10 Crucial Commitments of Effective Deacons

By Jim Vogel. Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin.

No church can be successful without committed leadership. It starts with pastors who are committed to the Word and the people they serve, but it includes deacons who take their role seriously and serve with genuine dedication.

As a pastor, I was privileged to serve alongside some committed, effective deacons. They contributed to the success of the churches I pastored, and I could not have accomplished my ministry without them. Consider this list of 10 commitments that are essential in effective “deaconing.”

A commitment to personal godliness

Deacons must first be personal examples of dedicated Christian living. Churches often suffer when they select deacons primarily on innate leadership ability or business acumen without a corresponding commitment to godliness.

A commitment to the church’s mission and vision

Deacons who are not behind the general ministry direction of the church hinder more than help.

A commitment to the leadership of the pastor(s)

Pastors do not expect their deacons to be blind, unthinking followers with whom there is never a disagreement. However, the Bible teaches that pastors give ultimate leadership in local churches. Men who cannot support their pastors should not serve as deacons.

A commitment to prepare for and attend meetings

Most churches have monthly deacons’ meetings that are central to their ministries of prayer, vision casting, and decision-making. Those who cannot be faithful in attending the meetings will miss important discussions and training opportunities. Additionally, I greatly appreciated deacons who came to meetings prepared, having reviewed the agenda, read pertinent materials, and prayed over important decisions ahead of time.

A commitment to ministry over management

The Biblical role of a deacon is a servant-oriented role, one that values opportunities to help people practically and is marked by humility.

A commitment to teamwork

Shared responsibilities, united prayer, mutual love and support, and joint decision-making characterize the efforts of deacons. Because even godly leaders do not always agree on every issue, deacons should respect the opinions of others and know how to disagree agreeably.

A commitment to caring

Deacons who make personal contacts between Sundays, call on homebound members, and help with visiting the sick in hospitals are modeling genuine caring leadership.

A commitment to training and accountability

Deacons should be trained before and during their service. Those who enthusiastically participate in training events and seek to improve themselves in this ministry are a great asset to any church.

A commitment to confidentiality

At times deacons have discussions and make decisions that must remain confidential. Commitment to confidentiality is needed to protect privacy or to ensure that information is appropriately communicated at the proper time. I suggest that leaders talk regularly about this and hold one another accountable.

A commitment to pray for the ministry individually and corporately

Praise God for deacons who recognize the importance of the spiritual discipline of prayer and set an example for their people.


Jim Vogel (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is executive director of the Northeast Fellowship. This article first appeared in the September/October 2008 Baptist Bulletin.

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Jim's picture

Pastors do not expect their deacons to be blind, unthinking followers with whom there is never a disagreement. However, the Bible teaches that pastors give ultimate leadership in local churches. Men who cannot support their pastors should not serve as deacons.

Does it? 

Agreed: "Men who cannot support their pastors should not serve as deacons"

But this too: "Men who cannot support their deacons should not serve as pastors"

As an aside: our single-pastor mentality that predominates Baptist circles has done much harm to churches.

 

 

 

 

Jim's picture

https://trust.guidestar.org/blog/2014/10/17/a-nonprofit-boards-fiduciary...

A fiduciary is someone acting on the behalf of another based on an expectation of trust. A nonprofit’s board is the central decision making body for the organization. It has ultimate responsibility and accountability for the organization’s actions.

According to the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, a nonprofit board and its members individually have three fundamental fiduciary duties: a duty of care, a duty of loyalty, and a duty of obedience.

The duty of care means that the board member actively participates, attends board meetings, is educated on the industry, provides strategic direction, and oversees management.

The duty of loyalty requires the board member to operate in the interest of the nonprofit and not to use the position to further personal agenda.

The duty of obedience requires the board to know the state and federal laws and regulations that apply. This includes the regulations and guidance issued by the IRS. Obedience to governing documents requires a deep understanding of the operating documents (by-laws, rules, board manuals) and a clear understanding of the difference between the terms “may” and “must” contained in those documents. Finally, obedience requires that the board not act outside the scope of the organization’s legal documents.

Bert Perry's picture

I have to smile as Jim Vogel notes that it's not about management, but his title is "executive director".  Something of a dual message there.    That noted, Jim Peet's comment on "follow the pastor's direction" is well taken; a tremendous amount of damage has been done by autocratic pastors and other "my way or the highway" leaders.  

Really, I would argue that a good parallel is a comparison of how government-led economies perform vs. how market economies perform.  The guy at the head of the government agency leading controlled markets may be 50 points higher in IQ than the average citizen, but the collective intelligence of the markets beats central control by miles.  Might we argue that a model of distributed ministry might greatly outperform a centralized control model as well?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Craig Toliver's picture

I've been a deacon where the "leadership team" (the multi-pastor staff & full time treasurer) have all the financial information (salaries, et cetera) and the deacons only received summary information. 

Won't do it again

pvawter's picture

Wait! You mean that having multiple pastors and spreading out responsibility isn't a panacea? Who knew?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Pastors salaries are one area where Deacons must lead.  How can pastors set and manage their own salaries without compromising their integrity?

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

Having served as a deacon in both my current church and my previous, I know that the deacons are there to handle some of the "under the sun" ministry of the church to free the pastor for ministry and prayer, and by and large, we do support the pastor, and follow his lead.  HOWEVER, this support is not absolute, in my view.  At my previous church there was a question that came up about something regarding the pastor, which the deacons investigated, found no truth to, and took it back to the accuser.  Another member, who himself had been a deacon on a previous rotation, thanked me for "supporting the pastor" through this.  I gently corrected him, and reminded him that my loyalty was to the church, and to the truth, not to any one man, pastor or not.  He didn't reply to that, but I got the vague impression he didn't like that answer at all, and was from the school of thinking that we "ought" to support the pastor.

And I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Barkman that the deacons need to take the lead on the Pastor's salary (as well as on other things that minister to him and to his family).  This is something both churches I served in as a deacon did right.

As a modern-day interpretation of our "waiting tables" duty, our church has the deacons control finances, though beyond a certain amount, the whole congregation has to vote before they can spend it.  The pastor doesn't write or sign checks, and he can't automatically spend money on his ministry priorities.  He does have the ability to spend token amounts on ministry for benevolence, or taking a pastor or missionary out for a meal, buy a few needed small supplies, etc., but he and our whole church feel it's better for his integrity if he isn't responsible for the flow of money in the church.  Our pastor has also made it quite clear that for the deacons he wants thinking men, not "yes men," who will, if done in the right spirit, be willing to disagree.  So far, this has worked well for us, even though we are in "single pastor" mode.

Our church has a constitution that prefers multiple elders rather than one pastor, though at the moment, we can afford only one that is paid, and we don't have enough theologically trained men with the time and inclination to serve as unpaid elders either.  Our current seminary students would fit the bill well, but for them to stay on, we would need to be able to pay them.  We have seen some continual slow growth, so we are working toward that.  On the other hand, we do manage to fully support our one pastor, so he doesn't have to be bi-vocational.  I know the trend these days is to prefer smaller churches, over having one grow beyond a certain size, but the the disadvantage is then seen in the number of elders that can be afforded.  In a very small church, you really need good deacons when elders are in short supply.

Dave Barnhart

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