What do the deacons in your church do?

Stephen, a deacon (and martyr) in the early Christian church.The role of deacon has a rich Biblical history and includes in its ranks famous early Christians like Stephen and Philip. The early church took the office of deacon very seriously, requiring that deacons and their families exemplify Christian virtues in all areas of life.

Since joining my church’s council as a deacon earlier this year, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and learning about the role of deacons. Growing up in churches with Presbyterian-style councils, I always assumed that a deacon’s primary area of responsibility was church finances and benevolence—ensuring the church’s financial survival and making decisions about the people, ministries, and causes to generously support.

But I know now that finances are only part of the picture of a Biblical diaconate. In my denomination, the deacons’ stewardship extends beyond money. It includes encouraging the congregation’s spiritual gifts and helping to connect churchgoers to ministry opportunities that fit their talents. For example, the deacons in my church are currently working with individual church members to identify their gifts, so that when a need or an opportunity crops up (as they often do, without warning), they know who in the congregation is best equipped to respond.

I know that different Christian traditions have various understandings of the role of deacons. Does your church you have an official diaconate? How are deacons selected, and if so, what are their responsibilities? Have you ever served as a deacon?

The image above depicts Stephen, a deacon (and martyr) in the early Christian church.

2 Responses to “What do the deacons in your church do?”

  • Carlos R. Flores says:

    Anglicized form of the Greek word diaconos, meaning a “runner,” “messenger,” “servant.” For a long period a feeling of mutual jealousy had existed between the “Hebrews,” or Jews proper, who spoke the sacred language of palestine, and the “Hellenists,” or Jews of the Grecian speech, who had adopted the Grecian language, and read the Septuagint version of the Bible instead of the Hebrew. This jealousy early appeared in the Christian community. It was alleged by the Hellenists that their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of alms. This spirit must be checked. The apostles accordingly advised the disciples to look out for seven men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost, and men of practical wisdom, who should take entire charge of this distribution, leaving them free to devote themselves entirely to the spiritual functions of their office (Acts 6:1-6). This was accordingly done. Seven men were chosen, who appear from their names to have been Hellenists. The name “deacon” is nowhere applied to them in the New Testament; they are simply called “the seven” (21:8). Their office was at first secular, but it afterwards became also spiritual; for among other qualifications they must also be “apt to teach” (1 Tim. 3: 8-12). Both Philip and Stephen, who were of “the seven,” preached; they did “the work of evangelists.”]

    this according to Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary

  • Jonny says:


    I think your description of what deacons are to be doing in the church is quite accurate. I really like your focus on encouraging your congregation to love and good deeds by identifying their God given gifts. I too am a recently ordained deacon, so have been reading all I can on the subject too.

    A really succinct role description I came across is our church order, (overall rather dry to read, but I thought this a gem):

    The task of the deacons is:
    a.) To diligently collect alms and other contributions of charity,
    b.) To faithfully and diligently distribute the same to the poor as their needs may require after mutual counsel,
    c.) To visit and comfort the distressed,
    d.) To encourage the congregation to show Christian mercy to those in need at home and abroad, and
    e.) To render an account to the session.

    As we don’t really live in a time or place of great physical need for our daily bread we are currently trying to focus more on d.) on the list above, so we are visiting all the members of our congregation to encourage this and also to try to further educate them on the specific role of deacons. We are also finding that this opens the lines of communication for us to find out about and address physical needs also. We written some draft guidelines for these visits if you’re interested.

    As for how deacons are called to serve, we go through a process of nomination where men that show the biblical characteristics of a deacon (1 Tim 3) are nominated to the elders, upon consideration the elders then present 1 or 2 or 3 (depending on the need) to the congregation for a vote, (like the choosing of the 12th disciple once Judas had died two worthy candidates were put up and one was chosen) after a period of time for any lawful issues to be raised against the candidates the vote is taken and then the man is ordained. Our Elders and deacons have term of 3 to 4 years, do you have specified term?

    I’d also be interested to here about how you are practically going about identifying peoples gifts and opportunities with them?