Person Own the Problem
The Bible teaches that every man is to bear his own burden alongside an equally important truth that we are to bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2-5). The Bible teaches us to help without taking responsibility for the other person's problem. Only by remembering his "separateness" can a deacon be a helping person, one who ministers, A parent can be nervous, upset, and paralyzed when a teenage student does not produce passing marks. The parent might need help to realize that the student has the problem. The problem is how he will face responsibility for himself and his future. The parent can thwart this by taking on the young person's problem as his own.
Consider the Possible Options
Despair generally comes only to those who are not aware of options. Often, by talking over the possibility of options with another, the person begins to see that there are more directions to consider than originally thought. It's not unusual to find that there is no solution to a particular problem. This is the time for the deacon to help the other person find comfort and
strength in order to live as constructively as possible with the problem. Scripture abounds in illustrations of those who were strengthened and blessed as they lived with their "thorns in the flesh."
Perhaps time and patience are needed before a final decision can be reached. However, patience should not be confused with the avoidance ofa decision that waits to be made. Remind the other of prayer and Scripture as resources in problem solving. The deacon will exercise caution to maintain his role as a helper, not a decision maker. Often there are those who will want the decision made for them. The deacon must avoid the temptation to tell the other person what to do.
Recognizing the Importance of Follow-Up
Acts 6 records a breakdown in communication between the Jewish and Grecian sectors of the early church. Seven men were selected so the apostles could carryon the task of preaching. This lightened the burden as more shouldered the load of ministry. This story pictures a distribution of responsibility for sharing, uses the idea of selectivity (men full of the Holy Spirit), and reminds us that anyone person is limited. He needs help. The new helpers demonstrated faithfulness and competence at their ministry tasks. They enriched the early Christian community and aided the continuing spread of the Gospel.
Once the deacon has identified and begun to work with another in problem solving, it is important for him to follow through with phone calis, notes, cards, and visits to build on what has already begun. Follow-up shows that you care. It builds trust. Telephone calls and/or cards on birthdays, acknowledgement of special events such as a graduation, a wedding, or an award will build the relationship so that a person naturally turns to his deacon when a problem arises.
Refer when Appropriate
Be careful that you don't promise more time and knowledge than you can deliver. State what you feel you can and cannot do. The other person will respect you when you know and state your limitations. After a referral has been made, make periodic checks. This tells the other person that you have a genuine and continuing concern. It also builds a bridge over which the deacon may walk in order to help that same person in the future. Refer various persons to your pastor, other deacons, other members of the church staff, other helpers such as psychologists, psychiatrists, vocational counselors, or to other agencies such as Family and Children's Service. Help the person get past any emotional blocks toward the person or agency to whom a referral has been made. Take care to ensure, insofar as possible, that the referral is not looked upon as a rejection. Mention the referral as early as possible in the problem-solving effort. Some will readily agree to call the referral person or agency. Later, checks will indicate if nothing has been done. Although it is better for the hurting to make their own appointments, it is sometimes helpful for the deacon to offer to make an appointment or help put the hurting person in touch with a good helper. A deacon should refer those who can be helped more effectively by
someone else as well as those to whom he has a strong negative reaction. It is better for the deacon to refer this latter group than to try to be of help unless he can work through the negative reaction. In most cases it would be desirable for a different deacon to assume responsibility. Leave Something to Read Never go empty-handed. Take a book from your church's media center, a care booklet that is appropriate, or a carefully chosen tract. Give books as a gift when your budget permits. The material you leave will minister long after your visit. Tell them why you have brought that particular resource. Many helpful materials are included in "Resources for Ministry," p. 95-96.
I. John A. Kline, "Counseling: How to Respond to Others," from The Deacon, Oct. 1979, p, 34. © Copyright 1979, The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. All rights reserved. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid.
Present the introductory part of this session in a lecture. Write on the chalkboard: "Active listening is a method for putting to work a basic set of attitudes. Chief of those attitudes is the deacon's confidence that he is a valuable part of God's creation." Relate the story of Deacon Hal and Jim Gilbert. List on the chalkboard the good listening principles to be learned from Deacon Hal's experience. Comment on each principle. Relate the story of Bob Brown. List on the chalkboard the additional characteristics of good listening used by this deacon. Comment on each of these. Follow this by listing other principles of good listening. Comment on each of these. Ask participants to share ways a deacon can build trust. Write these on the chalkboard. Then ask those who made the suggestions to comment on them. list those ways from the book not suggested by the participants. Comment on each of these. Especially emphasize the importance of confidentiality. Briefly fecture on "Asldng Appropriate Questions." List each suggestion on the chalkboard as comments are made. Explain the ways to respond appropriately. ·Wrlte on separate slips of paper the following suggestions for using Scripture and prayer: 1. Ask for permission. 2. Be natural. 3. Select appropriate Scripture. 4. Make your prayer meaningful. During the study divide the participants into four groups. Give each group one of the suggestions to discuss. Ask each small group to define what is meant by the suggestion and to give an illustration. After each small group has discussed a suggestion, call for a report to the larger group. Clarify anything that is not made clear. Conclude the study by listing on the chalkboard the four ways to help with problem solving and decision making. Under this write the three ways to follow up. Comment on each of these.
NOTE: This chapter may require two sessions instead of one. If this is done, make the division after the section on building trust,
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
aring for the Hospitalized and Their amilies
The deacon has every right to go to those in the hospital with the confidence that his ministry is needed. The deacon joins his resources with that of the medical team, the family, and other friends to share as a healing team ministering to the total needs of the patient and family. He enters the hospital room with the understanding that body and spirit are interrelated.
Prepare for the Visit
Prepare ahead for that moment when you walk across the threshold to actually greet the patient.
Plan for Spiritual Ministry
This is a good time to ask, Why am I making this call? You will soon announce to the patient by your presence, "I care." The visit will link the sterile, sometimes impersonal, community of the hospital with the warm and loving fellowship of believers. The deacon can assume that he has more to offer than small talk. Hospitalization is a time for serious reflection for both the patient and the family. Schedules have been interrupted. Families are upset; finances are strained. Work situations are confused. There is usually some reflection on the long-term implications of the sickness. Hospital ministry is a time for serious, well-planned visitation. Imagine Yourself in the Other Person's Situation A good imagination is needed by those who visit the hospitalized. Put together all the information you can possibly review about the patient. If his illness is serious, what are some of his probable fears? What is the threat to the partner? If there are children, what does the parent's illness say to them? If out-of-town relatives are involved, what are the needs of these family members? How does the patient feel about his new environment? How does he feel about being out of control? The deacon can greatly increase the potential effectiveness of his visit as he imagines himself in the other person's setting.
Get in Touch with Your Own Feelings
Does this person's sickness generate any strong feelings in you? How comfortable will you be in the hospital setting? What problems and unfinished business in your own life are surfaced? Projecting your own feelings into this other person's situation can lead to overestimating or underestimating the patient's perspective. It is important to be more concerned about the patient's feelings than your own.
Heed Hospital Signs
Although there are rare occasions when it is in order to visit at other times, under normal conditions observe the hours set by the hospital.
The "No Visitors" Sign
This means you unless there is reason to know that the patient wants and has permitted your visit. A check at the nurse's station is always in order.
If there is a light over the patient's door, make sure the patient's personal needs have been met before entering.
The Closed Door
A closed door without any other sign is a signal to check at the nurse's station before entering. The patient may have requested this for some special reason.
The Sleeping Patient
It could be that the patient needs his rest more than a visit. Check at the
nurse's station before you awaken the patient.
It is standard procedure these days for hospital personnel to wear name tags. Read the name tag and address the staff person by name. You will usually find an appreciative response from harried persons who recognize the importance you attach to their work.
Help the Patient
Listen More than You Talk
Concentrate on sensitive listening rather than your agenda. Focus on the patient's needs and interests. Your caring presence will have more positive impact than anything you say.
Speak to Others
Be a cordial and aware guest by speaking to any others present. This includes family members, visitors, and hospital staff.
Watch for Visitor Overload
Too many visitors tax the patient's energy and slow down the healing process. Shorten a visit when there are already other persons in the room. The ideal hospital visit is between two persons, although there can be times when a visit while other family and friends are present can be in order.
Be Sensitive to the Patient's Comfort
Sit or stand in the patient's line of vision so he is not strained when he looks at you. Let the patient take the lead in shaking hands. Do not smoke during a hospital visit. Ask for permission to draw the bedside curtain if you sense this can aid your visit.
Let Medical Care Take Priority
If the patient's doctor is present, leave the room and let the patient benefit from a private visit with his physician. Even if you are invited to stay, stilI extend this courtesy. There are times when the patient can request conversation with you rather than having his temperature taken. Many tasks can be performed after your important visit.
Ask Appropriate Questions
Asking appropriate questions will usually mean that the deacon spends most of his time listening. D. Gwynn Davis, Jr. suggests seven questions for effective hospital visitation. I Although you may not use all of them in one visit, most will be appropriate in a series of visits for an extended time.
Would You Like to Talk Now?
This question acknowledges the patient's right to grant or withhold permission. The deacon's only authority for conversation is that granted him by the hospitalized. Since the patient gives up so much freedom in the hospital, he will appreciate your giving him the right to make this decision. There are situations in which a deacon knows the patient cannot talk or should not. A deacon on a visit to one whose speech had been impaired gently touched the woman and said, "Mrs. Jones, I know you cannot talk tonight; so may I talk with you a moment, tell you about some friends who asked me to say hello, and then share a Scripture I'd like to read?" Mrs. Jones shook her head to give consent.
Why Are You Here?
Don't let the fact that you already know stop you from asking this key question, It is important for you to hear the patient's interpretation and the terminology he is comfortable with, Some people are in the hospital for reasons they prefer to discuss only with the doctor. Others welcome an opportunity to discuss their illness. A man in his late forties revealed to his deacon that this heart attack was not his first. There had been two others, the first in his early thirties. He had never discussed this with anybody in the church. This led to a discussion of the patient's desire to change jobs to one that would be less demanding. Have You Ever Been in theHospital Before? What's It Like for You
These questions show your interest in his concerns about the hospital experience, One patient recently answered, "I don't like any situation where I'm not calling the shots." Another responded: "I'm more apprehensive than anything else. This is my second time around, I know already how much I'm going to hate that catheter, and I'm uptight at the thought of needing to go to the bathroom when I cannot." He needed the opportunity to express his feelings. A child may enjoy bragging that he has been in the hospital more than anyone else in his family.
What Does Having This Problem, or Being in the Hospital, Mean to You?
If the hospitalization is serious and the patient feels close to you, he may see this as an opening to share major issues he has been thinking about. Some may simply indicate they miss some daily activity, A heart patient answered this question: "I'm glad you asked that. I've lain here for days realizing for the first time in my life how important relationships are. They're more important than anything else, And yet, I've placed a
priority on almost everything else. I have a wonderful family and have hardly given myself time to be with them. That pattern is going to end." A cancer patient reflected: "I need to work out my relationship to my sister. I don't have forever."
What Concerns You Right Now?
The patient might want some stationery from the gift shop, a message delivered, a call made to another person; or he might level with you in some cases and talk about his fear of dying. One man in his early thirties reported: "It's these nurses I resent more than anything else, They come in and say' How are you doing?' If I tell them the truth, how bad off! am, it's that sweet stuff: •Cheer up, Roy, You've got to keep your thinking positive. ' I need to have someone sit down for a while and let me tell them how I feel about dying." He then told of his genuine conversion experience, his years of indifference to the church, his deep regrets that he had never told either of his children how important it is for them to experience Christ. That deacon agreed to visit Roy for a few minutes on his lunch hour two days a week and did so for the remaining weeks of the patient's life.
What Kinds of Resources Do You Have for Dealing with This Situation?
The patient might talk about financial resources and hospital costs, his adequate or inadequate support system, or his relationship with God. One woman lamented: "I have nowhere to talk about what's happening to me with my problems. You know Charles [her husband] is worse off than I am. I don't dare put that load on him." This prompted her deacon to ask for permission to share this concern with the patient's Sunday School teacher who had become an effective telephone visitor, a source of much comfort,
Is There Anything You Would Like for Me to Do?
Be prepared for a variety of responses if the patient senses your genuineness. Deacons have been asked to write letters, run errands, water flowers, adjust beds, give messages to nurses, and to call friends with whom the patient desires reconciliation. He may want you simply to sit and hold his hand. He may ask you to read a particular Scripture verse, or he may answer, "Nothing."
Provide Spiritual Ministry
The deacon is battle tested in life's arenas, You have walked with Christ through the valleys and drawn on his sufficient grace. You know the power of Christ to bring comfort through the presence of another person, Share how you have found hope and meaning through the difficult days of your own life. Learn to use the words" I love you," and" I care for you." Your care speaks of God's care and God's presence.
Focus on God's Presence
You can help the patient be aware of God's presence which will be with him even after you leave, Jesus said, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever" (John 14: 16, GNB).2 The psalmist wrote, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" CPs. 23:4). No more loved passage of God's abiding presence can be found than, "For I am certain that. , . there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39, GNB).
Read Appropriate Scriptures
Use brief and usually familiar passages. Romans 8:26-28, Psalms 23, and Psalms 27: 1 are examples. If you see a Bible nearby, ask the patient if a particular verse has caught his attention. A pain-racked arthritic said to this question: "I'd like for you to read me that new Jerusalem passage (Rev. 21:4). I love to hear that part about no more tears. I'm so tired of hurting and look forward to that new body. That keeps me going."
Experience will teach you when to pray and when not to pray. More often than not you will present prayer as a possible resource for the patient to choose. If he does ask you to pray, gather up the important bits of himself that the patient has shared. Above all, confirm his faith in the "God of hope" (Rom. 15:13). An accident victim chuckled: "Funny thing, I haven't prayed since I became conscious. I've been too busy hurting. They can't give me any medication yet, but that's all right. I know the Lord is with me. He's caring . for me without my having to do a thing." The deacon ended that visit with a reference to that profound insight and read, "For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26, RSV).
Help the Patient's Family
Some of the questions mentioned earlier in this session can be adapted to the patient's family. The family needs spiritual ministry too. Family members will appreciate your providing the booklet When You Have Someone ill the Hospital (see Resources for Ministry, p. 95). Decide which other persons should be notified such as Sunday School teachers, leaders of senior citizen clubs, or a softball coach. Arrange for someone to stay with the patient's family while they wait in the intensive care waiting room. Provide for the younger children who cannot care for themselves. Enlist someone to coordinate the taking of meals to the family who needs care and support. (Nothing speaks any better of care than food!)
Keep in Touch
Maintain contact and continue strengthening your relationship as you keep in touch through the writing of notes, the use of the telephone, and personal visits. Follow up contacts are especially important to those who are sick in the hospital or at home for an extended period of time. Persons in extended care centers are especially vulnerable to loneliness (see Session 6). Schedule your visits ahead of time in your daily calendar to ensure that weeks and months do not pass by with no visitation. You will usually do what you plan ahead to accomplish.
1. D. Gwynn Davis, Jr., "Effective Hospital Visitation," The Deacon, January 1978, p. 17. © Copyright 1977, The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. All rights reserved. 2. From the Good News Bible, the Bible in Today's English Version. Old Testament: Copyright © American Bible Society 1976; New Testament: Copyright © American Bible Society 1966, 1971, 1976. Used by permission. Subsequent quotations are marked GNB.
'Make the following list on a large sheet of newsprint (the want-ad section of the newspaper will do very well): 1. Prepare for the Visit. 2. Heed Hospital Signs. 3. Help the Patient. 4. Ask Appropriate Questions. 5. Provide Spiritual Ministry. 6. Help the Patient's Family. 7. Keep in Touch. Cut the statements apart. Plan to adhere the strips to the wall as you talk about each statement. 'Write the following questions on slips of paper: 1. Would you like to talk now? 2. Why are you here? What is your problem? 3. Have you ever been in the hospital before? What's it like for you now? 4. What does having this problem, or being in the hospital, mean 10 you? 5. What concerns you right now? 6. What kinds of resources do you have for dealing with this situation? 7. Is there anything you would like for me to do? Give one question each to seven participants at the beginning of the session. Ask each of the seven to read the questlon when you call for it. Begin the study by asking some ways deacons can prepare for a visit to a patient. Adhere the first statement to the wall. After several have responded, give the three suggestions from the book. Put up the next statement: Heed Hospltal Signs. Read this section aloud to the participants. Adhere the next statement to the wall: Help the Patient. Ust the suggestions on the chalkboard as you comment on each one. Put up statement 4: Ask Appropriate Questions. Call for the questions to be read by the participants. As each is read, comment on the meaning of the question. Put up the next statement: Provide Spiritual Ministry. Comment on the four ways to provide spiritual ministry. Adhere the next statement to the wall: Help the Patient's Family. Briefly comment on what this means and how deacons can help the patient's family. Put the last statement up: Keep in Touch. Read the Jast paragraph in the session aloud. Conclude by asking for any additional ways hospitalized patients and their families could be cared for.
'Indicates sugges!lons to be prepared before the session.
Caring for the Bereaved
Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Only two things in this life are certain-death and taxes." What the taxpayer resents is that they don't come in that order! Death and grief are universal experiences. Grief and mourning are terms to describe the anxiety that takes place when something is lost. That something may be the loss of a loved one, a marriage partner through divorce, the amputation of an arm or other part of the body, or the loss of a familiar community when one moves. These happenings tend to trigger anxiety in us because a separation has taken place. We usually feel some depression and despair in response to such a loss. This session primarily explores the grief of those who have lost loved ones.
Fear of Separation
On the cross Jesus quoted the psalmist's classic expression of this fear, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). This fear of separation is a fact. It can and does serve some God-given functions. It can motivate each of us to plan our finances and prepare for those who are dependent on us. This fear can encourage us to get our affairs in order. It also reminds us of our perishable nature, the fact that we are finite, that today's time is important. A threat to the relationships we hold dear can help us put first things first. The fear of separation is also linked to a loss of the familiar. After all, this world has been our familiar surrounding. We prefer the familiar. Fear of separation often motivates us to reevaluate our priorities. A friend shared recently the experience of his own father's funeral: "As the stream of friends from all walks of life came to express love and affection for my father, I was reminded that he always placed a high priority on relationships. I reflected on my own life-style and realized that I had been too caught up in the pursuit of things. I came back home with a quiet determination to put first things first, to spend more time with family and loved ones and Christian friends. These relationships are the most important gifts of life. I had lost sight of that."
Death as a Part of Life
Neither our overdependence on medical technology nor our shyness in talking about death can make it go away. Death is a part of life's fabric. The sixth-grade teacher was right. During a discussion on life and death; a student asked, "When do we begin to die?" She answered, "We begin to die the moment we are born." Death is a part of life. I remember the message of the crepe on Mr. Johnson's door. He was announcing to his neighbors that his beloved wife had died. The crepe reminded us that death occurs in the midst of life. I remember the wake for my grandmother's funeral. Her body was brought to the farmhouse where neighbors and loved ones gathered from miles around to take note of her life and death. In a healthy way we were reminded that death is interwoven with the theme of life. A sorrowing young adult shared with her deacon: "Seeing Jane's body really did get the message across. She really is gone. I need help to realize her death is for real." We can be grateful for many time-honored ways of reminding us that death is a part of life. Any view of life that does not come to grips with death is avoiding the truth. We need an attitude toward life that is realistic enough to include death. We need a faith that sees the linking of death with life so that others can be helped to respond realistically as well as positively to death. Death is more than an event at the end of life; it is a succession of events related to the end of life. All the endings, limitings, declinings are reflections of the end. Sickness, failure, loss, disintegration are shadows that tell us death is a part of life.
