Each year, thousands of men and women are elected to serve as deacons of their local congregation. Unfortunately for most, there’s no training program or orientation for this line of spiritual responsibility.
Each year, at the first meeting with a new Board of Deacons, we discussed the healthy patterns that were essential for their efforts together. Here’s a few of those guidelines:
First, deacons are elected because they are servants. They have been chosen because of the ministry heart and involvement that people already see in their lives. As such, their greatest expression of their servant leadership will be seen as they serve in various capacities among the church’s ministries. A deacon who does not serve in any ministry capacity is an oxymoron. Frankly, wherever I see “board members” instead of deacons, the church’s leadership function is usually unhealthy. As a pastor, I was blessed to have deacons who were the most involved people in the church, both with their time and their giving.
Second, deacons serve as a team. A deacon has no individual authority whatsoever. He partners with other deacons in ministry discussions and decisions. If a deacon tries to act on individual authority, he is operating outside the biblical intent and the church’s bylaws–and it’s never healthy! Also, “subset meetings” (where 2 or 3 deacons meet without the rest) are inappropriate–even if the pastor is present. Deacons may not be unanimous in all decisions, but they must all be present for any substantive discussion of church matters. Subset meetings destroy unity regardless of their intent.
Third, deacons must maintain trust. The decisions made in deacon meetings are not confidential–they will be announced appropriately to the congregation. But the discussions held in deacon meetings are confidential. For a deacon to offer his full input into needed decisions, he must know that he will not be quoted outside the meeting room–ever, to anyone!
Fourth, deacons must support the decisions they make as a group. While a deacon may disagree with the majority on various issues, he must fully support the decisions made once they are made. The time to disagree occurs while the issue is being discussed, but the group must always act in unity after the decision has been made. Remember, a deacon has no individual authority so expressing a dissenting opinion is inappropriate.
Finally, the church has elected both the pastor and the deacons with the expectation that they work together in leading the church’s ministries. Deacons must give their best effort to supporting the pastor and his efforts to lead the church. A deacon is a part of the team to help implement the church’s vision–he is never to lead people away from the direction set by the pastor or chase any sort of personal agenda.
The office of deacon is so critical to the healthy functioning of the church. Done well, it can prove to be a most fulfilling way to serve God and His Church.