Congregation Deacon Ministry

Encouraging Personal Formation of Christian Disciples

Congregation Deacon Ministry
(Revised February 2013)

In order to encourage the personal formation of Christian disciples and support the development of creative models for lay leadership in our congregations, the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA, endorses participation in Congregation Deacon Ministries.

The role of Congregation Deacon is essentially equivalent to the formerly used title of Synod Deacon or Parish Deacon. The new title emphasizes the congregational partnership necessary for the position, and it specifies the parish as the primary arena of service. “Congregation” is a term that can refer either to the congregation or to the community context that is the primary mission field of the congregation.

A New Name
The title of Congregation Deacon will replace the title of Parish Deacon. This title emphasizes the congregational partnership necessary for the position, and it specifies the congregation as the primary arena of service (which can be either the congregation or its community context).

Training and credentialing for Congregation Deacons includes completion of the “Diakonia” program or its equivalent.

The accountability of Congregation Deacons is to the congregation council through the supervising pastor. As a service to congregations entering into this relationship, the Office of the Bishop will, upon request, conduct interviews with Deacons and their Supervising Pastors to offer constructive suggestions for the covenant between the Deacon and the Congregation. The synod presently has no mechanism in place for qualifying or disqualifying Deacons on the basis of emotional, psychological, and physical health, theological correctness, skill level, personal maturity, leadership effectiveness, history of inappropriate behavior, or boundary violations. Congregations must assume all responsibility for evaluation and background checks in these areas. The synod can provide resources for doing this evaluation if the congregation wishes to do so. Academic preparation records are kept by Diakonia or other qualifying programs.

A copy of the written covenant between the Congregation Deacon and the congregation may be kept at the synod office in the congregation file. There will be no personnel files kept by the synod for Congregation Deacons. There is no synodical roster for Congregation Deacons. The Office of the Bishop will not provide references or recommendations concerning Congregation Deacons. Reference questions must be directed to the congregations that have been in covenantal relationships with the Deacon.

The term of the covenant and conditions and times for its re-evaluation are determined by the congregation. Should the congregation wish to have synod consultation in this re-evaluation process, the Office of the Bishop will provide it on request, but synodical involvement is not necessary. The Office of the Bishop provides a template for the structuring of the covenant between the congregation and the Congregation Deacon.

Download the covenant template here.

In general, the role of Congregation Deacon is envisioned as a volunteer staff role. The congregation council, however, has complete freedom to make this a stipendiary position if this better fits the mission and leadership vision of the congregation.

If a Congregation Deacon leaves the congregation of membership and service, all covenants are void. The Deacon, however, is free to negotiate with the congregation council of his/her new congregation provided that such a position fits the leadership vision of the new congregation.

Areas of Service
The vision of the synod is that the role of Congregation Deacon is primarily designed to lead the congregation in its ministry of word and service to the world. However, congregations have wide latitude to specify areas of service in the covenant, some of which may be more inwardly focused on the life of the congregation.

Congregation Deacons for Worship
Emphasis on worship planning and leadership, music, art, altar care, or other tasks connected with the worship life of the congregation

Congregation Deacons for Stewardship
Emphasis on stewardship education and development in the congregation, administrative responsibilities, volunteer coordination, and spiritual gifts assessment for congregation members

Congregation Deacons for Ministry
Emphasis on pastoral care, education, youth ministry, community building, small group development, administration, or internal congregational communication

Congregation Deacons for Mission
Emphasis on evangelism, justice, advocacy, social ministry, hospitality, community organizing, political action, community health concerns, Christian witness in daily life

Public Recognition
Congregation Deacons who have negotiated and signed covenants will be acknowledged at synod assemblies along with their Pastor Supervisors. This will emphasize the collaborative team dimension of this position and clearly establish the parish as the arena of service and accountability. This rite serves as a blessing for a specific covenant, not the consecration of an individual to an office.

Congregations display wide variation in practice concerning vestments and public symbols of office. The synod will not attempt to control or interfere with this variety, but it is important in Lutheran ecclesiology to avoid creating symbolic “status symbols” that create a complex hierarchical understanding of ministry rather than a “priesthood of all believers.”  

Symbols for Congregation Deacons
Congregation Deacons who wish to wear a symbol of their role could wear a special cross. As to wearing a clerical collar during the performance of deacon duties, it is important to remember that the clerical collar in our tradition is a public symbol of a call from the whole church, and reflects a complex process of academic preparation and evaluation. The wearing of the collar is thus inappropriate for individuals who have not received a call from the whole church and have not completed the candidacy process for the pastoral ministry of Word and Sacrament within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


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