XPastor tries to help churches by providing some of the essentials for running a church—items like job descriptions, employment applications, review forms and policies. Below is the 2008 Deacon Handbook of Henderson Hills Baptist Church of Edmond, Oklahoma.
There are two offices of the church mentioned in the Bible. The first of these is that of “overseer,” or elder. The second is the deacon, or “servant.” God calls the individual to either office, and the individual is recognized with great honor in the church in his acceptance of the calling. Deacons are recognized by their peers as humble servants and ministers of mercy long before they are invited into the office of deacon. This demonstrates a commitment to the hard work of helping God’s people over time.
It is HHBC’s belief that both elders and deacons are biblically designated as officers of a local church. HHBC’s ordination may not extend to other churches when an elder or deacon moves to that church, nor does an elder or deacon ordained in another church maintain the office when moving to HHBC. It is recognized, however, that experience gained in other places may also be beneficial to one’s service at HHBC, and the arrival of such officers from other churches may signify a willing candidate that may be considered for nomination into the mentoring process at HHBC. In all cases, HHBC obeys the biblical principal of absolutely affirming one’s qualification for the office: And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 1 Tim. 3:10 (ESV)
This handbook is designed to outline the basic characteristics and requirements of being a deacon at Henderson Hills Baptist Church, as developed by the Elder Council and the Deacon Body. It should be considered as a reference and guide only. We at Henderson Hills are committed to being a thoroughly Biblical church, with thoroughly Biblical leadership.
“For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” 1 Tim. 3:13
Section 2—Defined Purpose
Deacon Vision Statement (Deacon Defined)
“A deacon is a biblically qualified servant-officer who is called by God and led by elders.”
Deacon Mission Statement (What a Deacon Does)
“A deacon is a loving, compassionate man who promotes the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and who ministers to the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the people in the promise of hope.”
The Relationship between Elders and Deacons
Though deacons are subordinate to elders, they are to be elevated, even exalted within the church body. Elders must be careful to lead the deacons with excellence, communicating clearly and frequently to avoid misunderstandings and clarifying goals and responsibilities. Deacons should be freed to do the hard work of directly touching people’s lives. Elders and deacons must work together and lead by example, continually fostering an atmosphere of love, with trust and respect for each other.
Deacons are the servant-ministers of the church. Deacons have the honor of modeling, for the local church and the lost world, God’s compassion, kindness, mercy, and love. As the church compassionately cares for people’s needs, the world sees a visible display of Christ’s love, which will draw some people to the Savior. Deacons are to be an example of commitment, unity, and harmony in their service.
The deacons are to effectively and carefully administer the church’s charitable activities. They are agents of mercy and distributors of relief. They help the poor, the jobless, the sick, the widowed, the elderly, the homeless, the shut-in, and the disabled. They comfort, protect, and encourage people and help to meet their needs.
Specific deacon’s ministries are covered in Section 7.
- Acts 6: 1-4 (A Biblical deacon model)
- Phil. 1:1 (The first New Testament diaconate reference)
- 1 Tim. 3:13 (Deacon rewards)
Section 3—The Qualifications and Expectations of a Deacon
Deacons must be members in good standing of HHBC and possess the qualifications stated in 1 Tim. 3:8-10, 12-13. These qualifications are listed below:
- A man of dignity (1 Tim. 3:8). A deacon must be well behaved, well organized, a man whose life is in order. This often affects such areas of life as responsibility and honorable use of language. If the deacon were not respectable, he would never have the credibility needed to feed, love, and care for the flock.
- Not double-tongued (1 Tim. 3:8). This characteristic plainly prohibits any kind of manipulative, insincere, or deceitful speech. Behind a deceitful tongue is a deceitful mind. Positively, the term emphasizes integrity of speech, sincerity, and truthfulness. A deacon must be a man of his word.
- Not addicted to much wine (1 Tim. 3:8). This characteristic sets down the absolute prohibition of drunkenness in a deacon’s life. We believe it is a prohibition against the abuse of wine (or any other substance) that would damage a man’s testimony in the community and ministry in the church.
- Free from the love of money, not fond of sordid gain (1 Tim. 3:8). A man meets this qualification if he has an obvious understanding of the evil the love of money can cause and then rejects the temptation it brings. (1 Tim. 6).
- Holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Tim. 3:9). A deacon’s life must be consistent with Christian doctrine. The New Testament does not allow people to separate life and doctrine. Whenever we knowingly act in a way that is contrary to God’s Word and do not seek His forgiveness, we defile our conscience. Every time we violate our conscience, we weaken the Holy Spirit’s convicting power and make sin and hypocrisy easier to commit.
- Let these also first be tested (1 Tim. 3:10). The deacon cannot be a new convert. A deacon’s ongoing service to the church and ministry to those in need should be a well-beaten path of his life.
- Beyond reproach (1 Tim. 3:10). Beyond reproach literally means “not able to be taken hold of.” It relates to having a good reputation. In a way, this is a summary statement of the rest of the qualifications. When a Christian applies the principles of God’s Word, and desires to deepen his relationship with Christ, the result will be a lifestyle that can be described as being beyond reproach. Character flows from values and faith. When we establish a sincere faith in Christ, godly values blossom and character deepens. Obviously, a deacon must have an excellent reputation if he is to have credibility with the flock of God.
- Husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:12). The Greek words, which we translate as “the husband of one wife,” speak to the subject of fidelity in marriage, not marital status. Directly rendered, the Greek phrase says, “a one woman man.” If married, the deacon must be absolutely committed to his wife. Many well-respected commentators agree this phrase addresses the issues of polygamy and fidelity in marriage, not divorce. However, we should not assume from this that divorce is inconsequential or insignificant. Jesus sternly warned His followers to avoid divorce. Since a deacon must be a good steward of his family, a recent divorce disqualifies a man from serving as a deacon. However, divorce is not the unpardonable sin. For example, a man may have divorced many years ago. Since then, he may or may not have remarried, and lived an exemplary and mature Christian life. This man may now enjoy a godly marriage, raising children who love the Lord, or still be single. When we take the man’s total life experience into consideration, the divorce should not disqualify him from consideration as a deacon.
- Good manager of his children (1 Tim. 3:12). The deacon’s children must bring honor to their parents. This demonstrates that the deacon and his wife have encouraged order and loving discipline in their home. However, these principles do not suggest that the deacon must raise “perfect” children. To require such a standard would render no father qualified to be a deacon. If a man has raised or is raising children who love the Lord, he will also have the ability to encourage holiness among the rest of God’s children.
- Good manager of his own household (1 Tim. 3:12). The deacon must be committed to the task of being a good steward of his household. He must provide spiritual, emotional, and financial leadership of his home. If he cannot be a good manager of his own household, he is not qualified to assist in the management of the church.
In order to serve effectively, deacons are expected to live out the above qualifications according to the following general guidelines:
- Be faithful in participation at all scheduled and called Deacon Meetings.
- If you are called to serve as a deacon, you have an obligation to be a “team member” and be diligent to attend meetings. Meetings will only be called for the purpose of serving the church and fulfilling the needs of the Deacon Ministry. Failure to attend implies a lack of commitment and respect for your fellow deacons, elders, and the needs of the church.
- If you cannot attend a scheduled meeting, one of the members of the Deacon Coordination Team (DCT) should be notified of your absence.
- Be accountable to fellow deacons in your service as a deacon.
- Encourage one another in service as deacons.
- Be a team member and support the overall ministry of deacons.
- Support fully the HHBC Purpose Statement, the Principles of Ministry Statement, and the Constitution and Bylaws.
- When appropriate, maintain the confidentiality of matters discussed at Deacon Meetings.
- Deacons and wives are one; therefore, wives are expected to keep confidential sensitive subjects related to deacon matters.
- Support the church financially as God leads you.
- Support the elders and staff with your encouragement and prayers.
- Serve the membership as God leads you; be sensitive to the needs of others.
- Encourage unity within the body; be an encourager, not a discourager.
- Be an example to members of the body by exemplifying the qualifications of a deacon and the heart of a servant.
- Give priority to spiritual growth as an individual, a couple, and your children.
Section 4—Term of Service
As indicated in 1 Timothy 3:10, a deacon’s call to service is not limited to a specific time period. A qualified man who has been called to serve as a deacon at HHBC may do so indefinitely in successive one year terms, unless, and until, one of the following occurs:
- He is no longer a member of HHBC.
- He is no longer called or qualified to serve as a deacon.
- He is no longer able to serve for some other reason.
