What Is the Role of a Deacon or Deaconess in the Church? (2024)

The role or office of deacon was developed in the early church primarily to minister to the physical needs of the members of the body of Christ. The initial appointment takes place in Acts 6:1-6.

Deacon Definition

The term deacon comes from the Greek word diákonos meaning "servant" or "minister." The word, which appears at least 29 times in the New Testament, designates an appointed member of the local church who assists by serving other members and meeting material needs.

After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the church began to grow so fast that some believers, particularly widows, were being neglected in the daily distribution of food and alms, or charitable gifts. Also, as the church expanded, logistical challenges arose at meetings mainly because of the size of the fellowship. The apostles, who had their hands full caring for the spiritual needs of the church, decided to appoint seven leaders who could tend to the physical and administrative needs of the body:

But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”(Acts 6:1–4, NLT)

Two of the seven deacons appointed here in Acts werePhilip the Evangelistand Stephen, who later became the first Christianmartyr.

What Is the Role of a Deacon or Deaconess in the Church? (1)

The first reference to an official position of deacon in the local congregation is found in Philippians 1:1, where the Apostle Paul says, "I am writing to all of God's holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons." (NLT)

Qualities of a Deacon

While theduties of this office are never explicitly defined in theNew Testament, the passage in Acts 6 implies a responsibility for serving during mealtimes or feasts as well as distributing to the poor and caring for fellow believers with unique needs. Paul expounds on the qualities of a deacon in 1 Timothy 3:8-13:

... Deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.
In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.
A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus. (NLT)

The biblical requirements of deacons are similar to that of elders, but there is a clear distinction in office. Elders are spiritual leaders or shepherds of the church. They serve as pastors and teachers and also provide general oversight on financial, organizational, and spiritual matters. The practical ministry of deacons in the church is vital, freeing elders to focus on prayer, studying God's Word, and pastoral care.

What Is a Deaconess?

The New Testament seems to indicate that both men and women were appointed as deacons in the early church. In Romans 16:1, Paul calls Phoebe a deaconess.

What Is the Role of a Deacon or Deaconess in the Church? (2)

Today scholars remain divided on this issue. Some believe Paul was referring to Phoebe as a servant in general, and not as one who functioned in the office of deacon.

On the other hand, some cite the above passage in 1 Timothy 3, where Paul describes the qualities of a deacon, as proof that women, too, served as deacons. Verse 11 states, "In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do."

The Greek word translated wives here can also be rendered women. Thus, some Bible translators believe 1 Timothy 3:11 does not concern deacons' wives, but women deaconesses. Several Bible versions render the verse with this alternate meaning:

In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

As more evidence, deaconesses are noted in other second and third century documents as officeholders in the church. Women served in areas of discipleship, visitation, and assisting with baptism.

Deacons in the Church Today

Nowadays, as in the early church, the role of a deacon may encompass a variety of services differing from denomination to denomination. In general, deacons function as servants, ministering to the body in practical ways. They may assist as ushers, tend to benevolence, or count tithes and offerings. Nomatter how they serve, Scripture makes it clear that ministering as a deacon is a rewarding and honorable calling in the church.

What Is the Role of a Deacon or Deaconess in the Church? (2024)


What Is the Role of a Deacon or Deaconess in the Church? ›

Deacons help the bishop look after the temporal needs of the Church. This could include gathering fast offerings, helping to care for those in need, and helping to care for the meetinghouse and grounds.

What is the role of a deacon and deaconess in the church? ›

The new testament deacon and deaconess is a “lead servant” in a publicly recognized and commissioned office in a church that exists to assist the elders in administrative and logistical tasks related to the financial, mercy (benevolence, relief, social welfare), and facilities ministries of the church, so that the ...

What does the Bible say about deacons and deaconess? ›

1 Timothy 3:8-12

10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

What does the Bible say a deacons' duties are? ›

Answer. According to the New Testament, deacons are to provide material and logistical support to the church.

What are deacon primary responsibilities? ›

Deacons are model servants appointed to a local church office. They are deployed to assist the pastors or elders by protecting church unity, organizing practical service, and meeting tangible needs.

What are three things that a deacon Cannot do? ›

However, deacons cannot celebrate Mass (i.e., consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ), hear confessions, or anoint the sick—these sacraments are reserved for ordained priests.

What is the difference between deacon and deaconess? ›

The deacons generally minister to men and the deaconesses to women and children, or each deacon or deaconess is attached to a specific ministry in the church (deaconess of media, deacon of benevolence ministry, etc.)

Who is a deaconess according to the Bible? ›

The word comes from the Greek diakonos (διάκονος), for "deacon", which means a servant or helper and occurs frequently in the Christian New Testament of the Bible. Deaconesses trace their roots from the time of Jesus Christ through to the 13th century in the West.

What are the qualifications of a deaconess? ›

Paul's instructions to the men deacons also applied to the women deaconesses. He told both to be grave, not double-tongued or slanderers, sober and not addicted to wine, and faithful. It is important that today's deacons and deaconesses meet these qualifications.

What is the full meaning of deaconess? ›

noun. (in certain Protestant churches) a woman belonging to an order or sisterhood dedicated to the care of the sick or poor or who is engaging in other social-service duties, as teaching or missionary work. a woman elected by a church to assist the clergy.

What are the two responsibilities that deacons Cannot perform? ›

Deacons can baptize, witness marriages, perform funeral and burial services (outside of Mass), distribute holy Communion and preach a homily. They cannot celebrate Mass, hear confessions or administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

Who has the highest teaching authority in the church? ›

Teacher:Level of magisterium:
1. Pope ex cathedraExtraordinary and universal teaching of the Church
2. Ecumenical councilExtraordinary and universal teaching of the Church
3. Bishops, together with the Pope, dispersed but in agreement, proposing definitivelyOrdinary and universal teaching of the Church
2 more rows

What disqualifies you from being a deacon? ›

Are you “Addicted to Intoxicating Substances” (1 Tim. 3:8)? A man is disqualified for the office of deacon if he is addicted to strong drink or other intoxicating substances. Such a person lacks self-control and is undisciplined.

Who was the first deaconess in the Bible? ›

The name Phoebe means "pure", "radiant", or "bright"; and was the name of a Titan in Greek mythology. Some scholars believe Phoebe was responsible for delivering Paul's epistle to the Roman Christian church. Phoebe is the only woman named as deacon in the Bible.

What is expected of a deacon's wife? ›

A Deacon's Wife Should Be RELIABLE.

The word “reliable” means “faithful in all things,” and can be used in both a passive sense and an active sense. The passive sense means that others can rely on her. The active sense means that she relies on God and those He has placed in authority over her in leading the church.

What are the two types of deacons? ›

In the Church today, there are two forms of diaconate: the transitional diaconate and the permanent diaconate.
  • The transitional deacon is one ordained deacon in preparation for the priesthood.
  • The permanent deacon is a person ordained deacon to render a lifetime of service within this clerical capacity.

Is a deaconess a deacons wife? ›

Diakonissa is a Greek title of honor that is used to refer to a deacon's wife. It is derived from diakonos—the Greek word for deacon (literally, "server").

What is the mission statement of the deaconess ministry? ›


Through prayer, study and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we prepare ourselves spiritually to assist in the spiritual responsibilities of the church and to glorify God through our service to others under the spiritual guidance of the Pastor and the Deacons.

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