Hope That Overcomes Fear
Paul's well-known declaration of hope rings with confidence. "Neither death. , , nor anything else can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:35-39, RSV). This love has the power to overcome the fear of separation. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4: 18, RSV). This hope, grounded in love, thrives on difficult experiences. Deacon Roy used a reading that spoke with hope to the intense hurt and loss of a mother and father whose son had died, "So now, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials for we know that they are good for us-they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens" (Rom. 5: 1-5, TLB).l The gospel is death defying. The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings promise of a greater power than death, for he has overcome it. He made good the promise, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). A traveler has returned from the far country of death. This is the hopeful confidence of Paul when he defied death: " '0 death, where is thy victory? o death, where is thy sting?' " (1 Cor. 15:55, RSV). Apart from death we would be deprived of the gift of hope. Even though life with God now can be enjoyable and fulfilling, there is hope of a perfec-
tion, a fulfillment, a completion that only comes after death. Hope points us beyond to heaven and God's holy design for ultimate abundance in eternal fellowship with him. One deacon spoke to a sorrowing grandmother: "Shed all the tears you need. God understands your sense of loss and grief. But we're glad that he promised that we do not have to 'grieve as others do who have no hope' " (l Thess. 4: 13, RSV).
The more we learn about death's impact on those who confront it, the better we can minister to the bereaved. Grief, although unique to every person in each different setting, has become better understood in recent years. There are stages of grief, Grief and its symptoms can be shown as a cycle with several stages. Kenneth Murray has pictured grief for us in a graphic drawing."
PAIN ANGER CONFUSION ANXIETY
This first stage of shock and numbness is usually marked by some denial. The pain caused by the loss of a significant person or relationship is so intense that the fullness of the loss cannot be absorbed all at once. Many have observed a widow at the funeral home who astounds her friends by her serene composure as others are greeted. This may be less an evidence of" strong faith" for the moment than it is a part of a temporary,
God-given anesthesia. You can help in this time of numbness and confusion by being available but not obtrusive. Don't be suprised at strong expressions of anger during this time of protest. Death reminds us that we are finite, that there are situations beyond our control. Facing up to this can take time. Anger is one symptom of the rage that we feel when we cannot change situations we would if we could. You can help by hearing this anger. Your acceptance will help the bereaved work through his grief. Encourage the grief-stricken to show emotion, Jesus said, "Blessed are they that mourn" (Matt. 5:4), The promise is comfort for those who mourn. This promise applies to men and boys as well as women and girls. A young woman whose father had died protested the use of well-known hymns in the funeral service for fear that every time thereafter she would break into sobs as she heard one of those played in a regular service. A wise deacon commented: "What's wrong with that? What better place to bring your tears and leave them here? We'll weep with you. Isn't that what the church is all about?"
Anguish, depression, even signs of physical distress are part of the despair stage. Even Jesus felt utterly abandoned as he lamented his feeling of forsakenness. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). A younger deacon commented to an older man with grown children who was agonizing over the abandonment he felt: "Count on the Holy Spirit to help you. That's what Jesus was talking about when he said 'I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you' " (John 14:18, RSV). The deacon then shared the fact that this word desolate comes from the same root that gives us the English word for orphan. He summarized: "You may feel abandoned, but this is a promise that things will get better. Jesus will not leave you as an orphan." Although her husband had been dead for more than three years, one woman was still beseiged by illness, physical symptoms. She did not respond to medical care. Her deacon was puzzled because she never spoke of her relationship to her deceased husband (although it had been a relatively good one), He mentioned this to her after several months. She began to talk as trust grew. She harbored deep bitterness over some mistreatment from her husband in the earlier years of their marriage, had not forgiven him, and was not free to "get well" until she openly acknowledged and confessed her resentment. That deacon knows the powerful truth of Scripture: "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (Jas. 5: 16, RSV) , A person can become panicky in this stage. One person expressed distress when she said, "If! don't get this under control, I'll end up mentally ill." The fear of losing control is not unusual. You can help with a calm assurance that frees you to say: "This too shall pass. It's real. You're panicked. Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Apathy, isolation, resignation, and withdrawal are the hallmarks of this stage. A deacon had gone to visit an inactive church member in the hospital. He felt hostility from the patient and commented very softly, "I'm sorry you're
so unhappy." The man, who was withdrawn, challenged, "What do you mean, unhappy?" A bold and yet gentle deacon continued: "Actually, it may be hostility that I'm feeling." Tears came to the widower's eyes as he revealed: "You're right. I've been feeling sorry for myself ever since my wife's death, almost a year ago now. I've been feeling SalTY for myself and daring anyone to be halfway gracious to me. Forgive me for the obnoxious way I've acted." That deacon's boldness as he dared to speak to the resignation and withdrawal of the grieving widower became a breakthrough. As they talked further, the widower confessed that he felt that "God was picking on him." His life had come to a halt. He no longer wanted to do the things he normally did, This apathy is a normal part of the grief process. The ability and willingness of the deacon to address this and talk about the loss helped to move him forward.
Understanding, renewal, release, and peace are signs of the fourth stage. Hope does break through (Rom. 15:13). There is an end to normal grief. Hope will come, Our help as we sit with those who need to work through jumbled emotions will be rewarded when the light breaks through the clouds. Underneath the negative, confused, and sometimes distorted is something better-reliance and hope that are God's special gifts. New objects of affection are discovered. New ventures claim attention. Life goes on.
Movement through the grief cycle of protest, despair, detachment, and acceptance gives the grief-stricken a needed opportunity for the reorganization of life and priorities. Unrealistic dreams and ambitions are put to rest. Perhaps, the grieved decides to place a higher priority on loved ones, family life. The end of a significant person's life reminds him that he does not have forever. A new sense of urgency and direction can often take place. A review of her mother's love for people at the funeral made one daughter determine to slow down her active pace and spend more time building significant relationships. Death helped her to remember what she felt to be supremely important. Tell God's people to grieve as long as they need, but remind them that they are not to grieve as those who have no hope. One deacon lends a book on the grief process to his people when death comes. He then asks that each person, after having moved through the pain to acceptance and hope, write in the book a word of brief testimony of God's sustaining grace. Each new sufferer is given a treasure of many testimonies to the fact that his grief too shall pass. It is important to realize that grief does not always move through a steady stream of progression from one stage to another. Long after one woman had moved to acceptance and hope, she found herself suddenly sobbing during the morning prayer in Sunday worship. After she cried and wiped her eyes, she understood that there had been a flashback to an earlier stage of grief when she felt abandoned and was angry at what had taken place. She was much further along but needed to go back for a moment and do some catching up. Grief has many similarities for all of us while at the same time each person's pattern is somewhat unique. It's all right to lose ground for a moment, even after one has moved further through the grief.
Helping in a Time of Grief
Use the Power of Your Presence
Go to members of the family to show by your presence that you do care enough to visit. Even a brief visit underscores your concern. Many times a crowd will have already gathered. Be there with confidence that your presence communicates concern. Give them a copy of the booklet Facing Grief with Faith (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95). Be sensitive when you arrive. Keep the words brief and let the griefstricken draw strength from your composure. Spare them the details of your own losses. Each emotional outburst costs them additional energy that is needed for other tasks. At times you will find someone resting when you arrive. Don't underestimate the power of a loving note that reinforces the power of your presence, even if you don't get to see the bereaved.
Provide Practical Support
Be observant while you are there. The bereaved often do not eat much, but they need something to nibble at and will probably do so if it is already prepared and brought to the house. Avoid food that needs heating or refrigeration. Use throwaway dishes when possible, and label any dishes that have to be returned. Paper cups save a lot of dishwashing, Offer to take children and pets to other locations. If you are reasonably sure that you will not offend, offer to wash dishes that are stacked up, but permit the person to decline your offer. Families who return from the funeral to a house where dishes have been washed, floors vacuumed, food stored, and containers returned to food donors are cheered indeed. Meet the returning family on the front porch with a considerate welcome. A meal waiting for the family to share together before some have to depart may be appropriate. Use a church area if the gathering is too big for a home. Nothing underscores the ongoingness of life in spite of loss any better than such a provision. Help by notifying friends and relatives. Perhaps relatives and friends from distant places need for you to provide or arrange transportation. Hurting people also need time alone. Remember the family needs to plan. Funeral arrangements must be made. Family members and close relatives will need to refresh themselves. Not only is it important for you to leave when the need for privacy is sensed, but you can also suggest to others in a tactful way that it's time to go,
Provide Spiritual Support
Read the Scriptures when you are confident the message fits. Use the well-known, traditional passages. Psalm 23; Romans 8:38-39; John 3: 16; 11:25-26; 14:18-21are well-known by many Christians. One deacon says he nearly always uses John 3: 16 as he leads the family to thank God for the deceased's personal faith in Jesus Christ. He notes that often people have said, "That was his favorite verse." There's no requirement to pray, although it will nearly always be appreciated. Focus in your prayer on God's presence, his capacity and desire to give comfort, and his promise to provide grace. A prayer can be simple and brief, phrased close to the emotions of the people who pray with you. Remember to affirm God's presence as you pray. Use your hymnal. Songs and poetry can often reach depths of human need that cannot be touched any other way. You can quote stanzas or portions of well-known hymns or type out the complete song on a note card and leave that message in song to be savored long after you have left.
Deacon Ed knew that Jim's favorite song was" Blessed Assurance." He wrote out the words and gave them to Jim's widow who glowed as she sang and wept through the first stanza. He had struck a cord of comfort and hope through the use of song. Keep in mind the extreme loneliness that strikes most on the first night after the funeral, a good time to make a visit. Visit briefly. Remind the family that they have not been abandoned, They are not alone: Christians care,
Helping Children Through Grief
Provide Honest and Simple Explanations
Our own anxiety about death makes us prone to keep death from children, We feel they are insensitive or don't actually know what is taking place around them, The opposite is true, Children are very much aware and pick up far more than we often know. They are persons who have a right to know the truth. Simple, direct, and honest explanations are usually best for children. A ten-year-old daughter, whose mother had died of cancer, found an anxious gathering of three aunts and one grandparent who had rushed to the little girl's home to tell her of her mother's death. As they began a memorized approach, the little girl commented, "Daddy came home from the hospital and told me everything as soon as he could." Her father had carefully practiced the sharing of medical information aU along, He trusted her. As a result, the daughter was able to handle the truth. The death of a pet can be a good learning experience. The fact that a dog no longer moves and plays, does not respond when called, the fact that his body has to be disposed of quickly provides an ideal teaching situation, Some sort of "funeral" gives children opportunity to act out feelings and fears. After that final act of burying the dead, they are ready to begin putting the experience behind them, The death of a person is another time to help the child learn about death. This is especially true if it is a person upon whom the child is not dependent for emotional support. When older members of our congregation died, my wife and I offered to take any of our three children to the funeral home if an interest was expressed; as a result, they grew up thinking of death as a normal part of life. Such a death of one known by the child provides an opportunity to share our Christian faith and beliefs. We can pass on our trust in God, our confidence in his presence, and our belief in resurrection and eternal life.
Interpret Death at Their Level of Understanding
How may one help a particular child to deal with death? . The child during the first two years does not understand death. If his mother dies, he has lost his primary source of comfort. He will go through a grief experience. He may have trouble trusting another mother figure. Children three to five years old have many questions about death (both spoken and unspoken). To them, death is reversible, not final. Their big question is, If a parent dies, who will take care of me now? At the age offive and beyond, the child begins to understand that death is final and unavoidable. Children up to about age nine are much more deeply affected by the reactions and feelings of others to a death than by internal grief. Beyond nine, the child's own grief becomes an important concern. Remember to trust the child with the simple truth as he is permitted also to experience death at his level of maturity. He need not have all the facts. It is
important that adults face reality with a child. This is no time for game playing. A child should be allowed to attend the funeral. No child should be forced. The ideal is to invite and assume that the child would wish to be a part. Whatever is significant for the family should be shared by the child. If he is kept at home by well-meaning adults trying to shield him, the child is deprived of a sense of belonging. He may interpret this as punishment and feel he is somehow responsible for the death. Understanding and sensitivity are the best gifts an adult can give a child in grief. He also needs someone to listen.
Help a Child Face His Own Death
Recent investigation has shown that most children have some premonition that death is approaching. Like many dying adults, they are often more able to face this than their families. If they sense adults cannot manage, they are capable of playing the game of ignorance to protect family members who seem unable to deal with the difficult reality. Many children have shown a high capacity for working through their own impending death. The best help to give children at any age level is to deal first with our own feelings and fears about death. We can work at becoming sensitive persons who are especially available to children at the time of death. They will gladly discover that we do not "grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thess.
4: 13, RSV).
In summary, the familiar serenity prayer is useful in our ministry to the bereaved: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
J. From The Living Bible. Copyright © Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 1971. Used by permission. Subsequent quotations are marked TLB. 2. Kenneth W. Murray, "Understanding Grief," The Deacon, July 1979, p. 29. © Copyright 1979, The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. All rights reserved.
·Prepare four listening sheets, one each on these subtopics: Understanding Death, Understanding Grief, Helping in Time of Grief, and Helping Chifdren Through Grief. On each sheet have these questions: 1. What were the main ideas presented by the teacher? 2. How does this help me as a deacon in showing care for the bereaved? At the beginning of the study session divide the participants into four groups, giving each group one listening sheet. Group members are to take notes on the main ideas the teacher leaches from the book. Give the main Idea of each subtopic. Comment on those ideas you feel are most important for the deacons. On the chalkboard list the various parts of each subtopic. At the conclusion of your lecture, ask each small group to discuss among themselves the ideas Y0l! have presented. Tell them to enlist one person in the small group to write their answer to the two questions on the listening sheet. Suggest that they spend an equal amount of time on each question. After a period of discussion by each small group, call on one person from each group to report his answers. Give time for additional comments by any group member. Make a summary statement by reading the serenity prayer found at the end of the chapter.
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Caring for Those Ex ertencing piritual Doubt and Guilt
Doubt and guilt can be both constructive and destructive. Each of us should feel guilt when we have sinned against God, others, and ourselves. Guilt tells us something is wrong and can move us toward grace and forgiveness. Doubt appears as we try to reconcile faith in God with our personal experiences. A tension is set in motion between our faith and those sometimes baffling personal experiences. One can be forced to grow and mature in faith as a response to such tension. A questioning, searching stance is often the setting through which faith is rooted more firmly.
the Sources of Doubt and Guilt
Doubt and guilt do not appear out of a vacuum. They are caused by hard experiences of life. The roots of doubt and guilt can be traced to suffering, sin, and the loss of self-worth.
Suffering tends to produce spiritual doubt in one's life. The relationship between suffering and doubt is focused in the experience of Jesus on the cross; "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ... 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' " (Matt. 27:46, RSV). Habakkuk confessed a problem with doubt when his people suffered under the cruel yoke of oppression from an unrighteous enemy: "0 Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear? Or cry to thee 'Violence!' and thou wilt not save? Why dost thou make me see wrongs and look upon trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contentions arise. So the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted" (Hab. 1:2-4, RSV). Habakkuk doubted God'sjustice in the apparent triumph of evil over right. This biblical pattern is carried over into the lives of our people, too. Deacon Troy visited an inactive member of his church who had not attended any service for several years. He inquired: "What has happened to cause such a change? I was told that there was a time when you were very active in
the life of the church." Her answer: "When my only son went overseas, I prayed for him to return safely. After the word came of his death in action, I vowed I'd never again darken the door of any church, I made a decision to never again trust a God who would permit that to happen," The committed wife of a deacon who suffered heavy financial losses shared: "We've worked for years to build a nest egg. We've tried to be faithful stewards. My husband considered God his partner, did all he could to honor him. We've been faithful to the church. I'm wondering now if there really is anything to this whole business of church and religion. I really do wonder." As she continued her lament, she added: "Don't get me wrong. I still pray and try to work things out in my mind. It's been months, however, since any of my prayers got past the ceiling. They all seem to stop right there. I feel like I'm talking to myself." The story of Job speaks to the universal question of why man must suffer. Job experienced economic disaster, the loss of children, and a fall in prestige. These experiences created a religious problem. In agony Job asked, "What kind of God allows these things to happen?" His protest is the natural reaction of the human spirit when the support systems on which one has counted begin to crumble. Sin An active member of the church began to attend irregularly. When a deacon took him to lunch, he commented: "No pointin playing games with you. I'm not sure what I believe about God or anything else connected with the church." Months later, the deacon discovered the "doubting" Christian was having an affair with a co-worker. In this instance, doubt functioned as a diversion from needed guilt. A young businessman developed serious doubts about God and his love for him. Later insight prompted him to blame his doubts on the improper use of company funds over which he felt extreme guilt. The breakdown of relationships between parents and children may cause parents to question their own faith. A mother may begin to wonder how anyone who loves God could lose her temper so often with the children God has given to her. Loss of Self-worth John 4 gives us the moving picture of Jesus and the woman at Jacob's well in Samaria. The woman is obviously suffering from a loss of self-worth. Jesus presents himself as the source of living water (v. to). Her response to this dramatic announcement is doubt. She raises a theological question: " 'Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself?' " (John 4: 12, RSV). The psalmist has a problem with loss of self-worth, Listen to his pathetic presentation of himself: "0 Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger, nor chasten me in thy wrath. Be gracious to me, 0 Lord, for I am languishing; 0 Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled" (Ps, 6: 1-2, RSV). Frank began to have an affair, asked for a separation, and eventually divorced Sue who was overwhelmed and could not hold her head up. She began to question why God had let this happen and was afraid others would reject her, too. Her loss of self-esteem caused her to assume that others would see her that way. She doubted her acceptability.
Helping Persons Overcome Doubt and Guilt
Jesus presented a living, growing relationship between God and man and
himself through which the abundant life was to be achieved. It was a relationship which led to the mastery of evil and suffering. Help for those who are doubting and guilty comes through those who recognize their own doubt and guilt. They are free to love, accept, and affirm; and they are representative of a redemptive community-the church of Jesus Christ. Recognize Your Own Doubt and Guilt Deacons who help the doubting and guilty must not be judgmental. There must be a capacity to identify. One must be in touch with his own doubts. He must have a feel for his own guilt. He must know what it means to give an account of himself: "Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God .... Each of us shall give an account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:10,12, RSV). Jesus gave us direction as some religious leaders set forth to punish the guilty. He changed the focus from punishment to self-examination: "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). When we face the reality of our own sin, it is impossible to have a selfrighteous or judgmental attitude toward those who need help. Love, Accept, Affirm Take the initiative to reach out to the doubting and guilty. An example is God himself, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8, RSV), Since most will not come to you, go to them. We are called to love the person while hating the cause of their suffering or their sin. We are to continue to accept them even as they express their doubts or hide their guilt. Their need is for us to allow them to work through their real feelings but not arguing with their doubts or approving their sin. It is important that we keep on affirming their value as a person. Make them a friend of yours and let them know that God is a friend, too. This pattern of loving, accepting, and affirming is not to be confused with permissiveness, It recognizes that confronting can be caring and that there will be times when the word of confrontation will be spoken. The word, however, will be spoken with kindness blended with firmness. This can be done as the relationship grows. Above all, we recognize that there is nothing we do for the doubting and guilty as important as helping them get in touch with God's amazing resources. We help them to find God. Doubt is not overcome by the clearing up of the deep questions, Doubt is overcome through the reassurance provided by God's love, his acceptance and affirmation, This is the pattern of Job's discovery. His questions were not answered. He did, however, get to know God personally. "Then Job answered the Lord: 'I know that thou canst do all things and that no purpose is beyond thee. But I have spoken of great things which I have not understood, things too wonderful for me to know. I knew of thee then only by report, but now I see thee with my own eyes. Therefore I melt away; I repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42: 1-6, NEB), This pattern is reinforced in the New Testament (Luke 24: 13-35), The doubting and confused disciples are moved forward by his appearance on the road to Emmaus. The answer to doubt is relationship. Jesus loved them, He affirmed them. He took them where they were, He accepted them. An older teenager became a problem in his Sunday School class through cynical comments, a constant verbalizing of his doubts, a negative spirit.