Term of Office
The initial term of office of deacon shall be one year. Consecutive terms are acceptable and encouraged, for those who are serving well as deacons. At the completion of their one-year term of service, with the recommendation of the DCT and the deacon’s affirmation that God’s leading is for them to continue serving as an active deacon, the DCT will present the names of those deacons, whom they recommend to continue to serve, to the Elder Council for concurrence. Deacons recommended and approved for continuance of active service will not require reaffirmation by a vote of the membership. Following any lapse of service by a deacon, the procedures stated in Section 4 of the Bylaws for reaffirmation will be followed for return to active service.
Discipline and Removal
A deacon may be removed from active service upon failure to meet the qualifications stated in Article VI, Section 3 of the Bylaws or for reasons as stated in Article IV, Section 10, Discipline and Removal. Removal of a deacon from active service other than by completion of a term of service or resignation shall be by action of the Elder Council at the recommendation of the DCT.
Section 5—Selection and Ordination Procedures
The Elder Council periodically will ask the church to identify men for potential service as deacons.
The Deacon Mentoring Process
In keeping with biblical instruction outlined in 1 Timothy 3:10, HHBC believes that a deacon nominee should be fully “tested” (or “proven”), both in Christian maturity and in doctrinal soundness. The objective of the Deacon Mentoring Program is to ensure that HHBC’s deacons are fully aware of the importance of the biblical office, and to develop them to full fitness for the effective service that is called for. It is further designed to assure that any prospective deacon fully satisfies the qualifications of the office, not only in his own eyes, but also in the eyes of other people, both members and non-members of the church. The questions here will focus attention on many of the questions and discussions that a deacon may incur.
The process outlined here will allow for: (1) the selection process, (2) the determination of the nominee’s interest and willingness to serve, (3) the evaluation of his qualifications, and (4) the evaluation of his grasp on basic beliefs of the church.
I. Selection (Time Frame: 10-30 days, depending upon meeting times of DCT)
Name Submission. Prospective deacon names may be submitted to the DCT by members of the church, the church staff, other deacons, or the Elder Council. The only prerequisite for a church member to be nominated for selection as a deacon is that he has exhibited a desire and an ability to serve others for Christ and continues to do so. It is preferred that the person being nominated should not be approached until after the DCT has done the initial evaluation. By adhering to this concept, both the nominee and the nominator may avoid embarrassing situations. At the proper time, the DCT will determine the best method and person to approach the nominee.
Confidential Investigation. The DCT will privately submit all nominees’ names for comment by appropriate people on the staff, within the deacon body, on the Elder Council, or within the HHBC membership.
II. Interest Determination (Time Frame: 15-30 days)
Letter Inquiry. The initial contact with the nominee will be by letter. Not only will it inquire about his interest and willingness to serve, it will also invite him to a personal interview by all or select members of the DCT.
Initial Interview. The servant’s role as a deacon will be presented, the various deacon ministries explained, and the training program outlined. The qualifications will be stressed. A decision to pursue the training may be obtained at this time, but may also be delayed by the DCT or by the nominee to allow for prayerful consideration.
Report to Elders. Absent a decision not to proceed with the Mentoring Program, the DCT will submit the list of candidates to the Elder Council along with any others, thereby informing the Elder Council who will be in the Deacon Mentoring Class.
III. The Mentoring Process (Time Frame: 180 days)
During the mentoring process, the candidate will attend scheduled deacon meetings. He will also be assigned to an existing deacon who will utilize the services of the mentoree in practical, hands-on training:
- Formal Text Study: A schedule will be set for the study and discussion of Alexander Strauch’s book, The New Testament Deacon. Other texts may be substituted at the will of the DCT and the Elder Council.
- Second Interview: An interview of the candidate and his spouse, if any, will be conducted by at least two members of the DCT, at least one of whom is an elder. The purpose will be to ensure the support and understanding of the spouse in the undertaking of this ministry, and to answer any questions they may have.
- Basic Beliefs Review: After the second interview, the candidate will be given the list of questions that he will be requested to answer. The nominee will be encouraged to discuss any question with his mentor, any member of the DCT, or any staff member. It is not the intention to convert the candidate into a highly-qualified teacher, but to prepare the nominee and to amplify the importance for any officer of the church to be able to “give a defense of the faith,” at least in conversational terms.
IV. Final Interview
After completion of all the assigned work, members of the DCT (and at least one elder) will conduct a final interview. The Beliefs Questionnaire may be discussed, as well as the candidate’s feeling regarding the call to service.