Are You Listening?

by Trish Duggan, Producer of The Reformed Deacon

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since the Committee on Diaconal Ministries started producing a podcast for deacons called, The Reformed Deacon. I really hope you’ve come to look forward to its release each first of the month. I have the privilege of being the podcast’s producer, (as well as an OP deacon’s wife) and it’s amazing for me to hear the breadth of wisdom within our denomination. We’ve got some incredible guys serving as the hands and feet of Christ, and I hope that is well represented in the podcast.

Also exciting is knowing who is listening! In addition to our North American following, we have listeners in Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia and South America. We currently have just about 150 subscribers. We, of course, hope that will grow, so share an episode with a deacon-friend. I think you’ll agree, there’s really nothing out there like it. I’ve even heard that some in other reformed denominations are listening, too!

The CDM launched the podcast in November 2021 with an interview of a local deacon from Shiloh OPC in Raleigh, NC, Tim Hopper. That podcast has nearly 900 downloads—our most popular to date (don’t tell Tim!) Following close behind is “Church Safety in the 21st Century” with nearly 750 downloads and “Disabilities and the Church” at 522 downloads. If you haven’t listened to those yet, I hope their popularity will encourage you to. I can remember distinctly while recording interviews with OP elder Matt Butler and Pastor Stephen Tracey, thinking, “everyone should know this stuff!”

The goal of this podcast is to encourage deacons in their service to the local church, and we sincerely hope we are accomplishing that. The Committee on Diaconal Ministry’s plan for 2023 is to focus in on four areas: encouragement, practice, resources and doctrine. By breaking it down like this, we hope to give you well-rounded content that is useful in all aspects of your ministry.

I’m particularly excited about January’s episode. It’s a little different than our usual interview-style. Three deacons, with a collective near-60 years of experience, spend time talking through two different fictitious and difficult case studies involving walk-ins. One of the cases included, “A woman named Jane comes to the church. You’re the only person at the church setting up for a meeting that people will arrive for in an hour. She tells you her boyfriend is abusing her and is after her right now and she needs your help to keep her safe. Her boyfriend is probably only a couple minutes behind her, and she needs a place to hide out.” Do you know what would you do? Each panelist, using policies developed in their own diaconates, was able to propose some steps in showing the love of Christ. You won’t want to miss this one. We plan to release more Real World Cases in 2023. 

We are always looking for new and creative content and love suggestions, so please, if you are a year-long listener or you’ve just discovered the podcast, contact us: mail@thereformeddeacon.org.

We truly hope the podcast has been an encouragement to you and we pray that the Lord continues to bless it as a resource to all!


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A Deacon Still at Work

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” you might overhear Bob McConahy say at Heritage Village, his assisted care living facility in Gainesville, Virginia. Bob has served as an OPC deacon, pianist, organist, and choir director, and he continues to look for ways to serve the Lord in retirement. The staff enters his room to see him poring over his study Bible, or praying and talking about the things of God. Recently, Bob invited our church, Acacia Reformed in Manassas, Virginia, to lead a devotional service on Sunday afternoon both to worship with and witness to the residents at Heritage Village. “Honor such men,” Paul says of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:29) because of his faithful service to God and the church. 

—John Paul Holloway, pastor of Acacia Reformed in Manassas, VA


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Lessons Learned from Nursing Home Ministry

by Daniel Bausch and Gerald Sisto

For more than twelve years, Calvary OPC in Ringoes, New Jersey, has had a monthly ministry at a local long-term care facility, otherwise known as a nursing home. This ministry is small, it is ordinary, and it has produced limited visible fruit. Yet, the Lord has used it to encourage and bless individuals outside the church doors in meaningful ways. Our hope in this article is to share how the Lord may use a nursing home ministry in proclaiming the gospel of Christ and to offer some practical suggestions for congregations who are either considering or engaging in a ministry like this.