The teacher sensed the young man needed more attention and began a careful plan to give the young man time and energy outside the class. Months later, the young man was able to unburden himself concerning his own loss of self-esteem. Looking back on the experience, he told others: "He [the teacher) put up with me and loved me when I was very unlovable and obnoxious. I could tell there was nothing I could do to turn him off. I made him angry with some of the things I said, but he didn't get down on me." "Love is patient and kind .... Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:4,7, RSV). Persistence is the key. Show by your continuing interest that the doubting and guilty are worth something.
Respond to Confession with Forgiveness
Whereas doubt can be overcome by receiving love, acceptance, and affirmation, guilt can only be overcome by confession and the receiving of forgiveness. There can be no forgiveness until first sin has been acknowledged. Responding to Dick's telephone call, Deacon Woodrow encouraged Dick to come to his home late one night. Dick sat for almost an haul' telling Woodrow of the sordid things he had done and the way he had mistreated his wife and children. Without warning, he drew lip short for a pause to ask: "Now that I've told you just about everything that I've pulled in my life, what do you have to say about me?" Deacon Woodrow was right on target. He responded: "Dick, I don't have to think long. I take seriously the things you've told me. I've sensed you have had problems. I will say though that you are a more messed-Up person, a first-class sinner, than I had ever imagined. You really are in bad shape." At that Dick grabbed both of Woodrow's hands to declare: "Man, it's good to hear you agree with me. I've been trying to tell some folks how messed up I am. All they want to do is convince me I'm not really as bad as I think I am." It was at that point that Deacon Woodrow knelt with Dick with the direction of I John 1:9 and gave him the privilege of confessing his sins to God. A troubled, guilt-ridden man arose from his knees as one who had claimed the cleansing grace of Christ. Dick could not find forgiveness until first of all he had dealt with his sin through confession. The prodigal son said to his father, "I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (Luke 15:21). This is the same note struck by David: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight" (Ps. 51:4, RSV). The psalmist later in the same passage penned a graphic picture of this forgiveness: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, 0 God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me thejoy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit" (Ps. 51:7-12, RSV). Dick picked up on the straight-on acceptance of Deacon Woodrow who not only could offer forgiveness but could also hear sin for what it is: "If we say that we have no sins, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9, RSV). God's grace is
mediated through a person who can hear sin and accept the sinner. This combination leads to the grace greater than all our sins. Build a Redemptive Community It is no accident that the faith expressed in the Bible places a strong emphasis on the relation of the individual to the group. Vital Christian faith does not see the individual apart from others and from God; it sees all in a total relationship. Thus while redemption is always a personal matter, it takes place in and through a society of persons who are experiencing a common faith. The society is the Christian community, a redemptive fellowship. The church is a redemptive fellowship if it is a place where the doubting and the guilty are welcomed rather than rejected. If it is a healthy place to deal with the sources of doubt and guilt, it is a redemptive community. The climate of the total fellowship communicates this. It is also experienced in small groups. Sunday School classes, Training Union groups, mission organizations, home Bible study groups, and committees are small groups in your church to provide redemptive ministry to the doubting and guilty. Usually a person does not make confession to the whole church. Often, a group within the church provides a supportive community for the person to share hurt and confess sin as love and acceptance lower defenses. In such an environment the acceptance of the group becomes the affirmation of the whole body: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, .. , that you may be healed" (Jas, 5: 16, RSV), One final word: a redemptive community must do more than demonstrate the capacity to hear confession, There are times when sin must be confronted even if the offending party does not take the initiative: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. 6: 1-2, RSV).
Before the study session begins, ask seven persons to take notes on one part each of the outline as you lecture. They will summarize what you have said at the end of the study session. Begin the study session by asking group participants to define doubt and guilt. Clarify any misunderstandings. 'Write the following outline on a poster or a chalkboard: Caring for Those Experiencing Doubt and Guilt I. Understanding the Sources of Doubt and Guilt A. Suffering B. Sin C. Loss of Self-worth II. Helping Persons Overcome Doubt and Guilt A. Recognize Your Own Doubt and Guilt B. Love, Accept, Affirm C. Respond to Confession with Forgiveness D. Build a Redemptive Community Following the outline, comment on each of the seven parts. 8e sure to include the illustrations. After the lecture call for the summary reports. Ask other participants to report any additional things they heard in the presentation that might be of benefit to caring deacons.
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Caring for the Lonely
Loneliness may be the biggest problem in our fragmented society. Many persons are uprooted and cut off from loved ones and significant persons who have made a difference. Many are lonely even in a crowd because there is no community. A painting by van Gogh hangs in my office: "The Potato Eaters" features five peasants who are sitting around a table. The only sign of warmth is the steam from the potatoes they are about to eat and the light that hangs over the table. The faces are masked with dull, lifeless expressions. No one is looking at anyone else. The painting expresses that not even physical closeness is a guarantee against loneliness.
Recognizing the Lonely
Those Who Have Lost Significant Persons
Widows, divorced persons, those who have recently moved, transients, shut-ins, and others who have lost significant persons are targets for loneliness. An elderly couple whose only son had been killed in an accident responded to a visit from their deacon: "It's a good thing for us that you've come by so regularly," said the husband. "Mildred and I were down on everything when you first came by. The two of us had poured everything we had into that boy. To have him snatched from us just about did us in. We were feeling cut off from everybody when you first came by." A woman in her thirties whose husband had left after a stormy marriage lamented: "I've never felt so lonely in my life, even with my daughter and my job. I feel terribly rejected and have been down on myself. I have to fight myself around the clock. "
Those in hospitals and nursing homes for long-term illnesses are often overwhelmed by a sense of loneliness. Persons in jail or prison have their own unique loneliness. A nursing-home patient commented to her deacon visitor: "You're like a
son to me. I hate to admit it, but you come to see me more often than my son or his family. After awhile you're not sure if you belong anywhere. Thank you for adopting me."
Those Alone at the Top
A corporation president confided: "You may be surprised, but I'm a very lonely person. I'm not sure with all the people in my life that I have one good friend to whom I can bear my soul. It's lonely at the top!" He expressed the feeling of many who are leaders. Pastors and other staff ministers sometimes suffer from loneliness. Although ministering to many persons, it is possible for a minister to feel alone and cut off from individual relationships.
Many are lonely because they think and believe they are unwanted, unloved, unappreciated, and unaccepted. They often place the blame on others whom they see as cold, unfriendly, selfish, and hostile. Walls of isolation are built by fear, suspicion, resentment, and insecurity. Some adolescents experience loneliness as they struggle between the worlds of childhood and adulthood, become shaky about their own identity, and suffer from low self-esteem. Some of the desire to be always with a crowd is an attempt to mask the deep sense of inner loneliness. The elderly face loneliness as significant persons move or die. Sometimes they feel out of touch with the times and are only marking time monotonously.
Helping the Lonely
Henri J. M. N ouwen provides a word of caution for the lonely and those who care for the lonely: "I would like to voice loudly and clearly what might seem unpopular and maybe even disturbing. The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift. Sometimes it seems as if we do everything possible to avoid the painful confrontation with our basic human loneliness, and allow ourselves to be trapped by false gods promising immediate satisfaction and quick relief. But perhaps the painful awareness of loneliness is an invitation to transcend our limitations and look beyond the boundaries of our existence. The awareness of loneliness might be a gift we must protect and guard, because our loneliness reveals to us an inner emptiness that can be destructive when misunderstood, but filled with promise for him who can tolerate its sweet pain." I The deacon, therefore, cares for the lonely as a fellow struggler who is in touch with some of the emptiness and loneliness in his own life and who at the same time points to God as the only one who can satisfy and always be present.
Be a Friend
Your presence to the lonely, the importance of personal visitation, cannot be overestimated. The most acute need of the lonely is the knowledge that someone cares and cares enough to get in touch; your presence speaks directly to the point of their need. Regularity is important in your visitation pattern. Decide what pattern is needed along with your ability to meet the requirements of a given plan. You might visit weekly, every other week, or monthly, or even less often than once a month. You will increase the effectiveness of your care through regular visits. A deacon was stopped on a downtown street by a woman whom he at first
did not recognize. She reminded him that he had visited her regularly in a psychiatric hospital over a period of several weeks. "I was sick in such a way that I could not say anything to you. I want you to know how blessed and helped I was by your visits. I remember everyone of them and want to thank you." One deacon visits a shut-in on the first Monday of each month between 4:00 and 6:00 PM. The shut-in has told friends and the deacon that he often anticipates the regular visit several days before his deacon comes. This can also make visits more helpful as thought is given to issues that need to be faced and discussed. Phone calls can be made on a regular basis, too. Fifteen minutes on the phone at regular intervals can provide care for many persons. As noted in Session 3, on caring for the hospitalized, a telephone call can be an appropriate ministry approach and, in some cases, more desirable than a visit. The better you know the person before the telephone call, the more meaningful calls can become. In times when deacons are out of the city, telephone calls to the lonely can be highly effective. The deacons' warmth and concern for the lonely can also be communicated through letter writing. Notes that affirm and express concern deepen and strengthen the relationship between deacons and others. Deacon Russ regularly telephones members of his care group on their birthdays when he is in town. When he is away from the city on his many business trips, he writes notes and gives special attention to those he knows suffer from loneliness. His telephone calls and notes are noted for brevity. This does not detract from their importance to those who receive them. He writes: "I don't believe in using the telephone or letter writing as a substitute for personal contacts, but sometimes the telephone is an excellent supplement." There are times when it can do-and do as well-what a personal call could do when a personal visit is impossible. In special care situations the telephone can be used between visits to increase the frequency of contacts.
Link with Others
Who can help the lonely person? Remember the Sunday School classes, training groups, fellowship and social groups, and athletic teams that may exist through your church's ministry. Call on them to make visits and encourage the lonely to participate at any point you can match needs with opportunities. A social worker was awed enough to say, "I'd give anything to have a support system like that just waiting to be used to help lonely people. " Know your community services, such as "Meals on Wheels" which will often provide other forms of care to the lonely. Get to know resource persons who stand ready to help as you enlist their aid. Remember that ministry to the lonely often needs to be a team action. You can be the team builder. Deacon Carl asked one lonely shut-in if she would like to join a telephone prayer chain. On her own she began to telephone some for whom she had been praying with a follow-through call. This practice soon meant that she was ministering to her own loneliness by giving care to other lonely persons. "One of the best ways," she wrote in a chuch paper interview, "to deal with your own need is to make sure that you give somebody else the very thing you'd like to receive yourself." Many lonely teenagers and, at times, others can be enabled to overcome loneliness through the development of social skills. Such skills can help give
them confidence and help them relate more effectively with other persons.
I. Henri J. M. Nouwen, The WOllnded Healer
(Garden City. New York, Doubleday, 1972), p. 86.
'Secure several pictures from magazines of lonely people. Pass the pictures around to the participants at the beginning of the study session. After all have seen the pictures, ask: "What does it mean to be lonely?" Elicit several responses. Say: "Can you remember a time when you were lonely? Take a moment to share with someone seated next to you a time when you were lonely." Comment on the need for deacons to care for the lonely. Then say that during this study session we will learn how to recognize the lonely and how to help the lonely. Begin your lecture by listing on the chalkboard four categories of lonely people: those who have lost significant persons, the institutionalized, those alone at the top, and the fearful. Comment on each of these. Next list on the chalkboard ways to help the lonely: 1. Be a Friend. 2. Link with Others. Comment on each of these. Conclude by asking volunteers to recall what you have said about who the lonely are and how they can be helped.
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Caring for the
The food needs of the Grecian widows in the early Jerusalem church led to the selection of the first seven deacons: "Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution" (Acts 6:1, RSV). Early Christians had high expectations of one another. High expectation was linked to the amazing care that each had received from the heavenly Father. There appears to have been a natural assumption that any of his children, filled with his Spirit, would also have a concern for a brother's needs, whether physical or spiritual. The problem was a fast-growing church at Jerusalem. The need for organization is one way of admitting that a group has grown too large for the spontaneous attention to hurt that takes place quite naturally in a smaller setting. One cluster, the Hellenists, was convinced that their widows were being neglected. There appears to be an absence of defensiveness on the part of the other members. There is no discussion about the details of the Hellenist predicament. Implied is the idea that if somebody hurts, the people care. Because God cared, they cared. We love because he first loved us. They took action to meet a need. Love is something you do. Although the Acts 6 passage is foundational, it does not stand alone. A key passage in the New Testament is:" 'Then the King will say to those at his right hand. "Come, 0 blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" , " (Matt. 25:34·40, RSV).
What an incentive to care for the needy! First of all, we are nudged by his Spirit; and second, we delight our Lord who tells us that when we care for one another we care for him. That knowledge is motivation. Of all the varied tasks assigned to deacons across the centuries, the most common has been responsibility for church benevolences. It seems rare to find a church that has not clearly understood this as part of the deacon's ministry. The word benevolence means to wish well, to perform acts of kindnessall aimed at meeting a real need in another person.
Recognizing the Needy
Some of the needs are obvious. Others are hidden until we sharpen our spiritual sensitivity. You will spot many needs that will never surface apart from personal visitation and involvement in the lives of your care group.
Let's begin as Acts 6 began, with the widowed. The loss of a breadwinner can throw a family's finances into chaos. There will be repair jobs around the house such as electrical fixtures and driveway needs. At times there will be other needs, such as yard work or cooking. Formerly the deceased spouse met these needs. Now the survivor is confronted with challenges with which help is needed. Part of caring is that of teaching the survivor how to do certain things for himself: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction" (Jas. 1:27, RSV).
Needs may exist among those outside your congregation. Transients include those in skid row (both temporary and semipermanent) and those traveling who have lost money, have had possessions stolen, or have had car trouble and need money for repairs. Deacons may need help from community agencies who can help determine specific needs. This avoids judgmental language like "whether they deserve it," "just spend more money on booze," or other comments. The key is focusing on the need, not on who is responsible for the problem. The problem-solving stance is the redemptive attitude for those who care. Some transients may have problems of alcoholism and drug addiction. Check Session 13, "Caring for the Alcoholic and Addict," for further help with these problem areas.
The Disrupted Family
This category includes not only those whose families are disrupted by separation but also those who take on responsibility for relatives who come to live with them. This can pose a financial crisis, especially when families have not been able to negotiate the decisions that have to be made in order to provide. No matter the reason, the point is to focus on the need.
The Financially Overburdened
Widespread health insurance can lull one into a false sense of security. Not every person has a medical plan to cover all family needs. Even if one is provided, there is often a percentage of care expenses not covered by typical plans. This is especially true when treatment costs an amount of money that puts a marginal family into a financial bind. Radical needs can exist through credit purchases beyond pay-back means. It is important to focus on the need rather than an effort to assess blame.
Sensitivity is especially needed to those with fixed incomes when emergencies of any kind arise. It is this group that most often lacks the ability to react to emergencies. The elderly are particularly vulnerable.
Unemployment can happen for a number of reasons: Seasonal work can come to an abrupt halt. A recession can wipe out work schedules. Plant layoffs can destroy earnings. Strikes can cripple. People quit for personal reasons. A suspension or firing can be the problem (for disciplinary reasons). Again, it is important that focus be placed on the problem, not on the cause of the crisis. Rent still has to be paid, medical expenses provided, and food put on the table. Not only can there be financial problems with the unemployed. Husbands and wives sometimes lose confidence in themselves andlor in one another when unemployment strikes. Some are tempted to blame the other. Emotional care can be just as much a need as any other.
The New Immigrant
Our nation continues to be a nation of immigrants. Some have clothing or housing needs. Others need medical care such as glasses, dental care, and hearing aids. Job skills are needed by others; they will need assistance to locate and finance training. Many need professional or volunteer help in order to learn English as a second language.
The Disaster Victim
Remember special needs of disaster victims. Fire, floods, and tornadoes can create human suffering as well as overwhelming property losses. Deacons will do well to work in cooperation with community agencies who often have more precise information that can make better use of resources.
The shrinking of the world through faster travel, electronic media, and the awareness of interdependence with other nations of the world makes it more important than ever to feed the hungry, both in the United States and around the world. Four hundred sixty million people in the world are constantly hungry. Ten thousand deaths a day are related to starvation. Thirty-three million Americans live below the poverty line.
Helping the Needy
The Bible recognizes the persistence of the problems of poverty and need in the world. "The poor will never cease out of the land" (Deut. 15:11, RSV). However, God does not tolerate a passive acceptance of the situation. The rest of that verse is: "Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land."
Develop Sensitivity and Compassion
The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) gives us a feeling for sensitivity to the needy. He did not let the usual barriers erected by society interfere with his desire to help the needy. He didn't know whether the man was a victim or the cause of his own distress. He cared for the man without expecting anything in return, even appreciation; and he was willing to spend his own money for a stranger. When he left, he did not leave the man obligated. He was willing to be obligated for additional costs of his care. No passage in Scripture better pictures compassionate sensitivity than this. It is no accident that Jesus is the originator. This is his way with the needy. The
commandment to love our neighbor is inseparable from our professed love for God. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb. 13:2, RSV). One of the problems with benevolence ministry has been the risk run in order to help. All of us have been taken at some point in the past. There is, too, a recognition that welfare programs have clouded the picture; nevertheless, God calls us to seek and to help those with real needs. Most will agree that it is far better to err on the side of compassion rather than cynicism. Sensitivity picks up more than financial needs. I still remember with delight the love offering taken by members of our congregation to fly the pastor to a distant city to be near a deacon who was scheduled to undergo radical surgery. Although there were no financial needs, the church realized there was need for pastoral presence and support. Sensitive deacons are apt to pursue unusual circumstances. Deacon Randy wondered why a church member went home from the hospital sooner than normal for his kind of surgery. Questions revealed that he had inadequate medical coverage. This discovery led to church provision of several hundred dollars. A widow on a meager income needed cash to pay for medicine while waiting for a medicare settlement. An in-touch deacon saw that her need was met through the church benevolence fund. She would probably not have volunteered the information. His timely inquiry made it easy for her to talk about the problem.
Provide Adequate Resources
Although the needs of no two churches are exactly alike, guidelines are still needed. Gomer Lesch has suggested that churches discuss these thoughtprovoking questions before establishing guidelines. "Who are the people who present themselves for assistance? What kinds of assistance are most often requested? What days of the week are most popular for requests for assistance? What time of day? Who in the church is best qualified to screen the requests? What other community resources are available to these people? How can the church utilize these resources to supplement its own ministries? What would be the approximate cost of a benevolence ministry?" 1 This discussion process can aid in gathering the information needed for deacons to understand the particular benevolence needs in your community. Resources needed will include all that is needed by those situations listed in the first section of this session-money, food, lodging, clothing, transportation, skilled help (from auto repair to legal counsel), guidance, and any other help the church plans to provide. The church will need to determine what resources it should attempt to have available as an individual church, where it can cooperate with other churches in the local community or state, and where it can work with community agencies. Churches use various ways to obtain benevolence funds: church budget; special offerings as needed; and regular special offerings such as offerings on Wednesday nights, fifth Sundays, or Lord Supper observances. Public welfare and other private community agencies have resources churches can channel to avoid needless duplication of efforts. Mission action groups in the church or association might sponsor a food pantry or clothes closet. A church, association, or community organization
might keep a skills bank, a record file of those who have special skills they are willing to use to help people in need. Brotherhood organizations often have disaster relief plans, working with Red Cross and civil defense units. Many Baptists are now participating in a skip-a-meal plan for world hunger, donating the cost ofa meal each week to the Foreign Mission Board for world hunger and disaster relief needs. The Jerusalem church provides a positive model of caring for the needy. Members of the congregation not only gave surplus income to the needy, but they also were willing to sell property to help. The result was, "There was not a needy person among them, ... and distribution was made to each as any had need" (Acts 4:34-35, RSV).
