This past weekend, we choose deacons in both of our programs.  Our deacons come from our membership.  I inherited the process that is used in each of the programs which I supervise.  For our Vero program, this was the first time that we have selected deacons.  Because this program was filled with new Christian or people who had never been Christians, I’ve waited until our members had established a bit of maturity before asking them to select.  In our Melbourne program, we started with a clean slate because it has been several years since we chose our deacons.

Originally, we used a rotating system, with two deacons up for reelection or two others members voted on each year.  Somehow the weeks got away and then a couple of years went by.  Because it’s been a long time since we’ve selected deacons, we did a good deal of teaching from Timothy about deacons before we selected this year.  There is a slate of five deacons in our smaller program and seven in the larger one. 

Each election, we ask each member, individually, to select one or more (as many slots that are open) people they believe qualify to be deacons.  It was a interesting process.  After the members vote, we ask our elders (teachers and volunteers) to also approve the slate.  After tallying up the vote in both programs, the slate selected by the members was the exact slate that our elders would have voted for and therefore it was approved by them also.

When I first began with Special Gathering, I questioned the process with our executive director.  At that time, it was purely a vote by the membership.  He simply said, “I’ve learned to trust the members’ judgement.  I’ve found they have always been right.”  Over the years, approval of the elders was added.  However, the elders have ALWAYS agreed with the vote of the members. 

The final step will be next week.  The membership and the elders will vote to approve the slate of deacons.  I don’t expect anyone to question the outcome of the vote.

How are your leaders selected?  Is it simply the judgment of the leadership or do your members have a hand in the selection.  What do you call your leadership team?  Are they formally recognized?

Mickey was adopted by a loving Christian family 21 years ago.  He was diagnosed with no brain stem three months after his birth.  His three siblings who were teenagers and his parents refused to believe that there was no hope for him.  They worked passionately with the baby.  Miraculously Mickey responded.  He now walks with the aid of a walker, speaks in two-word couplets and generally attempts to lead every group in which he is involved.   Like many of our members who don’t speak, I’ve said of Mickey that if he could talk he would rule the world. 

As we were finishing up our refreshments in our Saturday program, I was standing at the front of the room preparing to teach.  Mickey was sitting in the back of the room.  I overheard Mickey conversing with a volunteer.  She was cleaning up his chips and juice.  He said, “Messy.” 

She responded, “You did make a mess today, didn’t you?” 

Knowing Mickey, I said to the volunteer, “Oh, he wasn’t saying that HE was messy.  Mickey was saying that YOU are messy.” 

Mickey smiled and loudly responded, “That’s right.”

Of course, we were thrilled with his interaction with us but that wasn’t the end of his discourses for the day.

From our membership, we vote on our deacons.  We’ve never had deacons in our Vero program, so I’ve spent several months inserting snippets of teaching and reading, reviewing and talking about the qualifications of deacons.  Last week, I spent the entire Bible study time.  I taught about the qualifications and responsibilities of a deacon.  I read the portion from I Timothy and asked our members to apply each requirement to their lives.  After writing their responses on the white board, I said, “Look at these qualifications.  Do you know anyone in Special Gathering  that you believe qualifies to become a deacon?”

Immediately, a confident, loud voice came from the back of the room, “Yeah, me.”   Mickey had voiced his desire to be a deacon. 

I explained to the rest of the class that the Bible says that a person who desires a position in the church body, desires a good thing.  Therefore, it is proper to believe that you may qualify to become a deacon if you are willing to accept the added responsibility. 

The mentally challenged community speaks often in one work or two-word couplets.  However, more often than not, it is important to hear the words spoken.  They may be needed correction or joyful words of assurance of God’s love.