Need and Opportunity

According to the CDC, there are more than fifteen thousand nursing homes and twenty-eight thousand residential care communities in the United States. These facilities vary widely in size, cost, quality, and safety. When you read “nursing home,” a few connotations likely come to your mind. You might think of people with chronic medical needs requiring continuous care to function, you might imagine seniors watching television all day, or you might recall painful memories of seeing your own loved one suffer. Few of us primarily think of nursing homes as places in our community where our neighbors live, where Christ’s children continue to serve in his kingdom, and where gospel opportunity is abounding.

Why focus on a ministry like this when there are so many other worthy ministries a church can pursue? Here are three reasons to consider.

First, because God cares for the elderly and those who experience affliction. “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4). God does not neglect, discard, or disuse the elderly or persons with disabilities. He promises that his children “still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green” (Psalm 92:14). Second, as part of the Great Commission, Christ calls us to share the good news with all in our society—the rich, the poor, the young, the old, the free, and the institutionalized. Finally, many nursing home facilities are regularly seeking volunteers to provide “activities” for residents, opening the door for faithful Christian ministry where none may exist.

Ministry Approach

At Calvary, our nursing home ministry began with simple outreach to a local facility to see if there was a need for a church ministry. That contact led to a monthly visit, which occurs between our fellowship meal and our evening service.

Our typical visit is usually attended by five church members and lasts for one hour. We begin by singing a few popular hymns from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, with the hymns available in large, easy-to-read print. Our team includes those who play the piano or flute to accompany the singing.

After singing, we present a simple, ten-minute message from Scripture. The message always includes our state of misery due to sin, our deliverance through Christ’s death and resurrection, the invitation to belief by faith, and encouragement to live in Christ. After the message, we close with prayer, final hymns, and time spent engaging one-on-one with each participant. These conversations are an opportunity to build relationships and learn about needs. The Lord has used this time to bring about wonderful gospel conversations, tearful prayers, and precious moments of comforting those undergoing loss and affliction.

Lessons Learned

Our nursing home ministry has had both highs and lows over the years. Here are some lessons we have learned.

1. Focus on the gospel essentials. The time you have with residents and nursing home staff is limited and precious. Present Christ and his gospel (not you and your nice church) through Scripture, teaching, song, and conversation.

2. Keep your teaching short and clear. To best serve your audience, limit your messages to a few minutes in length. This is not the time to practice full sermons or to have a detailed Bible study. Remember to speak loudly, use familiar passages, and avoid jargon.

3. Engage and respect all residents and staff. Each resident should be treated with dignity. Make sure to speak individually to each person in attendance (even if they can’t speak to you), listen when they express a desire to leave or need assistance, and adhere to the facility’s rules and regulations.

4. Be open to adjustments. Changes in plans, new facility requirements, and frequent disruptions are very common. Remember to be patient and to accept changes based on resident or facility needs.

5. Stay accountable. As with any ministry of the church, it is critical to have the oversight and wisdom of the session. One or more ordained leaders should be actively involved in the ministry.

6. Trust in the Lord. It is easy to grow discouraged with nursing home ministry. Remember that the Lord uses weak means to bring about his purpose, and his word does not return void (Isa. 55:11).

7. Share updates with your congregations. It can often feel like there is little news to share with your brothers and sisters. However, failing to share updates deprives your congregation of the privilege of participating through prayer and encouragement. This is the entire congregation’s ministry; share regularly and invite others to come and participate.

8. Be in prayer. Remember to pray for any Christians who attend your ministry, asking the Lord to encourage them and to use them. Pray for those who are not followers of Christ, that the Lord would change hearts so that many might turn and be saved. Pray also for the staff of the facility, that they would know Christ and care for the residents well.

It is glorious to see the Lord work through a simple nursing home ministry. We hope you might consider the value and opportunity such a ministry can be for you and your congregation.

Daniel Bausch is a deacon, and Gerald Sisto an elder, at Calvary OPC in Ringoes, New Jersey.
This article originally appeared in the December issue of New Horizons.

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