1. Gomer R. Lesch, "Handouts or a Helping Hand," The Deacon, July 1977.p. 21. © Copyright 1977, The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. All rights reserved.
At the beginning of the study session, call on someone to read Acts 6:1. Comment on the content of the introductory paragraphs . •Prior to the day of this session, ask eight men to take one each of the needy people listed in Session 7 and be ready to answer these questions: 1. Define this type of needy person. 2. What might be some of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of this type person? Call on the eight enlisted men to answer the two questions. After each one speaks, use the content under each needy person listed to clarify any misconceptions or misunderstandings. Write this subtopic on the chalkboard: Helping the Needy. Under th is write: Develop Sensitivity and Compassion. And: Provide Adequate Resources. Use the material from the book to lecture on developing sensitivity and compassion. Use some personal illustrations to make the content come alive. Lecture on how deacons can provide adequate resources. Read aloud the questions raised by Gomer R. Lesch. Ask participants to volunteer answers to these questions: How has our church helped needy persons in the past? How can we provide help for needy persons in the future?
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Caring for Church Members in Conflict
The deacon has a special opportunity to look after the fellowship of the people to whom he ministers. Since conflict can injure and at times destroy a fellowship, the deacon has a responsibility to help others in his church make proper use of conflict. Sharp tensions and conflict are increasingly common within churches. Some deplore this and see it as an alien intrusion that destroys the harmonious fellowship characteristic of the Christian faith. Conflict is inevitable wherever people care about one another. The opposite of love is not conflict. It is apathy. In human communities it is not the presence but the absence of conflict that should be viewed with suspicion. Conflict is usually taken for granted in the world beyond the church; however, the existence of conflict and controversy inside the church is highly threatening because it suggests that Christians have failed to live up to the expectations of the gospel. The assumption that conflict will end in a loss of relationship generates fear of conflict. Differences do, nevertheless, exist. Persons with the best of motives may have conflicting goals. Tension and controversy are the result. People feel strongly, and thus conflict within the congregation may be intense. It is important for deacons to realize the presence of conflict and to deal with it constructively. Churches need mature, emotionally healthy persons to provide creative leadership in times of conflict. The early church did not deny the presence of conflict. It was acknowledged as a natural part of life and change. A number of biblical passages can provide models or lessons for creatively dealing with conflict in the spirit of Christ.
Appreciating the Value of Diversity
1 Corinthians 12: 12v27 A typical congregation is made up of persons from different socioeconomic levels, different job experiences, varied preferences in music and worship. "God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that might otherwise seem less important. This makes
for happiness among the parts, so that the parts have the same care for each other that they do for themselves" (1 Cor. 12:24-25, TLB). Central to this Scripture is the honor and respect that each member is expected to have for every other member. There is no place for superiority or inferiority. Each member needs the other members. Thus church members need to work together as a body or team and celebrate the value of the differences. Two deacons arbitrarily told a long-haired youth to stop playing the piano on Sunday evening. They felt long hair was unacceptable for any worship leader. When other deacons heard about this, a decision was made to talk through the issues in a meeting of all deacons. Background information indicated that the pianist, a new convert, had lost his father by death two years earlier. The deacons who had acted on their own apologized. They decided with others that the deacons should affirm and encourage the eighteen-year-old who would probably have been lost to the church apart from this consensus. Discussion made a clear distinction between personal preferences and an approach that ministered to the needs of a fatherless young man. The value of each person became more important than differences.
Recognizing One's Own Sin and Failure
John 8:3·11; Luke 6:41·42 A group of religious persons brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus masterfully shifted their concern with her sin to a confrontation with their own spiritual condition. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). So often our obsession with the sins of others blinds us to our own need to examine ourselves. This is Jesus' point in another instance: " 'Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye," when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you'll see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye' " (Luke 6:41-42, RSV). Jesus challenged us not to concern ourselves with the failures of others while ignoring our own need for confession and repentance. Conflict is intensified as long as we project our own unconfessed guilt onto others by pointing to their sins. So long as we put the blame on others while failing to come clean with our own shortcomings, we will feed conflict through this pattern of self-righteousness. On the other hand, confession of our mistakes will lower the defenses of a brother and free him to take a more careful look at his spiritual condition.
Discovering Greatness Through Service
Mark 9:33·35; 10:35·37,41.45 Conflict emerges in the church when God's people become competitive for power and status. Jealousy and resentment can become the order of the day. Jesus' disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest. James and John took the initiative by requesting to have the positions of power and preeminence. Theirs was a bid for recognition and greatness .through a conferred honor. This upset the other jealous disciples. Jesus reminded them all that the only way to greatness is that of service:
" 'You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many' " (Mark 10:42-45, RSV). The striving for positions nearly always generates resentment. This means using and manipulating others for selfish ends. No one wants to be used. However, caring for needs is appreciated. A deacon whose professional counsel is highly respected around the country repaired a widow's bathroom plumbing when a commode overflowed. Another deacon pleasantly surprised a widow on his care list when he and his teenage son showed up on a cold, icy day to shovel snow and remove ice from her driveway.
Accepting Responsibility for Initiative
Matthew 18:15-17 Conflict can go unresolved unless somebody makes the first move. When a wrong has been committed, who is to take the initiative? Deacon Fred talked to a church member who felt another had wronged her. Her comment was: "I'm ready to make up whenever she is ready to apologize. I'm waiting." Fred read this passage to her: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother" (Matt. 18: 15, RSV). Beyond the one-to-one setting this passage instructs us to take the initiative at a second level if the first move does not bring reconciliation. And if the visit with two or three others does not result in a healing, then the matter is to be made the property of the whole fellowship. The wronged person is to take the initiative. This approach is God's way with us. While we were rebels to God's will, God took the initiative and sent his Son to bring reconciliation. If God had waited for us to take the initiative, the conflict would never have ended.
Negotiating Rather than Retaliating or Avoiding
Matthew 5:38-39 Conflict can be sharpened and breaches made wider when a person chooses to run or seeks to retaliate when he has been wronged or hurt. Either of those ways is destructive. The "turn the other cheek" command is an insistence that Christians move past revenge or withdrawal. If one chooses neither to retaliate nor to avoid the conflict but chooses to negotiate, resolution is possible. This means choosing to become vulnerable to the risk that the conflict will not be resolved and that further hurt or wrong will be inflicted. But Jesus' point is that the possibility of the restored relationship is worth the risk.
Praying for Your Enemies
Matthew 5:43-48 our attitude who love us Love your RSV). Barprayer for Jesus requires us to pray for our enemies. Change can come in while their outlook may change, too. We are prone to love those and hate those who hate us. Jesus said: " 'But I say to you, enemies and pray for those who persecute you' " (Matt. 5:44, riers can be broken down through the power of a Christian's another.
Corrie ten Boom once recognized a Nazi SS guard from the concentration camp where she had been cruelly mistreated along with her sister who died there. As she realized the enemy was there to hear her testimony in a post- World- War-II assembly in war-devastated Germany, hatred welled up within her and interfered with her sharing. She felt she could never forgive such an enemy. She prayed, however, for this mortal enemy and found herself after the service moving toward the former guard whom she was then able to forgive. He had come out of thirst for him who is the Water of life. Apart from her obedience to pray for the enemy, there is no reason to believe forgiveness could have been extended and conflict ended. Prayer for the enemy is especially needed when the initiative has been taken and efforts to negotiate have been fruitless. In some ofthe Psalms, the prayer is for God to bring disaster upon one's enemies. However, this idea is both pre-Christian and sub-Christian. Jesus calls us to positive praying on their behalf, especially prayer for a restored relationship.
Forgiving to Release the Barriers that Separate
Luke 6:37 38
Conflicts often cannot be resolved until somebody decides not to judge another. "Judge not, and you will not bejudged; condemn not, and you wil1 not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:38, RSV). Relating our ability to forgive others to our own forgiveness from God is not intended to induce guilt, nor is it presented as a mechanical way to make certain that one gets forgiveness. There is no way we can trade for God's mercy or deserve forgiveness. The Scripture is simply a description of how forgiveness takes place. Whenever a person confesses his sin, he experiences God's forgiveness, his unconditional willingness to restore the relationship byreleasing the past. There wells up within a gratitude that must find expression. The most natural expression is to pass on the discovery of God's amazing grace. Forgiving and setting aside past wrongs and hurts in order to restore relationships becomes a new pattern of life. The forgiven becomes the forgiver, both a recipient and a sharer of grace. Do not misunderstand. This does not mean that sin is taken lightly. Sin is always taken seriously by both the forgiver and the forgiven. It is an offense against God, others, and ourselves. Still, there is grace greater than all our sin, a willingness to set it aside for the sake of the relationship. Such a discovery is at the heart of the good news.
Being Open to God's Leading in New Directions
Acts S:29 39
Peter and the apostles were about to be killed for preaching the gospel. Their preaching produced conflict with the Pharisees until Gamaliel, a Pharisee in the council, made a different appeal; " 'Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men .... Let them alone; for if this plan or this understanding is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!' " (Acts 5:35,38-39, RSV). Gamaliel's appeal was for each to be willing to examine entrenched ideas about what God wants. God can use a person who believes differently to reveal new insights or new directions. Conflict often erupts when two groups are equally convinced God is on their side. Gamaliel's insight can help persons in conflict to agree to disagree
and to work at disagreeing in an agreeable manner. Openness, love, and respect must prevail in such situations. A person may still keep his convictions. However, he is free to compromise if a decision is needed immediately. He continues to be open to new insight and is careful not to assume that God's will is necessarily restricted to his present ideas. One deacon brought a more relaxed atmosphere into a heated discussion when he reflected: "I realize I've sounded as if I am absolutely sure of God's will for this group. I do feel strongly about my own views, but I want to be open to the light that this discussion is offering."
Caring for the Needs of Persons
Acts 6:1-7 Many conflicts arise when people feel neglected or unappreciated. Certainly, this was the case in one conflict of the early church. Grecian widows felt neglected and overlooked, less important than those of Jewish background. The selection ofthe seven men with Grecian names suggests a keen sensitivity to the "overlooked" group, a desire to reassure and care for them. One congregation experienced opposition to its youth ministry from older adults. Conflict between older and younger members threatened to take the shape of a major breach until deacons realized that older adults felt neglected and, indeed, had been overlooked. Plans to care for older adults led to a resolution of the conflict and a freedom on the part of the adults to affirm and appreciate youth ministries.
Mediating to Bring People Together
Acts 9:26-28 After Paul's conversion the Christians at Jerusalem feared and rejected Paul. At a crucial point Barnabas intervened as a mediator between the new convert and those he had formerly persecuted. "Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord" (Acts 9:27-29, RSV). The other Christians focused on Paul's past. Barnabas, the mediator, pointed to his present. When a committee member resigned over a cutting remark made to him by another committee person, in spite of an apology, there was no openness to reconciliation. His deacon's visit and acceptance helped the process of reconciliation. Getting to know the offending person better through the eyes of a deacon enabled him to accept the apology and withdraw his resignation,
Preserving Unity in Spite of Doctrinal Differences
Acts 15:1-33 The early church council recorded in Acts 15 provides some principles a congregation can use to maintain unity in spite of doctrinal differences. First, they made no attempt to hide the differences, "Some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, . . . When Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question" (Acts 15: 1-2, RSV). Second, they listened attentively: "And all the assembly kept silence; and
they listened" (Acts 15:12, RSV). Third, they recognized the danger of demanding more of one another than God does. After considerable discussion Peter spoke these important words: 'Why do you now provoke God by laying on the shoulders of these converts a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? No, we believe that it is by the grace of the Lord Jesus that we are saved, and so are they' " (Acts 15:10-11, NEB). The "yoke" refers to the heavy yoke of legalism versus the joyous experience of those who are recipients of God's grace. Sometimes a position on a doctrine becomes a "test of faith" even more important than God's grace.
for the Sake of the Gospel
Compromise is often necessary and can be constructive. In fact, much conflict cannot be resolved without some Spirit-anointed compromising. Christians need to learn how to negotiate differences. A conflict surfaced when Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on a missionary journey. Since Mark had quit on an earlier journey, Paul disagreed. Paul was convinced that they needed a man of finer material. Barnabas characteristically wanted to give John Mark another chance. Barnabas and Paul compromised in a way that honored the cause of Christ. "They separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas" (Acts 15:39-40, RSV). One of the saddest experiences in life is to see great teams break up. However, the beauty is that God's grace can work in two lives when conflict does arise. Compromise is negotiated in such a manner that the boundaries of God's grace are extended. Christians are challenged to make conflicts work for the sake of the gospel and not against it.
Speaking the Right Word at the Right Time
Ephesians 4:15; Proverbs 15:1 Christians need to speak the truth but never to do so irresponsibly or harmfully: "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4: 15, RSV). Alongside the command to speak truth is the instruction to handle the truth lovingly. The right word at the right time led to a healing of a conflict. Proverbs 15:1 provides wise advice on how that right word should be expressed: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (RSV). Two committee members disagreed in a committee meeting. Virgil called David "a wild-eyed dreamer" as he shared his vision of mission involvement. David did not answer immediately. When the chairman summarized the meeting and asked for input, David commented: "1 don't hold Virgil responsible for my feelings. 1do want to say, Virgil, that when you caJIed me a 'wild-eyed dreamer,' I was angry, very angry. After thinking about the situation for awhile, I've come to the conclusion 1feel very rejected by what you said." Virgil reached across the table to say: "1 apologize for running past your idea. 1 tend to be overbearing. Thank you for the gracious way you've helped me deal with the problem. I apologize." David spoke the truth in love, the right word at the right time. He did not ignore the conflict but chose to wait until anger subsided. His willingness to talk about his own feelings of
rejection set the stage for Virgil to act responsibly. Conflict cannot be avoided. It is natural within any relationship where two people take one another seriously. Deacons are called to care for those caught up in conflict, to minister boldly and lovingly with confidence that it can be used for a good purpose.
Introduce the content of Session 8 by reading the initial paragraphs aloud. 'Before the day for this session, ask a deacon who has had an experience of helping church members in conflict to share a testimony about the experience. If no deacon has an experience to share, tell one yourself. 'Prior to the session write the subtopics and Scripture references on small cards or slips of paper. Each card or slip of paper will have one subtopic and Scripture ref-
They are: 1. Appreciating the Value of Diversity 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 2. Recognizing One's Own Sin and Failure John 8:3-11; Luke 6:41-42 3. Discovering Greatness Through Service Mark 9 :33-35; 10 :35-37 ,41-45 4. Accepting Responsibility for Initiative Matthew 18:15-17 5. Negotiating Rather than Retaliating or Avoiding Matthew 5:38-39 6. Praying for Your Enemies Matthew 5:43-48 7. Forgiving to Release the Barriers that Separate Luke 6:37-38 8. Being Open to God's Leading in New Directions Acts 5 :29-39 9. Caring for the Needs of Persons Acts 6:1-7 10. Mediating to Bring People Together Acts 9 :26-28 11. Preserving Unity in Spite of Doctrinal Differences Acts 15:1-33 12. Compromising for the Sake of the Gospel Acts 15 :36-41 13. Speaking the Right Word at the Right Time Ephesians 4:15; Proverbs 15:1 Give the cards or slips of paper to thirteen participants. If there are fewer than thirteen in the group, ask some participants to take more than one card or slip of paper. Ask each participant to read aloud his statement and the Scripture verses. Using the content from the book, comment briefly on each statement. Conclude by reading aloud the last paragraph of Session 8.
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Caring for Those Experiencing Major Life vents
This session is about celebration. Previous sessions have focused primarily on problem areas in people's lives. This session is concerned with those times when you canjoin in celebration of God's goodness. If members don't know how to celebrate or if they are too busy to celebrate, you can help them discover a new and joyful dimension to the Christian life. Crisis events are usually thought of as negative or painful experiences. Crisis means" turning point." Positive experiences also provide opportunities for significant transition in a person's life. This includes such events as marriage, birth, children leaving the nest, retirement, changing jobs, moving to a new home, graduation, special recognitions, birthdays, and anniversaries. Through awareness of these times, a deacon can affirm persons by acknowledging their special life events. When one deacon stopped by a home with a wedding anniversary gift, the joyous wife noted: "It's good to see you when we're so happy. You've been around twice for deaths; you visited Tom in the hospital when we weren't sure he'd make it; and you've helped us face a financial crisis. But today you've come to help us celebrate! It's good to have you here for a happy time. "
Recognizing Key Life Events
The wedding is significant as a social event. It provides an opportunity for the couple to say to significant other people: "You have been important to us or important to those close to us in the past and will continue to be important. We want to share this time of public commitment with you." The deacon can be in this group of persons. The wedding is also efamily event. Parents and other close relatives are usually in a special place of honor and recognition to acknowledge the significant role they have had in bringing the couple to this point. Deacons can affirm parents as well as the couple.
The wedding is also a Christian event. The couple is usually married in a church by a pastor to acknowledge God's role in bringing them together in marriage. Married love is looked on and received as a gift from God, who guides them in the permanence of marriage. The deacon helps celebrate primarily by his and his wife's presence at the wedding ceremony. They might also be involved in wedding parties. Birth Throughout all of history, birth has been looked on as a religious event. Sensitive parents realize that their baby is a gift from God. They have been allowed by God to participate in the miracle of a new human being in a tiny body. A deacon who understands the awe and wonder of birth can enrich this period of time through his awareness. He can help the couple articulate their gratitude. During the time of pregnancy, there is opportunity for the deacon to share and encourage the anticipation. This period of time can make it possible to prepare or select some special gift for the parents or the baby. A visit to the mother in the hospital following the birth should be a high priority. It is appropriate to give the booklet YOli a Parent at this time (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95). If the father is not at the hospital at the time of the visit, a personal note or phone call of congratulations is in order. Other children should be acknowledged. An inexpensive gift often gives them the recognition of the importance they need to experience when the new baby is the primary focus of attention. Deacons might initiate a recognition by the church of new births. Some congregations have a single rose in a vase on the Lord's Supper table for each baby born that week. Babies are signs of hope. It is in this mood that the couple turns to their church to try to say or do something worthy of so momentous an event. Any baby is special, but a baby born to Christian parents is particularly special. His parents have been conditioned by biblical models (Mary and Joseph, for example) who trusted God wholeheartedly, who were sensitive to one another, and who were committed to training and discipline. Emptying the Nest When the last child leaves home to go to work, to attend college, or to fulfill a military obligation, the emptying of the nest calls for celebration. If the developmental tasks of the marriage and child rearing have been accomplished with a fair degree of success, the leaving of the children provides an opportunity to celebrate ajob well done. The goal has been to rear children who are self-sufficient and able to fend for themselves. The parents are ready for some appreciation from someone who understands the enormity of such a task. This is not to deny that there are some feelings of sadness and loss. Feelings are usually mixed as empty rooms and rearrangements of houses and lives take place. Beyond this loss, however, beckon new opportunities for a couple to be together without the demands of child care. This time can be rich and rewarding. There will be more freedom for the couple to deepen their relationship. Freedom can mean the chance to travel, change careers, go back to school, or explore long-neglected hobbies. The resolve to strengthen their own relationship and to foster their own identities will be moved forward by the knowledge that their children need freedom to establish and maintain their separate lives. The children will be cheered and enabled to see their parents
enjoying one another. This is a time for celebration as the couple begins to give each other the closest of attention and best of care in the years ahead. During a personal visit the deacon can encourage the parents to share some of the significant moments of child rearing. Some of these will be hilarious. Others were tense at the time and tinged with uncertainty. This focus would provide an opportunity for affirmation of their parenthood. So long as it is done without prying, this could be a time to ask what the couple plans to do now that the nest is empty. Care should be exercised by the deacon that he not impose his ideas of what they should do but rather give them opportunity to share out of their own uniqueness. Couples will sometimes need to go over those areas where they feel less than successful. This is a good time to leave the booklet After the Children Leave Home (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95).
