This coming Sunday, March 24th, we are installing our first Deacons! We are excited to officially recognize and appoint these men and women and hope you’ll join us to witness their installation.
Since the role, and even the definition of Deacon varies widely in different denominations and traditions, we thought this would be a good opportunity to provide some clarity on what the Bible teaches about Deacons. In the content below, we will outline the following points:
1) What are the biblical qualifications for Deacons? 2) What is a Deacon? 3) Who can be a Deacon? 4) What does a Deacon do?5) How will we determine who will be a Deacon at Union Church?
We hope this blog is helpful and informative in providing an understanding of this important office in the local Church.

Biblical Qualifications for Deacons

[8] Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. [9] They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. [10] And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. [11] Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. [12] Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. [13] For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 
-1 Timothy 3:8–13 (ESV)

What Is A Deacon (Diakonoi)?  

As there are a variety of understandings of what the office of deacon entails, we thought it best to begin by clarifying what a deacon is not: 

  • A deacon is not a servant who specializes in table service, hospitality, or feeding the poor. As Straugh notes, “No contextual markers suggest anything to do with food, table service, or the needy. At best this is an inference.” (Deacons, p. 56) 
  • A deacon is not a servant in general. This term, unqualified and undefined, could refer to any Christian who serves in their church. 
  • A deacon is also not a servant gifted in a particular area (model servant, leading servant, etc.) i.e. Audiovisual ministry, music ministry, etc. 

We should note that while deacons may operate in any / all of the above areas, these areas do not define the office of deacon. Instead, deacons operate under the leadership of the Elders, officially representing them and standing ready to carry out tasks delegated by them.  

Clarence Agan explains as follows.

“The term [Diakonoi] captures the intermediary function Paul had in mind. He was thinking of a role that involved being simultaneously in and under authority - under the authority of the elders, but having authority… to carry out tasks as needed. Diakonos provided a clear way to say this while leaving room for flexibility as to the nature of the specific tasks deacons might undertake.” (Strauch, Deacons, p.57-58) 

We will thus define “Deacons” as follows: 

Deacons are qualified, competent men & women who assist the elders in the work of ministry 

Who Is A Deacon? 

While the office of Elder is reserved for men, the office of Deacon is open to men and women. 

Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 
-1 Timothy 3:11 (ESV)

In the above verse, the word “their” was added by the translators and does not appear in original manuscripts. The word translated “wives” is the word gynē, which can be translated either “wives,” or “women” based on the context of the passage. 

In the view of the translators, Paul here is referring to the wives of deacons, thus the addition of “their” is intended to bring clarity to the english translation. In our view however, a more accurate rendering of this verse reads as follows: 

Women likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 
-1 Timothy 3:11 (ESV)

Textual evidence for this translation:

1. First, since the office of Elder is of first importance, and the office of deacon exists only in relation to the office of Elder, it would seem strange for Paul to add specific qualifications for the wives of deacons but not for  the wives of elders.
2. Second, in verse 11 Paul writes, “Their wives [women] likewise,” the word “likewise” is the same term he employed in verse 8, “Deacons likewise,” the purpose of this word is to shift gears to a new group of people for whom he describes specific qualifications for their office. Again, it seems out of place for him to shift to specific qualifications for a group of people that has no official office. It makes more sense to understand this as a shift to qualifications that are especially pertinent to women who occupy the office of deacon.  

3. Finally, elsewhere in the NT, the descriptions of women serving in the church seem to clearly indicate that women functioned in deacon-like roles. One of the clearest examples is found in Romans 16, where Paul refers to Phoebe as a diakonos, literally, a deacon / deaconess -
[1] I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant [diakonos] of the church at Cenchreae, [2] that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. -Romans 16:1–2 (ESV)

Again, it would seem odd for Paul to have in mind the prohibition of women from the office of deacon in 1 Timothy 3:11 while elsewhere referring to a woman as a deacon. 

See also: Rom. 16:3-4, 6, 7

What Does a Deacon Do?

Since deacons exist to assist the elders in the work of ministry, their specific job descriptions will vary based on the context in which they are serving and the position in which they are assisting. 

Who Will Be a Deacon?

What positions will be designated “deacon positions?”

While the individuals selected for the office of deacon must be biblically qualified, the criteria for what will be designated as “deacon roles” will be predicated on the position and not on individuals that are qualified. To put it simply, we will not appoint individuals to the office of deacon unless there is a functional / positional need.  

How will we determine deacon positions?

  • Proximity: Positions that report directly to an Elder
    • Ex. A leader of one UG leader does not report directly to an Elder, but the UG overseer does.
  • Significance: Positions that have a substantial scope or are particularly critical 
    • Ex. Women’s ministry lead is substantial and critical, while AV lead may not be substantial, but is critical.
  • Consistency: Positions that are permanent and regular
    • Ex. An individual assigned to get a ministry started, lead it temporarily, then hand it off would not be appointed as a deacon. 


The office of deacon will be designated for positions that are directly, substantially, and consistently assisting the Elders in the work of ministry.


  • Women’s lead
  • Union Group lead
  • Youth lead
  • YA lead
  • Music lead 
  • Hospitality lead 
  • AV lead 
  • Kid’s Ministry lead 


The individual will hold the office of Deacon until they are unable / unwilling to continue in their position. 

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