Retirement can be a welcome relief or an emotional shock. For those who have done their planning well, it is apt to be a meaningful transition to another significant phase of life. The retiree will no longer be able to base his current self-worth solely on the productivity of his job or career and may fear the years of inactivity ifno creative use of leisuretirne has been projected. This transition calls for new adjustments and insights. Not even these challenges, however, can dim the enthusiasm for the knowledge that one has made it to retirement. This is a time for praising God. More time can be given to church work and community service. People with deep needs and hurts can be cared for by sensitive retirees. Some will delight in performing consultative services such as public relations, business administration, computer programming, teaching, orcounseIing. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and handymen have skills that are at a premium. One retiree launched a major program of repair renovation for all church buildings. Freedom from regular work hours can mean more time for friends, children, and grandchildren. Visits and writing can be given a high priority. The deacon might find that he has been invited to a retirement dinner or reception for a member of his family care group, especially if they know of his sincere interest in this event. He should place a high priority on accepting any such invitation. His attendance will be a ministry. The deacon might choose to take the initiative if no one else is planning such a time of recognition. Remember, too, the booklet Making the Most of Retirement (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95). Give it to the retiree when you make a personal visit. It speaks to many of the feelings, joys, and issues of retirement.
A person's first job is a time for celebration. This movement toward independence is a milestone which the sensitive deacon can acknowledge. This person might be a teenager with a part-time job or an adult who has learned a trade, developed a skill, or trained for a profession. This major life event provides an opportunity for celebration and recognition. Many changes are the result of a promotion which recognizes skills acquired and a job well done. The deacon can join in gratitude for the gifts God has given and the guidance of God in the move from onejob to another.
There will be times, too, when certain persons will reevaluate their lives and find God leading them to make a change to another vocation, simply doing at a particular time what one feels is following the leadership of the Lord. Setting priorities may mean that a position requiring frequent travel is exchanged for a lower paying position in order for family concerns to be met. The deacon may have been involved in the searching and decisionmaking time as well as the time of new direction that ends in the choice of a new job. Some job changes come about as a result of a job loss (for any reason). The deacon can help this person use the occasion to rely more on God and to examine his priorities. Possibly the job loss will bring financial needs. Note this crisis need in Session 7, "Caring for the Needy." Moving to a New Home The move to a new house is a time for celebration, especially if the move represents a dream fulfilled. More adequate room, added comfort, and more congenial surroundings can be a cause for gladness and thanksgiving. The Christian recognizes that a house and its furnishings are gifts from God never to be taken for granted but always to be received with gratitude. The deacon may be able to help the family acknowledge this by dedicating the new house to God. This would be a good time for the deacon to give the family a copy of Getting Acquainted in a New Community (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95). A dedication can be a significant witness of God's priority both to Christian and non-Christian friends. It can remind the family to ask God to help them make their house into a home where God is honored. Birthdays and Anniversaries Birthdays and anniversaries are occasions so obvious that they might be overlooked. However, they provide significant opportunities to affirm persons. Celebrative care will help the other to see God's plan taking shape within their journey, the sufficiency of grace to compensate and make adequate, the hope that remains constant in the midst of unfulfilled dreams as refined expectations begin to take shape. A person's birthday is probably the most significant personal day of the year. For the deacon to acknowledge that day with a greeting card or phone call says that person is important. It gives the deacon a good opportunity to say that he is glad God gave that person life and has given him the opportunity to know him. Recognition of birthdays is important for people of all ages. Some deacons include a quarter or a bookmark or some other token gift in a card to young children. Older persons may outwardly seem to downgrade the importance of their birthday, but sincere acknowledgment makes them feel good. Anniversary recognition through a card or phone call can affirm a couple in their marriage. Sometimes a deacon will be invited to participate in a party given to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. Special Recognitions Graduations, job promotions, elections to organizational offices, athletic awards, academic achievements, hobby citations, community recognitions-all are times a sensitive deacon can build a relationship by acknowledging a person's special recognition. Recognition can also be valuable when it is for thejoy of participation in a group's significant activity. This might mean acknowledgment of a college
student's trip to a major bowl as part of a band or ball team or taking note of an eighth-grader's band that marches in a local parade.
Helping Others Marl" the Major Events of Life
Make Your Presence Known
At times a visit will be possible. In other situations, a telephone call, a greeting card, a telegram, a postcard, or a letter will be more appropriate, Deacon Troy delights in personal visits to the four shut-ins who are part of his family care group, He and his wife take an inexpensive gift and small birthday cake complete with candles to be sure that each has a memorable birthday. Deacon Roy makes it a habit to call each person on the morning of his birthday. The phone conversation usually takes no more than a few minutes, Often he finds his people wanting to share special plans and gladnesses. Another deacon makes it a point to send congratulatory cards for anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations, One deacon has organized a number of wedding anniversary celebrations, Sunday School classes and other church groups are also alerted for those special days when recognition is in order, Deacon Darrel travels most weeks between Sundays but, nevertheless, has brought joy to numbers of his people at times of special recognition by telephoning and writing them when he was away from the city. "They appear," he says, "to doubly appreciate any gesture made when I'rn out 'of the city."
Recognize Key Events
More than the immediate occasion is affected through the recognition of key events. Others appreciate being sought out at times of celebration. The deacon who does this part of his ministry well is laying the groundwork for trusting and deep relationships. The opportunity to minister when painful and negative events take place requires already established relationships. Ability to trust and freedom to request help are the children of celebrations,
'Secure two balloons, a piece of tape, a straight pin, and paper and pencils. At the beginning of the session, blow up a balloon. Comment on the fact that the first sessions dealt with problems. At this point burst the balloon with the pin. Blow up another balloon. Comment that this session will be on celebration.The balloon will symbolize this. Adhere the balloon to the wall with the piece of tape. Give out the paper and pencils. Ask each participant to list events in the lives of Christians and non-Christians that are considered key life events. After a few minutes call for these listings. Record the different ones on the chalkboard .If those recorded in Session 9 are not included in the list on the chalkboard, write them down also. Using the content of the book, comment on each key life event. Emphasize the fact thai in each of Ihese a deacon can share in celebrating. Say: "There are two major ways a deacon can help others mark the major events of life. They are (1) by making your presence known (read aloud the paragraph under this subtopic), and (2) through recognition of key events (read aloud the paragraph under this subtopic). Conclude by saying that deacons should minister during happy times as well as during sad times.
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Caring for the rooted
In Psalm 137 there is a nostalgia for the hills of Judea, for the streets of Jerusalem, and especially for the familiar Temple where the worshiper experienced God's power and presence beyond words. "By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, And our tormentors, mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!' How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?" (Ps. 137:1-4, RSV). These uprooted Jews found the plains of Babylon so different from the mountains and valleys of Palestine. Their mental attitude, as they pined in the metropolis of Babylon, was something like that of William Carey, who, though absorbed in his missionary work in India, loved to grow the violets of his own native land. The uprooted in Babylon hung their harps on the willows. They had no heart for music, even for the national and religious festivals in which they once so gladly participated. Our world is in tune with this "hymn of the homesick." More than forty million Americans move within the United States each year. The average American moves about fourteen times in his lifetime. It's often the most poise-rattling experience a family suffers.
Recognizing the Uprooted
There are numerous backgrounds and causes that move persons from more familiar settings to new and sometimes overwhelming surroundings. Those Transferred by Their Employer Mobility can be triggered by the move of a plant from one city to another. Assembly-line workers find themselves unable to continue with their company unless they are willing to uproot their families. Or a junior executive may find it necessary to be transferred from one part of the country to another if he expects to advance in his company. The Military Family Regular moving is a way of life for those in military careers. Moves that
create no radical crisis when children are younger become much more threatening to family stability as children enter the teen years.
Those Moving to Find Better Employment
Construction workers must often go where Young people gravitate toward the cities Teachers sometimes need to move in order with needs. Many move each year to make sions for their families and better utilization job opportunities move them. with greater job possibilities. to match teaching skill areas possible more adequate proviof job skills.
The student away from home and on his own for the first time has the problem of cutting old and familiar ties at home while struggling to make a successful adjustment to the college or university campus.
The Missionary Family
Many missionary families experience pressures through crossing back and forth across cultural, language, and national boundaries. They are, in a sense, always uprooted, having distinctive needs both on the mission field and when on furlough.
Some families find it necessary to follow the seasonal flow of the agricultural harvest. A significant number of people drift from city to city. Migrants tend to feel displaced with no sense of belonging.
The United States has been called a nation of immigrants. Some come to this country for greater personal and family opportunity. Others come as refugees in order to escape oppression, some by choice and others by force. They often face language problems, lack of work skills, and anxiety over family members whose fate may be unknown.
Those Moving to Another House and Neighborhood
A move within the same city may be to accommodate growing families. This can mean school adjustment problems for children. Others may move to a smaller house or apartment after children are grown. Even though a great distance is not involved, such moves can also disrupt one's pattern of living, The loss of space for a flower garden or a large yard to care for can add to the stress of such changes.
Helping the Uprooted
The Abraham experience (Gen. 12: 1 ff.) provides insight for spiritual preparation as one moves. Abraham followed God's leadership in his decision to move. As Abraham moved, he found that God was already present in the new place. Thus Abraham's natural response was to worship God. His move was born out of obedience to God, sustained by a discovery that God is everywhere and fulfilled through worship. Deacons can help people make their move a positive Christian experience.
Discover the Advantages of Moving
Deacons can help by pointing to possible advantages of moving. Those who have moved often point to the advantage of making new friends in new places. A man who had moved his family three times in the course of thirteen years reported that they had acquired "lasting friends in each of the three cities. " Moving also provides an opportunity to grow in new ways. Moves can be broadening as different customs and regions are experienced. Children in mobile families are more apt to be adaptable and resourceful in their ap-
preach to life. A move can also enable one to escape boredom and stagnation. One WMU leader reported: "My husband's work has required us to move four times in the past seventeen years. Each church and community have posed new challenges and ministries. I've learned that there are new friends waiting to be met and ministries to claim the best I can give." Economic opportunities can be broadened by a move. Sometimes moves involve a promotion for the family's breadwinner. This means more income to meet increasing living costs. Following a move, one family was able to provide special education for their blind daughter. This care would have been beyond their means in their former home, much more distant from the specialized education. During a time of transition, people are often more open to making significant new commitments needed in their lives. The nonbeliever who has been resistant to any Christian witness may be more open because of his need for a warm, loving community. A local church can provide such a relationship. Nominal Christians may sense their need for rededication of life to Christ and their need of becoming active in the life of a congregation. Moving also provides an opportunity to form closer family ties. Members of a family which is frequently on the move are more apt to depend on one another for companionship and for simple conversation than one which has an established network of friends and organizations. Past experience can be celebrated as a valuable God-given foundation for new experiences. Understanding roots or where one has come from helps a person know who he is and where he is going and thus have a sense of continuity in transition. One deacon planned several moments with a family under his care who shared their hopes about their upcoming move. The deacon then reflected on their time in his church, the growth of their children during that period, and his and the congregation's best wishes as they prepared for the next stage of their journey. Some congregations regularly recognize moving families and individuals as part of their regular Sunday worship. This provides an opportunity for others to enter into the separation experience.
Deal with the Problems of Moving
Newcomers need to be welcomed by the church. Certainly, the approach of a deacon is different from that of a Welcome Wagon hostess. However, there are needs to be met. Knowledgeable deacons can suggest dentists, family doctors, attorneys, plumbers, electricians, and painters. These services are hard to locate for some newcomers. It is altogether possible that the interest shown by a deacon is even more important than any specific information and/or help he offers. Newcomers are in need of supportive persons. The unique problems of the uprooted can become opportunities for ministry. Sometimes it is helpful for a deacon to examine his own feelings towards those who are moving, particularly those who may not stay long at a particular place. Some people feel suspicious of those who move frequently. In some communities, especially near college campuses and military installations, there is a polarization. There are often mixed feelings-a deep desire to help the newcomer and a hesitancy to invest time and energy in what may be only a temporary relationship. Each deacon needs to sort out his own feelings to avoid becoming one of the problems of moving. Newcomers need help from residents who can enable them to overcome mistrust. Help is needed for the making of new friends. A deacon who reaches out to visitors and makes it a point to learn a little about each one is
helping the newcomer build his new community. Midweek dinners in many congregations are known for their ministry to newcomers. The informal, congenial atmosphere around the tables offers a setting in which new friendships can be established. Deacons can link children with leaders of Children's choirs and mission action groups. Young people can be tied into recreational ministries. Providing information about newcomers to Sunday School teachers helps them to minister as they become part of the welcoming team. One deacon has helped to build a young adult fellowship by telling other young couples of a Bible study for their age group, a ready-made vehicle for the building of trust and formation of new friends in a strange community.
Overcome the Negative Results of Moving
Ministry can prevent some negative life patterns that may result from moving. Some newcomers will need help in overcoming the temptation to withdraw. They might be shy about forming new friendships and need help in making new friends. Or they may have felt overworked at the last church. Your reassurance that they will not be too hastily pushed to accept responsibilities can reassure them. They will appreciate the sincere interest of a deacon who sees them as persons with special needs. Some will need help in strengthening moral commitments. The deacon does well to challenge and encourage parents to set an example by identifying with a church in their new community. The family needs the church and its emphasis on moral values. Teenagers, especially, are vulnerable in a new community as they long for acceptance. Lack of guidance and support from home, church, and school can lead to some disastrous situations. One of the best helps for strong moral foundations is for a family to form close relationships with Christian friends who are reinforcing biblical life-styles. Another tendency of the uprooted is to be unaware of and uninvolved in church and community projects. Deacons can provide personal invitations to ministry and project opportunities, Many congregations provide activities for the full range of family life. Besides worship and Bible study for the entire family, there are youth ministries, missions education groups, recreational opportunities, and choirs, The church has many ways to quickly discourage the tendency of newcomers to remain aloof. Congregations can also help by letting newcomers know of activities in the community which have special appeal. The sixth-grade daughter of a new family was invited to GA's by the leader following a telephone call from the deacon who made the new member visit. Her participation in Wednesday night activities led to her family's decision to reinforce her interest. They became committed Christians as a result of their daughter's love for GA life.
Be Prepared for Leaving
The deacon has an opportunity to alert the church community whenever a family or person is making plans to move, A proper farewell is just as important as the welcome for the newcomer, Deacons can encourage Sunday School classes and departments to schedule dinners and socials where both those who are leaving and those remaining behind can acknowledge the grief of separation. Time needs to be provided for expression of grief and for making good-byes meaningful. Henry Webb, editor of The Deacon, raised the questions: "How do you sever an intimate relationship which has taken years to build and develop? How do you handle the denial, hurt, and anger which are a natural part of the
process of separation?" Upon his leaving after serving as pastor for almost nine years, the church planned the final worship service to face these questions together. After the emotion of sharing once more in the Lord's Supper came the key words:
"Remember us, but not too much." Don't forget the experiences which were the building materials of our intimacy. Don't forget the help we gave one another in discovering our gifts and growing toward our potential. But don't hang on to the memories so firmly that you cannot make the transition to grow and give in your new situation.
I don't have to choose between past experiences and new ones. I don't have to choose between the friends of my past and my new friends. I can celebrate all that has gone before and can remember it with fondness and gratefulness. But I can release those experiences and relationships sufficiently to turn to fulfilling a new task and developing new relatlonshlps.'
Such a ritual cannot help but strengthen a departing family as the past is tied firmly to the future. One arrives in the new location with a firm sense of identity. A deacon could give the uprooted the helpful booklet Getting Acquainted in a New Community (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95). Copies of this can be available to give both those who are arriving and those who are leaving.
I. Henry Webb, "Remember Us, but Not Too Much," from Tire Deacon. April 1978. © Copyright 1978, The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. All rights reserved.
'Prior to the session get a toy moving van fordisplay. Place it where the participants will see it as they enter the room and sit down. Begin the session by reading aloud Psalm 137.:1-4from the Revised Standard Version. Using the introductory material, talk about the children of Israel being uprooted. Blend this information into the content material on modern people being uprooted. Hold up the toy moving van as a symbol of the moving taking place in the world. Ask each person to reflect for a few moments on the number of times he has moved from one home to another. After the reflection, ask each person to tell the group how many times he has moved. 'Before the day of this session, ask two or three of the participants to recall some of the feelings they had when they moved from one neighborhood to another, from one city to another, or from one job to another. Call on the two or three enlisted persons to share their feelings when they moved. Invite others to relate their feelings during their moving experiences. Say something about deacons needing to develop skills in caring for the uprooted in our society. Write on the chalkboard: Caring for the Uprooted. List the types of uprooted and comment on each one. Say, "Deacons can help people make their moves positive Christian experiences." Comment on the positive aspects of a move. Write on the chalkboard: Deal with the Problems of Moving. And: OVercome the Negative Results of MoVing. Discuss the content material under these subheads. Write on the chalkboard: 8e Prepared for Leaving. Relate the information under this subtopic. 'If the booklet Getting Acquainted In a New Community is available for the deacons, give each one a copy. Ask the deacons to read it at home for more insight in caring for the uprooted.
'Indicates suggestions 10 be prepared before the session.
aring for Husbands an Wives in Conflict
The American family is in trouble. We have known for a number of years that marriages between the very young were especially prone to problems and destructive conflict. More are beginning to realize that long-term marriages are also in need of careful attention from the church. Approximately one fourth of over one million couples who divorce in the United States have been married fifteen years or more. In the last five years divorce among couples married twenty years or more has increased 50 percent. Gerald Dahl, author of Why Christian Marriages Are Breaking Up, notes that for years Christians have viewed this trend with a degree of security as "Christian marriages have stood strong as an affirmation of the permanence and sacredness of the bonds of holy matrimony. But," he adds, "we are experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of marital failure in the evangelical Christian church." I
Helping Couples Use Biblical Models in Dealing with Conflict
Session 8 made use of some Bible passages that give direction when church members are in conflict. Many of those same passages apply to conflict within marriages.
Recognize One's Own Sin and Failure
John 8:3·11; Luke 6:41·42 John 8:3-11 pictures Jesus in a confrontation with religious leaders who brought a woman caught in the act of adultery. He moves the focus from her sin to their sin: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (v. 7), This principle is important within a marriage as each partner is asked to examine himself rather than concentrate on the shortcomings of the other. Luke 6:41-42 is a powerful question for husbands and wives in conflict: " 'Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?' "(v. 41, RSV), One deacon had listened to a
wife who had systematically gone over some of her husband's major faults. The deacon gave a new direction to her when he commented: "You've mentioned a number of things wrong in Preston's patterns. You've never mentioned those things you feel you might need to improve. I know years ago I began to grow at the point when 1 took responsibility for changing those things in myself that could be improved." This word of care , confrontation, and confession moved a disgruntled, complaining marriage partner to make some needed changes in her own life.
Discover Greatness Through Service
Marl< 9:33-35; 10:35-37,41-45 Concern over power and authority in a relationship can lead to a breakdown. A pastor told of a woman who came to his office to announce her intention of divorcing her husband. "There was nothing left between us." The resourceful pastor suggested: "I want you to do everything in your power to please your husband for a thirty-day period before you throw in the towel. Will you go back and try that plan?" The woman consented. She called back in three days: "Pastor, last night, Jon asked me what was going on. He said: 'You're different. I like the difference.' "Two weeks later she confirmed: "Our relationship is better than 1 ever dreamed. We're both going out of our way to please the other." Jesus gave the criteria for spiritual greatness: "Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:44-45, RSV).
Accept Responsibility for Initiative
Matthew 18:15·17 When a wrong has been committed, who is to take the initiative? A bitter and resentful wife talked by telephone with the wife of her deacon: "I've had it with Chris. I'm tired ofteHing him what's wrong. He can figure out for himself what he's done as far as I'm concerned. We no longer sleep in the same bedroom." Mary asked her to turn to and read aloud Matthew 18: 15: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother" (Matt. 18: 15, RSV). The question was then raised: "Does this Scripture say anything to you about your attitude toward Chris?" That conversation became the center of a new insight as a distraught partner began to realize that she was demanding that her husband be a mind reader. She decided to take the initiative whenever a wrong had been committed. After all, God took the initiative when we were wrong: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8, RSV). Conflict can be greatly reduced when one or both parties take the initiative to resolve an issue.
Negotiate Rather than Retaliate or Avoid
"If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39, RSV). This Sermon on the Mount directive is a recognition that conflict cannot be resolved if one strikes back or seeks to avoid the issue. To turn the other cheek is to stay with the conflict long enough to work it through. This makes one vulnerable to being hurt again. Permanence in
marriage does not mean a stoic endurance, the attitude of" no matter what, I'll stay and suffer." This passage challenges the Christian to work hard at resolving problems and differences in order to strengthen the relationship. A deacon heard that a troubled family in his care group faced a new crisis through the declaration of the husband to leave home. He declared: "I've had all I can take. I'm moving to an apartment." His deacon wisely suggested: "Biff, I know you have tried to talk through with Mabel those problems that have plagued you for years; but I'm concerned that if you move out, you'll increase the chances of never doing what has to be done to resolve differences. Stay with the ship, and make yourself vulnerable. " Biff agreed to seek marriage counseling. He and Mabel committed themselves to learning how to communicate with each other.
Pray for Your Enemies
Matthew 5:43-48 An angry, tearful wife declared to her deacon: "I can never forgive Joel's father. No father-in-law has ever been more insulting than he is to me. Last week was the worst ever. I never expect to set foot in his house again. I cannot forgive him. I don't want to forgive him." The pastor, who knew the power of Scripture to set the stage for needed change, read the account of Jesus' crucifixion. He stopped after the reading of Jesus' prayerful response to those who crucified him: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Then he read the words of Jesus: "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you .... Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you?" (Matt. 5:44,46, GNB). As he slowly went over those verses, she broke into a fresh burst of tears, "Yes, I know I can forgive, and I wilJ forgive him." The couple also sat down a few days later to map a strategy whereby her husband took responsibility for saying some things to his own father.
Forgive to Release the Barriers That Separate
Luke 6:37-38 Forgiveness is at the heart of our Christian faith. The caring deacon stands on solid ground when he encourages and challenges partners in conflict to forgive each other. If the partners are unable to forgive each other, all other strategies will fail. "Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37) is not a way to gain God's favor, nor is ita mechanical way of guaranteeing one's own salvation. The forgiven forgives not because he must forgive. He forgives others as a loving response to God's forgiveness. Having experienced God's removal of the barriers to relationship by his forgiveness, the forgiven person desires to experience the same kind of reconciliation with others. Forgiveness takes seriously the wrong that. has been committed. No attempt should be made to whitewash evil or to hide mistakes. But forgiveness means releasing the past hurt in order to restore the relationship. A bitter wife whose husband had been unfaithful said: "I cannot forgive Jim. I've always said I can forgive any sin except adultery. I don't find anything in the Bible that says I have to." Deacon George gently confronted her by reading Luke 6:37-38 and reminded her that God did want and did expect her to forgive. The road to reconciliation covered many miles before the wife was able to forgive. However, she later referred to the deacon's confrontation (an older person whom she respected and trusted) as the
turning point in her attitude. She commented: "Once I forgave Jim, I realized why I had been holding on to my bitterness and self-pity. This was my way of avoiding responsibility for failures of my own in the marriage. Without realizing it, I had been a condemning and judgmental wife. Forgiving him released a host of demons that had been locked inside me."
Speak the Right Word at the Right Time
Ephesians 4:14-15; Proverbs 15:1
It is important not only to tell the truth but to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4: 15). One wife gave her husband a letter as he went to work. It read: "I've decided that I cannot communicate clearly and that you cannot hear what I need to say. You become defensive, and I get angry in a hurry. I need more time to share myself and our life with you. I don't want you to feel I am attacking you. I love you. I need more time than you've allowed. Would you
set aside a definite amount of time each evening when possible so that the two of us can have some time for each other?" This wife spoke the truth in a way and at a time so that a defensive husband was able to hear and respond. The proverb is correct: .. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Prov. 15:1, RSV).
Helping Couples Work Together on Common Goals
There are some worthy goals that can well be pursued in most marriages. Give each partner encouragement to adjust to what the mate and the marriage demand of him. This means making sure that each understands his own expectations compared to his mate's expectations. These need to be brought together so that gaps in expectations can be narrowed. Until a couple shares these expectations, there is seldom an opportunity to resolve conflict based on understanding of roles. Partners may need to set aside personal goals in order to work toward goals that are mutually agreed on as more important. The focus should be on current problems rather than those in the past. Begin with now. Help couples identify the areas that can be changed and those which cannot be changed. Help them accept those things that cannot be changed. A couple in conflict can list the things each would like to see changed in the marriage. These should be listed in order of priority. The following are some possible goal areas.
Worship and Pray Together Regularly
Jim and Sue (both from Christian backgrounds) decided that they had allowed work schedules and social commitments to interfere with their worship life. They agreed, first of all, that they needed to reestablish regular worship patterns. This meant that they communicated to family and friends they were no longer available for some Sunday gatherings. Another couple decided they would like to learn how to pray together. The deacon could give the couple a copy of Horne Life (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95), bringing the worship resources to their attention. He could also point out articles which speak to the issues offamily life. Discover other worship aids and share them with your families. Deacons might also consider a project to help families begin or strengthen a regular time for worship together.
Manage Family Finances More Effectively
A churchwide seminar on money management prompted one couple to throwaway credit cards. Their number one priority was to get out of debt
and reestablish control over finances. They set forth a plan for change, received counsel from the deacon who led the seminar, and used him as an encourager throughout the twenty-eight-month period when they moved from heavy indebtedness to no time payments except their home mortgage. Their first step was to agree that neither would charge any more items.
Communicate More Effectively
Another couple went to work on communication in their home. A church wide seminar in communication skills sparked their interest. They determined to practice the basic rules of good communication. This meant that each would make sure he understood what was being said before he responded. Larry reflected: "For several weeks, an outsider would have thought we were clowns in a circus. Angela and I were constantly responding to each other, 'Now, let me be sure that I hear what you have just said ... .' Her response so often was, 'No, Larry, this is what I mean ... .' We discovered that so often we had been in the habit of answering something other than what our partner had stated. Once we were certain that we heard the other, we then worked at affirming some part of the other person's idea. Not until those two steps were followed would we allow ourselves to express our own opinion. I know it sounds trivial, but that work on communication has added richness and warmth to our relationship. " Such an exercise continued over a period of time can clear the static in family communication lines.
Express Disagreement and Anger More Appropriately
Paul recognized that there are problems blocking effective communication. Quoting Psalm 4, he wrote, "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Eph. 4:26, RSV). All sorts of problems arise in the family setting which may lead to angry feelings. Paul acknowledged this in, "Be angry." He was saying that anger by itself is natural and predictable. Anger is a signal that something needs to be examined more closely. The "sin not" and' 'do not let the sun go down on your anger" is a reminder that anger is to be managed constructively. Anger can work for the marriage relationship, not against it. "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" is a way of saying that husbands and wives must not allow a day to pass with unresolved anger stored in their hearts. The Christian needs to handle the problems that have arisen that day. This does not mean that the partner must be confronted about every irritation committed. There are many matters that can be covered by love and forgiveness without confrontation. Yet there are some things that continue to rattle around inside where they can fester. Such problems need to be settled daily by personal confrontation in a spirit of love and forgiveness. What can't be covered with love cannot be covered with blankets. Time alone does not heal. It is more likely to cause the wound to become infected.
Resolve Problems and Differences More Creatively
The Wilson couple made a list of their problems and then listed alternate ways of resolving their long-standing issues. They chose what appeared to be the best approach and then proceeded to take action in several areas where they had been paralyzed and frustrated for years. The biblical teachings on conflict (mentioned earlier) can be of great help. One husband complained about the messy housekeeping of his wife. When
confronted in a problem-solving session, she revealed: "Part of my problem, Joe, is my anger at you for never being present. 1 feel deserted by you. You make us a good living, and I'm grateful. I need you. I'm not sure I can find the energy to clean much until I get past my anger toward you for never being home." When Joe heard this honest confession, he began a plan to be present more, to provide companionship and support for his wife whom he had taken for granted. He began to deal with his own avoidance and ceased to pick at her.
Reach Out to One Another in Mutual Submission
A key verse for understanding the Bible's view ofthe marriage relationship is, "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5:21, RSV). This mutual submission is based on love of Christ and love of each other. The motivation to live a submissive life to one's partner comes from "reverence for Christ." The phrase describes voluntary submission. Mutual SUbjection is inseparable from true love. Love of another means accepting that other as a person. A person is never an object but is a person created in the image of God.
Helping Couples Build Lasting Relationships
Some couples do not work through their conflict and decide to separate or divorce. The deacon is sometimes called to walk a fragile tightrope. As a spiritual leader, he will reinforce the Bible's teachings on the sanctity of marriage while at the same time working overtime to keep on loving and caring for those who choose some other direction. Jesus excelled in accepting those whose actions did not receive his approval. Deacon Harry invested many months of his valuable time in a troubled marriage which ended in divorce. Soon after the couple decided to divorce, the husband said to their deacon: "I guess you're really disappointed in us now that we've decided to end the marriage." Harry answered: "I love you both and have from the beginning. 1have much sorrow over the fact that the marriage is coming to an end. 1 wanted it to continue. However, I'll do everything in my power to love you and want to keep on being your friend. I know that you and Eleanor are the ones to decide your future. 1respect you and your decisions." That was authentic response, a deacon's honest reporting of mixed feelings in a sensitive area. Life After Divorce is a booklet for a deacon to give members of his group who experience divorce (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95). Seeing marriages fall apart motivates the caring person to seek ways to help couples before it is too late to make a difference.
Give Guidance Before Marriage
Deacons and their wives have a wonderful opportunity to help engaged couples build a lasting relationship through the gift of their friendship. Deacon Russ and his wife have initiated contact with a number of couples who announced their plans to be married. The engaged couple is invited to the Drakes for an evening meal. They find engaged couples eager and pleased to receive such an invitation. The agenda beyond giving the couple time to share their dreams and plans is that of Russ and Blanche sharing in a homespun manner the things they've learned through more than thirty years of marriage. Russ is apt to share his delight at finding a love letter from Blanche tucked away in his shoes as he dresses for his first day away from home on a trip. Blanche responds by sharing what it means to her to have had one night a
week for a date, just the two of them. Russ likes to remember their agreement never to get angry at the same time. Blanche tells the couple what it has meant to her to celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries with festive occasions. Farther along, they will pass on their delight at using their home as a place to invite non-Christians with whom they build careful relationships with the hope of sharing faith. Both are sure to share the power of reading Scripture and praying together. They always include an appreciation of their church which they describe as "their family." Deacon Russ will seldom fail to confess his special problem with his temper and various ways he has learned through the years to manage the outbursts. "Counting ten" was one of the earlier ways! In a low-key, down-to-earth style Russ and Blanche have helped several couples get a vision of Christian marriage before the ceremony.
Provide Opportunities for Marriage Enrichment
Deacons can help, too, by making certain that their church provides opportunities for marriage enrichment. This can take place on a weekly basis such as during Training Union or on overnight retreats. One congregation has scheduled a series of marriage enrichment retreats which deal with the issues couples face. These are not designed for badly damaged marriages but for the enrichment of good marriages. Deacons can have a strong influence through planning with the pastor, other staff ministers, and the church council. It is important to have competent leadership at the events designed to build healthy marriages. Such help is readily available in most areas of our country. Sometimes several churches or an association can sponsor a marriage enrichment retreat.
Encourage Church Programming and Scheduling That Contribute to Healthy Marriages
One church has designated one night each week as family night. No church activities are scheduled for that evening. Church members are encouraged to use that night to build and nurture family life. The church has accepted responsibility to teach her people how to make use of this time. Solid family life has become a priority. Couples need opportunities to share church activities. This is especially true for those who are usually separated because of church responsibilities such as Sunday School teaching, ushering, and singing in the choir. Many churches now offer age-graded musical and mission action activities on the same evening. This serves to keep the whole family together as they share in the total life of the congregation.
Model Christian Family Life That Is Worthy of Others' Observing and Following
Perhaps the most lasting contribution you can make to those to whom you minister is to demonstrate Christian family life yourself. Recognize the strengths of your marriage. Determine your needs and develop plans to enrich and strengthen your own marriage. This attitude is contagious. Others will follow your example. Learn to share those things that make Christian marriage work for you. Many times pastors and deacons who try to heal family conflict struggle with the same at home. And who does not at times feel an inner tension when we hear our own pains in the account of others who ask our help? Henri J. M. Nouwen addressed this concern: "Maybe it is exactly this paradox that can give us healing power. When we have seen and acknowledged our own hostilities and fears without hesitation, it is more likely that we will also
be able to sense from within the other pole toward which we want to lead not only ourselves but our neighbors as well. The act on the stage of our life will probably always look better than what goes on behind the curtains, but as long as we are willing to face the contrast and struggle to minimize it the tension can keep us humble by allowing us to offer our service to others, without being whole ourselves."?
1. Gerald L. Dahl, Why Christian Marriages Are Breaking Up (Nashville: Nelson, 1979), p. x. 2. Henri J. M, Nouwen, Reaching Out (Garden City: Doubleday, 1975), p. 50.
'Before the session get two pieces of construction paper for each participant. One piece should be black and the other a bright color. Introduce the session by giving each participant a black piece and a bright piece of construction paper. Ask each person to tear the black sheet into a design that symbolizes a marriage breaking up. Ask each person to tear the bright colored sheet into a design that symbolizes a marriage that is working. Call for volunteers to explain their symbols. Comment on the sad statistics of marriages breaking up. Ask the participants to share their thoughts on what makes a good marriage. 'Write the following on seven small cards: 1. Recognize One's Own Sin and Failure John 8:3-11; Luke 6:41-42 2. Discover Greatness Through Service Mark 9 :33-35; 10:35-37,41-45 3. Accept Responsibility for Initiative Matthew 18:15-17 4. Negotiate Rather than Retaliate or Avoid Matthew 5:38-39 5. Pray for Your Enemies Matthew 5:43-48 6. Forgive to Release the Barriers That Separate Luke 6:37-38 7. Speak the Right Word at the Right Time Ephesians 4:14-15; Proverbs 15:1 Give out the seven cards to the group. Have small groups or individuals look up the Scripture verses and be prepared to relate In their own words what the verses are saying. Relate the content of "Helping Couples Use Biblical Models in Dealing with Conflict." As you deal with each subtopic, ask the small groups or individuals to relate the meanings of the Scripture verses. On the chalkboard list the suggested goal areas under "Helping Couples Work Together on Common Goals." Talk about each one of these as you list them. Ask, "How can a deacon help couples to build lasting relationships?" Using the information under the subtopic "Helping Couples Build Lasting Relationships," answer the question. Conclude the session by reading aloud the last two paragraphs of the session.
'Indicates suggesttons to be prepared before the session.
Caring for Parents and Chil ren in Con ict
"They now seem to love luxury, they have bad manners and contempt for authority, they show disrespect for adults and spend their time hanging around places gossiping with one another. They are ready to contradict their parents, monopolize the conversation and company, eat gluttonously, and tyrannize their teachers." This statement from Socrates two thousand years ago speaks to the naturalness of conflict between parents and children, between youth and adults. This conflict is as natural as growing up is normal.
Biblical Models of Parenthood
Conflict is a hallmark of the family and is altogether to be expected. Whenever change occurs, conflict can be expected. The Bible speaks to conflict in terms of broad principles and, at other times, becomes specific concerning parent-children relationships. Since the Bible recognizes the creative potential of conflict and always seeks to bring reconciliation out of chaos-producing tension, we do well to explore its teachings. Family life is dynamic. It seeks to be protective while at the same time lending itself to a climate of growth.
The Parent-Child Relationship
Ephesians 5:21; 6:1-4 The Ephesians passage is a good illustration of the solid guidance we can expect from the Bible. The use of these models is voluntary; it flows out ofa self-imposed submission to and reverence for Jesus Christ. When the apostle Paul discusses three key relationships in the Ephesians passage, he builds each on the foundation of the relationship of persons to the Lord Jesus Christ. First, "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5:21, RSV). The biblical pattern for relationships is mutual subservience. The bond that makes mutual subservience a working reality is mutual allegiance to Jesus Christ. This is the starting point.
Ephesians 6: 1-4 calls for children to obey and honor their parents; however, he ends the passage with a word not to children but to fathers: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4, RSV). This word to parents indicates that Paul understood what we know to be true. Children are not apt to be obedient and cooperative unless the parents fulfill their responsibilities. Parents set the tone as they lead the way. Parents provoke children to wrath in two ways: One is to exercise too tight a control pattern. This can mean that a parent overrides and dominates, even tyrannizes the child. Most of the time, this will produce rage and rebellion. The other extreme is to provide no discipline, give no instruction. This indifference and irresponsibility will often drive the child to a peer culture in which youth who have been neglected emotionally act out their anger toward uncaring and indifferent parents.
The Parent as a Teacher
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 The Bible is to be used as a teaching guide, not as a club to intimidate. Ephesians 6:4 captures the flavor of that spirit. Using the Bible as a weapon can alienate children from parents and drive a wedge of resentment between them. It can set up barriers of opposition to God: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4, RSV). The parent who teaches and motivates from a love base can have confidence in what he is doing: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22: 6, RSV). Not only are parents told what to teach, but they are also told how to teach. In this passage a teaching method is prescribed: "And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deut. 6:7, RSV). The point is to love God "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5, RSV) as a way of life. Let its tone be all consuming in formal instruction as well as during times of informality. A parent is to be a teacher about God when he walks, lies down, sits, and rises. Parental teaching of the children about God is to be more than incidental or accidental.
The Importance of Discipline
Hebrews 12:5-13 Hebrews was addressed to a congregation who knew about the stern discipline of fathers in the Roman system. A Roman father had by law absolute power over his family. This continued even beyond the son's marriage. Such an environment helps one better to appreciate: "For they [earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:10-11, RSV). To help the Christian welcome the discipline God gives, the writer points to the constructive use of discipline. Discipline is therefore to be welcomed, not shunned. Whether from God or earthly parents it is necessary for the proper development of children. Discipline is preventive as well as remedial. It is necessary to show the child the limits oflife. The father and mother
who offer emotional support call forth from the child an obedient response. Appropriate punishment is designed to correct and not put down.
Freedom to Fail or to Succeed
Lul<e 15:11·32 The prodigal son passage pictures a father who frees his son to leave the home base and fail. Most parents free children to succeed. Their success makes parents look good. Letting children fail is much more difficult. The father in Luke 15 did not approve of his son's life-style. He simply stayed where he had been all along, waiting and hoping for a change. There is no guarantee that a change will come. Allowing the child the freedom to fail or to succeed is a gradual process. The young child wil1 not be given freedom on the same scale as a more experienced youngster. Freedom will be increased as responsibility is met. This process is already in motion when we allow a baby the hard trial of learning to walk or a child the experience of learning to ride a bike. There is also the gradual process of letting the child begin making some of his own decisions. The prodigal son story emphasis on forgiveness is essential here since it means the parent will release the past and won't hold past mistakes and wrong choices over the child to demoralize him. This biblical model for parents reminds us to let children go. They need freedom from parental control to find themselves. There are limits to a parent's power over them. The prodigal son's father accepted those limits and lived to celebrate his son's coming of age.
Helping Families Develop an Effective Approach to Problem Solving
A deacon can help parents and children who are in conflict both through his own understanding of scriptural models for these sensitive relationships, and also through his knowledge of an effective approach to problem solving. Many parents recognize the need for and are seeking an approach to child rearing that avoids the extremes of authoritarianism and permissiveness. The former caJIs for an autocratic parent who lords it over the child, while the latter suggests with his hands-off policy that anything goes. Both tend to be destructive. Many helpful approaches have been introduced to parents through books and seminars. One of these has been given by Thomas Gordon.' He proposes an approach to problem solving and for rearing responsible children. The key to Gordon's approach to parent-child relationships is that the parent makes a conscious choice to put aside his need to control or to intimidate through the use of power. He adopts the view that the child is a person in his own right, equipped under God to enter the process of decision making, and that given guidance and time he is capable of choosing his own course.
Identifying and Defining the Conflict
Since this approach cannot succeed without the child's becoming involved, secure his agreement to enter into problem solving. The chances of the child's positive response are much improved if a time is chosen when the child is not busy or involved in something else. Careful timing cuts down resentments and lowers defenses. Tell him clearly and precisely that a problem has to be solved. This is no time for weak wills, so be positive: "I'm convinced it's a good idea for us to put our heads together and come up with
an answer." Tell him how you feel. Tell him you've been angry and upset at his treatment of his younger brother. Let him know: "I'm fed up with the way you are drag racing our car." But avoid put-down messages such as, "You're the biggest freeloader this side of West Texas." Tell the child you both want and need his help in finding a solution that will be mutually satisfactory: "Both of us can get what we need if we work together."
Generating Possible Solutions
This is the time to brainstorm with a variety of ways to solve the problem. Suggest, "Let's put our heads together, and see how many ways we might go." Get the child to offer his solutions first. Watch out for your tendency to judge his suggestions. Such evaluation can easily discourage. Wait until the next step to decide which might work. Guard against the tendency to announce: "That way will never get my approval. No way!" If more than one child is involved and one does not participate, focus on the silent person. Help him to take part. Continue the search for alternate ways until all agree there are no more.
Evaluating the Alternative Solutions
Lead with questions such as, "Are any of these better than the others?" This is the time to be honest: "I could never meet what that one would require." Be yourself. Be honest, and trust them. Encourage honesty from them. Solutions usually narrow down until only a few are left for serious consideration.
Deciding on the Best Solution
After completing the other steps, this step usually falls into place rather naturally. Openness and mutual respect have laid the groundwork. Keep on testing all remaining solutions against the feelings of the children: "Are you sure this approach is one you can really manage? Is this one going to work?" Remember no decision is final. The decision may be: "This appears to be workable. Since there is doubt, let's try it for a month and see where this leads us." Or; "Let's begin. Only a time of working with it will really tell us if we're onto a winner." Write down the solution. This becomes a way to check and adds weight to the agreement. Go over the fact that each person has made a commitment: "Let's be sure that everyone around the table sees that we have made an agreement. We've all said that we plan to carry this out. "
Implementing the Decision
Often, there is a need to determine specifically how a solution will be implemented-who is to do what and when. Don't talk about implementation until after the decision has been made. If a garage is to be cleaned, "How will we decide when you've completed the job?" If there has been a hassle over bedtime, decide who will be the timekeeper. Stay with the discussion until a decision is reached.
Many decisions turn out to be less than desirable. Some are totally unacceptable. Check back. Make changes if the plan proves to be unfair or unworkable. Sometimes children commit themselves to a decision that is too difficult for them to carry out. Evaluation also provides an opportunity to celebrate solutions which have worked and relationships which have improved. Remember there are several other helpful approaches to problem solving. Get acquainted with some others which might better suit you and your family. Finally, give your child the freedom to fail. Let him bear responsibil-
ity for himself. This is the way for him to mature.
Helping Families Build Positive Relationships
Communication is at the heart of building positive relationships among family members. Families will need encouragement to plan time for this to happen. Parents must learn how to be honest with their own feelings and at the same time encourage honesty from their children. Husbands and wives through candor, openness, and mutual respect for one another set the tone for other family members. Positive relationships grow in the garden of home life where there is respect for the sacredness and uniqueness of each family member. This calls for parents who are free to be who they really are, parents who know how important it is to be good to themselves. Family life in this climate excels in justice mingled with mercy. This atmosphere of acceptance frees all family members to do the best they can and let it be. The building of positive relationships is an art. Most need help and specific direction. Parents need to prepare for child rearing. Opportunities should be provided for family enrichment. Regular family worship should be encouraged. Resources should be made available and put to work.
Prepare Parents for Child Rearing
Parenting takes on different emphases and directions at different stages of the child's development. There is a wealth of material to help parents understand needs in the infant that are somewhat different from the preschooler whose world has enlarged and whose skills are growing. The school-age child has begun hard work on independence and begins choosing friends and interests outside the home. Adolescence presents still more challenges. Characteristics of each stage's tasks and challenges are valuable knowledge for parents who want to build positive relationships. Understanding what is going on at different levels of growth delivers parents from some needless anxiety and frees them to enjoy their children. Parents will naturally give more freedom as children gain experience, physical maturity, and mobility. There will be less need to protect an adolescent than a small child who is much more vulnerable.
Provide Opportunities for Family Enrichment
Deacons can help by encouraging their church council and other programming groups to include family enrichment opportunities as an ongoing part ofa congregation's life. Some congregations have used two- and three-day family life conferences on an annual basis. Each conference focuses on a theme of family life. The format offers some things for large groups and other aids for small groups. Retreats can be scheduled for marriage partners and for the entire family. Family dedication and affirmation services offer enrichment. Church Training seminars on Sundays and during weekday schedules have offered needed helps for many families. Each congregation has its own special needs and will know best how to proceed as experience is gained. Associational and state level seminars, workshops, and retreats are available in various parts of the country. One church has set aside one night each week for family enrichment. No church activities are scheduled that night. Families are encouraged to stay home. The church has developed ideas that help each family enrich its time together. The pastor and other staff members lead the way by staying home with their families on that evening.
Encourage Regular Family Worship
Encourage the families under your care to begin family worship, and help families keep this time vital. Most families will need instruction. They will need suggestions on how to get started and how to maintain regular family worship. Scripture reading, discussion, learning activities, application, 'and prayer are key elements of family worship. A number of good books suggest family worship activities appropriate for children of various ages. Home Life is a rich worship aid for deacons to share with family members (see "Resources for Ministry," p. 95).
Draw on Available Resources
Become familiar with the resources already present in your church's media center. Explore with the help of your pastor, Church Training director, or associational missionary the Equipping Center kits on family life. Find out what is available through your local church and association. Go to your nearest public library for books and aids on family life. Most staff workers will be glad for your interest and pleased to offer help. You'1I probably be surprised at what you discover. Visit the book stores in your area. Baptist Book Stores and other Christian book stores have developed reputations for outstanding helps for those who wish to enrich family life. Write down names of books, prices, and sources. Keep them available for referral. One deacon in a rural setting developed his own small library of books, pamphlets, and other materials for families in his congregation. Why not you?
1. Thomas Gordon. Parent Effectiveness Training (New York: Peter H. Wyden. 1970). pp. 237-42.
Begin the session by reading the quote from Socrates. Before you tell the group who made the quote and when it was made, ask them if it is a true description of children In twentieth-century America. 'Enlist four persons to be prepared to read the following: (1) Ephesians 5:21 ; 6:1-4. (2) Deuteronomy 6:4-9. (3) Hebrews 12:5-13. and (4) Luke 15:11-32. 'Cut four strips from the want-ad section of the newspaper, approximately 4 by 23 inches each. On these write with a felt-tip pen one each of the following: The Parent-Child Relationship The Parent as a Teacher The Importance of Discipline Freedom to Fail or to Succeed Using the content material under the subtopic "Understanding Biblical Models of Parenthood," begin a lecture. As each subhead Is talked about, tape the strip to the wall. Call on the en listed readers to read the Scripture verses related to each subheading. Under "Helping Families Develop an Effective Approach to Problem Solving," there are six steps suggested. Write these on the chalkboard. Read the content material aloud under each step (or have different group members read). After each step is read about, ask for any comments or insights from the group. Share some of your own insights. The last section, "Helping Families Build Positive Relationships," offers practical advice for deacons. Open up a group discussion by writing this beginning part of a question on the chalkboard: How can deacons .... Under this list the four subheads. Encourage comments from group members on each question. After the comments share the content material of each subhead. 'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Caring for the Alcoholic and the Ad ict
In 1978, Betty Ford, the wife offormer President Gerald Ford was admitted to an alcoholism and drug abuse center because she had become dependent on certain prescription drugs and alcohol. Mrs. Ford's public admission of her problem underscored the fact that addiction is more than a skid-row issue. Drug addiction cuts across all socioeconomic groups in American life. Most of us know an addict. He may be a chain smoker in your family. His compulsive need to smoke one cigarette after another is a form of addiction. Or a coUeague may be dependent on alcohol to "bolster his spirits." Without alcohol he feels he could not cope with the rough-and-tumble demands of the business world. Or you know of a pill-popping housewife who gets up in the morning on one pill and takes another pill to get down later in the same day. On a more dramatic scale you know ofa neighbor's son who is hooked on hard stuff or your own son reports there are pot parties regularly in his high-school community. On a still more visible level, you read recently in your newspaper of a man in his middle thirties, killed in cold blood for nonpayment of his drug bills. The shattered lives up and down the social order, including every age and cultural background, in both rural and urban settings, are all about us. Alcoholism and drug addiction are no respecters of persons.
Many alcoholics and those directly affected are in our congregations. Even those who traditionally frown on social drinking are not immune to the national problem that costs billions of dollars and creates thousands of disrupted lives. A recent survey of WMU workers revealed 63.6 percent know a family member with a drinking problem; 37.6 percent know members of their churches with a drinking problem. Physical Problems Alcoholism is the nation's number three health problem, following cancer and heart disease. State agencies charged with alcoholism treatment and
prevention now report that more than eleven million Americans are alcoholics. Alcoholism is a disease. The fact that it is a self-induced disease doesn't alter this. IfI, from poor judgment or obtuseness, walk outdoors in subzero temperatures, the resulting pneumonia will still be a disease. The sickness the alcoholic suffers is in many ways a more destructive and terrifying one than poliomyelitis or diabetes.
The annual outlay for alcoholic beverages in the United States is more than twice the amount spent on all forms of charity combined. Statistics show that two out of three adults in the United States drink alcohol to some degree. It is big business. Add to this the billions that American industry loses each year through absenteeism, turnover, and poor workmanship. More difficult to compute would be the private and public dollars required to pay for the medical, spiritual, and moral rehabilitation of alcoholics. Remember, too, the cost of lives impaired and lost through traffic accidents.
Judges and law enforcement officers will confirm the fact that alcohol is intertwined with juvenile delinquency, sexual promiscuity, and a general disregard for the law. Include also the serious damage to family life; the emotional trauma heaped on those who are close to the alcoholic; and the destructive, emotional impact on society at large. A 1978Gallup Poll shows one in four (24%) families indicate that drinking has been the cause of trouble in their homes. This was a 100 percent increase over 1974.
Most diseases cripple bodies only; alcoholism also cripples personalities. Because it degrades and interferes with the intentions God has for his creation, alcoholism is a sin. The alcoholic becomes a different self. His emotions, will, andreason are warped, weakened, and disrupted. Johns Hopkins University Hospital has used this test in deciding whether a patient is an alcoholic.
Do you lose time from work due to drinking? Is drinking making your homelife unhappy? Do you drink because you are shy with other people? Is drinking affecting your reputation? Have you ever felt remorse after drinking? Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking? Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking? 8. Does your drinking make you careless of your family's welfare? 9. Has your ambition decreased since drinking? 10. Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily? 11. Do you want a drink the next morning? 12. Does drinking cause you to have difficulty sleeping? 13. Has your efficiency decreased since drinking? 14. Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business? 15. Do you drink to escape troubles or worries? 16. Do you drink alone? 17. Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking? 18. Has your physician ever treated you for drinking? 19. Do you drink to build up your self-confidence? 20. Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking? If you have answered yes to any of the questions, there Is a definite warning that you may be an alcoholic or are in danger of becoming one. If you have answered yes to any two or three, the chances are that you are an alcoholic. If you have answered yes to more than three, you are definitely an alcoholic. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
Helping the Alcoholic
Helping the alcoholic can be compared to walking a tightrope. A critical balance must be maintained, for there is the need for you to help, and there is the requirement that the alcoholic help himself. The tension between these two ideas is the concern of Galatians 6:2,5. "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2, RSV) suggests strong support and help from the deacon who cares. To brand the alcoholic unclean and unfit for association is not only pharisaical, but it also intensifies the loneliness and guilt that drag him down. No one needs the glad knowledge of God's help and the warm touch of the fellowship of God's people so much as does the alcoholic. Help is needed even though he may be unaware of his need and suspicious of the things that can satisfy it. You will need to exercise caution, however, at the point of assuming responsibility for the alcoholic. Galatians provides a balance to the command that we bear the other person's load. "For each ... [person] will have to bear his own load" (Gal. 6:5, RSV). In reaching out there will be the need to remember that the alcoholic is ultimately responsible for himself. He may be skilled at convincing others of their responsibility. Alcoholism's sinfulness lies in its roots of self-centeredness and lack of faith. The alcoholic must also help himself. There must be a firm expectation of effort on his part. There are specific helps for you to offer the alcoholic as you help him "bear his own burden." Be a Friend A friend does not judge. He accepts the alcoholic with his special problem. Some should not attempt to care for an alcoholic since this acceptance is missing. Regardless of words to the contrary, the deacon's true feelings will show. Acceptance is usually communicated within a problem-solving stance. Any other approach tends to be judgmental. Letting him talk means to respect his anxiety. Alcoholics are not used to having others make an effort to be with them, so they may be suspicious. Allow more time than usual for an early or initial get-together. Listen supportively, not in a detached manner. Being a friend means, too, that you must accept your role in his help as a passive one. Your part is important even if quiet and unspectacular. While others doctor, you give comfort, nourishment, and simple care. You take a back seat. Respect what has been told as confidential unless you have permission to share the information with others. The deacon-friend will also remind himself that the alcoholic does have a conscience. Appealing to that conscience, trying to make him "feel bad" about his actions, only intensifies the pain from which he seeks relief. On the other hand, don't act as if his behavior doesn't matter. He knows it does and desperately wants you to care. Simply avoid every appearance of selfrighteousness. Hold to your standards, however, even if he accuses you of self-righteousness. Help him establish healthy relationships which may require breaking away from old friendships. Inject (smoothly and quietly) healthy influences wherever you can, whether it is a more calmly ordered household routine or new entertainment and personalities. Be Objective No magic can do for the alcoholic what he must do for himself. The deacon must not give the impression that he is responsible for the alcoholic's
success or failure in recovery. Make it hard for the alcoholic to indulge in self-pity. Get yourself in a frame of mind to enable him to look on the chain of endless crises as parts of the whole entity of the disease. He will need your stabilizing influence as you help him to see various upheavals as one more step on the way to recovery. Another way of keeping objectivity is to avoid both pessimism and optimism. Your serenity of spirit is the best possible climate for the alcoholic. Remember, too, to nourish the healthy areas of his personality. He is an egocentric person, self-loving. That's much of his trouble. This makes it hard for him to believe anyone else loves him. Build him up in every area of his life that you can-except his drinking. Let him take the consequences of his drinking. Don't cover up or make excuses for him. Do remove minor irritants and discomforts when possible, but leave him to face the social and economic affects of his drinking, for they will playa part in leading him to see his need for help. Your objectivity will permit him to do his own suffering. Objectivity requires patience. Don't expect shortcuts. The onset of the problem was not sudden. Neither is the cure. Relapses are found in the recovery of many diseases. Knowing this can help the deacon not to be taken by surprise.
Strengthen the Family
The deacon can help the family by being an understanding friend. Through listening and understanding he will often be able to help the family realize that he is with them in their problem. The deacon's first ministry to the alcoholic might focus on the family as the lead point. Particularly, a spouse can unwittingly contribute to the problem with a misunderstanding of what it means to be a loving partner. One deacon tried but could get nowhere in his attempts to minister to a family with an alcoholic husband-father. Though he telephoned, he could never get the wife and children to agree on a time for him to visit. Unannounced visits got him nowhere. He was not invited to enter. That deacon made a special effort over a period of many months to write each family member a birthday note. He assured the wife and two daughters of his special concern for them in their struggle. He particularly discussed the guilt that many families feel in this setting. Although there was no immediate acknowledgment of this writing ministry, the alcoholic's wife told the deacon and his wife on a social outing that the letters had been a great source of strength. Further, she was able to confront her husband with his need for treatment as she moved away from a coddling stance. The deacon had dared to pinpoint in his letter that he sensed the wife was making the situation worse by her protectiveness.
Refer for Necessary Help
Don't try to go it alone. Once a relationship has been established, the pastor or deacon will probably do well to refer the alcoholic to some other source of help such as Alcoholics Anonymous, a psychiatrist, or a treatment center. Offer him the resources of the church. For example, one deacon asked an understanding and accepting teacher of a coed class to invite both the alcoholic and his wife to his Sunday School class. He knew the class had enough tolerance and maturity to provide a spiritual base. Another alcoholic was referred to a Monday-night prayer fellowship which has become the mainstay of his spiritual growth. Knowledge of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous can be helpful.
An alcoholic may ask his deacon to help with step 5.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them alt. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of Ihese steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and 10 practice these principles in all our affairs.
Understanding the Drug Abuser
In simplest terms, drug abuse is the consumption of any chemical substance for a purpose other than that for which it was intended. Drug abuse includes both improper use of medicines for nonmedical purposes and consumption of chemical substances for which no approved medical applications exist. Some of the medicines which figure in drug abuse are narcotics (opium derivatives used to allay severe pain), stimulants (drugs such as amphetamines used in the treatment of obesity and mild depression), depressants (drugs such as the barbiturates used in the treatment of epilepsy, high blood pressure, and insomnia), and certain tranquilizers (drugs used in combating tension, anxiety, and extreme agitation). The nonmedical substances subject to abuse are the narcotic heroin (an opium derivative outlawed in the United States); the hallucinogens marijuana (usually used in the form of a cigarette), LSD, and DMT (the so-called "mind expansion" compounds); and nondrug substances such as glue (an intoxicant when inhaled). Certainly, we can be grateful for the gifts of drugs properly used, but the same powerful drugs which are safe under medical supervision can be dangerous when used for nonmedical purposes. Our concern is for the improper consumption of drugs. Physical and Psychological Dependence Although various drugs affect in different ways persons abusing them, the problem of dependency is common to much of drug abuse. Narcotics and depressants, for example, when taken for a prolonged period of time and in stronger doses than needed therapeutically can create physical dependence. When this develops, the abuser's body craves the drug and reacts violently with withdrawal symptoms when deprived of it. Virtually all drugs subject to abuse can create psychological dependence. Because they alter mood, the abuser increasingly relies on them to produce emotional attitudes he thinks he needs to function adequately. In time, his need for the drug, in terms of the emotional support it provides, renders his habit almost impossible to break. At this point, he is psychologically
though the drug he abuses may not cause physical depen-
Signs of Drug Abuse
Early detection of drug abuse can be extremely helpful in combating the problem. Radical changes in personality, periods of depression and exuberance, or recurring physical disorders in a family member may be more than moodiness or anxiety. Some common symptoms may indicate drug abuse among school-age children and youth: changes in school attendance, discipline, and grades; unusual flare-ups of temper; loss of appetite; poor physical appearance; indifference to environment; furtive behavior regarding drugs and possessions; uncustomary wearing of sunglasses to hide dilated or constricted pupils; long-sleeved shirts worn constantly to hide needle marks; association with known drug abusers; or stealing small items. Some symptoms are common to many nondrug abuse disorders-particularly those experienced by adolescents during the normal course of maturation. One cannot be sure drug abuse exists on the basis of these symptoms exclusively. Beyond recognition of drug abuse, attempts must be made to decide what kind of drug is involved. Responses to drug abuse which do not take into account the kind of drug being used can do more harm than good. Alcohol is frequently labeled as the most abused drug in America. Though its usage is more familiar than other drugs, its usage should not be taken any less seriously than that of more feared, less known drugs. Causes of Drug Problems Drug abuse is the symptom of other problems. Immediate care will focus on disorders caused by drug abuse. However, long-term care needs to deal with what caused or provoked the drug problem. Some of the more common causes are: Personal problems.-Feelings of inadequacy, failure in meeting cherished personal goals, a feeling that one has disappointed others, and a need to have a different look at oneself are frequently mentioned problems. Underneath all this is a need to retreat from the real world. Drugs are looked upon as a way out. Loneliness.-Lack of recognition and affirmation from friends can also leave a void that some expect drugs to fill. Wanting fellowship at any cost, a person may get into drugs just to be part of the relationships of the drug culture. The artificiality of such a culture generates still more loneliness as dependence increases and becomes more severe. The lonely person thus moves toward more loneliness rather than fellowship. Troubled home.-Nagging about trivial matters, the absence of encouragement, the example of adults who use drugs unwisely are additional causes. The user feels neither accepted nor loved. Boredom.-The desire for a special experience; the need to express a new, unknown part of oneself; boredom with life can be incentive for drugs. A man or woman in mid life crisis isjust as vulnerable as a youngster who is bored stiff by the routine of schools, clubs, and organizations.
Helping the Drug Abuser
Provide Meaningful Relationships The addict's real need is for meaningful relationships. He needs to experience warmth and acceptance from you. You are God's personal messenger. Look upon the addict as a person of special worth. Remind his family, too, that the drug problem does not mean the family is a total failure. Caution the
family not to overreact. This is not the time for browbeating. Help them to work through their own guilt, hostility, and resentment. Within the special relationship look for the "teachable moment." Remember you are to teach, not preach. The right moment might come when a spouse leaves or because he fears being fired. Be sensitive to those opportunities when defenses are down and hearts are open.
Drug abuse is far too complex for nonprofessional attention alone. There are agencies in your community which are especially equipped to help the drug abuser and his family. A crisis intervention hotline is sometimes needed. Remember the organizational network in your church. Call on Sunday School classes, softball teams, or youth ministries to turn the drug abuser in new directions. Good, wholesome, nand rug-using persons create the best influence. Surround him with these persons from your church and elsewhere. Work on opening lines of communication between him and others. The help you enlist will be the kind that works on loving but honest communication. Keep in mind that the alcoholic and drug addict need spiritual help. They will sometimes need medical help and other facets of aid. Your chief resource, however, is Jesus Christ. Believe and claim God's power to transform and restore (Rom. 8: 1-2,26). Communicate the abundant life through Christ, the abundance that is free from illusions and props. Help them to experience this forgiving and compassionate love (Luke 7:37-50).
'Make a poster giving an outline of the session. Write down the main points, giving headings and subheads. Begin the session by putting the poster up. Announce the subject for the session. 'Get several pictures of liquor advertisements from magazines. Select those pictures that make drinking the glamorous and acceptable thing to do. Pass out several pictures of liquor advertisements. Afterlhe participants have looked at the pictures ask, "What's wrong with drinking alcoholic beverages?" After several answers read the first paragraph in the session about Betty Ford's addiction to drugs and alcohol. Ask participants to share knowledge of people they have known who have been dependent on alcohol or drugs. Refer to the four main headings in the outline: 1. Understanding the Alcoholic 2. Helping the Alcoholic 3. Understanding the Drug Abuser 4. Helping the Drug Abuser Divide the group into four subgroups. Ask each to listen specifically to one each of the main parts as you talk about the four topics. Tell the group that you will call for reports on what will be said. Talk on the four main points. When you finish, ask the groups to spend a few minutes talking together about what you have said. Call for a representative from each to report what they talked about. Conclude by reading the last paragraph aloud. Ask two persons to read these Scriptures: Romans 8:1-2,26 and Luke 7:37-50. Make any comments you feel important as you conclude the session.
'Indicates suggestions 10 be prepared before the session.
Caring for the Depressed and the Despairing
Depression is the number one mental illness as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health. Over eight million persons seek help for depression each year. Perhaps another fifteen million need help and don't get it. The ultimate expression of depression is suicide. Sixty Americans take their own lives daily. More than twenty-five thousand persons in the United States killed themselves last year. Suicide has increased in recent years, 20 percent among the general population and over 200 percent among adolescents. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people, having risen from fifth place five years ago. (Accidents rank first, and some of these could be related to suicidal impulses.) Here's the irony: Except for a very few, all the people who commit suicide want desperately to live.
Understanding the Depressed and the Despairing
The Bible gives numerous pictures of the depressed and despairing. When the going was rough in the wilderness trek, Moses became a graphic example: "I am not able to carryall this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me. If thou wilt deal thus with me, kill me at once, ifI find favor in thy sight, that I may not see my wretchedness" (Num. 11:14-15, RSV). Elijah, frightened by Jezebel's threat to take his life, fled into the wilderness: "But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked that he might die, saying, 'It is enough; now, 0 Lord, take away my life' " (1 Kings 19:4, RSV). Perhaps the best known picture of a depressed and despairing person is Judas after he had betrayed Jesus. Unable to cope with the despair, he took his own life. . Depression and despair can happen to any person. Just as it became a problem for some of our Bible heroes under certain stress circumstances, depression can become a problem for any person. There are many and sometimes complex reasons for a person's becoming depressed. Depression takes place when a person has no immunity to the pressures of
life. Breakdowns take place when something has been lacking in a person's experience of love. The knowledge that we are accepted and loved, unconditionally, builds immunity against depression and despair. Some simply do not get the foundational experiences needed for a healthy emotional life , or a traumatic event may have shaken that person's base of emotional security. Fear of feelings can cause depression. Real feelings can be blocked. It takes an excessive amount of energy to keep feelings from coming to the surface. There is a fear of acknowledging and expressing one's feelings. Feelings must be felt and experienced if one is to be emotionally and spiritually healthy. Some break down because they fear admitting evil impulses that are common to being human. Even though they are committed to Christ, evil still lurks within. Accepting these feelings in oneself is difficult. Part of Paul's health rested in his ability to own these dark and evil feelings: When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand" (Rom. 7:21, RSV). The pressure of keeping up a front, presenting oneself as different than one actually is, can lead to depression. Playing a role can finally become too much. For others, unrealistic expectations of themselves and others become the enemy. How can one possibly measure up? Some people cannot absorb and make sense out of adversity. When these underlying tensions churn up within a person who is already suicidal, a traumatic event such as the end of a love affair, a failed examination, or a wrongdoing can become the straw that breaks the camel's back. A thought of self-destruction can under such stress readily be converted into the taking of one's life. Some causes of depression have been identified. Here are some questions that may help identify depression, t
1. Have you suddenly or slowly lost all initiative toward other people? 2. Have you repeated crying spells that have no apparent cause? 3. Have you persistently, over a period of weeks, awakened suddenly and been unable to return to sleep for more than half an hour? 4. Do you awaken in the morning feeling fatigued and face the day with dread? 5. Do you feel pain of a scattered, unspecific kind, "aching all over"? 6. Do you find yourself thinking about your own death, wishing life were over, or that you are afraid you might commit suicide? 7. Do you breathe irregularly, sigh repeatedly, and feel "heavy" in the chest? 8. Do you distrust your own wisdom, have unusual trouble making decisions, and feel generally helpless? 9. Do you find yourself irritable, cross, and that without cause? 10. Do you have great trouble being enthusiastic about anything? 11. Have you been treated by a physician for depression before? If as many as five of these questions were answered with a "Yes," then you may be medically depressed-not just bereaved, broken-hearted, or guilt-ridden. The term "medically depressed" means you have a biochemical depletion in your body chemistry. You should confer with your family physician and ask for two kinds of consultation-consultation with a psychiatrist and consultation with a trained pastoral counselor.
Helping the Depressed and the Despairing
The power of a deacon's presence in the life of a depressed or suicidal person cannot be overestimated, This presence, the fact that you cared enough to be available, may be the troubled person's greatest help until he personally can draw strength from God's presence. The potentially suicidal person is usually already down on himself and in many cases is experiencing or imagining harsh judgment from others. He
needs acceptance and understanding, not judgment. Jesus models this acceptance with Peter in John 21. It is particularly important that you do not promise the depressed person something you can't deliver. Glib assurances such as, "Tomorrow will be another day," or "Everything will work out" are to be avoided. Atthe same time the deacon can calmly assure through his confidence that new solutions can be explored or that new strength to cope can be found. Put the depressed person in touch with someone who can give him professional help, if needed. Find out what the person feels he needs, and discover who is important. Help him to get in touch with resources and significant persons. Encourage and help him to establish his own support group. All helpers, deacons included, have limitations in this difficult area. Persons who have contemplated suicide should be encouraged to seek professional help. Such a referral is not rejection but a sign of concern, especially if you continue a warm and caring relationship. A referral suggestion might go like this: "This is Friday. I'll call Monday by noon to see how your conversation with Dr. McGraw went." Encourage the troubled person by cultivating a long-term relationship. Ask him to call you or come to see you when he feels particularly depressed. You may want to share the booklet Dealing with Depression (see "Resources for Ministry," page 95). Help the church function as the person's extended family.
to Save the Potential Suicide Victim
Immediate attention will be needed if the person's life is to be saved. Encourage conversation. Talking may move the stressful feelings into the open. Be sensitive and avoid giving advice and quoting Scripture which condemns. Stay as warm and nonjudgmental as you possibly can. Keep yourself in control of your own feelings, so that you can help produce a calming atmosphere. Finally, involve other significant persons as quickly as possible. Know the phone number of any local suicide prevention or crisis call centers, so that you can help the person immediately. Guide the person toward the professional help he needs, but continue to express your interest in his well-being. Here's your chance to let him feel Christian love on a continuing basis. Let him see the abundant life in action. Remember the victim's family will have some feelings of guilt. You may have some of these yourself, or you may find others in your church who feel, "I could and should have prevented this." This is a time to listen warmly, point out that such guilt is commonplace, assure them of God's grace, and let them know by your presence that somebody cares. This may be another opportunity to cultivate a longer relationship through which some of their needs can be met. God himselfis the deliverer, and he has sent Jesus Christ to help us. The man who fell into the miry pit and could not get out by himself (Ps. 40:2) was brought out and lifted up by God, but God may seem far away to someone who is in trouble. By believing in Jesus Christ and accepting his help, we may both find deliverance for ourselves and be of some help in carrying the great message of deliverance in this world, especially to those who find themselves in the miry pit of depression and despair.
I. Wayne E. Oates, Overcoming Depression, Choice Creation tract. Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Copyright 1979, Broadman
'Before the session write these main headings on the chalkboard: 1. Understanding the Depressed and the Despairing 2. Helping the Depressed and the Despairing 3. Intervening to Save the Potential Suicide Victim 'Secure several different pictures from magazines showing people who are depressed and/or despairing. Pass the pictures around to participants at the beginning of the study session. After all have seen the pictures, ask, "What does it mean to be depressed and despairing?" Elicit several responses. Say: "Can you remember a time when you were depressed? Take a few minutes to share with someone seated close to you a time when you were depressed." Comment on the need for deacons to care for the depressed and how to help them. Say that during the session deacons will gain an understanding of the depressed and despairing and ways will be suggested for helping those who consider suicide. Follow the outline as you talk about the three main areas in this session. Ask group members to be thinking of ways a deacon can minister to those who are so depressed that they would consider suicide. As you talk about the last two subjects, "Helping the Depressed and Despairing" and "Intervening to Save the Potential Suicide Victim," ask participants to share some of their own ideas. Ask volunteers to suggest how Jesus helped the depressed and despairing. Ask, "What Scripture verses are appropriate for a deacon to use when dealing with someone who has lost the desire to live?" Conclude by reading 2 Timothy 1 :7: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of asound mind." Make any comments you teel appropriate.
'Indicates suggestions to be prepared before the session.
Personal learning Activities
Session Session 1. What are two power sources that are avaJlable to deacons as they seek to minister? 2, List five characteristics of good listening that a caring deacon should be aware 6f and practice. List four guidelines a deacon should follow in using Scripture and prayer. 3: Briefly summarize how a deacon can best help the hospitalized patient. 4: In what ways maya deacon provide practical support In a time of grief? 5: Briefly describe the role forgiveness plays in a deacon's ministry to Ihose experiencing doubt or guilt. 6: What are Iwo ways a deacon may help a lonely person? 7: How may deacons be Involved In provIding adequate resources for needy persons? 8: WhIch of the thirteen areas of dealing with conflict mentioned in this chapter Is most difficult for you to put into practice? Why? 9: What are two ways a deacon can help others mark the major events of life? 10: Briefly summarize how deacons may help families overcome the negative results of moving. 11: What are four ways that deacons can help couples build lasting relationships? 12: List six steps in helping families develop an effective approach 10 problem solving. 13: Briefly describe why It is Important for a deacon to establish a meanIngful relationship with an alcoholic or drug abuser. 14: How maya deacon minister to those who are so depressed that they would consider suicide?
SessIon Session Session Session Session SessIon Session Session Session Session Session Session
r es f r
The following resources will help the deacon in his counseling ministry. They are listed by source. The numbers following each resource indicate the sessions in this book to which each relates. Available from Materials Services Department, 127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, TN 37234 or the Undated Materials Order Form
Dealing with Depression (14) Facing Grief with Faith (4) Getting Acquainted in a New Community (9, 10) Life After Divorce (11) Making the Most of Retirement (9) When a Teenager Is In Trouble (12) When You Have Someone in the Hospital (3) While You're in the Hospital (3) You, a Parent (9)
The following three thirty-two-page booklets are designed to be given to individuals or couples. Life Together: Building Relationships for a LastIng ~arrlage is f?r engaged couples to help in preparation tor marriage. (9, 11) Life Under Pressure: Dealing with Stress In Marriage is for couples who are experiencing marital conflict. (11) Life Alone: the World of the Formerly Married is for divorced or widowed persons to help them adjust to sing Ie life. (4, 11)
The Deacon is a practical, project-oriented magazine designed to help deacons understand their role and to assist them in performing their pastoral ministries tasks in the church and community. A copy of this quarterly magazine should be ordered for each deacon. Home Life is a monthly magazine to support and enrich Christian marriage and family relationships. One section is designed to help guide family worship. Many churches provide this magazine for all church families. (11, 12) Three quarterly magazines are designed to help parents with children of a particular age group: living with Preschoolers (12) Living with Children (12) Living with Teenagers (12)
Tracts and Leaflets
How Can a Deacon Help You? is a four-page leaflet which deacons can give to families to help them understand the Deacon Family Ministry Plan, when to call their deacon, and how a deacon can help them. Choice Creation Tracts is a series of fifty attractive six-page leaflets. Those particularly of interest to ministering deacons are: Coping with Handicaps (3) God's Peace In a Troubled World (3) His Grace for Our Trials (3) Grlef-a Normal Experience (4) God's Will, My Will (5) How to Really Come Alive (5) Led by the Spirit (5)
The Deacon Family Ministry Plan Really Works is a thirty-two-page booklet which gives practical approaches for implementing the Deacon Family Ministry Plan. When Fam Illes Hurt, Deacons Can Help is a twenty-tour-page training booklet which ofters practical suggestions to help deacons minister to families in crisis. (2) Ten sixteen-page booklets are designed for deacons to give to families facing particular crises.
After the Children Leave Home (9)
The Church Study Course Study courses and foundational units are organized into a system that is promoted by the Sunday School Board, 127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, Tennessee 37234; by the Woman's Missionary Union, 600 North Twentieth Street, Birmingham, Alabama 35203; by the Brotherhood Commission, 1548 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104; and by the respective departments of the state conventions affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Credit is awarded for the successful completion of a course of study. This credit is granted by the Church Study Course Awards Office, 127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, Tennessee 37234, for the participating agencies. Credit may be requested on Form 151, Church Study Course Credit Request. When credit is issued to a person on request, the Awards Office sends two copies of a notice of credit earned to the church. The duplicate copy of the credit slip should be filed by the study course clerk in the participant's record of training folder. The original should be given to the person who earned the credit. Accumulated credits are applied toward a specific leadership diploma or the Christian Development Diplomas, which are measures of learning, growth, development, and training. This book is the text for a course in the subject area: Deacon Ministry. This course is designed for at least five hours of group study. Credit is awarded for attending class sessions and reading the book. A person who is absent from one or more class sessions must complete requirements given by the teacher. Credit is also allowed for individual study by reading this book and cornpleting the "Personal Learning Activities" on page 94. Credit for this study can be applied to one or more diplomas in the Church Study Course (such as the Deacon Ministry Diploma). After the course is completed, the teacher, the study course clerk, the learner, or any person designated by the church should complete Form 15! (Church Study Course Credit Request) and send it to the Awards Office, 127 Ninth Avenue, North, Nashville, Tennessee 37234.
Prayer: Our Doorway to God (5) To Be Sure (5) The Best of Your Life (9) Beginning Again: Help for the Formerly Married (11) How to Build a Good Marriage (11) The Worth of a Husband (11) The Worth of a Wife (11) How to Have a Healthy Family (12) Me In My Family (12) Parenthood-for Better or Worse (12) Alcohol-Grabbing Your Gusto Without Overcoming Depression (14)
Available from Baptist Book Stores
The Up Side of Down by Ernest E. Mosley, Broadman Supplies, 1974, (3) Tracks of a Fellow Struggler by John Claypool, Word, 1974 (4) Hide or Seek by James Dobson, Revell, 1974 (12) Growing Parents Growing Children by W. Wayne Grant, Convention, 1977 (12)
Deacon Greeting Cards
Two boxes of sixteen cards each with envelopes. Birthday (9) Get-Well (3)
Available from American Bible Society, P.O. Box 5656, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10017
The Ministry of Baptist Deacons by Robert Sheffield, Convention, 1989. Equipping Deacons' in Ch'urch Growth Skills, Henry Webb, complier, Convention, 1982
Equipping Deacons as Partners in Ministry, Henry Webb, compiler, Convention Press, 1985 Equipping Deacons to Confront Conflict, James White and Robert Sheffield, Convention, 1987
Bibles and Leaflets
Write for a catalog of inexpensive Bibles and Scripture portions appropriate for use in a variety of ministry situations.
Available from the Christian Ufe Commission, Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37219 460 James
Growing a Loving Church by Robert D. Dale, Convention, 1974 (1) Take Care by C. W. Brister, Broadman, 1978 (2)
Book of Comfort by Alvin N. Rogness, Augsburg, 1979 (2) It Hurts So Bad, Lord! by Andrew D. Lester, Broadman, 1976 (2)
Christian Life Style for Families series (11, 12) Christian Life Style for Youth series (12) Write for a list of leaflets and ordering information.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?